Every good sales person knows they need to ask questions to learn about a prospect. Unfortunately, they often spend a lot of time asking the wrong questions or worse yet talking about their product before they even know if they are talking to the right person.
So what should you be asking? Of course there are the basic question which kick off the conversation. Why did you call me? What are you hoping we can do? What kind of time frame are you looking for? Why now? This is my favorite question because it helps me understand what has changed or what their pain point is. I use this information to match the right points in the service presentation to what they need.
Beyond the basics are the tough questions sales people are reluctant to ask because sometimes the answers make them uncomfortable. But these questions are critical to helping determine if you are talking to a qualified prospect, someone who has the resources, motivation and authority to buy from you. So today’s blog post contains six sales tips. The tough, but important questions:
1. Do you have a budget for this project?
Many of us don’t like to talk about money. It is actually a cultural thing. We were brought up to feel it wasn’t polite to talk about money. If you fall into that category (and I do) get over it. If someone is calling to hire you, they know there is money involved. Asking this upfront may provide some surprising responses, including discovering they expect to pay significantly more than you might have quoted. In other cases, they may have no idea and this gives you an opportunity to give them a price range so see if you are in the ballpark before you spend a lot of time.
The next two questions deal with how important the issue is. Critical issues with serious bottom line consequences are more likely to get resolved sooner. If your product or service isn’t on the critical list you will need to work harder to keep buyers engaged and move them toward a decision
2. If you can t make a decision by the date you mentioned, what happens?
Connecting consequences with inactivity will give you a chance to talk to the customer about the cost of indecision and possibly create a sense of urgency around the decision
3. What priorities are higher than the one we are addressing today
It would be wonderful if what you sold was the most important thing in your customer’s life. However, that is rarely the case. A new website or a new roof is important, but it may not be the most important thing. Understanding your customer’s priorities will give you valuable insight into all the areas of their business or their life where there are pain points. Again, if you can help them solve the problem with a referral or perhaps a different product or service you offer, which they might not be aware of, it will make it much easier to get them to decide to buy.
4. Who else are you talking with about this project?
It is easy to hide your head in the sand and delude yourself into thinking you are the only game in town, but you aren’t. It is hard for me to ask this question because I don’t want to bash competitors, but the information allows me to talk about relevant points of difference.
5. How will you choose or what criteria will you use to evaluate proposals?
If price is number one on their list and you know you aren’t the low cost provider, you have some extra selling to do. Many times potential customers don’t really have criteria in mind. When this happens you have a terrific opportunity to steer the decision. Kick off the conversation by saying something like this:
Can I tell you how other clients have made this decision?
As we talk to customers the 3 criteria we often hear are….
Now you focus the conversation on your strengths and the potential client will evaluate your competitors on the standards you have set.
6. What might prevent us from doing business together?
I know what you are thinking, why would you encourage potential clients to think about why they wouldn’t hire you but you need to know. If the owner has a brother in the business or there is someone who has done their work for years, you need to know that sooner rather than later.
That is my list of tough questions I use to guide a sales call. What would you add to that list?]]>
WordPress has a secret learning curve. Despite its dedication to user-friendly interface elements, new users and non-geeks see a lot to learn. I see this every time I present a training session. It’s all exciting and easy until we hit Add New Post.
Something about that moment spikes the learning curve right off the carts, if only for a moment. But with truth, training, practice and friendship (it’s magic), you can level that spike and leap the curve. If WordPress is intimidating, start by realizing it’s not WordPress you’re scared of.
The peculiar paralysis encountered on the Edit Post screen isn’t about the technology. It’s the tyranny of the blank page (or screen). Like walking into a garage full of meticulously arranged tools, the options can be overwhelming. What the flip are we supposed to do with this stuff?
Luckily, good training involves hands-on practice. When I work with I clients, we use sample material to copy and paste into the editor. Once the white screen starts to fill, you can feel the ice melting and it’s easier to focus on learning. Adding media, inserting links, basic SEO, all of that gets better once there’s raw material to work with.
A complete basic WordPress training session should include logging into a self-hosted WordPress site, adding a new blog post, using the Visual editor to compose posts and pages, adding media and links, and using the drafts and revisions tools. Of course, that’s not even half the skills needed, but that’s at least one hour of material. A good second hour training could include installing updates, managing user accounts, using the Text editor to add embed codes and custom HTML, even basic SEO practices. That doesn’t even include training on themes and plugins specific to your website. There’s a lot to learn.
