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How to tell you’re ready to start your own business

If your dream is to start your own business, you’re just like many people, but it’s hard to tell when the “right” time is. Running a business can be an incredible experience full of adventure — not to mention an experience with lucrative returns should everything go as well as you plan.

But how do you know that you are ready to take a leap of faith and start your own venture? We’ve outlined a few signs it might be time for you to just go for it.

14 signs it’s time to start your own business

These aren’t hard-and-fast rules — plenty of people have broken them before. But if you say yes to most of this list, chances are you’re in good shape to step out into the wild and crazy world of entrepreneurship.

  1. You’re excited about your idea.
  2. You have a business plan.
  3. Your product or idea has a market.
  4. You understand the competition.
  5. You are able to take on financial risk.
  6. You look good to lenders.
  7. You understand the risk of failure.
  8. You understand the risk of success.
  9. You’re ready to roll up your sleeves.
  10. You’re ready to learn.
  11. You are capable of managing your own time.
  12. You are able to see potential.
  13. You want to be your own boss.
  14. You’re good with people.

Ready? Let’s go!

1. You’re excited about your idea

Of course, passion alone will not get the job done, but if you’re aren’t passionate about your business idea, you’ll be running on fumes before you know it.

Many things in small business ownership are “fake it ‘til you make it,” but this is not one of them.

2. You have a business plan

You’ve done the work. You’ve outlined just how you’ll run this thing. You know the numbers.

You will not be able to run a business without a solid business plan.

 

If you’ve yet to execute this all-important task, it might be time to pump the breaks on the idea you’re excited about until you can see what the big picture is.

3. Your product or idea has a market

You’ll figure this out as part of your business plan, but knowing there’s a demand you can supply is a sure-fire way to know that now may be the right time to start your own business.

Just make sure you’ve done your research and consulted with people who are knowledgeable about the product or service on the supply side.

4. You understand the competition

Start Your Own Business Stadium

You’ve always wanted to own a coffee shop, the problem is, there are already three in your neighborhood.

Once you start your own business, how will it stand out? What do you have to offer that your competitors don’t?

This will be important to factor into your business plan.

5. You are able to take on financial risk

Plenty of business owners come from modest means. But it’s much easier to focus on your business if you have some money saved to live off until you get the business off the ground.

6. You look good to lenders

A big part of running a business long-term is the ability to secure financing when you need.

How is your credit score? Have you taken on too much personal debt?

Consult with a small business finance advisor to see what you can do to make sure you look good on paper.

7. You understand the risk of failure

It’s not as doom-and-gloom as you might think for small businesses today. In fact, 80 percent of businesses will make it through their first year, and about 50 percent make it to their fifth year.

But it’s still a pretty huge drop-off. Only around 30 percent of businesses make it to their tenth year.

Know the realities of your industry and make plans for the worst, just in case.

 

Risk of failure should never stop someone with a good idea and solid business plan from pursuing their dream.

8. You understand the risk of success

What will your life look like should your business really take off? It might seem strange, but many people don’t consider this. If business is booming, but you never have time to see your family, are you truly living the life you want to live?

Be honest with yourself about what your boundaries are and set expectations with your business partners and loved ones before you start your own business.

9. You’re ready to roll up your sleeves

Start Your Own Business Sleeves
Photo: JULIAN ALEXANDER on Unsplash

Starting a business might mean doing things that feel “beneath your pay grade.” You’re the CEO/Founder/Boss-person, anyway, right?

If this doesn’t sound fun to you, starting a business from scratch might not be the right route.

10. You’re ready to learn

Oh, the knowledge you’ll gain through the process of starting a business.

No matter how many degrees you have or years of work experience you’ve put in, challenges will always arise when starting a business.

If you love the idea of learning something new every day, entrepreneurship is probably a good fit for you.

11. You are capable of managing your own time

Managing a business often comes down to a numbers game — the more time you have the better. You’ll be working under pressure no matter what, but stellar time management will make the process go much, much smoother.

12. You are able to see potential

Are you one of those people who believes in the underdog? Who can spot a success story before it breaks big? This will be an essential skill in running a business. You’ll need to be able to see the big picture when you’re sales have hit their goals yet or it feels like you’ll never break even.

13. You want to be your own boss

If you want to forge your own path, entrepreneurship is definitely a fit for you. If you have the ability to give yourself a daily structure and fly by the seat of your pants, it’ll suit you well to start your own business. 

14. But … you’re good with people

Being your own boss does not mean you don’t have to be a people person. Managing a business is a social sport — you’ll have to work with your employees, vendors, clients, customers and more.

It’s likely you’ll be the face of your own business. Is this the kind of attention you want?

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How to execute a strong client onboarding process — and why you must

As a professional web developer, there’s a chasm you need to traverse between converting a client and starting their new project: that mysterious phase known as “client onboarding.” This process is crucial to ensuring you’ve got everything you need before starting the project, as well as making the client comfortable with how the project will progress.

Client onboarding: A guide for web designers & developers

Here’s what we’re going to cover in this guide:

  • Why formalize client onboarding?
  • Why you need an onboarding process.
  • Why your clients need an onboarding process.
  • Attributes of a successful onboarding process.
  • 7 steps to execute a strong client onboarding process.
    • 1. Collect information with a comprehensive new client intake questionnaire.
    • 2. Solidify strategy with a paid discovery workshop.
    • 3. Follow your formal administrative process.
    • 4. Do the admin pre-work to get the project started.
    • 5. Hold a project kick-off meeting.
    • 6. Follow up with your welcome package.
    • 7. Present plans for further follow-up.
  • Common onboarding errors.
  • Onboarding checklist outline.
  • Best practices for onboarding.

Let’s get started.

Why formalize client onboarding?

An established process relieves you from the stress of remembering every single question you need to ask, and helps you gather all of your resources in an organized way, enabling you to deliver the project smoothly.

This key series of steps provides the opportunity to build a strong relationship with your client, address early concerns, get everyone up to speed, and start on a positive note.

Why you need an onboarding process

As with just about everything in web design, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The process that’s right for you might not work for others, but it’s critical in helping you:

  • Create a great first impression that paves the way for a trusted, long-term relationship.
  • Build efficiency via clear communication.
  • Reduce scope creep by confirming details and setting expectations.
  • Make sure you’ve got everything you need before starting the project.
  • Anticipate exceptions, misconceptions, and potential obstacles.
  • Breed loyalty, fostering better retention and reducing churn.

Why your clients need an onboarding process

Clients also have additional needs addressing the many aspects they may be unsure of, and their need to just “know” what’s going on. In addition, the process can:

  • Assure them you have a plan, which should relieve anxiety.
  • Increase their comfort level about how the project will progress.
  • Allow them to understand expectations so they can collaborate with you more efficiently.
  • Reassure they are being listened to.
  • Reinforce they have hired a pro who takes their business seriously.

Attributes of a successful onboarding process

A thoughtful and deliberate onboarding process lets clients know that you consider them a partner in defining the success of the project. To ensure successful onboarding:

Know what questions need answering

Essentially, the onboarding process boils down to two critical questions:

  1. What do you need in order to deliver a successful project that runs smoothly?
  2. What must the client do to make sure you get what you need?

Of course, nested under these are many more questions. For example, once you know which deliverables you need, there will be additional questions about timeline, format and ownership.

Craft an effective onboarding checklist

Client Onboarding Checklist

A checklist lets you focus on discipline and structure — and following it with each project brings peace of mind. Referencing your checklist ensures you don’t forget crucial steps or take actions out of order.

At the same time, build in flexibility and scalability.

Both factors are key to every single process you undertake as a web designer — it’s important to know when you can bend or break your own rules, and you’ll want to make sure that it’s efficient to execute the process multiple times, perhaps simultaneously.

You’ll want the ability to skip steps if warranted, and at the same time, anticipate the trade-offs in doing so.

Make supporting materials available to clients pre-sale

The onboarding process starts well before a proposal is accepted, with your very first contact with a potential client.

For example, your website could offer details on how you work on projects. This could be a paragraph, a dedicated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section, or even well-written case studies describing how you deliver a project.

Treat each client as a special case

We already know that each client is different, each project is different, and even your approach may be different. Use good judgment to customize the onboarding process as needed, taking the client’s unique goals and situation into account.

7 steps to execute a strong client onboarding process

A significant challenge we experience with any client is their lack of knowledge about what they need or why they need it. But if we are being fair to our future clients, should we expect them to?

As a website professional, you must be the facilitator, drawing out goals that even they might not realize.

1. Collect information with a comprehensive new client intake questionnaire

Start with a finely tuned and comprehensive client questionnaire that asks the right questions, so you have information even before there’s a project in place. It’s your first true opportunity to gather what you need, and asking the right questions will save both time and money.

The paid discovery workshop nails down the information you need to create the proposal and contract for the full project.

Sell this workshop as a true strategy session to work through the client’s needs, goals, and how they anticipate achieving those goals.

Through this engagement, you can walk your client through the steps to create a clear, defined vision for their website and what it’s supposed to achieve.

Offering the discovery workshop before website creation is critical in terms of building a website that works.

It also serves as a great way to be first in line for the job, before even offering a proposal. In the end, discovery will be helpful for the organization that needs the project built, not just for the ones doing the building. Still not quite sure what a discovery workshop is?

Digging into the discovery session

A discovery strategy session is a standalone paid service that clarifies what the project is all about before you even write a proposal. It covers information grouped into three sections:

Why, what, and who?

  • What is the Why behind what the client is trying to achieve, in terms of goals and impact they hope to make online?
  • What products and services do they bring to the market?
  • Who is the group of people that will most benefit from their What?

SMART goals

With answers to these questions, it’s time to define three to five SMART goals, where SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound.

Most importantly, each goal should focus on something they are trying to achieve online, and something the website can make happen.

In guiding clients to articulate SMART goals, use these guidelines:

  • Specific — Does it target a specific area for improvement?
  • Measurable — How are you measuring your success?
  • Achievable — Is it reachable?
  • Relevant — Is it realistic to achieve?
  • Time-bound — When would you achieve it by?

The buyer’s journey

Client Onboarding Footprints In Snow

What steps will website visitors employ to eventually take advantage of what is being offered? This can be broken down into five areas:

  • Attract: How will your client attract leads? Will you need to replicate the experience provided by current tools?
  • Capture: How does your client capture leads? What can be given away in exchange for their email address?
  • Nurture: Is your client set up to currently nurture these leads via email marketing?
  • Convert: Most importantly, does your client know what steps they want people to take to convert and make a purchase?
  • Measure: Lastly, how do we measure all this? This is where your client determines the metric that matters the most, based on their SMART goals. It might be site visitors, email signups or something as simple as phone call requests.

In addition, you may have the opportunity for additional discovery work such as:

  • Competitor research: Working with the client to evaluate their competition and what they do well. If clients are having trouble articulating what they want their website to achieve, or which market they are trying to reach, this could be key.
  • Design research: Working with the client to further clarify what they want the site to look and feel like. Style and design can be part of the discovery workshop if this helps determine how to attract the “who” identified earlier in the strategy session.

After the discovery session, follow up by delivering a consolidated document summarizing the findings.

Yes, from here any other web designer could take the project away from you — but you’ll have been paid for the strategy work.

Doing that work for free to create a proposal is selling yourself short.

The client gets their money’s worth — and while they could very well go off and use this deliverable with another web designer, chances are they will see the value of working with you.

3. Follow your formal administrative process

Once you have that clear vision, you can proceed to a formal proposal for the project.

Invest effort in further research on your client, their history, and their competitors. Spend time reviewing the questionnaire responses, drafting the timeline, and identifying deliverables needed.

Make sure the proposal, contract and first invoice are addressed promptly, before proceeding to any additional tasks.

4. Do the admin pre-work to get the project started

Whether you use a project management tool or rely on a shared folder via Dropbox or Google Docs, set up everything you’ll need for this client, and invite them to collaborate as appropriate.

Add them to your mailing list.

Invite them to follow your social media accounts.

Relax knowing you can efficiently and effectively manage your client’s new website with the free tools and resources available through Upfiv Pro.

5. Hold a project kick-off meeting

If you’ve already conducted the discovery workshop, you’ve begun the process of building trust and setting the tone. Now the project work begins in earnest so it’s time to reinforce the seeds already planted.

Conduct the kick-off meeting face-to-face if possible (or via video chat if not). Plan to cover the following topics:

  • Schedule, with a focus on next steps
  • Additional homework needed to proceed with the project
  • Major deliverables
  • How you’ll handle future scope changes
  • Details about your work hours and availability via email or phone during specific office hours, including typical response times
  • How meetings are scheduled and take place — be sure they understand the platforms you use, such as Zoom or Skype, and how you schedule appointments, such as via Appointlet or Calendly
  • Preferences around how you want to receive deliverables
  • Q&A

If you have any swag you like to share with clients, be prepared to distribute at the meeting, or mail to arrive in time for the meeting.

6. Follow up with your welcome package

A welcome package is a set of files that welcomes your new client and includes key information that is necessary for the project to finish successfully.

Think of it as a roadmap that will guide your client through the process of working with you, helping them to stay on track with their tasks and commitments, and answering questions.

Your welcome package should:

  • reiterate your policies
  • prepare them to do their part
  • position you as a professional
  • eliminate confusion on what happens when
  • set the foundation to ask for referrals and testimonials

7. Present plans for further follow-up

While the kick-off meeting included an explanation of your follow-up methods — especially on initial tasks to gather information — you’ll also want to follow up with specific next steps in terms of schedule and deliverables.

Possible exceptions

Even with the best intentions to strictly follow your process, the occasional exception could make sense.

  • What if the project requires a very compressed schedule? Can any steps be skipped or combined? What trade-offs might be associated with those changes?
  • What if this is a new project for an existing or former client? Can any one-time setup steps be skipped or combined?

Common onboarding errors

Looking for ways to blow it? The following lapses may be the sure-fire path to failure — or at the very least, time and/or money lost to re-work.

  • Not doing your pre-work from the start, in terms of really understanding your client, their current situation, their needs and their competitors.
  • Skipping steps without considering the trade-offs or consequences.
  • Making assumptions instead of asking questions.

Onboarding checklist outline

Start with this basic onboarding checklist to develop your own customized version that best covers everything you need to start the project off successfully.

Client Onboarding Man Working On Laptop

Gather basic information

  • Confirm names, roles and contact information of each participant

Process intake questionnaire

  • Send questionnaire and instructions
  • Receive completed questionnaire
  • Check for missing information and request if needed

Execute paid discovery workshop

  • Confirm if being conducted for this project
  • Schedule discovery workshop
  • Hold discovery workshop
  • Send follow-up materials

Manage project proposal

  • Prepare and send proposal
  • Revise if necessary based on feedback or questions

Manage contract

  • Prepare and send contract
  • Receive signed copy of contract

Handle invoicing

  • Generate and send the first invoice
  • Confirm payment receipt

Wrangle project management

  • Set up internal project management systems and tools
  • Invite client to access any systems where information will be shared

Welcome

  • Introduce client to any additional team members
  • Add client to communication and project management channels and tools

Plan and hold a kick-off meeting

  • Schedule meeting
  • Prepare meeting materials including agenda, to-do list with items needed from client, draft timeline including future check-in dates and milestones
  • Hold meeting: review agenda, review to-do list, review/adjust/agree on timeline, milestones, goals

Follow-up from the kick-off meeting

  • Update project management system
  • Send welcome package, summary and any follow-up information
  • Plan schedule for next follow-up conversations and/or reports

Gather and use feedback

  • Request feedback on onboarding process
  • Incorporate process revisions based on feedback

Best practices in onboarding

Now that you’ve got a strong client onboarding process in place, stick to some general guidelines to ensure a smooth experience for all involved.

Educate clients around expectations early and often

Explicitly set expectations around how you run your business — whether it’s payments, communication methods, or delivery of information. By including this information in your kick-off meeting, proposal, welcome package, and on your website, you optimize collaboration with clients to get your work done most efficiently.

Stay accessible and responsive

Be ready to address questions or confusion quickly and thoroughly. Reassure clients that you know what’s up, and that you’re there to guide them along the way. Encourage them to ask questions if they don’t understand — it’s preferable to answer early on, and nip potential issues in the bud.

Keep information flowing

Do your best to keep everyone in the loop regarding status, deliverables, timeline, budget and potential issues — and do all in your power to avoid surprises. It’s almost impossible to over-communicate about these topics.

Improve the process

Every new (or departing) client provides input to improve your onboarding process, which translates to improved client satisfaction, and more opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Closing thoughts

Of course, it’s up to you to determine the detailed onboarding process that will work best for your clients — based on understanding the success factors of your own established working environment, and their goals and expectations for the project.

Your ultimate objective is to have the right tools and processes in place, keep the workflow moving in the right direction, and deliver a final outcome that aligns with your client’s vision of success.

Use these suggestions and best practices to get a head start on defining the process that works best for you.

This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Aaron Reimann, Cody Landefeld, Kristina Romero and Tom Rankin.

Image by: You X Ventures on Unsplash

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How to podcast — A complete guide to starting and growing a podcast

With the recent surge in the popularity of podcasting, you might be wondering how to podcast for yourself or your business. After all, even former President Obama signed a deal to launch a podcast with Spotify, and other celebrities are hopping on the podcasting bandwagon as well. I recently learned that even NASA (yes, that NASA!) has not one, but several podcasts.

Podcasting still feels like the next big thing, and people want in on this platform before it becomes as saturated as other media platforms have become.

According to Podcast Insight, people are listening to podcasts in growing numbers over the last few years, and these numbers don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

Given that there are fewer than 800,000 podcasts online at the moment, this relatively new platform is a lot less noisy than the 75 million-plus WordPress websites that are out there competing for attention in a wide variety of niches.

In August 2019, I traveled to Orlando, Florida, to one of the largest, if not the largest, podcasting conferences in the world – Podcast Movement. My mission was to learn more about the still relatively new world of podcasting, connect with the power players of the industry, and get the inside scoop on how to do a podcast from the pros.

