Before we get to the meat of this article, I feel it necessary to set the stage for you and explain why as a small business owner in the Joomla! community, it’s critical to read and educate yourself in this type of content. I know this is a long article, but trust me there’s some good stuff in here and it will be well worth your time to read! Consider your time reading this article an investment in your business.
As explained in the intro, one of the big problems many small business owners are facing is the reality that it doesn’t matter how good you are at whatever particular niche you’re in (i.e. Joomla! extension development), as a business owner your job is to master the business end of things like marketing, sales, operations, etc. You could be the best developer in the world, but if you aren’t able to run the business end, your business is destined to fail. That’s why it’s critical that Joomla! business owners make it a habit to regularly educate themselves in the business side of the company.
With that being said, on to the heart of this article…
Inbound marketing is one of the fastest growing marketing styles on the planet for a reason: it works. The concept of inbound marketing is to create informational materials that can be found by anyone looking for more information on a particular topic matter. This can be done in many different ways, but one of the key staples in inbound marketing is to attract prospective customers with educational, informative and high quality content. In contrast, traditional marketing like TV, radio, print, Internet ads, etc. are intrusively displayed in front of customers, many who may not be interested in the product or service.
For example, let’s pretend that I’m the marketing manager for YooTheme and we wanted to push the WidgetKit component. Instead of going the traditional marketing route and buying ads to push my message in front of people, I decide to create a premium ebook that people can download for free on our website entitled, “The Ultimate Joomla Web Design Guide”. This ebook would not be a sales book, rather an informative ebook showcasing the best practices for web design and how to effectively do this in Joomla!.
Once created and available for download, if marketed properly (as described below), your quality piece of content will be found by anyone looking for information on designing a Joomla! website. For Yootheme, these customers are direclty in their target demographic, very qualified and have a high percentage chance of converting into a customer causing a shorter sales cycle.
First, let's take a look at how most Joomla! extension developers have their marketing funnel structured with a heavy emphasis on only the bottom funnel conversion offers. An example of a bottom funnel conversion offer would be to "Download This Extension Now". This is what is associated with a more traditional Internet marketing strategy.
Next let's take a look at how the general structure of an inbound marketing strategy should look. Below you will see a graphic illustrating the inbound marketing funnel and how we nurture leads towards the bottom, then convert them into sales.
Now that we have covered the general principles, let's dive into each step of the process and how to properly execute.
Please also keep in mind all of these individual activities are complete projects in themselves and require planning and specific strategy. Each activity should also be integrated with each other and keep the consistent theme and message you have established for your inbound marketing strategy.
Getting someone to visit your website is the first step towards converting them into a customer. I'm sure you're fairly familiar with many of these tactics because when you think of Internet marketing, these are typically what everyone pictures. Please keep in mind that these are simply the tip of the iceberg in a successful marketing strategy as shown in the above graphic.
Search Engine Optimization is an essential piece of the inbound marketing strategy because it is important that users searching online for a particular topic can easily find your content.
Google Updates: Over the last few months Google has been changing the face of SEO as we know it. Literally every two or three weeks Matt Cutts and the Google team have been releasing new algorithm updates. It's very important to stay on top of these by subscribing to their webmaster blog.
On-Site SEO: There is a specific rhyme and reason to optimizing your website for SEO from alt tags to page titles to the menu structure. The big thing to keep in mind is to keep things user friendly and avoid stuffing keywords into your site. Google's recent updates (called the "penguin update") now penalizes websites who over optimize using keyword stuffing and deceptive links.
External SEO: The key piece to external SEO is gaining links from authoritative, good quality websites. It's critical to avoid "Black Hat" SEO link building techniques like buying links or joining link networks. As tempting as they may seem, with Google's recent updates, "Black Hat" techniques may actually hurt your website ranking and even cause it to get de-indexed. Leverage your quality content and work to get other websites to link to it.
I’m not going to get into an in-depth discussion on the specific details of SEO, but if you’re interested in learning more here are some great educational resources to check out: SEOMoz, Search Engine Journal, Free Downloadable Webinar on SEO
Building and leveraging a large social media following of engaged and loyal fans is an amazing way to get your messages out to a great number of people very quickly. However, building a large following does not happen over night. When it comes to social media, or any type of marketing for that matter, it is very important to think quality over quantity. Work hard at controlling who's in your social network and make sure they are all in your target demographic.
One key item to include when marketing your social media networks is to always explain the value people will get from following your company. In general, people like to subscribe to a social network if they are going to receive useful informative information, exclusive content and promotional offers. But don't forget to add in your own personal flair to build the brand's personality.
