Wednesday, January 24, 2018
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I have recently read an article about “the right way” to start a startup. It had a list that included having a great team, sufficient financing and a plan for “monetization.” I am pretty sure it was a true eye-opener for those who were ready to launch their startup by hiring an unruly team, no financing, and no plans to make any money (sarcasm).

Yes, you can find an amazing team of developers and you can also be a step ahead of your competition by thinking “monetization” first and, in fact, you can read every major book about a startup and funding and yet, NONE of it will ever matter until you have the key component of your startup: quality audience.

But before we discuss the significance of having a quality audience for your startup and offer a few clues to your audience’s whereabouts, let’s talk about a very sensitive startup clock that makes having the quality audience a priority #1 prior to having your startup go “live.” I am talking about the ROI Clock.

 

The ROI Clock.

What many of new entrepreneurs don’t realize is that the proverbial ROI clock starts ticking as soon as the very first dollar is invested into developing a logo, making your very first set of business cards, your website and that state of the art software to run your business. At this stage, many new businesses don’t make any money and yet the business expenses begin to pile up, one charge after another.

 

Googlenomics of Today: Bidding Your Small Business CPC Against Multi-billion Corporations

It is true that Google Adwords can quickly resolve your audience problems. And yet, it is also true that in today’s Googlenomics, based on its system of more and more competitive bidding you may end up “competitively bidding” against multi-billion corporations that have no concern of whether to spend a $1 or $100 per click, as long as it puts them on that coveted front page of Google.

As your costs per click begin to add up, you may begin to wonder if the startup game was worth it (as was the case with some of the app developers I met some time ago) and if there was anything else you could have done prior to having your startup go “live.”

 

A Social Marketing Structure Designed to Save On Costs Per Click.

As I have learned from my own experience, there are at least 3 things one should do (especially prior to having a business go “live”) to save his/her company or a startup tens of thousands of dollars by building a true and engaged audience at minimal cost prior to, or while building a new business. All have to do with maximizing social media as a part of overall marketing strategy.

Start Building and “Working” a Twitter Following In Your Niche (Higher quality, free contacts)
It is  just now, after years of complete denial, I only wish I could tell you that I have started Twitter years ago and now I have tens of thousands of followers. I haven’t. I did start setting up Twitter accounts for all, myself and my clients just a few months ago and at this point, all of the accounts combined can start bragging about finally getting thousands of highly engaged followers who are noticeably contributing to our overall website registration rates and email signups at NO (or very minimal) additional cost.

Start Niche Blogging
After spending a good amount of my “younger” years in a highly regulated pharmaceutical world I was, at least initially, against blogging as a form of marketing altogether. In fact, the idea of blogging as a part of a marketing strategy for a very long time appeared to me, to put it politely, not very serious. As recently as several years ago, the idea of blogging away at a local Starbucks always appeared to be an activity more suited for someone who doesn’t really have a “real” job, or “real” marketing strategy.  If I could drive thousands of visitors to my and my clients’ websites using a proven formula of Fine-tuned SEO combined with an ironed-out adwords campaign, why bother changing things, right? Wrong. Because ironed-out Twitter+Blogging campaign has a potential to drive even more visitors at NO (or very minimal) additional cost.

Start and “Work” your YouTube Channel
Ok, unless you have an extremely engaging content, or you already have a pretty big following, trying to build your YouTube Channel from scratch my appear like a daunting task, and yet, there are 2 things to consider.

  • Properly structured video content will lead users to your website and, eventually, to your product at absolutely NO cost.
  • Even, if your content is not engaging enough to  become viral, the cost-effectiveness of YouTube AdWords ads when it comes to driving traffic to your website in my experience significantly exceeds that of using plain, non-YouTube text ads.

 

Old Model vs. New Model.

Overall, to me this blog is personal. The formula for  building an engaged audience for my businesses and businesses that work with us has been irreversibly changed. While just several years ago, most of our efforts were focused on SEO and Google AdWords with minimal efforts put into blogging and Social Media, today our strategy had a 180 degree turnaround:

OldModelvsNewModel

 

What Was Your Experience?