How to podcast — Everything you need to get started

Interested in learning how to do a podcast? Here’s what you’ll learn in this guide:

    • What you need to make a podcast.
      • Equipment.
      • Website and hosting.
    • How to plan a podcast.
      • Show title.
      • Podcast goals.
      • Target audience.
      • Podcast topics.
      • Podcast format.
      • Branding considerations.
      • Episode length.
      • Messaging.
      • Release schedule.
    • How to create great podcast content.
      • Storytelling.
      • Interviewing.
      • Basic production tips.
      • Tackling difficult topics.
    • Technical stuff.
      • Recording intros and outros.
      • Editing.
      • Best WordPress plugins for podcasting.
      • Mobile recording.
    • How to publish your podcast.
      • Publishing to iTunes.
      • Publishing to other platforms.
      • Publishing to YouTube.
    • Monetizing your podcast.
    • How to get more podcast listeners.
    • Conclusion and next steps.

The people I met, the sessions I attended, and the connections I made at Podcast Movement taught me about all of this and so much more. We’ve got a lot to unpack in this post, so buckle up because you’re in for an exciting ride.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into how to podcast.

What you need to make a podcast

When I spoke to people at the conference, the most widely debated topic was what you need to make a podcast.

Some people said you could just start with your smartphone and a really good sound editor. Others said you need a boom mic, editing software, a soundproof recording studio and a bunch of other equipment.

At the risk of ticking off the masses on this disputed topic, I’m going to try to be as unbiased as possible and give you a few different options for how to do a podcast.

I will preface this equipment advice with this — it’s understandable to want to purchase the most expensive equipment out there to give yourself the best chance of success. But, it’s also important to note that not everyone starts at the pro level. Sometimes we allow our desire to keep us from even getting started.

And, many of the well-known gurus I spoke to at the conference acknowledged that no matter how you start, your first episodes will always make you cringe.

Besides, you might start and realize you don’t like podcasting at all. Isn’t it better to just work with what you have to test things out before shelling out a bunch of cash? I think so! You can always upgrade later if you decide that podcasting is a medium you want to commit to.

Equipment

Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas are two well-known podcasters. Speak to virtually anyone about podcasting, and odds are they have heard of these two men.

They are considered authorities on how to make a podcast.

Both of them teach both free and paid courses on the subject, and both have been hired as consultants to help popular online business owners launch podcasts for themselves.

Because they were at the conference, of course I had to pick their brains on everything I could in the limited time we had. Luckily, since they get a lot of the same questions regularly, they were able to point me to some awesome resources they already had on their websites.

How To Podcast Pat Flynn
Pat Flynn

Pat’s show is called Smart Passive Income, and he runs a website of the same name. His show features weekly interviews, strategies and advice for building an online business. His show has had more than 47 million downloads.

How To Podcast John Lee Dumas With Kate Erickson
John Lee Dumas and Kate Erickson

John, known by most people as JLD, runs a show and website called Entrepreneurs on Fire. JLD’s claim to fame is being the first podcaster to do a daily show interviewing entrepreneurs of all types. He has more than 2,200 interviews on his website, and 1.5 million monthly listens.

Below is the equipment they say you need to get started.

Pat Flynn says you just need the following:

  • Microphone: He recommends the ATR-2100 USB microphone, or the Samson Q2U if you’re not in the United States
  • Microphone stand: He recommends a “Boom Arm” extension
  • Shock mount (to reduce vibrations being picked up on the mic)
  • A pop filter or windscreen (to reduce the explosive sounds made by B- and P-words, which blow air into the mic)
  • Computer
  • Editing software such as GarageBand for Mac users or Audacity for Mac and PC users (both of which are free)

JLD says at a minimum you need:

  • Computer
  • Microphone: No. 1 mic recommendation is the ATR-2100
  • Recording and editing software such as Garageband or Audacity
  • Headset or Earbuds

Other people I spoke with at Podcast Movement suggested having the following equipment before getting started:

  • A webcam in case you need to do video interviews
  • Skype/Zoom/some other video chat service to record interviews
  • The Blue Yeti microphone with USB connection (though several podcasters disagreed about this)
  • An adjustable boom microphone clip
  • Design software
  • A vanity URL for your podcast’s name — again this was a topic of significant debate
  • Microphone stands
  • A shock mount
  • Microphone cables
  • Backup hard drives (external or internal)/cloud storage service

Pro tip: Before purchasing any equipment, do your own research, read reviews, and be realistic about your budget. You don’t want to go into debt trying to launch your show!

Website and hosting recommendations

Do you really need to buy a domain before you launch a podcast? That’s a question that I never got a solid answer to. The most common response, however, was that it depends.

If you are launching a podcast of the same name as your business, for example, you might be able to get away with creating a podcast page on your current domain as Pat and JLD have both done.

On the other hand, if you want a name completely different from your business or blog name, it is a good idea to purchase a separate URL. Even if you never use it, it’s good to keep it in your back pocket so you have options.

I personally own several URLs with Upfiv just in case I use them for future business, blog, book or other product ideas.

What about hosting? Do I need a podcast hosting service when I’m just starting out?

The short answer is, yes. You do need somewhere to host your podcast episodes because you can’t exactly record some audio and simply load it to iTunes. You’ll need a podcast host to store and distribute your audio files.

Editor’s note: Need to find a podcast hosting service? Upfiv has you covered.

How To Podcast Sound Mixer

How to plan a podcast

Now that you’ve gotten the equipment under control, what’s next? Planning your podcast before you launch.

There are several things you need to consider before you record your first episode, let alone put it out for the world to hear. When you begin your planning process, here’s what you should think about at a minimum:

What will the title of your show be?

While this may not be your first consideration, it is important to figure out what you will call your show before you start recording.

There are several options for your show’s name. Some people choose to use their business name for their podcast, like Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas. Others choose to use their personal name.

For example:

  • The Tim Ferriss Show by blogger, author and speaker Tim Ferriss
  • The Chalene Show by fitness, business and marketing guru Chalene Johnson
  • The James Altucher Show by entrepreneur and angel investor James Altucher

Then there are others who create a name completely different from their business and personal name such as:

  • Online Marketing Made Easy by online business guru Amy Porterfield
  • RISE hosted by New York Times best-selling author and motivational speaker Rachel Hollis
  • The Art of the Hustle Podcast by iHeartRadio and WeWork

If you choose to do an intro and/or an outro for your podcast, you’ll want a podcast name in place before creating it. It’s also a good idea to purchase your domain name once you’ve settled on your name as well.

You’ll also want to consider your show’s subtitle and summary or description. Your show’s summary should be 4,000 characters or less because that’s how much room iTunes gives you to promote what your show is about.

What are your podcast goals?

Are you hoping to make money directly or indirectly off of this new venture? Is this simply going to be a hobby? Or are you just learning how to make a podcast to see if you even like it?

It’s important to establish what you want to get out of podcasting before diving in. Like starting a blog, creating a podcast is not a fast thing to do.

Yes, you can start a blog in less than 30 minutes, but actually creating the content, building your audience and gaining traction with it is an entirely different ballgame.

Figuring out your initial goals may also help you with other decisions related to launching as well.

For example, if this will be a hobby project, you might not need the most expensive equipment to get started. If, however, this will be used as a tool in your business to reach a new audience or yield potential leads, you might want to put more thought into how you produce and launch your podcast.

Who is your target audience?

This might be based on your podcast goals. Your target audience might be the same as your ideal customer avatar if your podcast is launched as a business marketing tool. If not, you should sit down and think about who your ideal listener will be.

The reason this matters so much is you should never go into content creation attempting to appeal to the masses.

Like blogging, book writing and business, if you try to appeal to everyone you’re more likely to not reach anyone.

Let’s say your podcast will be about how to train your dog. Your target audience would be dog owners who are wanting to learn how to train their dog, and your podcast should be developed and marketed as such.

How To Podcast Dog Training

What topics will you discuss?

Using our dog training example, a podcast about that subject would likely have topics including, but not limited to:

  • Potty training
  • Teaching them to sit/stay/come/etc.
  • How to stop them from jumping/barking/chasing/etc.
  • Training with treats (or without)

You get the idea.

Once you start thinking about the subject and title of your podcast, you can hone in on the topics, and subtopics, most appropriate to create content around.

Is the show going to be fact or fiction? Yes, there are fiction podcasts!

This was news to me at Podcast Movement! I naively didn’t realize that as with the book industry, there is an entire genre of fiction podcasts. And, like novels, they are broken down into romance, crime, horror, etc.

I was fortunate enough to stumble into a fiction podcast meetup at the conference, and I can honestly say I was fascinated by the various shows that are in existence right now.

The biggest challenge, these fiction storytellers told me, is that they sometimes hit a creative roadblock, and that can be problematic if they are trying to meet a publishing schedule.

Unlike a novel that is released all at once, if you have promised your listeners a new chapter or story each Monday, it can be difficult to continue a storyline without hiccups.

That’s not to say that fact-based podcasts are not without their hiccups.

Many podcasters — both fiction and non-fiction — told me they plan content several weeks, if not months, in advance to ensure they will have something ready to go live on the days and times they have set up for their listeners.

What will the format of your podcast be?

Podcast formats include:

  • Interviews
  • Educational
  • Conversational
  • Non-fiction storytelling
  • Fiction storytelling

While you don’t have to commit to a strict interview format, consistency is a good idea if you hope to build an audience.

Some of the podcasters I spoke with typically use the interview format, but they also have a regularly scheduled episode where it’s just them either recapping past episodes or doing a deep dive into a topic on their own.

Other hosts will dedicate one season to interviews, and another season to just sitting down by themselves with a microphone.

If you set up your podcast to be an interview series you’ll need to line up people for content creation.

You’ll likely need scheduling software, you’ll need to create a waiver or legal release for your guests to sign, and you’ll have to figure out how to actually host and record the interview.

Some podcast hosts even require their guests to have a certain microphone to be on their show to maintain audio consistency and quality.

Are there branding considerations you need to think about?

If your podcast is a hobby or new business venture, you may be creating a brand from scratch.

On the other hand, if you’re treating it as a business marketing tool, you’ll need to consider your business’s current branding, goals, values, etc.

For branding, you should start thinking about artwork including the image you’ll use on podcast platforms such as iTunes, as well as logos and other images you may want to use on your website, social media, newsletters and in all other messaging about your show.

One final branding issue to think about is whether to trademark your show’s name.

Virtual attorney Andrea Sager discussed trademarks and copyrights for podcasters at the Podcast Movement conference, and she explained you shouldn’t wait to trademark your brand.

As she explains, “One of the top reasons you shouldn’t wait to file a trademark application for your brand is because you want the maximum protection possible. Once your brand has a registered trademark, the world will have notice of your registration in the United States. It will still be important to monitor your registration for infringers, but your registration will appear in a TESS database search, which is what many new small businesses depend on when choosing a name.”

She went onto say that registering a trademark gives you “the ability to shut down an online business that is infringing on your registered trademark. If all of the online platforms close the accounts of the infringer, then you have shut down an online business without filing a lawsuit. This can save you an incredible amount of money and time.”

I highly recommend her blog if you want to learn more about your virtual rights.

How long will your episodes be?

The topic of how long a podcast should be was another heated one amongst several people I spoke with. And when I got home and researched it I couldn’t find a definitive answer.

Unlike a blog post where the length can affect SEO, a podcast can be as short as 10 minutes or as long as 90 minutes.

Some people I talked to said your content should be just long enough to address your topic. Others swore by keeping it to 20 minutes or less so that someone grocery shopping, on their commute, or working out could listen to an entire episode in one sitting.

The best advice I heard is to ask your audience what they want in terms of length.

You can send listeners a survey in a newsletter, or ask on social media. After all, you’re creating the content for them, so why not let them simply tell you how long they want the content to be?

How To Podcast Woman Listening To Headphones

What’s your message?

One of the podcasters I had a wonderful conversation with was David Hooper. He wrote a book on podcasting called “Big Podcast,” and he says the message you want to spread with your podcast “is the foundation on which everything else about your podcast will be built.”

He went on to say that “a general message won’t be motivating to you or interesting enough to keep listeners engaged — you need to be specific.”

In order to do that David says you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What are you excited about?
  • Where can you add the greatest value, and how can you do it in a unique way?
  • What outcome do you want for people who listen to you?

David explained that your podcast’s message starts with you, but it’s not about you.

It’s ultimately about your listener, and what they need and/or want to hear.

In a way, you’re just a messenger delivering the message.

How often will you release new episodes?

You have so many options for your release dates.

Some podcasters choose to release 10 episodes at once so their listeners can binge on them Netflix-style. Others commit to once a week or twice a month.

Then there’s JLD, who for a while was releasing new episodes daily. He’s since scaled back, but for several years his listeners got used to daily episodes of Entrepreneurs on Fire.

Whatever you choose for your release dates, do yourself a favor and stick to your schedule.

Like I mentioned earlier, consistency is an important factor in building a new audience. If your listeners expect a new episode every Friday and you suddenly take a few weeks off, they may move onto something else.

How many episodes are you willing to commit to before you launch?

Most podcasters I spoke to suggested launching with at least 5 to 10 episodes. The reason for this is the same reason you should launch your blog with that many posts. If you have a new visitor, you want to give them more than one thing to consume when they first “meet you.”

How to create great podcast content

At some point, you’ll need to start planning what will actually be recorded on your show. With that in mind, here are some simple tips for how to create great podcast content:

Winning at storytelling

At first blush, storytelling may seem like it’s only for the fiction podcasters, but it’s really not.

Storytelling is an important component for every podcast host. It’s the best way to relay your message or share a lesson with your audience.

You’ll set the stage with an interesting subject, you’ll paint a picture, and then you will tell a story that will begin with a hook that keeps the listener there through the middle and until the end of the episode.

Your story needs to have a theme or guiding concept — like in fiction, this key idea will give focus and meaning to your story.

You need a strong character taking action, moving the story forward. You also need a voice, whether it’s suspenseful, impassioned, or comforting, that sets the tone for your story.

With any luck, it will be so good that listeners will come back for another episode to hear another story.

Interviewing

If you are using an interview format for your podcast, there is an art and a science as to what makes for a good interview.

I have to share the brilliance from JLD’s session on top actions world-class podcast hosts take for every interview. Here are his best tips on interviewing guests on your show:

Ask unique questions that your guests haven’t gotten before.

This is sound advice because the truth is, the more popular podcasting becomes, the more likely your guests will be to have heard all the questions before.

A great idea would be to ask your interviewee if they have any questions that they’ve never been asked before. Do this before recording day so they have time to think about it, and give you a solid question and answer.

Give your guests the questions ahead of time.

Don’t treat your show as a shock value news interview. The last thing you want is your interviewee to be stunned or tripped up by the questions you’re asking. That is unless you’re going for a Howard Stern-vibe or trying to entrap your guest.

Chat before you begin recording.

Don’t just dive right into your interview. Most people are nervous to be recorded. So, a warm-up chat helps calm everyone’s nerves and ease into the interview session.

This next tip might honestly be my favorite.

Don’t waste time introducing your guest and reading their bio. You can do that in post-production. Use their limited time to focus on the stuff they need to be there for.

Remember this is a recorded interview and it can be edited.

If you’re having audio trouble such as a scratchy mic, background noise, etc., take a moment to pause the recording and make adjustments and note when in the interview you paused. It’ll be better for everyone, especially your audience.

Make sure your guest’s call to action at the end of the interview is clear and concise.

How can your audience continue the conversation with the guest? Where can they follow them on social media, buy their book/course, learn more?

At the end of the interview, after you’ve stopped recording, engage in a post-interview chat.

As a past guest on a handful of podcasts, I’ve been left wondering if I did OK, when it was going to be released, and what would happen next. In the post-interview chat, addressing these concerns will not only help your guest feel more at ease, it will give you the opportunity to ask for a share once the episode is live, and continue building the relationship.

I’ll add to this that you should also be prepared with backup questions on the fly. While you want to give your guests their questions ahead of time, some people will give short answers and need a little help. In other words, you may find you have to drag the material out of some guests.

Think of it like the people you send a paragraph long text message to, and they send back “Yep” or “OK.”

You need more than just a one-word response for a good interview episode.

Therefore, prepare some follow-up questions for those moments that you need additional information, clarification, or for lack of a better phrase “filler.”

Pro tip: Make sure you get a podcast release form from your guest ahead of time.

Attorney Gordon Firemark has a free podcast guest release form you can grab from his website.

Why do you need a release? As he says, without one your guest could demand you edit their episode a certain way, demand payment, force you to take the episode down, and a whole host of other issues. His best advice is to cover your rear, and protect yourself!

How To Podcast Free Release

Basic production tips

Aside from storytelling and interviewing, there are some basic things you should do before recording your podcast episodes. These include, but aren’t limited to:

Check all of your equipment before you begin recording.

A test may be helpful if you haven’t used your equipment in a few days, or if you’ve had to unplug or restart anything.

I met a gentleman who had done an entire episode into his microphone, only to realize an hour later that though it was being recorded, the microphone wasn’t plugged in.

If you are interviewing someone, make sure they check all of their equipment as well. That’s why the pre-interview chat is so important — it’s a great opportunity to make sure everything is working.

If you don’t have access to a recording studio, try to find a quiet space to record in.

Many of the podcasters I’ve met actually recorded in their closets until they could afford better equipment and recording space.

Another method several people told me they have used was covering their workspace with a blanket while recording.

For additional ideas on reducing background noise, echo, etc…

Be conscious of where your microphone is in relation to your mouth, and keep that distance throughout your recording session.

This tip I learned from Pat Flynn is so simple, but I honestly never would have thought of it when researching how to podcast.

He said, “If you drift away from the mic or even look away briefly, that will reflect directly in the sound quality of your episode. The key is to stay consistent throughout the whole recording.”

Don’t begin recording without a plan.

You don’t need an entire script, but you should have a flow in mind to avoid rambling incessantly.

Try to avoid “ums” and “uhs.”