As you start building up a great group on your social networks, you will be able to promote your blog and content to this audience. Again, provide some value to them and they will likely share this value with their friends. Also, find fun things you can offer your audience like small contests, polls, Q&A or allow them to chime in on some of the decisions of the company such as product names or colors. Including them into the process further engages them and builds loyalty.
Lastly, there are two "Golden Rules" to follow when marketing on a social media network. One, keep you're posting consistent. If you are only posting once a month, chances are there won't be much interest or traffic. Make sure to schedule enough time to manage and post on your social networks on a regular basis. Leverage tools such as tweetdeck or hootsuite to manage your networks all in one place and schedule posts in advance to save time in the long run.
Two, make sure you always respond to every single post on your profile whether negative or positive. There are many studies coming out now that say using social media can be a great way to help manage your customer service efforts. Responding to posts in a timely manner will not only help increase your engagement but also build a personal relationship with your customers.
Blogging & Guest Blogging:
Blogging is one of the most under-utilized forms of marketing in the Joomla! world. Blogging on your website and guest blogging on other websites is a great way to drive traffic to your website, establish yourself as an authority and develop a personality for your business. And best of all it's free.
The problem with blogging is it can be very time consuming to do. I typically block off 90-minutes per day to write and promote my blogs. Additionally, it's important that you stay consistent with your blogging. I would suggest doing a minimum of two or three blog posts per week.
Lastly, make sure to have a specific content strategy that correlates with your inbound marketing strategy. Create a content calendar that clearly maps all of your blog posts and correlate the schedule and topics around new extension releases or updates.
There are many other ways to drive traffic to your website such as email marketing, mobile marketing, sponsorships, events and in-person marketing. No matter how you drive people to your website, keep in mind your target demographic and make sure to integrate the rest of your inbound marketing strategy into these efforts.
Converting Visitors to Leads
Alright, so you managed to get a visitor to come to your website, but how can you continue them down the sales funnel and get them to convert into a lead? This is the step many Joomla! extension developers are lacking so pay close attention.
Call to Actions (CTA)
A call to action is some type of graphic or text tailored towards encouraging a visitor to convert on some type of action. This action could be downloading your premium content, registering for your website or purchasing your extensions. CTA's (and landing pages) are your bread and butter when it comes to converting visitors into leads and should be carefully planned and thought out.
It is important to have call to actions for all three levels of the inbound marketing funnel so no matter which stage the visitor is at in the funnel (top, middle or bottom) as it will result in a conversion. Additionally, you should create a few variations of the CTA's in both different styling but also ones that play off different emotional responses for the visitor. These CTA variations can then be A/B tested to improve performance, as I will describe later in this article.
A landing page is a page on your website tailored to a particular topic and geared towards a specific user with a goal of converting them into a lead. Creating a successful, high conversion landing page is a science and requires a great deal of planning and strategy.
Your landing pages should be extremely clean, clear and have a direct path to where the visitor can convert. The text should be light and easy to read, using bullet points where possible. All distractions from the landing page should be removed including any unnecessary graphics, text or videos and links to other parts of the website, including the menu.
Example of a Well Optimized Landing Page
We're doing great, we managed to get a visitor on your website and then convert them into a lead, but your job isn't done yet. Depending on which form they converted on and what part of the inbound marketing funnel they are in, it may be too early to start pitching the lead sales information. At this point it's your job to continue to educate and inform the lead about the topics the lead is interested in.
Lead Nurturing Campaigns
A lead nurturing campaign is a sophisticated set of automated emails which are sent to the lead after they convert on a form on your website. The general concept is to continue driving them down the inbound marketing funnel while also keeping the lines of communication open between you and your lead.
If a lead converts and is placed on lead nurturing campaign "A" and then converts again on the middle funnel offer, the lead will then automatically taken off campaign "A" and placed on the middle funnel offer lead nurturing campaign "B".
The goal is to leverage lead nurturing campaigns to bridge the gap between funnel offers and eventually lead them to the bottom funnel offer where they convert into a customer. Typically there will be between four and eight emails sent out over a 60-day period with closer time intervals in the onset.
Build & Leverage a Relationship
If you're not familiar with what transparency means, it means that you are public or open about what's going on at your business. There are different levels of transparency depending on how open you want to be. With the rise of social media and technology, the world is becoming a more and more personal place and people value transparency.