Are you on Twitter? LinkedIn? Instagram? How did it help (or not help) your business and your marketing/sales strategy?

Look forward to hearing about your experience.

Authentically yours,

Max Azarov, “Authentic Spin”  Author

 

 

“Landing Pages Don’t Work!” Argument

A few days ago I became a witness to a discussion, where an “expert” claimed that landing pages and free giveaways in exchange for emails are not working nearly as good as they used to just one year ago and that we live in a period where something else has to be invented in order to generate leads.

Here are the two reasons offered:

Reason #1. As more and more people become aware of landing pages, whenever they see the sign up form, they simply click away from the page.

Reason #2. When people do decide to sign up for a free offer, they sign up with emails that is not their primary email and there is no way to get in touch with those people anyways.

Those were seemingly valid points and it got me thinking if this was really the case. Of course I, myself, have come across hundreds of landing pages and, of course, I x’d out of most of them. But I did leave my email on a few that I thought were interesting. I signed up with my “other” email, of course.

Have people like me been signing up for things less and less? Have people become desensitized to time-tested lead generation techniques?

Landing Page

Landing Page

All of this got me thinking about the people who typically leave their information in a form in exchange for free content.

Type #1. There are people who sign up for just about anything free. And, at first glance, I am a perfect example. Yes, I am that crazy guy who signed for 3 trial versions of landing page building software, downloaded (almost) all free books that suddenly popped up on my screen and currently being harrassed by a CRM sales person, just because I left my email in one of their sign up forms. Heck, I even created a separate email for downloading free ebooks, free giveaways and CRM signups, so that they don’t interfere with my important, day-to-day emails. You see, I have created that email to make sure that after I get the free stuff, I don’t have to “hear” from anyone about anything!

You see, I will sign up for whatever, just don’t bother me after I do. Get it, ridiculous sales people? Oh, I almost forgot, I am one of them, of course. More on that later.

Type #2. There are also people who would not sign up for anything, no matter what it is, even if it is free. They would not sign up for a free trial or get a free book. One of my “friends” is a perfect example. For him, it seems incomprehensible to give out personal email in exchange for, well, anything that is being pushed by those internet “knuckle heads.” Among the people that surround me, most of the people belong to this category.

Type #3. There is, also, the third type of people who would sign up for everything AND buy some of those things as they, with time, become convinced that they really need a particular product or service. Oh, wait a minute, I am also a perfect example of this third type as well.

So what about the 2 arguments? What about those guys who click away every time the see a landing page?
Well, for every few of those guys who will get scared away by a book and a form next to it, there would always be one person like myself, who will enter his email and get that book on “7 Steps To Increase Conversion Rates” or a free webinar on “How To Increase Your Traffic in 24 hours” (both are made up titles, of course) and will have no choice but to become a part of someone’s sales funnel.

But what about that “fake” email I enter every time I sign up? 
The truth is, I use my fake email for free stuff so much that on some days I check it more often than my real email. So, go figure. After all, I guess my “fake” email isn’t nearly as fake as I thought it was.

But… But… People like you are just a small percentage. Does it really make sense to invest into a strategy where only small percentage of people actually participate?
Good question. Really. But I am NOT going to give you a cliche answer that 1% of one million is, really, all you need because, truthfully, I have not yet reached a million of clicks on, well, any of my landing pages. And when this day happens I will probably rent a limo with a full bar of drinks and a stong wi-fi signal (for my celebratory wordpress blogging event) to drive around Chicago and celebrate. However, my answer is much more simple than that.

I have clients. Just like many of the people that download information in exchange of email have clients. And that means that whenever I am buying something or, more precisely, buying into something, all of my clients (some of whom don’t even know what a landing page is) get to hear about it. And the conversion ratio of my clients who get to hear about something I bought into is, well, probably close to 100%.

This means that if just 1 person in 1000 will download your content in exchange for his or her email and simply will happen to be someone in a position of working with several clients, suddenly you multiply that 1 by however many clients that person has, as well as however many clients their clients have and so on.

blackboard

 

So to those who keep complaining about landing pages that do not work my answer would be: “Improve the content your offer to target precisely the clients you are trying to get. Make it awesome. Make it relevant.”