Hopefully, your website developer included WordPress training in your design package. Ask for a one-on-one session with a WordPress expert or look for public classes and Meetups in your area. Be willing to spend on training, it’s worth your investment to pay someone to engage you with their expertise.
If you can’t find a local WordPress expert, there are plenty of friendly folks online. And they’re making videos. You can watch a trainer online while you’re logged into your own site, studying hands-on as you go. Video training is convenient too, letting you pause, play and work on your own time. Here’s a few beginner video resources to try, both paid and free.
Lynda – There’s nothing you can’t learn on this site. Well, maybe best practices for grooming Norwegian Forest Cats. But these professionally produced video are organized into a learning tracks to lead you through learning. For most WordPress users, the WordPress Essentials course is all you need. Lynda is a paid membership site with topics beyond WordPress.
WP101 – This WordPress-only training site has a WordPress 101 course to lead you through essential skills. I really like the 101 course, this is exactly the order I like to use, with a few extras. WP101 is a paid membership site with exclusively WordPress training content.
Blog Aid – Looking for a little extra charm in your training? Nashville’s WordPress authority MaAnna offers access to her library of training videos for $1. For just a buck, you’ll get WordPress training designed specifically for non-geeks. MaAnna goes slowly and carefully through each topic, perfect for beginners. And she’s just so friendly.
WP Apprentice – Blog Aid’s WordPress material’s a steal at $1, but you can’t get better than free. Try WP Apprentice’s WordPress Quick Start course for a crash course in WordPress. It’s got a few extras in there most users won’t need if they already have WordPress, but it just costs your email address to watch eight videos.
WPBeginner – This is one of the most popular sites for WordPress help in general, even on advanced topics. They’ve made a number of free WordPress training videos, covering much of the same material as WP101 and other beginner courses. Just make a free user account to get access.
Thanks to Elegant Themes for their great post on 11 Online Places To Learn WordPress Inside And Out (Paid And Free Options).
WordPress and most quality themes and plugins have extensive support documentation as well, so don’t be afraid to Google for help. You’ll find a plethora of videos on YouTube, though I can’t speak for their quality, as well as posts and ideas from people across the globe.
Watching other people work is a fantastic way to learn, but there’s only one way to retain all that knowledge.
Making cool, useful things for your customers is the best thing you can do with your website.
It’s also the best thing you can do for yourself to learn WordPress. A regular writing schedule keeps your business blog on track and forces you to practice and expand your skills. In fact, not writing will cause you to lose it all. Your investment in training depends is only worth it when you commit to use what you learn. When you know what to do, WordPress becomes one of the easiest, yet most robust, publishing tools for your business.
Use an editorial calendar to plan and schedule your posts. And don’t forget to promote them! Write, publish, promote, write. It’s a vicious cycle, but it’s a way of living and doing business you can’t do without. Your social media activity and online advertising must lead back to your business website, but without useful words on your site, there’s nothing to promote or share. Learning your content management system is the key to effective writing and writing is the key to learning the CMS. But the post editor isn’t all there is to WordPress. In fact, your writing workflow and your customers’ experience on the site are dependent on features outside the scope of training videos and webinars.
If you have a WordPress site, or you’re about to launch one, be sure to have friends who code. All the videos and walk-throughs in the world won’t matter when it’s 2 am and registration doesn’t work the day before your big event. Or you’ve published an awesome blog post, but it’s not showing up on your blog, no matter what you try.
In these times, geeks are your best friends. Your local WordPress experts and IT professionals love saving the day. Especially when you pay them. Find a geek to be your webmaster, someone to take responsibility for your website so you can be responsible for your business. Call around and ask others in your industry who they use. Or attend a WordCamp, where WordPress developers, experts and beginners come together. You’re sure to meet someone who wants to help.
WordPress is done together. Whether you’re in a class, watching videos, writing, or calling a geek, friends are the only way you’re going to jump the curve and fulfill your website’s potential.