Transparency helps develop that relationship between customers, potential customers and you. They will know who you are, what your interests are, what you value and be able to put a face to the business.
An example of how a Joomla! extension developer could show transparency would be to send out pictures of your staff attending an event, dressing your pet up in a custom logoed tee, or some pictures of you just before launching a new version of the extension. The general rule of thumb is to have 10% of all your social media, email and blog content be transparent content.
Continue the Relationship After the Sale
Even after you are able to convert the lead into a paying customer, your job does not end. Maybe you have heard of Pareto’s 80/20 rule? For sales this means 80% of your business comes from the same 20% of your customers.
Many of you probably already have a regular email newsletter that goes out once a month. This is a good start. However, it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to connecting with current customers.
Take some time each week to follow and add customers on their social networks. There’s a really good Gmail plug-in called Repportive that automatically pulls the user’s social media information based on the email associated with their social accounts. Additionally, take time to personally contact the more active customers and thank them for their support. I would even suggest setting a customer loyalty program for your customers who frequently use your extensions.
Turn Clients Into Brand Advocates
Once you have an educated, loyal and engaged audience of customers, do not stop your engagement there. Just because they have converted into a paying customer doesn't mean you should lose focus on them.
Once a lead converts into a customer, it's then your job to convert the customer into a brand advocate. A brand advocate is a customer so loyal that they would never go elsewhere and they go out of their way to promote and help the brand.
A great example of this is Apple Computers. They have turned their customers into extremely loyal brand advocates with many Apple customers owning all Apple products and proudly displaying their Apple sticker on their car and wearing their apparel.
Once you've started creating some brand advocates, leverage them in their marketing for testimonials, promotional materials and spokes people. Also, make sure you continue to reward and praise them for being a customer of yours, almost like they are now a part of a club. Keeping your current customers happy and feeling important is extremely important for growing your business.
Test, Measure, Improve
Just like any marketing activity you do, it's critical to keep complete and detailed metrics of everything you are doing so you can improve and refine your process in order to make it even more successful in the future.
Analytics and A/B Testing
It is critical to the success of your inbound marketing strategy that you keep very detailed and complete records of all the analytics associated with your website, social media and marketing activities from start to finish. These analytics will be vital for making necessary improvements in order to meet and exceed your company's goals.
In addition to keeping detailed analytics of everything going on with your website and marketing plan, it's also extremely important that you be actively performing split A/B testing on your CTA's, landing pages, forms, copy and headers, etc.
A/B testing is a method of testing multiple variations of a sample to see which variation has the highest conversion rate. Typically you will have one "champion" variation which has great performance and then 1-3 challenger variations in which you slightly modify one item to see how they perform in comparison to the champion.
You can see from the image below, even small things like the text on a button can be the difference between high and low conversion rates.
Make sure to perform these tests on all aspects of your website including, but not limited to, CTA's, landing pages, colors, sizes, styling, headers, copy, etc.
Set some time aside each quarter to review the status of your inbound marketing strategy and based on your analytics, conversions and goals make necessary adjustments and refinements. Find where there are drop-offs or bottlenecks in your funnels and/or website and think of creative solutions for these issues.
Some common things to look for are:
- Low time on site, page views per visitor
- Find which pages have high exit rates and bounce rates
- Low converting CTA’s or landing pages
- Review a visual of the “flow” of your traffic and find drop offs
Visitor Flow & Drop Off
There are many different ways to improve your statistics and conversions and there isn't necessarily a definite rhyme or reason. Some things to play with are to create new CTA's, landing pages or content offers. Adjust the website copy, headers, colors and run A/B tests to find the best performing solution.
Also, take a look at the positive statistics and find ways to increase your attention on those activities. Look at which socials networks and referrals are driving the most traffic and most leads. Then, modify your time to put more focus on the ones that are working. Review the CTA's that are performing well and mimic their style in your other CTA's.
Very similar to the great extensions you have created, creating a rock star inbound marketing plan is not something that happens overnight. Not only does it take time to develop your inbound marketing funnels and processes but it also takes time to understand the concepts and how they work together.
I'm sure you are asking yourself, how do I make time in my already busy day to devote to marketing? The answer is different for everyone, however, it's an unavoidable question that should not have a response of "I Can't". Delegate tasks, move meetings and adjust appointments to make time to work on marketing and growing your business. Creating and executing a successful marketing strategy is an extremely critical journey to embark on and should be considered an investment into your Joomla! extension business.
I encourage you to post questions in the comment area and I would be happy to answer them.