Oh, and one more thing.

Landing pages do work!

 

Authentically yours,

Max Azarov

Authentic Startup, Author

 

1243

There was a point when I became an addict.

A “hashtag-contentmarketing” addict.

A “hashtag-contentmarketing” addict who became convinced that in this day and age building a business without content marketing is all but a mute point.

I became an addict who I tried to read all about content marketing on Twitter. I paid my “hashtag-contentmarketing” and “hashtag-marketing” dues by scrolling up and down through various blogs with “marketing” tags while occupying that coveted table next to the only outlet at my Barnes & Noble bookstore.

I did all of this to accomplish one thing. To be a better “hashtag-contentmarketing” person. And to do this I needed a “hashtag-perfect-content-formula” that works.

 

The “Perfect Content” Formula. The 4 Elements.

By the time I was done, I have ended up with content creation formula that consisted of 4 elements:

combined

 

handThe Links:

(For convenience sake the links are here):

Fact browsing:
www.factbrowser.com

Images:
www.shutterstock.com,
www.dollarphotoclub.com
www.clker.com

Infographics:
www.infogr.am or www.easel.ly

 

The Dilemma

Now, after figuring out the “perfect content,” 4-element formula I had a dilemma. It appeared to me that a pretty heavy percentage of blogs I have encountered already, more or less, followed a similar formula and yet, their content seemed dull, not very useful and, quite frankly, not particularly interesting.

The reality was, I came to conclude, there is a definite threshold  to how many articles titled “7 Reasons You Should Add Images To Your Blog,” and “5 Reasons You Should Use Captivating Headlines” one can scroll through until thoughts such as “What am I doing here?” begin to creep in and a Starbucks girl washing floors under the table next to your politely tells you that it is already after 10 p.m and it’s time for you to leave the premises.

For the sake of my time and my own sanity, I concluded, when it came to most of such blogs, reading the headlines was sufficient.

And yet, the dilemma remained. How do I adjust the “perfect content” formula so that the content I write does not appear dull, not very useful and, quite frankly, not particularly interesting to anyone, myself included?

 

The Fifth Element

Over time, the revelation I eventually came to, was that just like any good formula, my “perfect content” formula was lacking a key variable.

I call this variable, the “authenticity variable.”

Since I have already spent a great amount of time defining “authenticity” in my book, I will say only that one of the definitions of authenticity has to do with being able to trace an item (tangible or intangible) to its original source (the author).

When it comes to writing or blogging, staying authentic means that your content should be unique enough for your repeat reader to be able to determine you as an author prior to scrolling down to see your name, whether by developing a distinct point of view on a niche subject, attaching your blog (or a video blog) to your life story,  a unique manner of writing, or a unique visual representation of your blog, etc.

No matter what you are trying to promote or share,  and no matter how many images and how much infographic content you use, content marketing should revolve around what I now call “The Fifth Element:” incorporating your unique and authentic take on a particular subject in each post, independent of how popular or unpopular it is.

And no, I am not talking about you being the center of the universe, I am merely talking about your viewpoint, your own (not someone else’s) trials and errors and your own experiences being the center of your blog. Thus, a blogger who never ran a business should never write about “7 Steps To Run a Business,” just like a blogger who never had to hire employees should never write about “7 Steps To Hire A Great Team.” This is unauthentic, laughable, always obvious, and always detrimental to blog’s credibility.

Yes, you can follow the 4-element formula to enhance your content with facts, infographic and images, however, the idea that you should blindly use factbrowser.com to search for something interesting to write about (just because you yourself have nothing to write about), or the idea that you should be using infographic  just for the sake of infographic to be successful at content marketing is, essentially, a virtual equivalent of trying to use vague titles, complex plots and never-ending sentences to replicate, let’s say, the success of Dostoyevsky’s novels.

handThe Takeaway.

Do tell your story. Do reveal who you are. Do share your mistakes and what you have learned from them.

Do use images. Do use captivating headlines. Do use facts.

Do NOT create content that does not have your own take on a subject.

Do NOT attempt to replicate other blogs as by the time you start thinking about copying someone else’s content, it has already been copied many times over.