Don’t let it scare you to the point that you stutter and get tripped up, but at least be cognizant of how often these filler words are said. Remember, this can be edited later.

Keep in mind that your listener only has audio.

You shouldn’t reference something your listener can’t see. They’re not going to care that your co-host or interview guest is looking at you with a funny facial expression because they are unable to see it.

Try standing while you’re recording.

This can provide better air support while you are speaking because there is less pressure on your diaphragm. You’ll also come across more confidently in your delivery.

Use two microphones.

If you have a co-host or are interviewing someone, make sure you have two separate microphones, and record the audio of each person separately when possible.

Sharing a microphone will throw off the sound and make it awkward to talk to each other.

Do some vocal warmups before you start recording and stay hydrated.

Practicing some simple vocal warm-ups can help clear your voice and get any roughness out of the way.

You may also want to consider drinking some water or tea while recording. Avoid soda, milk and coffee, however, as those beverages can cause coughing, burping and other sound distractions.

If you’ll be recording several episodes, honey in a cup of tea may be a good idea because of its soothing effects on your throat and vocal cords. Take time between episodes to drink some water and relax your vocal cords a little as well.

Some of the podcasters I met even use a humidifier the night before they plan to batch record to hydrate their throats.

Understand that certain topics will be difficult to discuss

Depending on what your podcast is about, you will need to be cognizant of the fact that some subjects will need more thought than others.

For example, if you are bringing up the #MeToo movement, and women being sexually harassed or assaulted, you have to take a careful approach.

One of the sessions at Podcast Movement touched on this beautifully. The creators of the podcast “Believed,” discussed their multi-episode documentary about former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nassar, and how for years he got away with abusing hundreds of women and girls for two decades.

NPR’s N’Jeri Eaton, deputy director of programming and new audiences, moderated the session with “Believed” co-host Lindsay Smith and editor Alison MacAdam as they told the story of how the show came to be.

Before they recorded a single episode, they had to get clear on the story they were telling, and how their audience would react. The intention was to be honest, unbiased, and sympathetic towards anyone listening who may have suffered the same way as Larry’s victims.

Lindsay and Alison said they had an intense planning session to figure out just how much hand-holding would be necessary for their listeners and to make sure this wasn’t just a show about shock and awe.

Rather it was a show about helping listeners relate to the narrative to see how easily something like this could happen, and why women are scared to tell their stories for fear of no one believing them.

The truth is with hot button subjects such as abuse, diversity, politics, racism and many others, you will have to keep your audience and their reactions in mind.

It’s important to have facts before simply jumping into an episode so as not to offend or misspeak. You can’t bring your own biases into the narrative — instead, you need to do a little research before recording.

Even when your subject matter seemingly has nothing to do with hot button issues, it’s imperative that you plan ahead.

Off-color comments and jokes can destroy a show and a host’s reputation — and if it’s related to your business, it could shut that down, too.

While it’s easy to brush this advice off as “worrying too much about what others think,” the reality is your listeners will be from diverse backgrounds. How you handle what you discuss matters.

Of course, there are some shows that intentionally cross lines and push buttons, but if you want your show to be a thoughtful one, this is something important you must consider in your content creation.

The technical side of podcasting

For the most part, all you really need to do to record your podcast is plug your microphone into your computer, open your audio recording software, hit record, and start talking. Again, make sure everything is working properly before you sit down to record a full episode.

It’s OK if you’re nervous the first time. It’s normal, and with time, you will become more comfortable.

In fact, several podcasters I met recorded several test episodes that have never seen the light of day just so they could get used to being behind the microphone.

Another thing that may help calm your nerves is the realization that you can edit it. You don’t have to be a pro in the beginning.

How To Podcast Jared Easley
Jared Easley, co-founder and co-organizer of Podcast Movement

As Jared Easley, co-founder and co-organizer of Podcast Movement, says, the most important thing when you’re ready to start a podcast is to just start.

It’s not going to be perfect, and that’s completely fine.

Just start recording, and packaging your podcast for public consumption. The faster you do that, the faster you can start learning, tweaking, fine-tuning your voice and sound, improving your delivery, etc.

Record your intro and/or outro

You might want to hire someone for this, but however you choose to do it, your intros and outros should be ready to add to your podcast sooner rather than later.

Some podcasters like to have a different intro every time, whereas others choose to use the same one.

If you are planning on using music for your intros and outros, you’ll need to make sure you are using music legally.

The music you use must be royalty-free, bought and paid for by you, or an original creation by you. Do your research into the music you are using before using it. It’s better to be overly cautious and safe.

Side note: Some of the podcasters I’ve talked to online and at the conference used freelancers found on sites like Fiverr and Upwork for their intros and outros only to get hit with legal trouble.

One had to remove every episode, re-edit with new music, and reload them. Another was hit with some pretty serious fines.

There is a myth that you can use seconds of a song without getting in trouble for copyright infringement. Several attorneys that were at the conference told me this is completely false.

Don’t risk your podcast, your money, your business or your reputation. Make sure whatever music you use on your podcast is legal.

Bottom line: Be careful who you hire, and the music that is used in all aspects of your podcast!

Editing your podcast

Even if you will eventually outsource the editing, it’s a good idea to get a grasp on basic editing techniques.

This is especially important if you have a tight schedule because if you have to publish an episode by Tuesday and your editor is suddenly sick with the flu, it will fall on you. It’s better to have some understanding of what to do.

While we obviously can’t go into a full lesson here on how to edit your podcasts, Pat Flynn has created a free tutorial for editing in both Audacity and Garageband.

If you aren’t using either of those software programs for editing, there is probably a tutorial for whatever program you have.

Check YouTube and the website of the software you’ve acquired. Learn the ins and outs, and you might just surprise yourself with how quickly you can nail down the process.

The other popular software programs I’ve heard about for recording and editing podcasts include:

  • Adobe Audition
  • Apple Logic Pro X
  • Zencastr
  • Hindenburg Journalist

Note: I have not personally used any of these programs, so I cannot attest to their quality. I’m simply relaying information from those I’ve met on my journey of researching how to podcast.

Best WordPress plugins for podcasters

Some of the plugins recommended to me are:

  • Seriously Simple Podcasting
  • PowerPress
  • Smart Podcast Player
  • Simple Podcast Press

Again, do your research, and read all the reviews before simply installing a plugin on your WordPress website.

What about mobile recording?

I have met several people who record podcasts on their phones.

They said the trick for using a phone to record is to use a high sound quality microphone made specifically for recording audio with your smartphone and install an app made for podcasting on the go such as Anchor or Audioboom.

How To Podcast Anchor
Photo: Anchor App Screenshots on Mobile

The most common complaint I heard about mobile recording is that the audio quality is never as good as using a computer.

However, I did learn there are SaaS (software as a service) companies that can take your mobile audio and clean it up, making it broadcast ready. But again, I can’t speak to which of the options available are the best for the money.

How to publish your podcast

Once you have recorded your episodes, it’s time to publish for the world to hear.

Publishing to iTunes

iTunes is the most popular to get podcasts, so you should start there. Here are the steps for publishing your podcast to iTunes:

  • First, take your final audio file and load it to your podcast hosting service. This is where your audio and video files will be stored on a server, and from there you can broadcast those files to users on the Internet.
  • With your podcast host, you’ll be given a unique web address — an RSS feed — of your podcast. Before you can load it to iTunes, Apple requires you to test and validate it.
    • Review Apple’s full instructions for testing a podcast.
    • Once you have tested it, learn how to validate your podcast.
  • Additionally, Apple requires the following for submission:
    • Make sure you have an Apple ID
    • Give your podcast a title
    • Write your description
    • Load your artwork
    • Choose the category that best suits your podcast—many podcasters recommend choosing up to three
    • Select the language of the episode
    • Mark whether the podcast is “Explicit” or “Not Explicit”
  • Once you have tested and validated your podcast, and provided the requirements mentioned above, you should be able to simply copy and paste your podcast’s RSS feed into iTunes and click “Submit.”

At this point, you will need to wait for Apple to approve your podcast. This can take up to a few weeks, but could be approved in as little as one to a few days.

Publishing to other platforms

Many podcast directories actually use iTunes to distribute your podcast, but you may need to load it to others. The top four that most people suggest adding your podcast to include:

  • Google Play Music
  • Spotify
  • Stitcher
  • TuneIn

For most directories, all you will need to do is create an account, add your RSS feed, verify ownership, and then press publish. Click each of the directories mentioned above for their instructions.

Publishing to YouTube

A lot of podcasters are choosing to upload their podcasts to YouTube as well to increase their reach and tap into some SEO juice.

Simply create an image for your podcast, convert the MP3 to an MP4, add the image as a static graphic, and voila! You’ll have a video version of your podcast that you can load to YouTube.

Your static image for Youtube should include your podcast name, the title of the episode, who’s featured on it (i.e. the host and/or guests) and a logo.

Some podcasters choose to add an additional graphic to this static image that represents what the show is about, or who is appearing on the episode.

For example, if I was interviewing an ice cream shop owner, my static image might have an image of the owner, their shop, or a scoop of ice cream.

Of course, to convert your audio to a video file and add a static image, you’ll need video editing software. From what I’ve learned most PC users can get away with using Windows Movie Maker and Mac users can use iMovie for this step.

Tips for monetizing your podcast

At this point, you might be thinking, “Wow, this is a LOT of work.”

And, the truth is, it is.

The work involved is the biggest thing keeping so many people from launching after learning how to make a podcast. However, it can be rewarding, and yield income over time.

In fact, with a little planning, you could start monetizing from the moment you release your first episode.

Here are some ideas and tips you can use to monetize your podcast:

Crowdfunding

Patreon was one of the sponsors and speakers at Podcast Movement and the crowdfunding platform provided some interesting insights:

  • Have a timeline to launch and a plan for how you will deliver rewards to people who are donating money
  • Start your donations at a minimum of $2
  • Make it scalable so that you aren’t doing a lot of work
  • Limit patrons to make it more exclusive
  • Only offer recurring monthly donations instead of one-off donations so that you can continue earning income

Patreon’s advice for the easiest and most scalable rewards were:

  • Early access to episodes (24-48 hours prior to it going live for others)
  • Livestreams of your podcast
  • Special Q&A sessions after the episode is over
  • Shoutouts of your donors in episodes
  • Check out more of Patreon’s ideas podcasters can offer fans.

Sponsorships

If you have a knack for sales, you could start asking brands to sponsor for your show. In the beginning, you might not be able to command much money, but it could be enough to at least offset your equipment, domain and hosting fees.

I highly recommend reading Entrepreneurs on Fire’s Ultimate Guide to Podcast Sponsorships if you want to go this route.

Affiliate marketing

This is by far the fastest and easiest way some of the podcasters I spoke with have monetized their podcasts.

They write show notes for every episode, and in the notes they include a section for products mentioned with affiliate links to those items. I’ve also seen people add a section at the bottom of their show notes for their favorite podcast tools, equipment and services — all with affiliate links, of course.

Pitch your business services at the end of every episode

Let’s say you’re a coach or a photographer, and your podcast is a marketing tool for finding new clients. You could monetize your podcast by delivering a call-to-action in your episodes that you are taking on new clients, with a link to your website.

Charge your guests to appear on your show

While this is certainly not popular amongst podcasters, I did meet and learn of a few in the industry who actually charge appearance fees for their guests. How much to charge is certainly open for debate, but some charge based on how big their following is.

When you’re just starting out, this might not be a good option for you, but in trying to be unbiased in this post, I’m sharing actual strategies I’ve heard people using.

Sell premium content for “after the show”

Some episodes simply aren’t long enough to dive deep into the subject you’re discussing on your podcast.

As a result, you might want to consider creating virtual workshops or extended episodes that you sell for download to your audience.

For example, let’s say you’re discussing how to get more mentions in the media. Your premium content could be a digital workshop you sell on your podcast that breaks down the exact strategies someone can use to get in the press.

How to get more podcast listeners

Once your podcast has finally been launched, how can you get more listeners? Honestly, it’s the same way you would get the word out about any other venture you’re working on — you market and promote like crazy, and then you keep doing that even after you start gaining a large audience.

Essentially, you’re going to have to market your podcast forever to keep growing. Here are some ideas to help you do that without breaking the bank in advertising costs:

  • Start by telling friends and family: Tell everyone on your email list and in your circle about your show and ask them to share it.
  • Share it on social media: Use relevant hashtags when you can, and share it to all the places.
  • Blog about it: You should create a blog for your show, and have a post for every episode complete with show notes so that you can take advantage of SEO.
  • Go to podcast conferences and meetups to meet people in the industry: I don’t even have a podcast and I came home with hundreds of business cards to check out and podcasts to look up.
  • Get on other podcasts: The best way I’ve learned to grow your podcast is to hijack other people’s audiences. Try to become a guest on other podcasts, and in your call-to-action at the end, tell people how to find your podcast. Guest podcasting is the new guest posting — so many people with and without podcasts are using it to reach new audiences.
  • Find a way into the media: If you can set yourself up as an expert in your field, leverage that expertise to become a source for your local media outlets.

Conclusion and next steps

We’ve covered a lot in this post. From the research I’ve done so far into how to podcast, I know firsthand how overwhelming all of this information can be. Here’s a brief summary of what we’ve discussed here today:

  • Get some recording equipment, but don’t pull out the credit card just yet. It’s OK to start with the less expensive equipment and upgrade as you grow your podcast.
  • Plan ahead for all aspects of your podcast — like the name, topic, format and content — before recording a single episode.
  • Record the podcast, edit it, and get it ready for publication.
  • Load it to your podcast host, and share the RSS feed to podcast directories, starting with iTunes (since it’s still the most popular).
  • Use crowdfunding, sponsorships, affiliate marketing, etc. to monetize your show.
  • Become friends with other podcasters, collaborate with them, and promote like crazy to grow your show.

There you have it, folks. The down and dirty guide to how to podcast. I hope this has inspired you to consider creating a podcast for yourself or your business.

I know it has personally inspired me to start my own, which I plan to launch in early 2020.

To close things out, here are some additional tools and resources to consider as you research and prepare to launch your own podcast:

Books:

  • Podcast Launch: How to create, launch, grow & monetize a Podcast, by John Lee Dumas
  • The Podcast Journal: Idea to Launch in 50 Days, by John Lee Dumas
  • Superfans: The Easy Way to Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, And Build a Successful Business by Pat Flynn
  • Big Podcast – Grow Your Podcast Audience, Build Listener Loyalty, and Get Everybody Talking About Your Show by David Hooper

Videos:

  • The Messengers | A Podcast Documentary
  • A Step-By-Step Podcasting Tutorial by Pat Flynn
  • Free Podcast Course by John Lee Dumas

Facebook Groups:

  • Podcast Movement Community—For Podcasters
  • Podfest Multimedia Expo Community

Want to launch a new podcast, or grow your existing podcast community even faster? Upfiv has your back with fast and affordable podcast hosting.

Image by: Ashley Grant

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Your definitive guide to holiday email marketing

Whatever your niche or sector, email marketing is a promotional medium that will generate amazing results — if you do it right. Harness that power for holiday email marketing and you stand to increase brand awareness, grow your audience and boost your bottom line, big time.

Studies show that more than 50% of U.S. consumers check their personal email account more than 10 times a day. And it’s their favorite way to receive updates from brands.

During the holiday season, eight in 10 shoppers are influenced by online information before making a purchase.

When we say holiday email marketing, we’re not just talking about Christmas or Thanksgiving. There are countless annual holidays and celebratory seasons out there. By tapping into the right ones, you can transform a promotional email into an invaluable profit-generating tool for your business.

Guide to holiday email marketing

We’re going to show you how to create a holiday email marketing strategy for your business from start to finish — a definitive guide that you can use for seasonal success all year round.

  • A few steps to get started with holiday email marketing.
    • Know your audience.
    • Consider your email subject lines.
  • Building your holiday email marketing strategy.
    • Create a holiday-themed design.
    • Share holiday gift guides, deals and teaser emails.
    • Produce a holiday marketing video.
  • Holiday email marketing optimization and retargeting.
    • Set up referral rewards.
    • Deliver post-holiday or follow-up emails.
    • Embrace email automation.
    • Don’t forget holiday email mobile optimization.
  • Research, track and refine your holiday email efforts.
    • Benchmark your results.
    • Peek at your competitors.
  • Conclusion and next steps.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

A few steps to get started with holiday email marketing

Whether your holiday email efforts are centered on Hanukkah, Christmas or Groundhog Day, to enjoy maximum promotional success, you need to start planning early.

Get together with your colleagues or team to decide on the holidays you feel will work best for your business and mark them in a dedicated content planner as early as possible. This will give you ample time to prepare, plan, create and deliver.

But, before you start creating content, the first thing you need to do is get under the skin of your customers.

Know your audience

If you don’t know who you’re aiming your holiday email marketing efforts at, it’s unlikely you’ll see any return on investment (ROI). That said, you should build a holiday-specific buyer persona so that your marketing communications will resonate with your audience.

By building a solid customer profile or persona, you’ll be able to personalize your emails to offer a level of personal value to all of your recipients, based on their preferences and needs.

Armed with your buyer persona (or personas), you should make sure that your existing email lists are up to date and your subscribers are segmented into sub-lists (such as repeat customers, frequent buyers, new subscribers, special offer redeemers, etc.) so that you can enhance the personalization of your content for maximum results.

Consider your email subject lines

If you’re going to send out a holiday email, you need to get your subject lines right. It’s the headline that will make people click though, after all.

Tip: Always aim to make your email subject lines short, sweet and relevant.

Here are a couple of our favorites from Black Friday for your reference:

  • “Let’s sweeten the Black Friday Deals with …”
  • “Are you taking time for YOU this Black Friday?”

Once you’ve taken the time to plan, get to know your audience and create effective email subject lines, it’s time to start rolling out your strategy.

Building your holiday email marketing strategy

Acorns Greenery Illustrate Holiday Marketing Design

When creating content for your holiday email marketing strategy, you should always try to speak to your customers on a personal level, remaining conversational while designing your emails in such a way that makes your intent clear and concise.