Looking for even more informational resources to up your WordPress game? Read through our WordPress 201 guide to make your next leap:
The design styles are different, because the viewers’ needs were different. You couldn’t, for instance, take the neon geometric patterns of the 80s and use them to instill a sense of patriotism in people after World War II. That would have seemed a bit ridiculous at that time.
Taking a look at some of the iconic designs through the decades, it’s easy to see how much graphic design has evolved as the world around us changed. Here are some designs that stand out to me (for better or worse) from each decade.
The most notable examples of graphic design in the 40s can be split into two groups. World War II designs, especially propaganda posters, and the advertising boom that followed the war. Design in general during this time became more in-your face in terms of graphics, icons and text. Less copy was being included, and instead, ads were relying on huge, often startling slogans.
The theme of patriotism was prominent not only during the Second World War, but also in the years following. Although ads still mentioned the war for years after it ended, designs took a somewhat more optimistic turn. With the economy on the upswing, there was a greater need for advertising and packaging designs, and advertisers were waiting in the wings with positive, often patriotic messages.
Design in the 50s had a bit of everything. The entire decade was packed full of interesting and often bizarre designs. Sex in advertising became huge, especially with the publication of the first issue of Playboy magazine. Sex was used frequently to sell everything from cigarettes to socks. There was an overall theme of “happy, beautiful people” in advertising, so if there happened to be a product that a sexy woman couldn’t sell, a smiling family around a dinner table seemed to do the trick. The kitschier the better!
One of the best parts about the 50s in terms of design, was the rise of graphic designer Saul Bass. Bass is widely known for his movie title sequences and some of the most iconic logos in American history. Bass was known for finding clever ways of making the ordinary, extraordinary and his unique style has influenced designers ever since.
Trying to choose one type of design as the most notable for the 60s would be extremely difficult. Cultural wars and activism were everywhere, and everything from human rights to drugs and the environment were being hotly debated. On one hand, advertising was taking a more modern turn, as we saw some very “Don Draper-esque” concepts come to light. Rather than bold images and taglines, we were seeing clever ideas and big concepts.
On the other end of the spectrum, however, we were beginning to see bright colors and psychedelic graphics, especially in the music industry.
Music proved to be one of the defining features of the 1970s, and many of the most iconic band posters and album covers come from this time. The psychedelic style that emerged in the 60s continued to flourish, and the typography followed suit.
Technology was also coming into the spotlight in a major way during this decade. We were we seeing more color photography used in designs, thanks to advancements in camera technology. By the end of the decade Apple computer ads, which were modern for the time, were popping up everywhere, and we were being told we could have our very own personal computer!
It’s hard to think of a decade that tried harder to be cool, (to varying levels of success) than the 1980s. This was an interesting time for design and had its own very distinct style. Think geometric patterns, complementary color schemes and technology as a glimpse into the future. (Seriously, people in the 80s loved to depict the future.)
Another notable aspect of 80s design, was that it was beginning to speak more to women, and in ways it hadn’t before. Less “don’t burn dinner!” and more “be bold and fashionable!”
This was a quirky time for design. Everything from the ad campaigns to television, to fashion seemed to be like the lovable next door neighbor. Everything was a strange mix of funny and embarrassing. Either the typography had to look wacky and hand drawn, or the colors needed to clash, or at the very least, someone should wear a milk mustache.
With so many different design styles, it’s hard to choose only a few to focus on, but these were some that really stood out and seemed to best reflect each era. We’ve seen drastic changes in the copy/image balance, use of color and photography and overall tone. For instance, currently we’re seeing very modern and minimal designs and an obsession with all things technology related. Our attention spans may be shorter in 2014, but our designs are generally sleek and to the point. What changes do you expect to see as design continues to evolve along with our ever-shifting culture.?]]>
Regardless of how the battery is ultimately found, the chaos in the time between opening the box and eventually turning on the toy diminishes the enjoyment of that first moment of play. The unfortunate part of this experience is how easily it could have been avoided if someone had simply checked to see if batteries were included in the box.
The same is true for many websites. The eagerly anticipated launch date arrives and suddenly there are questions. What about the SEO or social media links and profiles? Why is there still Greek text on some of the interior pages? Much like the batteries, these issues arise because there isn’t a clear understanding of what is included in the web design fee.