If you have something to say – say it. If you don’t have anything to say – don’t. If you like what you see on someone else’s blog – retweet, like, and move on, don’t clutter the internet by trying to create more and  more copies of what is already out there.

And finally, stay true to yourself and your don’t get sidetracked by what others are up to.

 

What Was Your Experience With Posts that are Authentic (offer a unique point of view of an author) vs. Non-Authentic (re-written version of someone else’s blog)? Please let me know by commenting below.

Authentically yours,

Max Azarov, “Authentic Spin,” Author

The Old Sales Funnel: “Tell Me What I Need and I Will Buy It From You”

First time I’ve heard a term “sales funnel” was back in my days when I got a job as a financial advisor for a major corporation.

After passing my “Series 7” exam and becoming a licensed broker for NYSE, I had to become intimately familiar with our corporate sales funnel for selling our main product, individualized financial plans. For those of us working in the front lines of this financial sales machine, a simplified version of our sales funnel looked something like this:

  1. Endlessly “cold call” outdated sales leads for hours at a time.
  2. Upon successful contact, invite a lead to visit the office for a “cup of coffee.”
  3. Then, there came a “sales pitch,” culminated with a sale of a firm’s “financial plan” as a form of initial engagement.
  4. If the lead liked the financial plan we put together, he or she would, often, decide to transfer a large bulk of his/her funds to be placed under our firm’s management.
  5. If the client was not willing to transfer his or her money to us, the sale was considered unsuccessful, but as a minimum, we got paid for a financial plan we put together.

Whether it was my work as a financial advisor or most of my other sales jobs, essentially, it all came down to this: you start with a sales pitch, you “close,” you charge a fee, and you hope that the client keeps buying more and more products from you:

Old Model

 

Death of a “Sales Pitch”

With time, however, a very interesting trend began to occur: more and more consumers stopped caring about a “sales pitch.” They stopped answering telemarketing phone calls and stopped paying attention to TV ads.

Today, for the most part, if a consumer has a need for something, he/she can get it by searching the internet.

Need a traffic attorney in Chicago? How about a hundred of them? Just keep hitting the “Next” button of your search engine.

Need a wedding planner? Here is another hundred showing up right on the first few pages of Google.

Need a financial planner? Not a problem. Google will give you a long list you wouldn’t know what to do with.

Counting on the old sales funnel in order to survive, over time, became a loser’s game. Something had to be done.

 

The New Sales Funnel: “I Know What I Need, Use Your Blog to Tell Me Why I Should Choose You.

Today, when it comes to sales, my approach is this: customers already have a pretty good general idea of what they are looking for, and it is now my job to showcase my product and build enough of a relationship with them to help them choose my product over my competition. And there is simply no better way to do it than using a blog as a part of your overall online strategy.

Today’s sales funnel looks much different from what it was years ago. Somehow, over time, that annoying outbound telemarketing phone call gradually transformed into something completely unexpected: a click (or a touch, if you are using your phone). And that cup of coffee when you get to learn about the company and start developing a relationship with your client turned into something even more unexpected: a website with a blog.  

New Model-1

 

A Click (Formerly Known as a “Cold Lead”)

Today, it doesn’t matter where your click comes from. It can come from your online ad, your twitter account, or your Facebook page. What matters is your ability to get the click.

A Blog (Formerly Known as a “Free Cup Of Coffee”)

Unlike the “good old days” of selling, now you get to have an endless metaphorical cup of coffee with your potential audience in the form of a blog. Blog for a business is, first and foremost, a real-time relationship builder. Secondly, it is a showcase of your work. Thirdly, it is a lead generator. 

blogdefinition

 

Here I am talking about a blog that does not revolve around “Buy my product now!” message, but rather contains valuable information that allows you to build trust between you and your future customer. The goal of your blog is to not “pitch,” but rather let others know that you are an “ok” guy or a girl to work with. Your second goal is to give your visitors an opportunity to learn and interact with you in order to build even more trust.