These tips will help you create promotional email content that works for any holiday or occasion.

Create a holiday-themed design

When it comes to holiday email marketing, a digestible design coupled with striking themed imagery will excite and inspire your customers. And that’s likely to result in action — people buying stuff from you.

By creating a holiday-themed email banner image and creating call-to-action buttons (“Buy now,” “I want one,” “Start shopping”) that match it, you’ll build a sense of festivity.

Plus, if you place your discount codes, deals or offers near the top of your holiday email, you’re more likely to encourage click-throughs and increase sales.

Share holiday gift guides, deals and teaser emails

When you’re creating a holiday marketing email strategy, it’s important to provide a unique level of value while offering exclusivity and, of course, creating urgency — for example, “Quick, buy now while you still can!”

With this in mind, when crafting a holiday email, employing these additional tactics to encourage your subscribers to buy your products or services will yield positive results:

  • Create a holiday gift guide with tips, advice and consultancy on what’s best to buy this holiday season.
  • Send out holiday teaser emails leading up to the holiday in question, getting your prospects excited by promising to deliver exciting seasonal content, news, and offers. Our guide to email drip campaigns will help you get your timing and ideas just right.
  • Offer exclusive holiday-based deals, offers and discount codes. Encourage your customers to take action by placing a redemption time limit on the offers you provide.
  • Send last-minute emails offering free shipping or reminding your subscribers of their deal, offer or discount redemption deadlines.
  • Offer one-click or instant purchasing options.
  • Launch a holiday-themed competition, encouraging your email recipients to enter by replying to your email or sharing a piece of content via social media. Brand awareness and engagement in one neat promotional package.
  • Go the traditional route by designing and sending out an eye-grabbing custom graphic or image to use as a greeting card.

Be aware: While encouraging action and creating urgency works, don’t over do it.

Putting too much pressure on potential prospects to subscribe to your list or buy your products could hurt your brand reputation.

Offer deals and incentives and implement redemption time limits, but whatever you do, be natural and conversational when speaking to your customers rather than forcing their hands toward the shopping carts. Essentially, you should create excitement and leave the hard sales pitch at the door.

Produce a holiday marketing video

As humans, we’re visual creatures. In fact, 54% of today’s consumers want to see more video content from the brands they subscribe to or follow.

By creating a fun, inspirational or topical holiday-themed marketing video, not only are you likely to boost your brand awareness, but you’ll have a powerful asset to share in your promotional emails.

To help you on your quest to video marketing perfection, read our guide on different types of video content to move customers through the sales funnel.

Holiday email marketing optimization and retargeting

With your timing, content, deals, design, offers and visuals firmly in place, now’s the time to optimize your holiday marketing email efforts while thinking about retargeting subscribers to enjoy maximum value from your campaign. Here are four ways to do that.

Set up referral rewards

Reward repeat buyers or first-time holiday purchasers by sending a follow-up email offering an exclusive referral reward.

The reward could come in the form of a discount code, two for one offer, first dibs on brand new products or free shipping for a month — the choice is yours.

By prompting existing holiday customers to encourage their friends or relatives to subscribe to your email list, you’ll have a bigger, more engaged audience to target when the next holiday rolls around. A real win-win.

Deliver post-holiday or follow-up emails

Follow-up or retargeting emails work well when delivered near the end or shortly after your holiday marketing campaign.

When it comes to following up with a holiday marketing email recipient, there are several approaches you can take.

First, if a promotional email recipient has clicked through to a purchase page but for some reason, decided to stop their transaction, it’s possible to retarget them with a cart abandonment email.

Cart abandonment emails allow you to re-engage your subscribers with some sweet holiday messaging while reminding them of their previous purchasing activities.

If sent in a timely fashion, cart abandonment emails earn solid results. If you have a template up your sleeve that you can edit according to campaign or occasion, sending out these types of emails will take minimal effort.

It’s also possible to send follow-up or retargeting emails with personalized holiday gift suggestion or, as mentioned, free shipping or deals with expiration dates. These approaches boost engagement while creating a sense of urgency.

Whatever approach you decide to take when following up with a promotional email, it’s important to include a clear-cut call-to-action to guide your customers to the next stage of the sales process — whether it’s a product page or instant purchase shopping cart.

But, whatever you do, make sure you avoid these costly mistakes.

Tip: When creating calls to action for your promotional emails, keep it simple! Even adding a linked phrase like “Shop Now” can do the trick.

Also, you should make your links noticeable. Most clicked links have slightly larger text or are in all caps, with a different color than the rest of the text surrounding them. Red often works well.

Try to stick to just one link per email to keep your promotion simple and clutter-free.

You also can try using a linked image. Visuals immediately catch the eye and you can use them to incite a call to action. The example below features a clickable image that yielded the lion’s share of the clicks:

Holiday Email Craftsy

Embrace email automation

Email automation is a process that makes it possible to send time- or action-triggered emails to your subscribers with relevant content.

With automation, it’s possible to create and schedule emails to be sent to different segments of your subscriber base at times when they’re most likely to be engaged.

Essentially, you can set everything up and monitor your success with minimal intervention.

For a seamless, time-saving email retargeting experience, there’s no denying that email automation is your best option.

This practical guide will help you get started, saving you time and money in equal measures.

Holiday Email Woman Holding Phone

Don’t forget holiday email mobile optimization

Studies suggest emails that display poorly on mobile are usually deleted within three seconds. And, when you consider that emails are now opened more on mobile than desktop, making sure your holiday email marketing communications are optimized across all devices is essential.

It’s a make-or-break situation.

Your promotional emails must be fully mobile-optimized, offering a seamless level of user experience (UX) while looking great on screen. Otherwise, your customers will put them in the virtual trash bin, posthaste.

With testing, time and development, you can ensure that all of your emails work perfectly on mobile devices. But the most effective solution is to use an email marketing tool like Upfiv Email Marketing that will optimize your designs automatically.

Doing so will allow you to preview them across devices before sending them to your recipients, resulting in time and money well spent.

Research, track and refine your holiday email efforts

Sector or niche aside, your marketing success as a business owner will depend on your ability to test and refine your activities for future holiday campaign success.

Testing your holiday emails boils down to good common sense.

In terms of checking and testing your emails before sending them, you might catch typos or broken links, or discover a better way to lay out a module. And by measuring the success of your emails after your campaign, you’ll be able to identify what works well in addition to areas that require improvement.

If you don’t have a marketing team to test your emails, you should send a test to yourself or a trusted friend. It really does help to see your newsletter as it appears in your readers’ inboxes.

Plus, if you’re starting a drip campaign, or continuing one, it’s important to ensure your campaign is functioning optimally.

Here are two tried and tested strategies to ensure you holiday email efforts work for you time and time again.

Benchmark your results

By using email campaign data to your advantage, you’ll be able to benchmark your holiday email marketing efforts, empowering you to make vital improvements during the next seasonal period.

The best way to benchmark your campaign efforts is by analyzing metrics — such as open rates, click-through rates and conversion rates — based on the performance of individual emails. You can do this through platforms like Google Analytics or your email marketing platform’s built-in performance data, using your discoveries to understand your strengths and weaknesses.

By drilling down into your performance data, you’ll be able to decide the best and worst times to send emails, the types of content or offers that work best, and figure out which elements of your holiday marketing efforts need improvement, so you can take action where necessary.

If you measure, track and benchmark your efforts on a continual basis, you’ll keep evolving, increasing your holiday marketing sales year after year in the process.

Failing to do so will only dilute your promotional email efforts.

Peek at your competitors

The best thing about holiday email marketing is the fact that the holidays (in their various forms) happen every year, offering a fresh opportunity to dazzle, amaze and engage your audience every 12 months.

One of the best ways to get inspiration for your holiday marketing efforts is to look at what your competitors are doing.

Follow them on social media and sign up for their email lists to gather as much intel as possible.

Peeking at the competition is great because not only can you utilize the best parts of their campaigns to your advantage by placing your own spin on their ideas and delivering them to your customers, but you can also spot content gaps to exploit.

For example, if your competitor is doing a “12 offers of Christmas” campaign — sending out a different deal each day on the lead up to the big day — you could evolve this idea by delivering an email that includes a “12 days of Christmas advent calendar” graphic that your customers can open for exclusive deals and content.

With holiday emails, the sky really is the limit. But it certainly doesn’t hurt to look at what your competitors are doing with their holiday email marketing activities.

Conclusion and next steps

There’s no doubt about it: for businesses of all shapes and sizes, the holidays offer a prime opportunity for increasing your sales, boosting brand awareness and growing your audience.

By planning early on and delivering content that will inspire as well engage your audience in equal measures, you stand to enjoy great success with your holiday email marketing campaigns.

“Email has an ability many channels don’t: creating valuable, personal touches — at scale.” —David Newman, author of “Do It! Marketing”

As a quick recap, here is a rundown of the best general practices for holiday email marketing:

Be clear and direct

Always have a clear goal for every promotional email you send to make your communications concise and impactful. Plus, if you’re looking to attract new subscribers, make sure your opt-in information is easy to read, letting prospective subscribers know what you intend to do with their contact details.

Stay recent and engaged

When dealing with your email marketing lists, make sure you remove any subscribers who are inactive or unresponsive, giving yourself the space to focus your efforts on new customers or existing recipients who are likely to engage.

Exert no pressure

Adding a sense of urgency to your holiday emails with deal and discount code expiry messaging, for example, is effective. But, don’t over-pressure your holiday prospects as it could damage your brand reputation. Make sure your communications are as natural as possible, leaving the hard sales pitch at the door.

Test your emails

Measuring, tracking and testing your emails is essential to your ongoing holiday marketing success. Testing your emails before you send them will ensure you capture any typos or formatting issues across devices.

And, by drilling down into your performance data, you’ll be able to see what works and what doesn’t, empowering you to make improvements for future campaigns.

Care for your customers

Make sure you reward loyal subscribers with exclusive content and incentives, and always remember to offer a unique level of value with every single piece of content you send.

Whether it’s a greetings card, gift guide or an exclusive discount code, you should always strive to keep your holiday email recipients coming back for more.

This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Christina Berry, Emma Wilhelm, Macdara Bracken and Mira Lynn.

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How to create a real estate website with WordPress

Real estate agents are able to advertise, promote, and even rent and sell homes all over the country and around the world, thanks to online technology. The same technology lets buyers research new homes and neighborhoods, helps sellers know how to stage and price their homes, and lets both find a real estate agent they trust. That technology also empowers you to create a real estate website with WordPress.

Why? While a lot of this new technology is handled through different mobile apps and even third-party websites like Zillow and Realtor.com, real estate agents still need to have their own website that will show both buyers and sellers the kinds of work you do, the homes you sell, and the services you provide.

And when it comes to the kind of website you have, we’re big fans of real estate websites built on WordPress.

The great thing about WordPress is that it’s scalable. This means building a real estate website with WordPress is smart, no matter how big it is, whether you have a one-person shop or a large agency with 50-plus agents and offices throughout the city.

So let’s talk about the ideal choice for your real estate website, and how to create your real estate website with WordPress.

Guide to creating a real estate website with WordPress

We’re going to cover a lot of territory in this article, including:

  • Benefits of using WordPress for a real estate website.
  • Getting your real estate domain name ready.
  • How to create a real estate website with Upfiv Managed WordPress Hosting.
  • WordPress themes for real estate.
  • WordPress real estate plugins.
  • Tips for building your WordPress real estate website.
  • Conclusion and next steps.

Let’s get moving.

Benefits of using WordPress for a real estate website

There are many benefits to building a real estate website with  WordPress.

Lots of functionality

The biggest benefit of a real estate WordPress site is that it’s almost limitless in its functionality. Thanks to the various plugins and themes available, you can trick out your website to provide all the functionality that buyers and sellers have come to expect.

For example, there’s the advanced listing search, which lets buyers specify the number of bedrooms and bathrooms they want, or to look only at condo and townhouse rentals that allow pets, or even limit their search to a specific geographic area.

Map display

Once the users know where they want to look for their new home, you can show the listings on a map display, which usually uses Google Maps to display your different properties.

Users can send the address of their favorite listings to their own Google Maps app on their phone.

And when you build a real estate website with WordPress, some themes will even let you customize the pin images and layouts of your website’s maps to take advantage of the different photos of the property.

Property details

Of course, once the buyers know where the properties are located, they’ll want to see the specific property details, like a floor plan, square footage, amenities, school district and so on. And you want your theme to display this information in a clear, easy-to-read layout that looks good on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone.

Save favorites

As they do their research, your buyers are going to find some homes they like and want to keep an eye on. A good real estate WordPress theme will let them save their favorite real estate listings so they can come back and find them later. This lets them compare different homes and properties, and will keep them on your site longer.

Mortgage calculator

You can even offer a mortgage calculator, which will let buyers know how much they can expect to pay each month, based on the listing price of the home.

Booking and reservation requests

There are options for rental properties, which means you can build a real estate website with WordPress that offers online booking and reservation requests. This is useful not only for real estate agents, but multi-family dwellings and rental property managers.

Agent listings

Several real estate WordPress themes will let you display your agent listings. You can show agent details on individual property pages, but you can also show them separately on your Contact Us or About Us page.

Mobile friendly

Finally, if you haven’t heard about this yet, it’s important to know: Your website has to look as good on mobile devices as it does on a laptop. So you need responsive themes.

87% of smartphone owners perform a mobile search at least once a day — and Google gives search ranking preference to sites that are mobile-friendly, regardless of where people see it.

You can save yourself some major headaches, and even push ahead of your competitors by using a responsive theme as you’re creating your real estate with WordPress.

Getting your real estate domain name ready

Real Estate WordPress Houses In Subdivision

Before you start building your real estate website, you need the perfect domain name to tell people where you live online. When you buy your domain name, it’s important to find one that’s perfect for you and your real estate agency.

Your domain name is basically your web address.

Choosing your domain name

You want something that’s descriptive, but not too long. If you can, include your location so people know where exactly you’re located and what areas you cover, but don’t go nuts.

For example, you don’t want one that’s overly long — BjornJorgensonSellsHomesInBemidjiMinnesota.com — and you don’t want one that’s not very descriptive — JorgensonSells.com.

But BemidjiHomeSales.com or BemidjiRealEstate.com are just right: They tell your customers what you do and where you do it.

Sure, having your name in there would be great, but consider getting that for your individual agent’s page.

Pro tip: You can buy a domain name, such as your own name, and then forward it to a different website.

For example, my domain, ErikDeckers.com, automatically forwards to one of my blogs. And if I ever wanted to, I could forward it to a new website. Consider doing this for each of the agents in your agency, forwarding those domains to their agent page or even their own listings.

How to create a real estate website with Upfiv Managed WordPress Hosting

You’ve chosen your domain name, so now it’s time to set up your real estate website with WordPress. But unless you have some technical expertise or extra time on your hands, you probably don’t want to go the self-installation route. (But if do you, here’s how to install WordPress on cPanel hosting.)

That’s where Upfiv’s Managed WordPress Hosting comes in handy.

Managed WordPress Hosting is Upfiv’s streamlined, optimized platform that lets you build a WordPress site quickly and easily.

WordPress sites built on Upfiv’s WordPress Hosting live on dedicated WordPress servers. Upfiv’s admins are focused strictly on those servers’ security and maintenance, and they manage the basic hosting administrative tasks, such as installing WordPress, automated daily backups, WordPress core updates and server-level caching.

If you don’t know what any of that means, don’t worry.

That’s why the Upfiv Managed WordPress Hosting option is probably your best bet. It just means that WordPress will be updated, backed up and optimized to run faster.

And you’ll be able to get starting really quickly. Managed WordPress Hosting features pre-built themes that are easy to customize with a drag-and-drop editor. Just choose your industry — real estate — and you’ll get a ready-made site, complete with images. You can also make it completely your own with thousands of third-party WordPress themes and plugins to choose from (more on that later).

Choose your Upfiv Managed WordPress Hosting plan

Check out the different Upfiv Managed WordPress Hosting plans, specs and the pricing (which varies by country).

Choose your WordPress real estate theme

Once you’ve chosen your Upfiv Managed WordPress Hosting plan, choose your real estate WordPress theme. There are tens of thousands of WordPress themes to choose from, but only a couple dozen for real estate websites. Some of them are free, and some of them are premium/paid themes.

Narrowing down your three to five favorites can be tough, let alone settling on your final one.

To be honest, I like some of the free themes. But the premium themes just have more functionality, better technical support, and they’re often better made.

Since this is the face of your business, this is not an area to cheap out on. If you prefer the look of a premium theme, go with it.

Real Estate WordPress Free Theme

Personalize your real estate website

Next, you want to personalize your website. This is the chance to upload all your own graphics, images, logos and written content. You’ll want to come up with your tagline, get some high quality photographs of your office, staff, and property listings. And you’ll want a lot of high-quality written content for your various pages explaining your services.

Add the right plugins

You’ll also want to start adding the various plugins that will actually make your website functional.

There are plugins for security, social media sharing, search engine optimization, Google Analytics, and various property listing plugins.

We’ll take a closer look at popular WordPress real estate plugins below.

Learn how to quickly add a plugin to your WordPress site.

WordPress themes for real estate

What makes a good WordPress theme if you’re a real estate agent? Which features should you look for? Your website is all about your users’ experience as much as it is your own preferences and selections.

Regardless of what you choose, there are some common features your visitors will expect when looking for real estate websites with WordPress. Many of those will come from the theme you choose as much as from the different plugins you add.

The theme is the facade of your website, the front of the house, the exterior siding and landscaping. In short, it’s the curb appeal of your website, and it’s the first thing visitors are going to judge your real estate website on, before they ever go inside.

To start,  scroll through the WordPress Theme Directory, or the real estate themes selection on Upfiv’s WordPress Hosting site, to see what’s available. Whatever you choose will be applied to your entire website all at once, not just a few pages.