If you are getting ready for a web redesign, be sure to read the fine print to understand what is or isn’t included. Don’t assume because something was included last time that it will automatically come with this design too. Just like the floor mats in your car, which some auto manufacturers include at no cost and others charge for, different web design firms have different standard packages.
Carefully compare quote details. If one company has a price significantly lower than another, it may be a bargain, or they may be offering a stripped down version of what you really need. In the long run, you may end up paying more to have all the features you need added to a bare-bones package. Know what’s included and who will be responsible for each of the following:
Domain name and hosting: Who owns the domain name? Where will the website’s files be hosted?
Content production: Who will write the text for all the pages. Where will the images come from? If stock photography is required, who pays for the image?
Basic SEO services: This includes key word research, creation of unique titles, descriptions and meta data for each page.
Website marketing: You need a plan to drive traffic to your new website. Setup Google My Business, promote your site on social media, even plan a local blitz with your launch.
Website Training: Will you be taught how to make changes to your site?
Maintenance and updates: What are the charges for ongoing support and updates?
None of these questions are deal breakers. You just need to know what’s included in the box before you sign.
If you’re ready to take the next steps and jump into a new marketing strategy, download our marketing budget toolkit today:
This strategy worked to some degree for a few years until 2009, with Google’s release of the ‘Caffeine’ beta update which was designed to crawl the Internet quicker and serve better results based on relevant content, not guiding keyword data. In fact, Google’s spam-killer-in-chief, Matt Cutt, released this blog and video explicitly confirming his search engine no longer uses meta keyword data in search results. (Matt’s blog post also discusses a few of the meta tags you can use to your benefit, if you’re interested in a deeper read)
So why do I bring this topic up? Because I still see meta keyword data crammed into the top of almost every web redesign project we come across and it bugs me. It’s concerning that whoever was advising these small businesses before we started working with them thought spending time on a meta keyword tag strategy was efficient. My hope is these companies, and companies like yours, were not sold on this method alone as a search engine strategy, though I have my suspicions.
The first thing we need to do is determine whether or not your current website has meta keyword data plugged into its homepage and what they look like. Follow these easy steps to figure this out:
If your search comes up positive, we have a bit of work to do. It isn’t necessarily a make or break situation, but there is some research which points to meta keyword tagging as detrimental to your ability to be found in search. Using this bit of code to “influence” search results can be considered a mild form of foul play, especially when Google explicitly requests you write amazing content instead of trying to game their system.
Point of the story: get rid of meta keyword tags at the start of your homepage. Don’t get in a tizzy, don’t fight with your “web person” about it, just get it eliminated. For a bit of humor and vindication, let me also share with you just how arbitrary my heroes at Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress think meta keywords are. Here’s a look a their Sitewide Metadata Tools:
Without the presence of meta keyword tags, what can you do to help boost your searchability? Lucky for you, lots and lots of different sections of your website can be optimized quickly to set the groundwork for your digital presence. In fact, so many different things can be optimized and tracked that an entire multi-billion dollar industry spawned to help businesses get found by their customers.
Here are just a few simple things to check on your website for the sake of optimization:
Have a great page about your products and services that isn’t likely to change anytime soon? Do your homework and come up with a great title for it. Make sure to include keywords that have to do with your business and words you want to be found for in search. Yoast SEO Plugin lets you optimize this for every single page on your website.
Meta descriptions are the blocks of text which appear under a link to your page in a search engine results page. In other words, this is all the small text under the results you get when searching Google. This information helps keep searchers informed of the contents of a link and helps search engines serve up the most relevant pages. Maximize your exposure here by writing inviting, meaningful and highly-descriptive content. And don’t forget- you only get around 150 characters to work with!
Adding descriptive meta data to your photos is both a common courtesy to aid visual impaired visitors and a wise SEO choice. By using text to describe the images on your site, you’re improving the experience for audience members who may use screen reading technology to aid their browsing experience. Search robots also use this textual information to gather more context about the content of your website.
Writing descriptive text across the footer of your website is common practice in the modern age of the Internet. Most humans won’t scroll all the way down unless they are looking for your contact information, so this boilerplate paragraph really isn’t for them. Search engines use this data as a starting point for understanding what your business is all about and it helps them fit you with the right searchers.