Let’s look at it this way. Once your blog is established, the visitors of your blog will typically be divided into 3 categories:

1. The Non-Buyers :/  (typically around 90%) who will never buy anything from you no matter what you say or offer. Some of those visitors are still getting to know you, some are there by mistake, some don’t have the money and others are there for all the wrong reasons altogether.

2. Occasional Buyers 🙂  (or skeptics like myself) who enjoy reading and learning, but are willing to pay for a product as long as they see value in it. Those will be the majority of your buying visitors.

3. Fan-Buyers 🙂 🙂 who will buy anything you have for sale on your website, no matter what it is. They sign up for your seminars, buy your books and try your products.

While you will not be able to tell which one of the 3 categories a particular visitor of your website belongs to until they decide to spend money on your website, it is important to continue using your blog as a relationship builder with 100% of your visitors, buyers, fans and non-buyers alike.

Technology will change. Sales funnels will evolve. And yet your need to build a true human relationship in order to connect with others and grow your fan base will remain.

 

Authentically yours,

Max Azarov, Authentic Spin, Author

 

What Was Your Experience?

What was your experience of adding a blog feature to your business website? Did it help your customer interaction, or did it make it worse? Please feel free to comment below.

On Google, a cost of 1(!) click for a word “startup” in my geographical preference is $10.

No, this is not a typo it is $10, yes, American, yes, dollars.

This means that if I needed to launch a test version of my marketing campaign in my niche and run it for 1,000 clicks (as I used to back in the days when a click didn’t cost nearly as much), I will have to spend $10,000, yes, American, yes dollars.

Let’s let it sink in: that’s probably enough money to jumpstart a brand new business.

If you are, let’s say legalzoom.com (sorry, guys, for spending your hard earned $10 on frivolous research) that looks to capitalize on incorporating startups, $10 (may) make sense (I cannot tell for sure, since I don’t know their sales funnel). But one thing I can tell for sure, is that a company trying to promote any product for which it will receive less than $10 is,well, out of luck.

How High Does The Cost Per Click Go?

So how high does Google’s price per click go? According to a recent article on wordstream.com it goes as high as $54.91 (for insurance related keywords). The lowest cost per click on their Top 20 list is for the word “cord blood” at $27.80, which makes my “lousy” $10 per click seem almost laughable.

Below is the infographic chart you can find on wordstream’s website.

where-does-google-make-its-money

Now Let’s Take a Look At The Top 4 Most Horrific Places Where Your Clicks May End Up

Yes, of course your Google clicks may end in the right hands clicking on your link moments before reaching for their very special American Express Black card and become your customers. That’s the ideal scenario and yes it can happen. Very often, however, it is far from being the case.

#1. I’ll admit, my heart skips a beat every time I see a 3 year old chasing a digital frog on a free app (with AdWords’ clickable ads at the bottom) her Daddy downloaded last night onto her tablet. Sometimes she catches a frog. Sometimes she catches an ad costing an advertiser more and more of his marketing dollars.

To a little girl clicking on an ad is a minor disturbance in a fun game. To you, it may be a cost of a long awaited pizza dinner after hours of work. Now, imagine not one, but thousands of those little cute 3 year old kids with their cute 3 year old hands clicking your business all the way into the ground, one $54.91 click at a time. Insert  a track to your favorite horror movie music and fade into black.

#2. Let’s think of those “Top 20,” or “Top 30” anything lists i.e. (Top “Photoshop Fails” and the like), where in order to move to the next “Photoshop fail” you have to click on a tiny arrow, surrounded by Google ads. While someone accidentally clicks on a link and quickly backs out of it, to you it may be another $10 dollar expense you simply cannot afford.

#3. Your 2 year old decides to spend Saturday watching funny kittens on YouTube. Non-stop. No one has taught him how to skip or how to not click on ads. Thus, in a matter of just a couple of hours he “earned” $100s of dollars for Google while costing you as an owner more and more resources.

#4.  AdSense scams. While Google claimed at some point that they are looking into the problem, but I do, personally, believe that AdWord scams are out in full force. This happens when a person who signs up for AdSense clicks away on ads AdSense places on his/her websites.

Fine. Some of it, of course is an exaggeration. The 3 year olds, the no-good fraudsters that click their way into riches at your own expense, it may all not be as bad, but the question remains: at what point the risk associated with paid advertisement outweigh the returns?

Content Marketing vs. Pay-Per-Click Marketing

Content Marketing vs. Pay-Per-Click Marketing

This weekend Google “suggested” I spend $2.75 per click for keyword “fashion” for my clothing startup. I said sure, let’s give this another shot. AdWords gives me a pretty good data on traffic I get to my site and that’s great. And yet, when it came down to what mattered most, i.e. signups, the outcome was very much comparable to what our Twitter account brought to us just one week ago for exactly $0.

Yes, of course, you may say that I am not providing you with enough data and that, of course, the number of users I added with Twitter last week ultimately reflected the amount of followers on my specific Twitter account. Sure. But this goes beyond the point I will attempt to make here.

 

Content Marketing + Social Media Clicks vs. Paid Clicks

It is year 2015 and pay-per-click by large search engines become less and less affordable, while their clicks become more and more questionable. Google’s 35 allowable letters for $1-$54 per click in 2015 cannot compare with Twitter’s 140 letters for $0. The idea that your Google dollars can go to a click-happy toddler with no interest in your product may seem to be okay at $.10 per click as it was in the good ol’ days.  At $10 per click, it is no longer reasonable. And just like 10 years ago, when it took everyone to realize that Google was a much more profitable model over, let’s say Excite or Yahoo when it came to ROI, today everything looks completely different and paid clicks today gradually become what billboards became to businesses 10 years ago – an exceedingly losing proposition.

 

An Exceedingly Winning Proposition: Building Your Own Superior Resource of Niche-Specific Valuable Information via a Niche-Specific Blog, One User at a Time 

Google didn’t have AdWords to market itself. It built its customer/user base one visitor at a time, by providing a superior product.

Back in the early 2000s Google won everyone over by being an efficient “content broker” and a hub for all things valuable on the internet. It was better than Yahoo, Excite, HotBot and whatever else we were using back in the days as a search engine. It re-defined the internet by giving us what we wanted when we wanted instantaneously though its unique algorithm of prioritizing more popular websites over less popular ones. It made sense. The AdSense.

However it is 2015 and users are going more and more beyond popular and into a content that is more and more useful within a specific nicheFor example, a particular piece of information may be extremely useful, but not particularly popular outside of its niche and, as a result, Google will not make it readily available on its search pages.

Users Looking For More Useful Content Tend To Find It Outside of Search Engine Results

Today, the technology allows us to exceedingly do away with various non-niche “content brokers” and non-niche resources (i.e. big name search engines). In the past decade or so, we’ve all learned our way around the internet and we now tend to hangout on what I would like to call “tribal platforms,” i.e. twitters, wordpress blogs, and various quality online communities we have learned to love and enjoy. It is those “tribal” blogs, sites and platforms that are gradually taking more and more bites out of Google’s main function of a superior “content broker.”

There lies and opportunity for all of us.

Today, using blogs and community-based platform we have the ability to “build tribes” of like-minded individuals, one user, one fan at a time using WordPress or whatever other content hosting platform of your choosing. Today, anyone can, if you will, become an efficient content hub, as well as content “broker” with a website or a blog  that can provide exceedingly more useful (not just more popular) content for its visitors within a specific niche.

If you are reading this post today, chances are you came here either from another blog, a social media post, or any number of other tribal platforms that have nothing to do with a typical search engine as we know it. Those “mini-content-broker” blogs and social platforms are here to stay for many years to come and I see the advertisers in a very near future moving away from search engines and into individual blogs and social communities within targeted niches.

High volume, high quality blogs in a specific “niche” do not have to pay a penny to search engines and at the same time charge thousands of dollars for ads and blogposts as their audience within their niche keeps expanding independent of any non-niche search engines.

One user, one fan, one blog subscriber at a time. This means that if you woke up this morning thinking that the 1 blog fan you gained on your company’s blog (after spending 2 nights putting together a useful article) is not worth the effort, think again. This is the future.

 

Truly yours,

Max Azarov
Authentic Spin, Author
YoloStartup.com Project Founder