Real Estate WordPress Real Estate ThemesWhen you choose your WordPress theme, you need to make sure that it’s mobile responsive. That means it will adjust to fit on your user’s screen, whether they’re using a smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Google will actually penalize sites that aren’t mobile friendly, plus many of your clients will be driving around and looking up properties on their phones, so you need to make sure your site will work in those situations.

You also want to make sure that your theme will work on all the internet browsers, including Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera and Microsoft Edge.

We’ve already discussed it earlier, but remember some of the benefits of specifically using WordPress themes for real estate websites:

  • Advance listing search
  • Map display
  • Property details
  • Agent listings
  • Favorites
  • Mobile-responsive

Now that you know what to look for in a WordPress theme for your real estate website, let’s hone in on a few available themes you might want to consider.

Premium WordPress real estate themes

Here is a short (and certainly not exhaustive) list of some of the themes we found that really shine for real estate websites. Check out each theme’s page for current pricing.

Wp Estate

This premium theme is designed for independent real estate agents and agencies, but you can also use it to allow users to submit their properties for free, for a fee or based on a subscription.

WP Pro Real Estate 7

Ideal for just about any type of real estate professional, this theme enables you to build sites ranging from paid real estate listing portals to vacation rental websites.

RealPlaces

A standout feature of this theme is the ability to display content in various machine-translated languages.

WP Residence

This premium theme includes about a dozen pre-made demos to help you get a site up and running quickly, plus machine translation capability for 32 languages.

Free WordPress real estate themes

While many real estate WordPress themes are premium (paid), there are a few great free ones out there if you know where to look.

Cabana

Cabana from SMThemes includes a slider/slide deck theme that slides photos of various homes past the front page. It also has Google Maps shortcode for map listings, and has responsive web design. It has a landscape/horizontal orientation, which makes it ideal for panorama photos.

Interon

Also from SMThemes, Interon is ideal for showing off luxury houses and condominiums. Just like its sister theme, Cabana, Interon includes a slider, responsive web design, social media integration, and it’s SEO friendly.

Relic

Relic is SEO-friendly, mobile friendly and has a photo gallery that lets you include several photos for a listing. Although it’s free, it also comes in a premium version that has some additional functionality; it might be worth the upgrade.

Avenue

Avenue integrates with your MLS subscription to let potential buyers search for houses based on price, size, and number of bedrooms. This Browse Listing feature is usually only limited to premium themes, but Avenue is free.

WordPress real estate plugins

Plugins are what give a real estate website with WordPress its functionality. Rather than little sub-programs that you would have to code yourself, these are standalone modules that you load into your WordPress installation.

You can search for new plugins just by going to the Plugins menu on the sidebar, and clicking Add New.

From there, you can find great WordPress real estate plugins like home affordability and mortgage calculators, and ALTOS charts and online calendars so potential buyers can schedule meetings with you.

There are plugins for adding local events, schools, local restaurants and even business partners. You could even consider cross-pollinating your website with local business partners as a way to attract new home buyers to your city or part of town.

You can even offer downloadable content, such as livability surveys and reports, or eBooks on moving or mortgage financing.

When you’re ready to install plugins, check out our step-by-step instructions.

Here are a few plugins that every WordPress website needs:

  • Yoast SEO: An all-in-one SEO solution that offers on-page analysis of your blog posts and pages.
  • Social sharing: Plugins like JetPack will let you connect your favorite social networks to your blog and then share them automatically
  • Security (e.g. Sucuri): There are plenty of hackers who want to break into your website, whether it’s to sabotage your site or use it for their own nefarious hacking purposes. Protect yourself with a strong security plugin.
  • Smush Image Compression: Compress your photos by removing unnecessary information without reducing the photo quality. Your images will be smaller and load faster, which makes your site more mobile and SEO friendly.
  • Lazy Load: Improves your page load speed, which is an important SEO factor. The faster a page loads, the better Google ranks it.
  • Contact Form 7: Lets you create forms for visitors to use via drag-and-drop interface. Use these for Contact Us pages or surveys.
  • Google Analytics Dashboard: Lets you track important metrics like the number of visitors, how they found you, the social networks they used, and even what kind of device (mobile vs. tablet vs. laptop) they used.
  • Business Profile: This is a local SEO plugin. If you depend on local search traffic (think restaurants, retail, and real estate agents), install this one.

And don’t forget these plugins for your real estate website with WordPress:

  • WP-Property: Great for real estate agents and property managers too. It uses Google Map integrations so you can display your listings on a map.
  • Easy Property Listings: A listings-based plugin that lets visitors sort by price, date and location. You can link to virtual tours and floor plans, and add a photo gallery to your Google Maps listings.
  • IDX: Let visitors search for MLS-listed properties on your website. Since searching for properties is what brings people to you in the first place, this is a critical plugin to get.
  • WPL Real Estate: Customize your listings database without changing the entire database, and your search listings will appear on Google Maps as they’re added. You can even create your own customized iPhone or Android app with this plugin.
  • Leadin: Collect all your website leads and push them right into your customer relationship management (CRM) sales software.

Tips for building a real estate website with WordPress

Real Estate WordPress House For Sale]Once you’ve framed out your website — bought your domain name, ordered your managed hosting, and installed your theme and plugins — it’s time to finally put up your interior walls and decorate this thing.

There are a few things you want to do when you’re building your site:

Keep your audience in mind

You want to give your visitors plenty of reasons to come back. That means it has to be useful (e.g. able to search listings), and provide solid information (such as useful blog articles about buying and selling or tips on finding the right home), and it has to follow solid design principles.

Make your site neat and attractive

The navigation of your WordPress real estate site needs to be simple and limited to the few topics buyers and sellers look for.

Use videos and full-width images whenever you can.

This is where having a professional designer or a premium WordPress theme can make all the difference in the world.

Pay attention to SEO

Optimize your site with the appropriate keywords so visitors can find you: your city or the neighborhood you serve; the types of homes you specialize in; the services you offer.

Make sure your site is filled with original text, not copy-and-paste text from other websites.

Write useful articles that people will want to spend 60 seconds reading, and keep your videos to two to three minutes in length. (Note: Upfiv’s Deluxe and Ultimate Plans come with an SEO Wizard to help you get listed on Google, Yahoo!, and Bing. )

Include a blog

Maybe it’s because I’m a blogger, but I think this is critical for most websites, especially real estate sites. Write articles about the neighborhoods you serve, the school ratings, the local restaurants and businesses. Write about house-search checklists and guides to finding a lender.

Make yourself the local expert on these topics.

Ask friends to share photos and write ups about the different festivals and special events in your community. All of these things will help your site’s SEO when buyers Google more information about the community they’re thinking about living in.

Conclusion and next steps

If you want to build a successful real estate WordPress site, it’s pretty easy, and we’ve laid out the entire strategy for you.

First, select the WordPress hosting plan that’s right for you, whether it’s a Upfiv Managed WordPress Hosting plan or you buy your own server space and host it yourself.

Next, select the right WordPress theme for real estate agencies. Sure, you can use one of the free generic themes, but these themes have been created specifically for you real estate agents — take advantage of those extra capabilities!

Install the WordPress real estate plugins that will add much-needed functionality to your site. And don’t forget the general, non-real estate plugins for security, SEO and analytics. Every website should have them.

Be sure to provide great written and visual content for your website. Visitors want to read valuable information about their next home purchase or sale, so they might as well get it at your site.

Once you’ve got your WordPress site all built and ready to go, be sure to set up your professional email address and link it to your site in your email footer. You can get your professional email address when you buy your domain.

Link your website to your social pages. You can do this with your social sharing plugin, but be sure to include the domain name in your social network bios, too.

Finally, you can keep your website secure by keeping your themes and plugins updated. One way hackers can break into a real estate website with WordPress is by exploiting flaws in outdated plugins and themes. One reason the plugin/theme creators create updates is to plug these holes, so protect yourself by updating everything when it comes available.

WordPress might seem like a huge, unwieldy product to work with, but it’s the No. 1 content management site for a reason. More than 30% of the world’s websites run on it for a reason, and if it’s good enough for The New York Times and Walt Disney, it’s good enough for your own real estate agency.

This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Al Cannistra and Stephani Worts.

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9 Black Friday email campaign ideas to take you through Cyber Monday

Some of the biggest shopping days of the year are right around the corner. No matter what you’re selling, your customers are ready to open their wallets, and you need to be primed to take advantage by creating Black Friday email campaigns.

One of the biggest assets you have is your email list.

But, since your customers’ inboxes are going to be inundated, you’ll need to stand out and give them a reason to open your emails. It’s not enough to show up; you need to sweeten the deal and make them an offer they can’t refuse.

If your idea well has gone dry, then this post is for you. Below you’ll find nine different suggestions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday email campaigns.

We’ll cover can’t miss coupons, scarcity-based bonuses, value-add partnerships and a lot more. No doubt your brain will be on fire with ideas about how you can make this holiday shopping season your most profitable yet.

The importance of Black Friday email marketing

The Black Friday weekend can be a massive boost to your overall sales numbers for the year. Best of all, you can get this boost just by sending some thoughtful and well-crafted emails.

Year after year, more and more customers are getting their wallets ready for the impending sales, and this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday are primed to be the biggest ones yet.

To take advantage, it’s a good idea to start planning your marketing campaigns early, instead of scrambling at the last minute.

According to Sendgrid, nearly 24 billion emails were sent during these 24 hours last year. That’s an email for roughly half the world’s population.

But that means one thing — crowded inboxes.

You need your emails to stand out and get opened if you’re going to convince your customers to click through and visit your store.

9 revenue-boosting Black Friday email campaign ideas

It can be hard to come up with creative email campaigns from scratch — especially during the holiday season when you have a million and one other things on your plate. Luckily, we’ve got you covered.

  1. Get in your customers’ minds early.
  2. Offer a pre-sale for loyal subscribers.
  3. Entice with a free shipping coupon.
  4. Create a scarcity-based bonus.
  5. Create a time-based Black Friday sequence.
  6. Frame your sale as smart Christmas prep.
  7. Create a raffle or free giveaway.
  8. Partner with other complementary retailers.
  9. Extend your Cyber Monday sale, aka the Tuesday Blowout.

Let the nine email campaign ideas below get you moving in the right direction.

Editor’s note: With Upfiv Email Marketing it’s easy to prep Black Friday emails in advance and schedule them to send whenever you want, so you don’t have to spend your holidays sending emails.

1. Get in your customers’ minds early

Before the madness of post-Thanksgiving sales begins, you’ll want to already be at the forefront of your customers’ minds.

No doubt their inbox is going to be flooded with hundreds of emails vying for their attention. But you can hack this by having them actually seek out and look forward to your email.

One effective way to do this is by sending a thank you email out on Thanksgiving day. The only purpose of this email is to thank them for being a loyal customer and always opening your emails.

Make it a real email, like one you would send to a friend. Don’t use company-speak. Write it with emotion and from the heart.

Then, towards the end of the email, let them know about the massive sale you have coming out. Something like, “P.S. tomorrow will be our biggest sale in company history, so make sure to keep an eye on your inbox.”

The goal of this email isn’t to play with emotion, but instead share your thanks and gratitude and briefly let them know about your massive sale coming up (that could save them a lot of money).

2. Offer a pre-sale for loyal subscribers

If you’re looking to drive sales before the holiday rush starts, you can create a pre-sale email campaign.

This will be for your loyal customers only. To do this effectively, you’ll need to segment your email list based upon active users who regularly open emails or regularly buy products from you.

You don’t want to send this out to everyone on your list.

First, you need something to offer. Maybe you’re marking down certain items, offering a coupon code off the total order, or throwing in a buy-one-get-one-free deal. Whatever it is, create an offer that your loyal subscribers can’t resist.

With this deal, you’ll have a countdown timer in place. You could offer this deal for Thanksgiving day only, or you could offer it for a few days up until black Friday starts. It’s up to you.

Think of this email like a red carpet event. Only your most exclusive subscribers (the ones that are most valuable to your business) are allowed in.

3. Entice with a free shipping coupon

If you’re looking to sweeten the pot of your Black Friday and Cyber Monday email deals even more, then consider offering a free shipping coupon as well. You’re already offering incredible bargains, but free shipping too! That’s a no brainer.

To ensure you aren’t losing money on the deal, calculate your shipping costs, and offer a free shipping coupon for orders over a certain value. For example, “orders over $89 will get free shipping, just enter the coupon code FREETHINGS at checkout.”

You can offer this coupon throughout the entirety of Black Friday weekend, or choose a day like Black Friday or Cyber Monday to really boost sales that day.

4. Create a scarcity-based bonus

Black Friday Email Woman Shoe Shopping

During this time of year, you want people to take action as quickly as possible. You’re competing with hundreds of other stores for your customer’s hard-earned cash.

One way you can nudge yourself out in the lead is by sweetening the deal. Instead of just offering a discount (like every other store is doing), you can include a free bonus.

Maybe it’s a free backpack or T-shirt. Whatever you’re offering, make sure it’s good, as a lot of customers will buy something from you just for the bonus alone.

You can take this even further by making the bonus scarce. For example, only offer the gift to your first 200 customers. You can also send a follow-up email letting your subscribers know how many of the bonuses have already been claimed.

If you’d like, you can even tease this bonus in your earlier emails. Since you’ll be emailing your customers relentlessly from Black Friday all the way through midnight on Cyber Monday, you can leave this bonus until later on.

Something like, “keep an eye out for our Cyber Monday email where we’ll be giving away a gift worth $250 to the first 200 customers.”

5. Create a time-based Black Friday sequence

One great way to create scarcity is with a countdown timer. Once the timer is up, the sale is over. No questions asked.

There are multiple ways you can run this.

For example, if you have multiple lines of products you can offer a discount on that product line for each specific day. Black Friday is for watches, the weekend after is handbags, and the blowout Cyber Monday sale is all remaining accessories.

Each email you send will focus on the category of items you’re selling, as well as a countdown timer to show how much time they have left to buy.

Or, you can include a standard countdown timer for your Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals embedded in your emails, or even at the top of your website. You can expect a lot of sales to trickle in at the last minute, just before the timer is up.

6. Frame your sale as smart Christmas prep

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday being some of the biggest shopping days of the year, people are going to be spending a lot of money.

However, a lot of customers will also be looking forward to Christmas, budgeting for this time of the year as well. You can take advantage of this by framing some of your emails as “getting your Christmas shopping out of the way early.”

While all your friends are rushing all over town and filling up their Amazon carts, you can sit back and relax.

You took care of all your Christmas shopping weeks ago.

Even the reminder that Christmas is coming and these will be the lowest prices you’re offering all year should be enough to garner a few extra sales.

7. Create a raffle or free giveaway

People love free giveaways and the chance of winning big. It’s the reason millions of people play the lotto every single year.

Of course, you won’t be offering a prize that substantial. But, make it compelling enough, and you can see a flood of new orders. For example, whoever makes a purchase over $50 during Black Friday will be entered into a giveaway for a $1,000 gift card.

Your customers are already primed to buy, and this can push them over the edge.

It doesn’t have to be a cash prize either. Maybe free shipping for a year? A gift card to another store? A free lifetime subscription to the software you’re selling?

Get creative and think of a prize so compelling you’ll have customers buying from you solely to have a chance at winning.

8. Partner with other complementary retailers

Black Friday Email People With Shopping Bags

This one will take more work beforehand, but it can be a great way to reach new customers while multiplying your bottom line.

The premise is this: Instead of emailing your list over and over again, you’ll get other retailers to email their customers about the massive sale you’re having and vice versa.

Make a list of stores that aren’t your direct competition, but instead offer complementary products. So, if you’re selling backpacking backpacks made from Kevlar you could partner with retailers who sell tents, camping knives, water filters, bottles and more.

Then, you’ll have these retailers email their list with your Black Friday or Cyber Monday coupon codes, and you’ll do the same with your list.

This will not only result in more sales and new customers for your business, but you’ll also be creating goodwill with your customers.

You could even negotiate an affiliate deal, where you’ll receive a portion of the total sales that come through your link. Keep in mind that you’ll also have to pay out affiliates on your end if you work out this kind of deal—yet another way to generate revenue during the busiest shopping season of the year.

9. Extend your Cyber Monday sale, aka the Tuesday Blowout

If you’re not burnt out with the five days of emailing, then we have another one for you.

The single-day extended sale.

The purpose of this is to sell to the last remaining stragglers or those who are remorseful they didn’t pull the trigger over the previous few days.

Think of this as the final blowout sale. However, you have to be careful not to alienate those who already purchased from you previously. They might be a little salty if you’re going back on your word. For example, if you had a time-based deal that ended at midnight on Cyber Monday, then you need to follow through with that.

Trust takes a lifetime to build, but only a second to lose. Don’t get greedy and go back on your word to make a few extra sales.

Instead, offer different items for sale, or provide less of a discount. Think of this sale like you’re a sporting goods store trying to clear out summer inventory to make room for fall and winter.

Wrapping up: How to make this Black Friday weekend the best yet

Running successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday email campaigns takes a lot of preparation and planning, but it’s time well spent. Do it right, and you’ll be looking forward to the post-Thanksgiving season every year.

You don’t have to execute on every single campaign idea above. Instead, pick a few that are most in alignment with what you sell.

Here’s a quick recap of the email campaign ideas:

  1. Send a thank-you email on Thanksgiving day to be on the front of your customer’s mind.
  2. Create an exclusive pre-sale for your most valued customers before Black Friday begins.
  3. Offer a free shipping coupon on top of your heavily discounted prices.
  4. Include a high-value bonus that’s only available to your first 200 buyers.
  5. Use a countdown timer to inspire people to buy before time runs out.
  6. Frame an email as taking care of Christmas shopping early.
  7. Create a super enticing raffle for one lucky customer who buys something during the sale.
  8. Partner with complementary retailers to have them share your sale with their email list.
  9. Extend your Cyber Monday sale into a Tuesday blowout sale for those who missed out.

Hopefully, the ideas above will help make the upcoming Black Tuesday and Cyber Monday the most profitable yet.

This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by Macdara Bracken.

Image by: Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

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How to prepare your email subscriber list for the holiday season

Isn’t it hard to believe that the holiday season is upon us again? It feels like just a few weeks ago we were throwing off our sweaters and digging out sandals for the summer. Our snow shovels and winter hats have been collecting dust, unused and stored for cooler weather. It’s time to start pulling out the winter gear and, similarly, now’s the time to prepare your holiday email subscriber list.

Email marketing was responsible for a total of 24% of holiday sales during the 2018 holiday eCommerce season. That means email marketing alone brought in nearly $170 billion in revenue for businesses during November and December of 2018.

7 steps to prep your email subscriber list for the holiday season

So, before you gear up to send out your Black Friday messages, let’s get your email list and email strategy ready for holiday sales with these seven steps:

  1. Clean up your email subscriber list.
  2. Get new email subscribers.
    • Gather all your subscribers in one place.
    • Test your integrations and forms.
    • Ask to be whitelisted (or ask for a reply!)
    • Re-share your opt-in to encourage new subscribers.
    • Pair up for a collaboration.
    • Ask for referrals.
  3. Build new email segments.
  4. Update and fine-tune your automations.
  5. Superpower your transactional messages.
  6. Mark important dates on your calendar.
  7. Make a plan for the holiday season.

Ready? Let’s jump in.

Gift-Wrapped Box Represents Holiday Email Planning

1. Clean up your email subscriber list

The first thing to do to get your email list ready for holiday promotions is to clean up and remove inactive subscribers.

Think of it like doing a deep clean before you start putting out the holiday decorations.

Start by segmenting your list into people who haven’t opened in more than 90 days. If you haven’t emailed in more than 90 days, then you’ll need to start with people who haven’t opened in the 90 days before that. It could even be up to a year since they last opened.

Next, you’ll send that group of subscribers a special series of emails to ask if they still want to hear from you.

These messages should be short and to the point.

You can use humor to encourage open rates if it works with your brand. Remember, your subject line is very important for these messages. They can’t click to stay on the list if the subject line doesn’t get them to even open the email.

Here are some sample subject lines:

  • Long time, no see!
  • Is this goodbye?
  • We miss you
  • Was it something we said?
  • Do you still want updates from us?

The content of these messages should be straight-forward with a single call-to-action: Click here to keep getting our messages.

Communicate the benefits of staying on the list, whether that’s access to exclusive sales, notifications about new products, or never missing an episode of a podcast or blog post.

Send at least three re-engagement messages to this segment of the list, removing anyone who did click to stay on the list from the segment.

After sending those three emails — if they never clicked to stay on the list, remove them. This might be painful if you’re focused on list size, but a smaller list size actually helps with your engagement and deliverability.

You’re paying to send them emails that are ending up in spam folders and trash bins, all while hurting your deliverability to the people who really want your messages.

Time to let them go.

2. Get new email subscribers

After you’ve bid farewell to some unengaged subscribers, it’s time to build your list back up. You’ll do that in a few different ways, including collecting up all the subscribers you have across multiple systems, testing your email subscription forms for any leaks, and running campaigns to get more subscribers.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these processes below.

Gather all your subscribers in one place

If you’re like most business owners, you’re collecting contact information from your customers in several different places, like your eCommerce system, your landing page software, your CRM, and even your social media accounts. Remember all those email addresses you collected when people wanted to join your Facebook group? Did those addresses actually make it to your email system?

Collect up all those email addresses that you have explicit permission to use, and add them to your email list.

Test your integrations and forms

Next up, test your integrations and forms to ensure that the people who are joining your list are actually making it onto your list. A good way to test is to use a special email address so you can track each form individually.

Rather than create a bunch of free accounts, you can modify your existing Gmail email address, for example, and still check whether or not you receive your test messages. To illustrate this, your email address might be hikingfan@gmail.com. You can add a plus sign after the first half (before the @ symbol), and any words you want after, ending up with something like hikingfan+reddit@gmail.com.

This is really handy if you’ve got several different lead magnets or signup forms to test. Examples of these test addresses might look like this:

  • hikingfan+footerform@gmail.com
  • hikingfan+popup@gmail.com
  • hikingfan+leadmagnetA@gmail.com
  • hikingfan+leadmagnetB@gmail.com

Just don’t forget to delete all of those dummy subscribers after you’re done testing!

Ask to be whitelisted (or ask for a reply!)

One way to get your subscriber list ready for the holiday is to ask your new subscribers to whitelist your email address or add you to their address book.

Another way to get whitelisted is to have them reply to an email from you. Most ISPs will automatically add an email address to the address book when you’ve sent them an email. By simply asking a question — like “What is the biggest problem you’re facing” or “Which is your favorite style” and asking for a reply (instead of a click), you can improve your deliverability, strengthen your relationship with your subscribers, and get some customer feedback all at the same time.

Re-share your opt-in to encourage new subscribers

Once you’re sure that your opt-in is running like a well-oiled machine, it’s time to share it with the world to get even more subscribers. Here are a few ways you can share your opt-in to get new subscribers.

Share on your social media profiles

This includes Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can share as a post as well as in your header image.

Post in related and appropriate Facebook Groups (as allowed)

If you’re a member of a Facebook group that allows promotions, share your free opt-in.

Pin it

Pinterest can be a massive traffic generator, especially around the holiday season. As a matter of fact, 72% of pinners say Pinterest inspires them to shop when they aren’t actually looking for anything. Your freebie can be just the hook they need to start buying from you.

Update your website

If you’re already promoting your website on social channels and ad campaigns, make sure your opt-in lead magnet is easy to spot. If you’re looking for ideas to promote your lead magnet, check out 70+ ways to promote your email opt-in.

Pair up for a collaboration

The holiday season is also a great time to partner up with other businesses that have similar client profiles. You can create a collaborative product, or simply promote each other’s products to your own lists.

Remember — you can’t exchange email subscriber lists (that’s strictly against CAN-SPAM regulations), but you can certainly tell your customers how great the other person’s products and services are.

Another great option is to create a buyer’s guide that includes products from multiple businesses. You can create it once, and then have everyone share it because their products are featured!

Ask for referrals

Another easy way to build your email list is to ask your existing customers to invite their friends to shop with and buy from you. We all have an innate desire to display what we’ve learned, found, and discovered.

One of the best ways to encourage your customers to share is to give them something to give, and something to keep.

This can be a special offer for each of them, including a discount for their purchase, free shipping or even a gift with purchase.

Asking for referrals doesn’t just have to be for the holiday season. You can build an automation system that works with a specific segment, like automatically asking for the referral after someone makes their fifth purchase.

Red Bow Gift Box Illustrates Holiday Email Campaign

3. Build new email segments

Now that your list is clean, and you’re beginning to grow your subscriber list, it’s time to dig into your email system and build new email segments.

An email segment is a collection of people from your email list who meet certain criteria.

Here are some of the most popular segments in eCommerce marketing, and what they mean:

  • Big spenders: These are the people who have purchased the most from you — often the top 5% to 10%. You can target these customers with new product releases and higher-priced products.
  • New customers: New customers are the ones who have made their first purchase from you in the last 30 days. It’s nice to reward them for buying from you with a special offer on their next purchase.
  • Churning customers: These are customers who have purchased from you more than once, but who haven’t purchased in an extended period of time — often 60 to 90 days. Verify these time frames against your average customer buying behaviors. Use a win-back campaign with a special offer, like a free gift with purchase or free shipping, to get them back into buying.
  • Frequent buyers: Frequent buyers might not always be big spenders. They’re often looking for something new or exciting, so send them your latest and greatest!
  • Specific category buyers: Depending on what you’re selling, you may have categories that appeal to specific customer groups. A great example is a clothing retailer that sells for both men and women. You can segment people who purchase only one type or the other and target your promotions accordingly.
  • Customers by region: When it comes to holiday-centered segments, it can be helpful to group customers into geographic areas, which is especially useful if you’re going to have shipping deadlines. This way, you can tailor your emails to warn of upcoming cutoff dates for holiday orders.

Of course, these don’t have to be the only segments you create! Your creativity is only limited by the capabilities of your email service provider.

4. Update and fine-tune your automations

This isn’t directly related to your list prep for holiday promotions, but it’s a really important element of your overall email marketing strategy.

Set aside some time to review all of your running automations and transactional messages to ensure that they’re up-to-date, and helping to drive improved conversion rates.

Automations and funnels are a series of emails that are sent based on a customer’s activities on your website or in your email list. They’re triggered when someone takes those specific actions that you’ve defined.

A good example of an automation, or funnel, is your welcome series or an upsell series of emails after someone buys a smaller product. When you’re reviewing these, make sure they’ve got relevant dates and offers that align with your upcoming holiday promotions.

And don’t forget to check your links!

Before launching your holiday promotions is a great time to build upsell and cross-sell automated messages. Cross-sell products fit into the category of “People who bought this also bought,” while upsells are often accessories and services related to what they bought.

These messages help your customers fill their holiday gift bags and stockings with goodies from your store, based on what they already know and love.

Plus, those automated messages can help you sell more year-round!

5. Superpower your transactional messages

Transactional messages are also emails that are sent based on someone’s activity. The difference is that they’re related to their specific shopping and purchasing activities.

Transactional emails include order confirmation messages, shipping confirmation, and delivery confirmation. It can also include abandoned cart emails.

If you’re not already sending abandoned cart emails, this is the time to turn them on. An estimated 70% to 80% of eCommerce shopping carts are abandoned, and abandoned cart emails can recover anywhere from 3% to 12% of those transactions.

Not sure how those numbers affect you? Here’s how that could impact your bottom line:

  • Completed orders per month: 100
  • Average order size: $100
  • Estimated abandoned carts (75%): 300 cards abandoned
  • Abandoned Revenue: $300,000
  • Recovered Revenue (3%): $9,000

And if you think your transactional emails have to be 100%-related to their current purchase, think again! In these messages, you can include cross-sells (other products that customers who have purchased this have also bought) and upsells (including accessories and services related to their new product purchase).

Your transactional messages are also a great place to remind your customers of deadlines, like the last day for ground shipping in time for holiday delivery.

6. Mark important dates on your calendar

Speaking of dates, the last thing you’ll need to do to get your email marketing strategy ready for the holiday season is to mark important dates on your calendar — including anything you need to do for those dates, like update messages in your automations and transactional messages.

As an example, in your abandoned cart email, you may add some text or a graphic with your shipping deadlines for holiday delivery, simply as a gentle nudge to remind someone that they don’t have a lot of time if they’re planning on gift-giving.

After that initial deadline has passed, you’ll want to update that text and graphics to promote expedited shipping. And if all the shipping deadlines have passed, then you may want to promote a gift card instead.

And when the holidays are over, don’t forget to take all those mentions back out of your automated emails and transactional messages!

Set a reminder now in your favorite task management system or on your calendar.

It’s easy to think now that you won’t forget it, but after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, updating those messages will likely be the last thing on your mind.

7. Make a plan for the holiday season

Tying into marking important dates on your calendar, making a plan for your holiday emails benefits both you and your subscriber list. You’ll be less stressed about meeting your deadlines, and your list will get well put-together emails with plenty of time to make their shopping deadlines.

Things to include in your plan:

Shipping deadlines

One of the biggest challenges around the holidays is shipping deadlines. If your deadlines are too early in the season, you might miss some of those impulse buyers. On the other hand, if they’re too late, then you run the risk of a shipping delay ruining the customer’s holidays.Sales and special offers

While most people are always bargain hunting, holiday shopping brings out the hunters in all of us. By planning your sales, you can encourage customers to purchase earlier in the holiday season — reducing your stress in processing orders and reaching your goals, and their stress in making sure that their gifts arrive on time.

Last chance

Some of the most important dates in your holiday planning are the last chance to arrive for the holidays. You’ll need to factor in production time and shipping time for all of your shipping methods.Wrapping it all up

There you have it! Seven things you can do right now to get your email list and strategy ready for holiday marketing. Of course, these tips aren’t just great for the winter holidays. You can use them for any holiday that resonates with your business, from Valentine’s Day to Mother’s Day and beyond. Happy holidays, indeed!

Image by: David Beale on Unsplash

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Influencer Marketing: the $68M secret you don’t know

Pura Vida Bracelets reported $68.3 Million in revenue for 2018 leading to an incredible acquisition by Vera Bradley — and they credit a lot of that success to influencer marketing.

Gretta Rose van Riel used influencer marketing to build multiple 8-figure ecommerce brands.

Scott Paul got LeBron James to promote his business for FREE! (Okay, there’s more to that story, obviously – but you’ll have to keep reading to find out the rest).

But how? And what the heck do they know that you don’t?

I’m going to give away their secrets, and fill you in on the absolute best insights from the genius influencers and marketers on the front lines making it happen.

Oh, and if those numbers don’t impress you, maybe this one will:  $10,000,000,000

That’s the predicted size of the influencer marketing industry within the next 5 years, according to Mediakix, a media company that has been closely monitoring growth and trends since 2015.

While that’s not quite as big as a googol, it’s still an enormous number and some truly impressive growth for a business category and marketing channel that was virtually non-existent a decade ago.

Upfiv Websites + Marketing is the perfect ecommerce companion to your influencer marketing campaign.

Influencer marketing was destined to be a juggernaut from the very beginning. As soon as social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube made it possible for the average person to become a content creator — someone who could create their own brand, their own following, their own influence — the game officially changed. A new player stepped forward, one that would force marketers to alter their playbooks in ways that, at the time, seemed unimaginable.

Quote about influencer marketing

Jane Doe became Jane Dough, and before we knew it, the modern social media influencer was born.

As brands continue allocating and shifting more of their marketing dollars towards influencer marketing (18% are spending between $100,000 – $500,000 per year, according to data shared by Bigcommerce), the biggest question everyone has is this:

How do I make this work for ME 

This guide will give you the resources, best practices, and actionable advice you need to create and execute a winning influencer marketing strategy for your business.

Let’s jump in!

Influencer marketing is about being picky: choose the right influencer

For most people, diving into the world of influencer marketing is like blasting yourself into space — you’re out of your element, there are a lot of unknowns, and it can feel suffocating.

At least, that’s how I imagine space…

Ask anyone who has invested any money into influencer marketing where to start and how to be successful from the get-go, and they’ll all tell you the same thing: it’s all about finding the right people for your business and your audience. Without the right people in place, you can still spend a lot of money but see very little return from what you put into it. The people you work with matter.

Here are a few tips for choosing the right influencer:

1. Know who wouldn’t be a good fit

When you’re trying to decide who to reach out to and partner with, sometimes the best thing to do is spend some time thinking about who you are not looking for.

cat fit in small box

That’s the advice I got when I spoke with Neal Schaffer. Neal is the author of “The Business of Influence,” and President of a social media agency called PDCA Social which works with Fortune 50 enterprises and Grammy award-winning musicians — so he knows a little bit about what works and doesn’t work when it comes to influencer marketing.

“Before looking for an influencer, visualize who the ideal influencer should be,” he says. “Marketers waste a lot of money and time reaching out to, and/or working with, influencers who weren’t a good fit to begin with.”

Ideal influencer quote from Neal Schaffer

Schaffer adds that in order to start identifying or disqualifying potential influencer partners, you should perform a simple litmus test. “If your content appeared on their feed, would it be a natural fit? If not, that influencer relationship will not be a natural fit either,” says Schaffer.

2. Don’t let the numbers fool you

Vanity metrics are kind of the name of the game when it comes to influencer marketing, but you have to be careful when it comes to making decisions based solely on follower counts and likes. Some things are not always as they seem.

sesame street one of these things is not like the other big bird

“It’s not all about the follower numbers, it is about an authentic following and reach & engagement,” says Meghan Connolly, a digital marketing expert and owner of Snowbird Social.

Meghan is skilled at knowing how to build a true community on social media. She grew her own dog’s Instagram following to over 40,000 and now helps other brands run successful influencer marketing campaigns.

“An influencer with 10k followers can have as much or more influence than one with 20k, if the 10k has followers who listen to him/her/them,” Connolly adds.

Meg Connolly quote about influencer engagement

When I spoke with Kurt Elster, Host of The Unofficial Shopify Podcast and ecommerce consultant for Jay Leno’s Garage, he agreed.

“When it comes to follower counts, bigger isn’t necessarily better,” says Elster. “In one recent campaign, we worked with several influencers. Our largest at 150,000 followers had zero clicks. Not sales… clicks! Our most successful influencer had 20,000 followers but tremendous engagement with his audience.”

Elster wants people to understand that follower count isn’t everything, and that oftentimes you’re better off partnering with a handful of smaller players than one highly expensive, too-good-to-be-true player.

“I’d rather have 10 influencers with 10,000 followers each than a single 100,000 follower influencer any day of the week,” he says.

influencer marketing numbers quote from Kurt Elster

3. Look to your brand champions first

It might feel like you need to go to the ends of the earth to find the perfect person to represent and promote your brand, but that’s not always the case.

Sometimes, the perfect influencer is right under your nose, according to Scott Paul, CEO at Wooly. “I wish marketers knew that the best influencers are actually their customers,” says Paul.

Best influencers are your customers according to Scott Paul

I talked with Scott because he co-founded and sold an influencer company and spent millions of dollars hiring influencers and building effective influencer marketing campaigns for major retailers (seriously — we’re talking about the absolutely biggest ones, single retailers hiring him to find 200,000+ influencers for their campaign). He shared a great perspective on the value of reaching into your own existing community to find winning promoters.

Scott recommended that, before you spend a lot of time and money searching for a Lebron James-level influencer, look in your own backyard.

LeBron James - Scott Paul's secret influencer
That’s a photo of Lebron “promoting” Scott’s company for free – you can read more about that here.

“Make sure you look deep at your customers and followers on social media before hiring an outsider to promote a brand,” says Paul.

4. Remember the 3 R’s

To find the right influencer, you have to take a number of factors into consideration — again, it’s not just about reach and follower counts. There are other things you should be thinking about.

Gretta Rose van Riel talked me through this idea and gave me some good pointers when I asked what else someone should be looking for and thinking about when trying to hire the right influencer. In the past, she’s used influencer marketing, including her own 16M+ followers, to build multiple 8-figure ecommerce brands. Today, she’s the founder of Hey Influencer, which she describes as a dating platform for matching influencers with brands.

“We use the 3 R’s to assess the right fit of influencers for our campaigns,” she says. “Reach (the size of their following), relevancy (their niche and type of content) and most importantly relationship (having a strong, trusting relationship with their followers often displayed by quality engagement).”

The three R's of influencer marketing by Greta Van Riel

To ensure that you’re on the right track when searching for an influencer to hire, spend time thinking about the partnership you want to build, the type of person you want to work with, the goals you want to achieve, the brand style you want to support, and the audience you ultimately want to engage and build trust with.

5. Become familiar with average costs before negotiating 

Before reaching out to an influencer and talking about price, it’s helpful to know what some of the industry averages are. The investment you make will ultimately depend on the social site you’re trying to tap into and how much true reach the influencer you want to work with has.

Alfred Lua of Buffer put together an impressively thorough resource on the topic that is worth digging into if you’re thinking about allocating any of your marketing dollars to an influencer marketing strategy.

Here are some benchmarks he shares in his article that you can use when talking with influencers about price:

  • Instagram – $10 per 1,000 followers or $250 to $750 per 1,000 engagement
  • YouTube – $20 per 1,000 subscribers or $50 to $100 per 1,000 video views
  • Snapchat – $10 per 1,000 followers or $100 per 1,000 views

how much do influencers charge by platform

When it comes to talking with influencers about your budget, don’t be afraid to negotiate — but don’t be surprised if the quotes you get fall closely in line with the averages compiled by Lua shared above.

6. Pick true partners

To be successful with influencer marketing, you have to be willing to spend a lot of time searching for the right people — people who are actually going to be worthwhile partners who can help you achieve your goals and grow your business. That means experimenting with people who might turn out not to be the best fit for your business, and ultimately being OK with it.

For Bobby Umar, President at Raeallan, it’s not about finding influencers that look good on paper — it’s about finding influencers who will go the extra mile for you when it comes to engaging with the people you’re trying to reach.

“Some influencers only do the minimum amount of work. Others work over and beyond to build relationships and truly engage their audience,” says Umar. “Knowing the difference between the two will really set you apart when it comes to your influencer marketing.”

some influencers only do the minimum

I spoke with Umar because of his experience leveraging influence and building community. He has over half a million social media followers and has helped thousands of business leaders leverage their influence and grow their business with influencer marketing.

Some influencers aren’t what they seem, so it’s important to spend time doing work upfront to try to identify which ones are legitimate and which ones aren’t, according to Bill Widmer, Co-owner of The Wandering RV. Bill Widmer is a content marketing expert who’s worked with Shopify, Bold Commerce, and dozens of other high-growth online businesses, using influencers to build up backlinks to his 10x content.

When I asked him about what his biggest tip was when it comes to hiring influencers, he had this to say:

“Understand that it’s completely possible (and very easy) for “influencers” to buy followers and likes en mass,” says Widmer. “Before you hire an influencer, do your due diligence to make sure their followers are real and actually engage with their content,” he adds.

it's possible for influencers to buy followers and likes

On the flip side, some influencers might not look like they have much influence when you consider the size of their audience, but looks can be deceiving.

There’s a growing trend in partnering with micro-influencers — people who have a smaller following but a more active, engaged, and loyal audience. These can be some of the best people to work with when you’re experimenting with influencer marketing — but people don’t realize it. They get stuck on follower counts and end up missing out on smaller partners who might actually be able to help you more than a big celebrity influencer would.

When I spoke with blogger and influencer Brittany Porcelli, she agreed. “The biggest myth is that micro-influencers will not help your brand,” she says. “Often times micro-influencers are more willing to do more for your brand — more posts, more Instagram stories, etc., and are willing to put their resources towards a longtime partnership.”

micro-influencers are willing to do more

Joel Hansen is a Business Development Manager at Skidmore Group. He also helps brands like Adobe, Canucks, Clippers and Linkedin with youth engagement.  Hansen agreed with Porcelli when I asked him about the value of micro-influencers.

“The biggest myth I believe that stands to be true is ‘the more followers an influencer has the more effective a campaign can be’. You’d be surprised the amount of impact a variety of micro influencers or a local community leader can have compared to a celebrity account with 40% dormant followers,” says Hansen.

Finding true partners, and working to build long-lasting partnerships with them over time, will ultimately make your investment in influencer marketing much more worthwhile in the long run.

To find great partners, consider exploring influencer sourcing platforms like HireInfluenceTribeFamebit, or Upfluence.

Influencer marketing is about more than likes and followers: Use influencers as content creators

Launching a successful influencer marketing campaign isn’t just about connecting with the right influencer — to be effective, you have to take it one step further: you need to find the right influencer who can help you create the right content for your audience.

Influencers only exist because they create content that resonates with an audience. While we’re here to discuss how to optimize influencer marketing, it all leads back to creating great content.

Content is still king.
You can hire a dazzling influencer with hundreds of thousands of followers, but if at the end of the day they can’t help you connect with your audience, you’re just wasting your time and money. That’s where content comes into play.

Here’s a real life example — through my advertising agency, my team and I have done some crazy stuff, like helping a client scale from $20k to $4M in a year. As an ads company, we’re accustomed to paid promotion as a means of delivering content, and less accustomed to leveraging an influencer’s influence to deliver content.

In both cases, the content is the real draw that creates value with an audience. The influencer / paid promotion are just the vehicles.

Influencer + Content is the key formula for influencer marketing. Here are a few tips that will help ensure that you’re set up to build winning content into your influencer marketing campaigns:

1. Evaluate influence AND content 

A big part of your time discovering and evaluating prospective influencers should be spent looking at the other content they create for themselves and for the other brands they work with.

Ted Rubin, CMO at Photofy, supported this line of thinking when I asked him about how content plays a role in influencer marketing campaigns. Rubin was the Chief Social Marketing Officer of Collective Bias (an early entrant to the content and influencer marketing space). Today, he’s a well-known speaker, author, and consultant. Here’s what he told me:

“The vast majority of ‘influencers’ are simply talented content creators,” says Rubin. “Treat their influence like you would good content. Consumers like it, share it, and rely upon it to help make decisions…so measure it the same way you would media.”

social media influencer are great content creators

In other words, don’t choose to work with an influencer solely based on the size of their audience and the level of engagement they receive. Evaluate the type and quality of content they create, and decide if it aligns with your brand and your audience.

2. Throw out the cookie cutters

Every influencer will approach content differently. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Because of the unique relationship and opportunity that exists, you should spend time developing an individual content strategy for each influencer you work with.

“Work with individual influencers to brainstorm ideas for co-creating content,” recommends Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, Host, Punch Out With Katie and Kerry.

When I asked her to elaborate on what she meant, she said, “each one has more reach on one platform or another, and specializes in certain types of content. Some would be perfect for live tweeting your conference sessions, but others are qualified to handle on-site interviews or to create original video content.

“Know your influencers and create a strategy that maximizes each one’s unique talents and abilities,” she adds.

create an influencer marketing strategy

Spending time upfront to think about the unique content a particular influencer could create for your brand and audience will help ensure that you’re building a more interesting and compelling library of content in the long run. It’ll also help you experiment with different types and styles of content in order to learn what your audience likes and responds to best.

3. Look within your existing community

When you’re looking for good content partners, sometimes it’s as easy as looking within your existing community.

“Influence is everywhere, so consider not just collaborating with micro and nano influencers but also with your followers, your fans, your customers, your partners, and even your employees,” says Neal Schaffer.

David Brier, Chief Gravity Defier at DBD International, took this idea one step further when I spoke with him about where to go to find great influencers. Looking at your existing community is one thing — but what about even looking to your own profile?

“BECOME the influencer you seek. Seriously. Too many seek some “impact” from others who have done the hustle,” he says. “The BEST influencer marketing is to elevate your own profile to become an influencer.”

become the influencer

And that’s not just talk for David.

Daymond John (yes — the Shark Tank guy) calls Brier “brilliant with branding.” Grant Cardone calls him “a branding genius,” and Claude Silver, Chief Heart Officer of Gary Vee’s VaynerMedia, when asked about David’s bestseller said, “This is not only an outstanding book on branding but is an excellent example of branding, design and content I keep in my office. I only wish I had this book at the beginning of my career.”

Before you spend too much time evaluating talent agencies and negotiating with top-dollar influencers, find out if you have any passionate and willing content creators within your own audience (it could even be you!). Going this route will allow you to spin up campaigns sooner — you won’t have to spend time educating influencers on your products and business because they already know it well).

It’ll also likely cost you less money — brand loyalists and brand champions might help you in exchange for free products or because they simply want to see your business continue to succeed.

Influencer marketing isn’t a “quick fix”: measure influencer campaign success

Because influencer marketing pretty much always requires you to allocate a significant portion of your marketing budget toward something that might not make a directly attributable impact on your business, it’s important to think about how you’re going to ultimately measure success.

Here are a few tips to consider as you think about what you’re trying to get back from your influencer marketing campaigns:

1. Be willing to play the long game 

The first thing you need to realize is that influencer marketing is not a get rich quick scheme. It can take a while to see any sort of return or impact.

“Do not expect people to buy your product straight away when they first see it promoted from an influencer,” says Nathan Chan, CEO of Foundr Magazine.

I talked with Nathan, who used influencer marketing to build Foundr from nothing to one of the top 10 business magazines in the app store in just a couple of years, about this idea of having patience (which as an entrepreneur is really, really hard to practice). Chan recommends trying anyway and to not be discouraged just because you’re not seeing sales skyrocket right away.

“Be prepared to play the long game, a lot of those influencer’s fans will follow your company, and eventually buy over time,” he says.

play the long game with influencer marketing

Chan also wants people to realize the additional long-term benefits of building out an influencer network for your brand — benefits that don’t always appear right after launching a campaign.

“It’s not just about generating a return, it’s about the content and the long game and building your brand using influencers overtime,” says Chan.

Ted Rubin, mentioned earlier in this article, agrees. He says that the idea that you get immediate and instant return from an influencer in the form of sales is a myth.

He explains that there’s this mistaken belief that, “influencers actually influence people in the way that they jump up to go buy something when those you are paying as influencers tell them to.”

Rubin adds, “there are perhaps a handful of people who can make something like that happen and they don’t come cheap. The majority of “good’ ones create great content that consumers like to read and watch, and via that ability provide a great deal of reach and attention.”

2. Know which metrics truly matter

When you’re thinking about what success looks like in an influencer marketing campaign, you also have to recognize the difference between views and true engagement.

“I’m glad that the industry overall is maturing but I think that many people fall into vanity vs true engagement metrics,” says Brian Wallace, Founder and President of NowSourcing.

When I spoke with Wallace, who, in addition to running his company, is a Google Small Business Advisor and on the SXSW Advisory Board, he confirmed something that I’ve been hearing from many other experts in the industry. “If you are just counting a number of likes, you’re likely to be disappointed and in many cases those numbers are going away,” said Wallace.

disappointed with influencer marketing

In other words, don’t get distracted by big numbers. Focus on how your audience is engaging with and responding to influencer content to truly understand how it might be impacting your business and relationships with potential buyers.

3. Recognize the true value of an influencer marketing campaign

When you’re spending real dollars, it’s easy to want to dig into the exact financial impact of a campaign — you want to be able to measure direct ROI. But with influencer marketing, you have to understand that the return is significantly more complex. It goes back to being willing to play the long game and seeing what impact you can make to your business over time and in what ways.

Nathan Chan, mentioned earlier in this article, shares an example to help bring this point home:

“When working with influencers it shouldn’t be treated as a transaction and measured just on ROI. This is only one measurement of success on working with a particular influencer,” says Chan. “What about the content they create for you? If you paid Kylie Jenner to do a post, the post, yes, might make you $$$ from her followers, but what about the ability to use that image of her with your product in your PPC ads? What is the cost of that? These are the things that you need to be looking at for a successful influencer marketing strategy / campaign!”

Instagram Influencer Kylie Jenner

Chan is essentially saying that although you might not see an immediate or direct return on your investment, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to add value to your business down the road. The point is that you are building a library of content that you can repurpose in a number of ways and on a number of platforms.

4. Be true to your primary objectives

Before getting too deep into launching an influencer marketing campaign or hiring influencers, you have to set some clear objectives.

“Know the specific objectives for why you want to work with influencers and how you will measure their success,” says Neal Schaffer, mentioned earlier in this article.

Schaffer explains that setting clear objectives will help you evaluate performance during a campaign and allow you to make the right adjustments along the way.

“Every influencer will deliver different results, so being able to measure and compare their effectiveness will allow you to achieve greater ROI by shifting more budget to well performing influencers,” says Schaffer.

This willingness to plan ahead and make decisions in real-time is the difference between launching a one-time influencer marketing experiment that doesn’t show clear ROI and building a repeatable, scalable strategy that brings measurable ROI and value to your business long into the future.

Influencer marketing is a repeatable process: How to be successful

In most cases, you’re probably not going to experience overnight success when you launch an influencer marketing campaign. It’s going to take time, experimentation, and effort.

That being said, there are some things you can do that can help ensure your success:

1. Be patient and put in the time

Influencer marketing is just as much an art as it is a science. You have to understand that going into it. There’s an art to building community and content that will resonate with people.

Spock is a scientist

Ted Rubin, mentioned earlier in the article, mirrors this line of thinking:

“Influencer marketing, when used to its best effect, is about building a network of business relationships that will yield results over time,” he says. “You’ll get as much out of the program as you put into it. So if your goal is to find a platform, and make this like programmatic advertising, and do whatever you can to automate the process… you will be throwing the majority of your budget down the drain.”

2. Know where it fits in your overall strategy

Don’t just invest in influencer marketing because it’s the latest buzz word you’re reading about everywhere. Instead, decide if it’s actually a worthwhile tactic to test in order to meet your goals and better serve your audience.

Sofiya Deva agrees. She’s the VP of Marketing at Zen Media and has won both a gold ADDY and a platinum Hermes award, and has worked with incredible brands like Chase, the US Navy and Tupperware.

“If you want to invest in influencer marketing, make sure you understand how it fits into your larger marketing strategy, and more importantly — your customer journey,” she says.

invest in influencer marketing

Deva believes that before jumping into this particular tactic, you should ask yourself, “What will engaging with these influencers allow your customers/clients to do, say and be?”

Joel Hansen, who currently directs CIMC (Western Canada’s largest marketing/PR conference) and works with brands like Adobe, Canucks, Clippers and Linkedin with Youth Engagement, echos what Deva says with some very practical feedback on what he likes to see from brands that reach out to influencers, “A brand guide and overview of the marketing campaign and how you play a role in shaping the outcome can be a very helpful foundation to introduce a relationship. I always appreciate when there is proof that they’ve done the research on my content and know my audience demographics. Lastly, a couple references from other influencers they’ve worked with always goes a long way.”

build a relationship with influencers

When I talked with Sujan Patel, one of the most recognizable names in growth hacking and founder of Mailshake, about this topic, he suggests that people should not get too enamored by the idea that influencer marketing has a guaranteed and immediate return no matter what.

Instead of putting all your eggs (and money) in one basket, he wants people to focus instead on what truly matters.

“Influencer marketing can drive huge sales and drastically grow your business,” Patel says. “It can be and has been for certain companies but it’s not always the case. It’s worked well for direct-to-consumer companies and ecommerce businesses but, as time passes, the things that worked a few years ago will become less effective and played out. Don’t get caught up in the sexy-ness of an influencer marketing campaign…instead, focus on building a product and brand that people love.”

sexy influencer campaign

3. Build out your network

If you’re going to experiment with influencer marketing, don’t just dip your toes in — do a cannonball.

Don’t just work with one influencer. Instead, work with and learn from many.

“Work with multiple influencers at once, and use those relationships to cross-promote each influencer’s post,” says Bill Widmer, who was mentioned earlier. “Tag them in one another’s posts and help them grow off each other’s audiences as well as your own.”

Gretta van Riel has similar advice to share.

“What you’re looking for is audience overlap amongst your influencers. This repetition will mean far higher conversion rates as consumers often need to be exposed to a brand several times before purchasing,” she says. “We look for what we call influencer ‘clusters’ or groups of influencers that share very similar audiences for example family members, friendship circles or the fact they’ve all been on a recent reality tv show for example.”

Blogger and influencer Brittany Porcelli recommends building a strategy that leverages both major and micro-influencers to get the best reach and engagement possible.

“Use a combination of influencers and micro-influencers with higher engagement to help drive purchase,” says Porcelli. “Micro-influencers help push your message through the lower funnel.”

4. Keep experimenting with influencer marketing

Finally, never stop experimenting and learning—even while a campaign is still running.

Larry Kim, CEO at MobileMonkey and founder of WordStream (which was acquired by Gannett for $150 million), explains why you need to be constantly testing in order to experience the full potential that influencer marketing has to offer.

diminishing return of influencer campaigns

“There is a diminishing return due to audience fatigue. The first time you partner with an influencer, your products/services are totally new to that audience,” says Kim. “Over time, the novelty wears off. It’s similar to the concept of “Ad Fatigue” in online advertising. Thus, you need to keep changing the content campaign being pushed by your influencers, and periodically switch influencers you partner with, too.”

Goldie Chan, founder of Warm Robots, agrees. Goldie is the top LinkedIn Video creator with the longest running daily video series on the platform amassing over 5 million views and counting earning her the title of, “The Oprah of LinkedIn” by Huffpost. She’s also a global keynote speaker and digital strategist.

“Influencer marketing is constantly in flux,” she says. “One day a platform may be the number 1 way to drive traffic and the next day, it may fall completely flat. It’s not always influencer-specific, on occasion it is the overall health of a platform that can determine campaign success.”

measure influencer marketing success

Wrapping Up

Influencer marketing is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. It’s not a golden nugget or a silver bullet. Like most marketing tactics, it’s easy to plan but hard to implement effectively.