These are just a few of the things you can do to improve the user experience and search visibility of your website. And don’t forget, if you walk away with just one nugget of advice from this blog post, let it be “Check your website for meta keywords!” The sooner you can zap them, the sooner you can get to optimizing the things that actually matter on your website.
Now that you understand what should and shouldn’t be on your site, it’s time to evaluate your website as a whole and see how you stack up. Take our interactive web audit and find out where you stand:
When working with a friend it can be hard not to get sidetracked and waste hours chatting about your family, your pets or whatever, but you have got to stay focused. You want this partnership to be beneficial for both parties so don’t waste your time gabbing about your social life. Treat this relationship as you would any other client relationship. Use your time and their time wisely. If you want to catch up with each other be sure to plan a time to get lunch or drinks when you’re off the clock.
This seems sort of obvious doesn’t it? Just because you are working with a friend doesn’t mean they get special treatment. They still need to pay their invoices on time just like everyone else. But the same goes for you. You can’t just push your friend’s project to the back burner because they’re your friend and they’ll understand that you’re busy. It doesn’t work like that. Keep your business hat on. Don’t cut any corners. You don’t want your friend to think you aren’t professional. Pay extra attention to them if you can. Show them that they made the right choice choosing to work with you instead of someone else.
There are times when clients don’t choose to go with the logo we like best, or veto the image we selected for the homepage on their website, but we have to respect their decisions. You might be able to be more opinionated with your friend because you have a personal relationship, but you still need to respect their choices. Just because you don’t like their final decision doesn’t give you the right to rip them a new one. You can try to gently push them in a specific direction, but at the end of the day it’s not your business, it’s theirs.
Working with a friend can be hard. You want what’s best for them, but you don’t want to step on any toes in the process. As long as you treat them like any other client, respect their opinions and stick to a schedule you will be fine. If you find that you just can’t seem to agree on anything and the project is going no where, cut ties before it gets ugly. You don’t want to ruin a lengthy friendship over something silly. If you’re not comfortable with the idea of invoicing a friend, you should probably refer them to another company.]]>
If you have had some success and made a few sales, you are ready for the next step. Yes, you read that correctly- there is a next step! Leads don’t stop becoming leads once a purchase is made. I know, you thought you were done. In reality, the first sale is just the beginning of an ongoing relationship in which people come back, buy more and- best of all- tell their friends about you.
Lets face it, getting someone who knows you to buy from you again is much easier than trying to find a new customer. So how do you keep them on the hook?
Turning your first time customers into a loyal group of purchasers starts when you say “Thank You.” Let them know you value them as customers by reaching out with personalized messaging and immediate, positive recognition of the sale. Promote additional products and services that pair well with their purchase and offer these items at a ‘loyalty discount.’ In short:
R & R (Remarketing and reactivating) strategies are the next logical step for customers on your Hook Line & Sinker list. Email reminders, print postcards or simple phone calls can be used to offer other products, promote loyalty and referral reward programs or simply stay on their minds.
Have a product that’s not selling as well as you hoped but is an amazing upgrade or companion to your flagship offerings? Consider selling it at a discount to your loyal customers. Your Hook, Line, & Sinker leads already trust you enough to make their initial purchase, meaning you have leeway in your follow-up messaging to continue selling to them.
You don’t necessarily have to sell your cross-marketed products or services at a discount to get traction. When I worked in insurance, we found it very useful to offer links to additional insurance riders or peripheral coverage in our follow-up emails to customers who purchased our main product. Sometimes all it takes is making your other products visible to make a sale.
Encouraging your customer base to send new referral business your way is valuable. If cross-selling doesn’t match up with your range of services, a powerful alternative is asking customers to review your business. Typically, expect only a small percentage of your customers to offer up a review, but the ones you do receive can be shared on places such as your website, Yelp! and Yellow Pages to positively affect your ability to be found on the internet.
You can also offer discounts on services or products for customers who send you referral business. This can be through a special promotional code or phone number you include in your follow-up messaging so you can track each referral that comes in. Don’t forget to also offer a discount to the new referral leads that choose to do business with you as a sign of appreciation and as a way to ease the sale.
If you take only one idea away from this blog post, remember it is always more expensive to find a new customer than to sell more to an existing one. Make your sales efforts go further by staying connected to people who are already on your hook.]]>
So how can you run a powerful social program when you are worrying about ticket sales, where the projector is, and why one of the band members is passed out back stage?
Identify influential people on social media
Look beyond the Klout score or high follower count. You need people who are actually part of your target audience. Not sure who they are? Jump onto twitter and look at your followers and their followers. Zero in on the people who are already talking about your event or events like yours.
Do your homework and research the people you want to invite to promote your event. Read their feed. If they typically use a lot of profanity in their stream or actively support a controversial cause you need to think twice about putting them on your front line. You can also use tools like followerwonk, which gives you a more complete picture of how truly influential someone is.
What will encourage this group to participate? Consider free tickets or VIP passes to exclusive parts of the event, preview programs or behind the scenes access. Be very clear about what you are offering up front. Let people know if they can bring a guest or if the program is appropriate for children.
Decide what you want
Are you looking for people to share their opinions, photos and experiences during the event or write blog posts or reviews? Be specific. Give people guidelines, talking points and relevant information up front:
Ultimately, people will do what they want – When you invite someone to attend your event as your guest, there is the risk they may not follow your instructions or even like the experience. You can’t control what they will do,or say, but having some clarity about your expectations up front helps.
Have a hashtag. Keep it short. Every character you use in a hashtag is one less you have to tell your story. Pick something which makes sense. At the Indy Fringe festival this year, the natural hashtag would have been #indyfringe and that was what many people choose to use. But the official tag was #Fringe14. While it was cool to see tweets in the newsfeed between the festival in Indy and the one in Edinburgh it was confusing. Also the multiple hashtags made it harder to share and retweet comments because they were scattered between multiple hashtags.
Look beyond the core influential group. If you have picked the right people, when they share content their fans, friends and followers will share the information. Pay attention to the news feed. If you see someone actively engaging you may have someone you want to add to your influencer list next year. Here are a few bonus tips to engage a wider audience:
Make it simple, fun and rewarding for people to tell your story and they will.
Interested in learning more about effective local marketing and SEO? Join our Local Blitz seminar in Carmel, IN at the Monon Community Center on Oct. 15th!]]>
Do you have a clear idea of what you should do, or do you end up batting clean up, taking on tasks that others can’t or won’t? Sometimes you need play the business owner role, but in general that is not the best strategy for long term growth. Here a few basics to get help you start defining your best role in the company.
You went into business for a reason. You had an idea or a product and a picture in your mind of what success would look like. Those initial ideas set the vision for your business. Over time you should be revisiting the initial vision to see if it still holds true or needs to be adjusted. Along the way, you need to communicate your vision to your team so they can work with you to accomplish a common goal.
Once everyone agrees on the vision, it is time to work on the strategy and specific steps to reach your objectives. While you will have significant influence over the strategy, don’t be afraid of letting your team have input into how you will get where you want to go. When people are involved in the process they are more likely to have ownership of the tasks and the outcomes. As the owner you don’t have to have all the answers. As a matter of fact if you hire smart talented people, they will probably come up with a few suggestions which might never have occurred to you.
Not sure where to start? Grab a copy of our two page strategic planning document to get you pointed in the right direction.
Deliberately or by accident, you will create the basis of the culture. Your values will set the standard for how things get done, what the company feels like and the general reputation in the marketplace. As you hire people, they don’t have to be clones of you, but it is important for them to embrace the culture or you may sense the business no longer feels right as you grow.
At Roundpeg, we spent several weeks identifying key values. We argued for awhile about what core traits everyone should have if they are going to be a member of our team. For us the list is pretty short:
As your company grows beyond just you, there will be time set aside for hiring, training and coaching. As you start down this path you will have tough decisions to make regarding when to bring people on, and what type of people to hire.
As you grow you may be able to turn over some of the screening process to external partners or top managers, but if you are writing the paycheck, you should probably meet the person before you bring them on board.
It will be a long time before one of your employees has the same passion, product knowledge or credibility you have with prospective clients, so sales will be in your job description for a long time to come. You may eventually hire sales people, but customers will still want to meet you on the big deals, and they should.
Don’t delegate everything that you love. Yes, new people will join your team and they will help handle the day to day but if you no longer work on what you love you will burn out. Between employee and facility issues, some days it is hard to remember I started a marketing company because I love marketing. When that happens, I step back and work on a customer project. I keep engaged in the creative side of the business and the clients love the interaction,.