It takes time, money, and effort. You’re going to fail, but you’re also going to learn, and through the process, you can build a strategy that meets the needs of your business, and more importantly, your audience.

Partner with Upfiv Websites + Marketing to add simple, affordable ecommerce tools that will help you take your influencer marketing campaign to the next level.

This post was co-authored with Rob Wormley.

Untitled design (20)

How to ‘sleigh’ your holiday marketing campaigns

The holidays are fast approaching and it’s time for business owners to start preparing. Brands are strategizing and starting their holiday marketing campaigns earlier every year, and it’s no surprise since small businesses claim the holidays account for more than 30% of their total yearly sales.

Shoppers are checking off all the people on their lists, so it’s vital that you are top-of-mind when they’re brainstorming where to go to satisfy their retail and holiday needs.

8 ways to ‘sleigh’ holiday marketing campaigns

With some timely prepping and extra effort, you can certainly “sleigh” your sales goals this holiday season with these ideas.

  1. Be festive and fun with your branding.
  2. If all is calm, then all is bright.
  3. Provide answers by creating a gift guide.
  4. Get festive with a unique holiday special.
  5. Make the holidays a win-win with a contest.
  6. Partner up because the more the merrier.
  7. Give back to get more.
  8. Don’t forget to spread the love.

Use these eight festive marketing strategies to increase sales, get in front of more people, and make 2019 your best year yet.

1. Be festive and fun with your branding

Whether you have a brick-and-mortar store or your brand lives online, this is the time of year to go big on branding.

People are dazzled by holiday lights and tinsel everywhere they look, so don’t let your business seem blah next to all the others.

You know what your email inbox looks like in December. It’s overflowing with festive emails and clickable content.

  • Do your emails reflect the excitement of the holidays?
  • Does your business look like it’s a holiday headquarters?
  • Are your store windows flashing holiday cheer?

If not, let’s fix that.

Bedazzle your logo

One easy way to get festive is to change your logo to cliche holiday colors like red and green. Think that’s too corny? Here are 15 famous brands that have altered their logo for the holidays. If that’s still too off-brand for you, try working with more muted variations like white, gold and silver.

Add festive graphics

The next way to “sleigh” your holiday marketing campaigns is with some festive graphics. Catapult your website visitors into the holiday spirit with a temporary holiday home page banner.

Next, share holiday-themed graphics on social media throughout the season. Post fun holiday quotes, announce sales or seasonal specials and share important information using these exciting graphics. The good news is they can be reused throughout social media, emails and online.

Being festive shows your customers you’re in the holiday spirit and it adds personality to your business.

It’s also a smart way to humanize your brand, which will improve sales and the reputation of your brand in the long-term.

2. If all is calm, then all is bright

Holiday Marketing Campaigns Cat With Lights

Holiday-crazed shoppers are anything but calm. Thankfully, this craziness creates a sales opportunity for you.

Make it a stress-free holiday by simplifying things for your customers.

Offer a gift wrapping option, extend your store hours, grant free shipping or delivery, validate parking, and simplify return policies.

You can appeal to the rare proactive shoppers or inspire people to shop early by offering an early-bird special or layaway option.

Not only can you make the shopping experience stress-free, but also fun!

Host a special shopping event and holiday party that brings your community together. Your customers will have fun and get their shopping done at the same time. Talk about a win-win situation.

But, it might not be possible for your business to offer all of these options.

During this stressful time, you can be a light to your customers. Simply providing a snack to a weary shopper or helping someone carry something to their car can change someone’s day.

Next-level customer service and a simple smile go a long way — especially during a time of year when shopping malls become a battle zone and your customers are trying to get through the chaos.

By adding a little extra zen to their errand running, your will quickly entice them to stay longer in your store and on your website.

3. Provide answers by creating a gift guide

While we’re discussing ways to make life easier for your customers, let’s talk about a clever way to promote many of your products simultaneously: gift guides.

Match the typical holiday recipients — husband, daughter, grandma, best friend — with your corresponding products.

If your own selection of products or services isn’t wide enough to span this group of gift recipients, you can add other companies’ products. Just be sure to choose like-minded businesses and those who complement your brand without any competition.

Not only does bringing in outside sources improve the quality of your gift guide, it also has the potential to expand your audience reach.

How? Contact the brands and tell them you’re including their product in your gift guide. Chances are, they will be happy to share that guide with their followers too, which puts your brand in front of a whole new audience.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll return the favor in their own holiday marketing campaign and include you in their content in other ways.

Gift guides make great content for email newsletters, social media and blog posts.

These helpful guides are popular and come from brands and influencers alike.

Make a mental note to tap some local or like-minded bloggers in your industry who release gift guides and take the time to email them. Ask to be considered for their guide this year or if there’s another way you can work together. You miss all the chances you don’t take.

In addition to a gift guide, brainstorm other ways your products and services can be incorporated into the holidays.

  • Can they be used in a holiday recipe or used in a unique way at a holiday party?
  • Can they make holiday shopping easier?
  • Maybe something you sell would be a nice donation for a charity or can become a tax write-off?

Get creative and think about how you can make your business more holiday-friendly.

4. Get festive with a unique holiday special

The next way to improve your holiday marketing campaigns is to boost sales with a holiday special.

Limited-time offers excite customers and drive extra traffic in store and online.

If you have an eCommerce store, try offering free shipping, discount codes or a small gift with purchase. Even a small stocking-stuffer can persuade a shopper who is on the fence about a sale.

A holiday special, no matter how small, also provides that added incentive for last-minute shoppers on the hunt for a last-minute deal.

After the holidays, most retail businesses experience down time. Keep customers checking back with your business long after the holidays are done by providing a coupon with holiday purchases for a future purchase. That way, customers are willing to revisit your store to take advantage of this new incentive.

5. Make the holidays a win-win with a contest

Another unique holiday marketing idea is to host a contest.

Advertise an attractive gift package and announce the winner a week or two before the holidays are over to keep the excitement going through the season.

To enter your contest, ask people to follow you on social media, share your post and/or tag some friends.

Another entry option is to create a quick landing page with an email capture form, or use a survey tool like TypeForm to capture email addresses and contact information.

Not only will you excite your audience with a fun contest, but you’ll drum up some new followers and capture some extra email addresses, which you can market to year-round.

Social media is a great platform for these contests and giveaways.

Because social media posts gain impressions by engagement and shares, contests often become popular content on timelines, spreading your cause and also increasing brand awareness.

Contests engage your audience and influence loyal fans (or new ones!) to participate. Amplify your voice and share your contest via emails and any other communication channels you’re already using. The more shares and engagement you can create, the more you expand your organic reach online to get in front of more and more eyes over the holidays.

Holiday Marketing Campaigns Wrapped Presents

6. Partner up because the more the merrier

They say the more the merrier, right? Bring that mentality to your business and leverage this friendly time of year to find some new partners. Team up with other businesses in your neighborhood or industry and run a holiday special together or invest in some seasonal advertising that promotes both of you.

If you have similar goals or complementary resources, you can even throw an event together. If an in-person event isn’t possible for your business, partner with a like-minded brand online to host a holiday giveaway on social media or find another way to co-promote to each other’s audiences.

Sharing is caring, and if you can discover a lucrative way to become allies with a fellow business, it’ll be sure to boost sales this holiday season.

Partnerships open new doors and introduce the possibilities of endless opportunities all year.

If it’s not the right time to work with another business, why not join forces with your loyal customer base?

Make holiday shopping a family affair and attract kids with holiday cookie decorating or hiring a Santa Claus for photos. Try your best to find these partnerships long before the holidays begin — the more time for planning and working out details the better.

7. Give back to get more

The holidays are a popular time of year to give back too, and that can have a positive effect on your marketing. Consider partnering with a charity to spread some holiday cheer to those who are less fortunate.

There are many ways to aid a charity as a business, and you can use your status to also get your community involved as consumers by either donating money, buying an extra item to donate, or offering their own time or volunteer hours.

Doing the right thing and helping others feels great, but it’s also a smart business move.

Working with a charity gives you newsworthy content to share on social media and within your content marketing, such as on blogs and within emails. An added bonus is the fact that people respect and promote businesses that are trying to make a difference.

People are happy to make a purchase for a good cause. Your decent deeds improve any word-of-mouth marketing and positive talk about your brand.

8. Don’t forget to spread the love

If you only take away one strategy from this article, be sure to spread the love this season.

Do everything in your power to make your customers feel appreciated. That means being extra thankful and grateful in all communications and interactions.

Send an email just to thank your audience — no selling or advertising involved. Share a social post with pictures of customers and revel in joyful memories.

While holiday shopping lists are what bring your customers in during the season, your love and quality customer service will bring them back year after year. Use this time of year to build your community and strengthen the relationships with your audience through gratitude.

This is where small businesses can stand out. Every business is competing with one another for shoppers’ purchases. Small businesses — even those with loyal buyers — are no exception.

There are ways to compete with big box stores, but excellent customer service and genuine interactions are a big way to get ahead.

While department stores herd customers like cattle and people become numbers, you can make a difference with targeted marketing and embracing small interactions with each customer you encounter.

You’ll capitalize on all the good service you’re sharing when people happily leave positive online reviews and don’t hesitate to tell their friends about your great store.

It’s never too early to start planning your holiday marketing campaigns

It’s smart to plan ahead and start preparing for the holiday season as early as you can.

Here’s a holiday marketing checklist to help you get organized before you begin implementing the marketing strategies listed here.

As the holidays roll around, stock up on hot chocolate and take time to prepare your team and business. A strong holiday marketing campaign will help you stay on people’s radars before, during and after the holiday season. It’s time to crush those sales goals. You got this — “sleigh” away!

 

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4 business filings to handle before the end of the year

The years move by quickly when you’re a small business owner. Blink on January 1, right after you’ve made your entrepreneurial New Year’s resolutions, and before you know it, it’s Q4 and the end of the year all over again.

Entrepreneurs often multitask their way through Q4. They prep their business for the first quarter of the new year, celebrate the winter holidays with their team, and file required documents to remain in good standing with the state.

4 business filings to handle before the end of the year

Which types of paperwork do small businesses need to file before the year ends? Here’s a look at a few common documents and reports startups must file to stay in compliance.

  1. Annual reports.
  2. Delayed filings.
  3. Articles of dissolution.
  4. Reinstatement filing.

Let’s look at each of these important year-end business filings in more detail.

Business Filings Organizing Paperwork

1. Annual reports

Filing an annual report is due — you guessed it — annually with your local Secretary of State.

Is an annual report the same as an initial report? Not at all.

An initial report, sometimes called a statement of information, is filed when a small business owner first incorporates or forms a limited liability company (LLC).

Initial reports share basic information about the business and its activities with the state. This information includes the name and address of the business, addresses of its members, the name and address of the company’s registered agent, and a brief description of what the company does.

Annual reports, on the other hand, record any changes the business may have experienced throughout the year.

This includes updating any changes made to the business name and/or address, member addresses, changes in registered agents, or drastic alterations to business activities.

You may submit an annual report that reflects many changes made to the business throughout the course of the year, or the report may only note a few changes.In either case, annual reports must be filed in a timely manner to avoid incurring penalties.

When is my annual report due? This is a great question because due dates vary depending on the state you do business in.

Your legal formation, from an LLC to an LP, also reflects the frequency in which your annual report filing is due.

For example, if you have incorporated in the state of Alabama as an LLC and do business in that state, your annual report is due each year. However, if you incorporated as an LLC in Idaho and do business in Idaho, your annual report is due on a biennial basis, that is, every other year.

The best way to avoid any confusion about annual report filings is to contact your local Secretary of State.

They will be able to provide you more information about your annual report filing requirements. You may also find it helpful to refer to MyCorporation’s “cheat sheet” of annual report due dates, updated to reflect the current deadlines for all 50 states.

2. Delayed filings

In general, I recommend that anyone starting a business forms an LLC or incorporates as soon as possible.

However, what happens if you plan on opening your doors for business in November or December? Should you still move ahead and incorporate the business in the few remaining calendar months of the year? Or is it more beneficial to opt for a delayed filing instead?

Typically when a small business owner decides to form an LLC or corporation, the process begins as soon as they submit their application form and pay a filing fee. However, one should not expect that their effective date of incorporation will be the day after they filed the paperwork.State processing times can range anywhere from a few days to weeks.

As a result, it may be difficult to predict the exact date you are officially in business.

A delayed filing, on the other hand, delays the effective date of incorporation. This allows entrepreneurs to file their incorporation paperwork 30 to 90 days in advance and set an exact start date for the business.

More often than not, small business owners will choose to set their start date in the next calendar year. Why would they choose to put it off until next year instead of opening their doors right now?

Tax savings

Once you are considered to be “active” as a business by the state, you are required by the IRS to collect, report and pay taxes for that tax year. This is true of businesses that have only been active for two months.

A delayed filing allows you to avoid paying taxes for two (or less) months in business within that calendar year.

It also ensures you do not pay other fees associated with starting your business, like annual report fees.

Set a specific start date

If you’re sticking to a strict timeline for opening up shop, a standard incorporation filing does not guarantee the business will be active within that timeline.

A delayed filing helps guarantee a specific incorporation date for the business.

You’ll know when you’ll officially be in business, and will be able to set the wheels in motion towards preparing for that exact date.

Delayed filings are prioritized

Concerned that your delayed filing may get tossed into a backlog somewhere? Don’t worry!Most states place delayed filings in a priority queue.

This ensures that the state will be able to address and approve delayed filings quickly without you wondering when — and if — they’ll get to your paperwork.

Get a head start elsewhere

Does your small business still need to file for an employer identification number (EIN) or a business license?

Opting for a delayed filing gives you a good sense of when your business will be officially active.

Use the extra time to get the rest of your ducks in a row. Some of these may include but aren’t limited to obtaining EINs, business licenses and permits, getting a lease on a retail space and opening a business bank account.

3. Articles of dissolution

There are many reasons why a small business may file for a dissolution, and not every reason is negative. Some businesses voluntarily dissolve because they have simply run their course or the owner has decided to pursue another venture.

Once you know you are ready to shut your doors for good, small business owners cannot simply hang up a “closed” sign and walk away from the storefront.Corporations and LLCs must file articles of dissolution.

This is a formal closure of the business, which alerts the state that the business is no longer active. As such, the company will no longer be required to file annual reports or continue paying state fees and taxes.

How does a small business owner file a dissolution? Here’s a quick primer for steps to follow in dissolving a business.

1. Secure the vote

Let’s say your business was a corporation. Corporations have a board of directors. That board must be able to approve decisions made by the company.

Before dissolving the business, you would need to meet with the board of directors and take a vote to pass the dissolution.

This vote must be approved by a majority of shareholders. Otherwise, the business will not be able to dissolve.

For LLCs, a formal meeting must be held with the LLC members to approve dissolution.

The one entity that would not need to have a formal meeting or conduct a vote is a sole proprietorship. This is because a sole proprietor conducts business as an individual. Hence, they would be able to dissolve their business without requesting a meeting or vote.

2. File articles of dissolution

This is an application that announces the intent to dissolve the business.

You must include the name of the corporation or LLC, the date the dissolution will go into effect, and the reason for dissolving the company. Are you registered to do business in another state? If so, file an application of withdrawal in that state. This ensures that the business is no longer considered active in another state or responsible for filing annual reports and paying state fees.

3. File Form 966, Corporate Dissolution or Liquidation

Let’s go back to the corporation example. If your corporation was able to secure a majority vote in favor of dissolving the business, it would need to file Form 966 within 30 days of filing articles of dissolution.

4. Cancel business licenses

Small business owners must cancel all business licenses and permits issued to their business.

5. Notify employees

Do you have a staff of full-time employees? You must inform them that the business is in the process of being dissolved as soon as possible.

Make sure you account for their W-4 state and federal withholding and provide each employee with information about the date they will receive their final paychecks, among other important information.

6. Pay off remaining business debts

Once the remaining debts of your business have been paid, the owners can liquidate and distribute the remaining assets to members and shareholders within the business.

Business Filings Black Man Signing Document

Last but not least, take the time to review the “Closing a Business Checklist” provided by the IRS. This list provides additional actions small business owners must take before they close their doors for good.

Remember to file an annual report for the year you go out of business, file final employment tax returns for any employees you may have, and make final federal tax deposits.

Depending on the entity your small business incorporated as, you may also need to report the shares of partners and shareholders, allow for S Corporation election termination, and file final employee pension and benefit plan documentation.

Links throughout the checklist will help guide small business owners to the appropriate PDF forms to fill out and file.It is a bittersweet, emotional process to shutter any business.

However, filing a dissolution is necessary before the year is up. This ensures your business avoids paying next year’s fees and filing annual reports for a business that is no longer considered to be active in the eyes of the state.

4. Reinstatement filing

Sometimes a business accidentally falls into dissolution. This may happen if you forget to submit your annual report or have a check bounce on filing fees.

We all make mistakes, and the good news is that an involuntarily dissolved small business doesn’t need to remain so.

If you find that your business was involuntarily dissolved this year, you may file a reinstatement to reinstate the business before the year ends.

Much like dissolving a business, reinstating a business comes with a few steps.

1. Determine why the business fell out of good standing

One of the examples listed above might be the reason. However, if you don’t know what happened, contact your local Secretary of State to find out why you were dissolved.

2. File reinstatement forms with your respective state

Depending on the reason why you fell into bad standing, a reinstatement application could be accompanied by another document such as a delinquent form. If you are unsure of which forms to file, reach out to your Secretary of State.

In addition to providing more information about how your business fell out of compliance, they may provide a list of necessary forms to file to ensure you do not forget anything.

3. Pay any outstanding fees associated with your business

Generally, you’ll need to pay a reinstatement form filing fee. However, there may be other penalty fees associated with your business.

Once these have all been paid and your application has been approved, you may successfully reinstate your small business.

Head into the New Year knowing you have your small business back in good shape and the peace of mind of being back in compliance with the state once more.

The above content should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Always consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation.

Image by: Niklas Kickl on Unsplash