As a business owner, take some time to figure out what you really want your job to be, then hire, delegate or outsource what doesn’t fit. This is my job description. What’s yours?]]>
Data powers the world. I know you thought everything ran on electricity, but really it’s data. And data collection is the secret to a truly valuable and powerful small business web design. I don’t mean creepy data collection, but prompting respondents with a form and cleanly formatting their responses.
Formstack is an online form builder used by everyone from universities to general contractors to market their services and streamline back-office processes. By default, Formstack sends notifications and data to your secure database. But you can do so much more by hooking up web apps like Constant Contact and WebMerge.
Fishbowls and clipboards are great real world email and business card collectors. But manually entering the records takes valuable time. Instead of punching in the data, create a custom branded landing page on your website. Embed a short Formstack form to collect name, email address and areas of interest and hook it up to your email marketing system. Way better than a fishbowl.
Segmenting your lists and passing collected data to your email service and customer database are the foundation of successful inbound marketing strategies. Roundpeg uses the Constant Contact integration to automatically add people to different lists based on the marketing download they picked from our site. If you don’t want to use inbound marketing tactics here, always make sure customers get an immediate reward for signing up. This could be a discount code, a coupon or something else valuable.
Want to take email signups further? Grab a tablet computer when you go to tradeshows, hook it up to WiFi and load the signup page on your website. Voila! Instant, interactive digital signage. Be sure to take a tablet stand too.
It’s easy to integrate your forms with Constant Contact and other popular email services like MailChimp, Emma and AWeber. Formstack can even send your data to popular CRM tools like Salesforce and Highrise. And email’s not the only thing enhanced with a custom form. Online payments are better too.
You don’t have to sell t-shirts, electronics or books to make money online. What if customers could schedule AND pay for service appointments online? What IF volunteers could sign up for events, request info and donate using beautiful, secure and easy to use landing pages? All of this is possible.
Formstack integrates with PayPal to enable secure credit card processing right on your website. Other payment integrations are also available, including Authorize.net and First Data, two of the largest payment processors.
But integrating payment with your form is just the start. The trick is to use special calculating fields to charge customers based on the options they select in the form. This works great for everything from event registrations to ordering deli party trays. With FreshBooks and Google Spreadsheets, you can even automate aspects of your accounting.
What’s one thing you wish you could do without paper? Let’s brainstorm a few things together.
Converting these interactions from paper-based to online saves resources and streamlines the process of getting and organizing data so you can actually do something with it. Formstack’s data organization options allow email notifications to be routed based on customer responses and data can be saved to an online database within your account. It’s easy to view and analyze data right there, but it you can export CSV and Excel documents as well. You can even encrypt the database if you need to.
Once your data collection goes paperless, you’ll never go back. But there’s plenty you can do with that data once you get it, including printing it. PDF is a popular document format used to make printable event tickets, case studies and other documents. With the WebMerge integration, you can take important data collected with a Formstack form and return a custom formatted PDF with that data.
This is especially useful when your users and customers need an easy online interface, but the required output is a printable document. We’ve recently used this integration to create a point-of-sale webpage that automatically prints order slips. You could also use WebMerge for your event registration, producing a printable PDF ticket just like the big online ticket sites. Wasting paper never looked so good.
Got a fantastic idea for a Formstack project? Don’t see a built-in integration to make it happen? Make your own. Formstack includes access to an API for custom programming. Anything your friendly, neighborhood programmer can dream of is on the table. But maybe you’re trying to avoid that level of customization. Try using Zapier.
Zapier is a platform for making connections between web apps like Formstack, Podio, Zoho CRM and others. You only pay when Zapier performs a task for you. For example, you might create a Zap (a connection between apps) for Formstack and CheddarGetter. This app (and a hundred others) doesn’t have a native Formstack integration, but it could be the perfect solution for your recurring billing needs. Don’t fret or pay a programmer big bucks. Set Zapier to update CheddarGetter when folks pay their renewal online.
Formstack is the power behind email signups, online ordering, service ticketing, job applications and more. It’s not just email signups and surveys. Don’t be scared of data, do so much more.
Once you’ve implemented Formstack and started to gather leads, you’ll need a way to reach out to them. Check out our 6 easy steps to email success and start building your plan: