Introductions being unnecessary at this point, allow me to briefly describe what follows next. My notes you are about to read, valuable as I try to make them, are only a slice of the pie you are about to digest. The real value I believe, sits within all the content behind each of the URLs shared.
This is not to be mistaken with me devaluing my own writing, but simply an acknowledgement to the quality content I’m about to send you towards.
Think of this as my personal archive – highly valued readings that me and my partner have stumbled upon. Viral sensations within entrepreneurial hubs, hits on Quora, Reddit and Hacker News, or some old content forgotten by most… Written by entrepreneurs, successful startup owners, people who have a flare for case studies more than I ever will.
Many of these URLs changed the way we approach projects, armed us with strategies and tactics, shaped the way in which we do business. The URLs are waiting for you bellow, along with my own notes and suggestions for each.
Build, market and maintain a $1,000+/month web app
Many web developers have experienced an app-wet-dream at one point or another. Young MBA graduates have too. And while there are many people out there playing around with the idea of building a successful app (ourselves included), most of them don’t have a clue of the math involved behind it.
The build-it-and-they-will-come approach has eventually broken a couple of dreams too many.
The answer shared bellow appeared on Quora and up to date only 315k people have seen it. Once again, this puts you into a very sweet spot.
Written by someone who is well versed in app strategic development, it covers angles you hardly ever think about when sketching your idea.
Give it a read, my comments are bellow.
My partner shared this URL with me while we were sketching an educational app. The reason, I suppose, was to educate me further about how working on an app project feels like.
And while people excited about ideas have a hard time listening to some informed skepticism, opening your ears allows for a crucial change in mindset. The guy writing this – he seems to know more than most articles I’ve read on the topic of app development.
First of all, he does the math in both directions. Something that nearly all of my peers forget to include within their early sketching. He talks about unsubscribing, in numbers, thus opening your eyes to the fact that you might be losing customers just as well as you are gaining them.
Here is what I would add – have you ever thought about customer service early on in your strategic planning? Cause you should. All of them e-mails, all of them refund requests, all of them unsubscribes…
Besides, now that he has mentioned maintenance, think about updates, buggy features, server issues, your affiliate account manager asking for info, your banners not working… It can very well turn into a full time job, doing nothing else but putting out one proverbial fire after the next. He was right to say that people who get fired up by ideas, have a hard time swallowing this hiccup.
Boredom and passion – can you squeeze the two of them into one sentence?
The answer might be hiring help from outside, or picking your team fairly diverse in skills. Or, if you observe our work, make sure that one part of the team is enthusiastic and maniacally excited about ideas, and the other is down to earth, dealing with pragmatism only.
As for the subject of luck – it should find you while working.
Do thinks that don’t scale
Written by Paul Graham, cofounder of Y-combinator and many other successful startups, this long article will open your eyes about the issue on scaling. Paul will teach you how you can improve your product, branding, and overall strategy by focusing on things that don’t scale.
This article gave us many ideas about our own work, and I will share some of them as well.
Many verticals and many checkpoints, as he goes further and further into analyzing successful startups. Read his notes at the end of it as well.
You’ve read the article, so you probably know how hard it is for me to start adding on top of it. But here are a couple of takeaways.
Building your business the slow and more reliable way. In its essence, that is what this article advocates first and foremost. Out of that comes a broad palate of advantages.
Take manual user acquisition for example. Many startups that I know of have their success thanks to a single tread that have gone viral on Reddit or Hacker News. Translated further, this means that they have invested lots of time in steps so manual that most people disregard impulsively.
It means learning the platform, posting long enough as to gain followers, sharing the bananas out of the tread once it is up. It means writing elaborate comments for days ahead, or taking dozen of hours doing an AMA session on the same platform (Google this one out if you are not familiar with it- it’s worth your time).
The outreach strategies that I’ve mentioned in the first guide are also subject to hours and hours of manual work. If it helps, lock your mind on what the final result will look like, and put in the time.
The second thing you can take away from this article is audience targeting. Start broad regardless of what your instincts say. What this allows you to do, is gain insight into conversion numbers, and build something from the ground up that is free of false assumptions (once you start making them, it’s not likely that you will come back for a fix and repair session- if we go with the notion that an audience of men is more likely to find this guide useful, and decide to advertise to men only, we might be building a whole marketing strategy based on a very flawed proposition). Start broad and do the math afterwards. Targeted audience comes only after you miss for so many times.
The third thing that I would like to highlight is delighting customers. Hand written notes are a great idea, and even better if you are operating on a more local level. Speaking about it, you can also delight influencers and early adopters- those that are kind enough to share your product, service, or even content. Imagine writing and delivering a hand written thank you note to all bloggers who participate in your mash up articles, and then tell me about building connections and being recognized from a crowd of many.
How about the whole experience around your product? We live in a digital world but that doesn’t render us immune from having to provide unique user experience. In fact, it enhances the need of it. Your welcome email, a special thank you video, something that stands out… When Moz had buggy issues with its new software release, Rand, the CEO at the time, sat down to write a long and very transparent set of articles and published them on the blog. I cannot imagine what he did for PRO users and paying customers. Cultivating the relationship with the audience, building up the user experience from outside the product- this only helped them keep customers fairly happy even when the product itself was undergoing difficulties and setbacks.
Here is a takeaway we are very much appreciative of:
But you can and should give users an insanely great experience with an early, incomplete, buggy product, if you make up the difference with attentiveness.
Translated within the work we are now putting for our fitness product – this means worrying more for the things that don’t necessarily add to the value of the core product features. Being more transparent, it means cutting short on filming gear and lighting and editing, while adding some extra FAQ and motivational videos. We may not have the budget or experience to film the best fitness product production wise – but sometimes attentiveness can bring far more extra points.
Moving on, the example about Facebook…
Starting within a very small and narrow niche, targeting a selected audience. What this can provide you with is social proof before you spread your pitch to everyone and anyone.
This goes against the advice earlier for starting with a very broad audience, but depends on the type of your product. Take for example Moz again – they started with SEO companies and in-house agencies. Only then they were able to spread out and reach people who were slightly interested in SEO and educate them further. By the time this was happening, social proof has reached the ceiling.
Pre-sale and validation – there is a great Reddit article waiting ahead. The takeaway from this article though adds to the importance of being diligent about your first set of sales. Pre-sales can give birth to your product, but follow that up with a buggy release and you have sealed your fate. Were you to decide that pre-sales are the way to go – make sure there is a polished product waiting down at the end of the line.
By now you have probably jumped between this tab and the article a couple of times too many. My advice is to read it again in near future – it really helps a lot with building segments of your strategy from the ground up.
Take consulting for example. Not once in these three previous years of working online have I heard advice about consulting one of your customers. And for free.
But it makes a lot of sense. That client, user, visitor… he will tell you about angles of your product only a customer can see. Forget about asking your friends and peers. This guy – the one you’ve set yourself to consult – he will look at your product with a different set of eyeballs, mostly because he doesn’t have the professional deformation to analyze beyond user experience. Besides, paying money for something almost always changes your set of criteria about quality and expectations.
Manual work when things should work automatically. I’ve encountered so many examples where this has helped businesses raise from the ground. Our friend from the advanced guide – the one who sits behind all the tourism traction in his area? Well, I remember him entering data manually for hours and then days. Paid off.
We talked about transforming this set of guides into an interactive course. Testing, multiple answers, exercises… And while we disregarded the idea initially since there is a lot of programming involved, re-reading this article helped me realize that we can be sitting for a few hours a day grading participants if need be, before turning the testing process into an automated one. This will help to ship earlier, and generate income that can then be poured into further development.
When it comes to big launches though, don’t worry. Conversion optimization works even for a half-completed landing page, and feedback from unsatisfied customers is valuable equally as much. Paul does a great job at highlighting the broken myth of big launches- they appeal to your lazy side and that is that. I’m not saying that you should disregard the launch strategy altogether, but never put all your hope into what happens during the span of 48 hours.
Most of the times you see a vendor selling his product by the help of thousands of affiliates, it reinforces the notion that launch day success doesn’t mean a thing.
Read the sixth note bellow the article (yup, you are now reading a note about a note, in an article written about another article) and compare that with how Glen from ViperChill takes time to still personally answer e-mails.
And notice one other cool thing at the very end of that page – links to the same article translated on multiple languages. Always cool, and always doubling if not multiplying by many times, the value of your content, product, and service.
How would Steve Jobs sell a pen to you?
The article that follows appeared on Quora. And it made quite the buzz spreading on sites like Business Insider and the likes. A fictional scenario where Steve Jobs is given a pen and asked to sell it. So how will he go about it?
What this article highlights is the importance of design and adding multiple features on top of a very simple-to-understand product.
The sales pitch – it tackles multiple questions thus revealing features. This is the way to sell something, or design your landing page. Even the copy of your content should follow a similar structure.
Further down, I like how he adds an additional deal sweetener at no cost whatsoever. Right when someone is hesitant to opt-in or buy, you introduce the deal sweetener.
Kind of like the templates that we give for free when selling the advanced guide.
And before I start with the next URL on our list, allow me to once again stress the importance of adding additional features to your product where they make sense.
Every fitness product forgets to include motivational videos or FAQs designed above a one-page-full-wit-text level. Both of these make huge sense from a user point of view. And take far less time for what they earn in the end.
Successful pre-launch campaign
Another great case study. And where else if not Reddit…
This one goes very deep (sharing screenshots and all) into a pre-launch campaign for a boxer shorts company. They launched with Kickstarter, and created a pre-launch strategy that stormed entrepreneurial hubs on the net.
Highlighted here are the importance of incentivizing visitors, and how to go about it while reaching out far and wide. The viral aspect of it is ridiculous- 35,000 e-mails in two weeks, all of them geo-targeted (US and Canada mostly).
You will also learn the whole strategy behind it, down to detail, and learn how this influenced our model here.
Oh and before you continue with it, allow me to briefly reassure you about something.
Over the last couple of days (my rough estimate) you’ve read and absorbed a lot of material. And while at the beginning of it all looked fairly exciting, now it may turn overwhelming as you continue to scroll… forty-something thousand words even before you arrived here, and now I’m even sending you elsewhere for more. Not to mention the material for further reading I already shared in the free guide.
Know this – there is time for everything, and though the clock seems to be working against you at first, that’s only your excitement talking. We’ve been, the both of us, in a position where ideas and proposals were coming from multiple places. Good ones too. But even when the impulse tells you to start with everything, right away, there is no harm in being more calculated. Overwhelmed is something you become for a while- not something that influences your decisions and makes the complete opposite of risk averse.
If you want to be doing this for the long haul, pace yourself – otherwise, a burnout is always a few ideas ahead and waiting.
Ok now, on with the article.
The landing page is described down to detail. The catchy title, and the bullet points – that’s what caught our attention – conversely, that’s what we changed for our integrated landing page within the first guide:
Instead of bullet points alone, we added a catchy title and description, similarly to what they did for their campaign.
The Kickofflabs from Kickstarter only further incentivizes you to choose Kickstarter as your platform.
And talking about incentives… This is what we had in mind when introducing our reward program within the selling strategy of this whole model.
As for real time stats for affiliates or wannabe customers, I will once again point towards Moz. They have an incentive for visitors to sign up, create a profile and start engaging with their content – the more points you gather by writing comments or getting up-votes, the more colorful the prize palate – even one month PRO subscription to their product. They also show you real time stats of your points on your profile, thus reminding you to keep doing what you do.
For digital products, and especially subscription ones, it is far easier to implement this tactic. Cautious about what he writes about scaling rewards, remember to refrain yourself from giving free product access with a single share or e-mail only. Scale your rewards symmetrically.
Moving next to automating the sharing process… This is very important for it saves lot of time and a need for deciding- two factors that usually make potential social advocates to bounce. See how we implemented it?
The thank you e-mails and those for influencers too. We sketched our own after typing this paragraph here.
Need I say more about reminding yourself by reading things over again?
As for following up, here is the thing – come up with something interesting enough even before time comes for follow up e-mails. Have your follow up ready as you write or create your main product or content. Just like we did when hinting that follow up e-mails will arrive in your inbox about a separate case study on a future project that we are making. I can now repeat the technique, and inform you about another will-be-send e-mail containing conversion rates about this same guide package that you are still reading.
The important thing here is to look closely at these takeaways, and decide what can be tied together with your project.
A Good User Interface
The following example is a business model done right, and at the same time a valuable reading which you can digest thoroughly over and over. Good UI comes from a tremendous amount of work, and usually lots and lots of trial and error even after you educate yourself. In fact, good UI understanding stems from many attempts and failures to create it.
The URL I’m about to share, exhibits excellent work by two designers and conversion optimization aficionados. The homepage itself is a refreshing concept you want to look into, and the content shared, though short, is very actionable upon and can help you develop an excellent UI/UX surrounding for your visitors, while at the same time boosting your conversion numbers.
We implemented some of the ideas as well, by rewriting some sections of the first guide.
Enjoy yourself some good content.
Tell me about it, huh? These guys are the real deal. If nothing else, here is a testament to how far trial and error can take you.
Where should I start?
Should I analyze their own content? The impeccable design? The refreshing concept of actually going against the norm when creating the homepage? The business side of things even?
Let me just focus on the content itself, aside of the mesmerizing size, value, and nicely designed visitor flow.
The 2nd idea is why you have your templates for free, even by ordering the second price option.
Social proof, should say about you the things you want to say for yourself – I completely agree. Take another look at our integrated landing page.
Repeating your call to action – as did we, in the free guide, first by showing you the landing page segment, and then taking you to the Free-tools-section only to follow up with the call to action once again at the end. Ok, now I feel super inappropriate, showing you how we slightly manipulated you in order to complete the transaction. Feel kinda unpleasant? Here another kitten.
Now on with the 7th idea – recommending options instead of giving free space for analysis paralysis to kick in. Give multiple options, but never leave the user without a nudge. We did that for our second option as well. Other URLs I will share down further will convince you even more about the importance of this tactic.
The 18th idea – showing benefit buttons instead of task based ones. This might require some tweaking with code (for example Stripe doesn’t allow you to change many characteristics of the pay button) but is worth every second of it.
Replacing Pay with Buy, or then again going a step further by saying “give me my cool content” instead of these other one-word options. It reinforces the buyer’s enthusiasm and hence decision.
The 20th idea is also great – instead of hiding lines, you show them early on. Only a suggestion here, if you have two calls to action, I advise you to use this idea on the second one only- showing fields instead of hiding them is great, but showing them too many times can become equally as bad.
The gradual engagement instead of a hasty sign-up. Take Headspace.com from the first guide – they say start your free journey by having your first session. This calls for a better response than what sign-up-to-pay-now would.
Selling benefits instead of features- remember this when structuring your bullet points. We all get easily carried away when trying to speak about what our product can do. Scratch that- focus on what users can benefit from when using it.
Saying – “the advanced guide contains more than 13 case studies” is different than saying – “You will learn from more than 13 case studies.”
The 35th – “Try Urgency instead of timelessness” is the one we used in order to introduce urgency. Needless to say, it worked.
As for the Scarcity instead of abundance – look no further than Kickstarter. They always specify, in each campaign, the number of spots open for tier donations. In the meantime remember that it is a donation platform. Imagine how much better this will fare for something you have to buy.
The 41st – “try Anchoring instead of starting with the price” you probably recognize from buying the advanced guide. We deliberately mentioned numbers so big, that the prices seemed fairly small in comparison. Neat, huh?
The following one emphasizes the power of upfront progress in keeping your users engaged with the platform, app or whatever. Felt like an important one to mention here again.
The 49th – “Try curiosity instead of being reserved” idea works amazingly well for premium content served after a prior exposure to content marketing, especially in the form of list articles. Our guide was intuitively designed to include this advantage. I guess enough years of internet marketing trial and error teach you some great strategies.
You must recognize the 51st of the list – “Try Price Illusions instead of just plain prices” – by being exposed to our own pricing strategy when selling this guide. See, that’s the great thing about these examples and ideas – they are easily implemented even for a premium content that teaches online businesses. Imagine what they will do for a more robust product or service that you have to sell.
54th now and this probably starts to wear you off some. (Take a note of this line, for I will refer to it in a minute)
“Reaffirming freedom instead of implying it” – this comes intuitive after a while of copywriting work. So it goes that the first guide sells you the advanced along with the separate packages, but reminds you that you can opt-out of the purchase environment, and continue again with reading for free. Glen from ViperChill does the same thing with his mail content series model described in the advanced guide.
The 56th– “grabbing attention” – can be achieved by many things, but usually goes hand in hand with visual contrast, and design highlights from a palate of design ideas. We went with contrasting background in order to introduce our semi-landing page in the free guide.
58th– “set collections instead of independent items” – is how Amazon managed to increase conversions and add additional items to your basket. It is also how the amazon affiliate model shared within the advanced guide (the first model in the list) can go about in creating content.
For a reference, and idea suggestion at the same time, try combining that model, with Art of Manliness’s content format Outfitted and Equipped shared within the free guide. If you cannot find what I’m talking about, simply Google Art of Manliness outfitted and equipped.
In short, you can list all the necessary tools that, say, a handyman should have, and send people right to Amazon’s doors.
As an aside, this is why store owners combine outfits and display them as a complete suggestion- similar and relevant items are more likely to sell in pairs when put together in context of their relevancy and similarity.
The 59th idea – “expectation setting” – speaks something that many internet marketers are already using to great success. When sending e-mails for example, it is very hard for users to open them one after the other while remaining completely ignorant about the schedule. Same goes for watching videos that are meant to take you further into the persuasion and conversion funnel. Specifying where the user is at all times, and telling him how much more to expect cuts this anxiety issue in its roots.
That’s also why I list the models in the previous guide by number, and why my partner decided to introduce a table of contents- allowing you to always navigate easily, but more importantly know where you are by highlighting an option.
And while we are on the subject, remember a minute ago I told you to take a note about a single line of text?
Go ahead and read it again just we are on the clear. Or wait, let me.
…54th now, and this probably starts to wear you off some…
Here is an explanation on what it is. Buried within text, it serves a very simple purpose – to inform the reader that I’m aware of his slight frustration, his slight concern for things stretching longer than he or she has anticipated. It can be achieved with copywriting like in this case, or some other design addition (slightly related to what I share in the following paragraph, look at how we stylized the URLs – here is the talented designer who was a joy to work with).
The cat pictures shared above, have also a way of lighting up the mood, by introducing humor as a way of keeping things into a continuous flow- make the text long enough and your formal tone starts to irritate, make too many jokes one after another and it still hurts- continuity is great, but diversity implemented within continuity is even better.
And don’t worry; more kittens are waiting as you scroll down.
Back to being serious and all, the 60th idea – “Try humor instead of being so serious” – perfectly combines with what I shared above.
64th– Storytelling – is what got you reading this guide in the first place. Always use it as a mean of continuity.
Before I continue with the 65th, remember not to judge me too hard. It goes like this – introduce authenticity instead of faking it. But wait – what if you can fake authenticity as well?
Think about it, I won’t reveal how and give examples, but just know that it can be done. Giving yourself a negative review and answering it with a reassuring note is far better than a single positive one sitting there by itself.
It achieves a couple of things:
- Shows users that you actually care.
- Shows them that you are transparent and open about criticism
- Guides the user into your narrative by answering some of the concerns he might have, even before he realizes that he has them.
The 66th – progressive reduction, is what most apps do when you get accustomed to their interface. Headspace does a great job with it, and so should most workout programs for example, as well.
And to conclude things with the 70th idea – responsive sites are better for so many reasons I cannot even start listing them one by one. Here is a tip though – Google values responsive sites even more now, and tends to rank them fairly higher within SERPs for mobile devices. In some industries, mobile devices are already dominating and having a responsive site is part of the norm. And a lot of e-commerce and advertising is happening on mobile devices as we speak, with a trend to replace desktop and even personal computers. The conversion optimization for the mobile industry is yet to begin.
Before moving on to the next link
By now you get the idea that being a one man show is hardly going to pay off. Even for guys like Pat Flynn or Darren Rowse it took more than 7 years. And to compare competition then with what you are about to face now – it would be the equivalent of comparing the TV industry in 1950 with that of a decade ago. The exponential growth in tech and computers especially, makes this landscape ever changing, much to our discontent.
But as you can see, smart folks from around the world are willing to chip in with a lot of info – we only have to carefully interpret each message and do our testing as soon as we are comfortable enough stepping into the unknown. To tell you how much we’ve learned by tinkering with Facebook ads for this model only you will be surprised. It opened up doors we hardly anticipated.
Here is another exercise before moving on to the next URL.
Start a blog.
Nothing fancy – a free Word Press setup and then navigate your way up. Now, I’m aware that many of you reading this have no intention whatsoever of starting a publishing business, or writing articles. But it is not about that.
The blog setup is about learning the basics of running an internet business. And like any entrepreneur, you better start at the bottom, knowing what is what. Understand this – ideas cannot flow freely, and progress cannot happen, if you don’t know your way around. Being ignorant of possibilities, or obstacles for that matter, makes you less likely to come up with great ideas. The more you know the landscape, the more you understand the minutia of it, the better all will fare.
Start your blog, and document progress. Write about your industry, get passionate about it. Putting ideas in words, at least for me, usually has a way of amplifying them.
Run with this exercise for one or two months before quitting.
Case study on a fitness app with 2.3+ million downloads
Heading to an article that appeared on Medium, a case study for a fitness app that received 2.3 million downloads and generated a ton of revenue.
This article did a couple of things for me. Inspired me to reconsider sketching apps around already existing projects of ours, and showed me the importance of asking for feedback, and listening to it as well.
It includes every angle of strategic app development, and if you are new to apps, this is a great moment to learn about IAP (in app purchases), reviews, prices, and bundling paid options together – all from stats and actual case studies.
Inspiring story – when apps start to sell, they go bananas. Have this in mind for everything noteworthy you’ve set your mind to create.
Enough chatter, enjoy the full article below.
37 Proven tactics to grow your company
A guy who ran an e-commerce store, expanded it to 50k monthly revenue, and then created another startup that really took off.
From the looks of it, this guy is a champion in inbound marketing. The reason I love this URL, and have decided to share it with you, is the perceived simplicity it brings along.
A reassurance of a sort, that quality work does not have a secret hiding underneath, nor does it have rocket science embedded within. He lists 37 tactics, that from the appearance of it seem quite simple to replicate. Tried and tested for both of his projects- they work.
There is nothing here that you wouldn’t find elsewhere, only a reminder to keep doing seemingly mundane and boringly manual actions so your business flashes its boobs in front of a bunch of strangers.
Was that too much? I think it was.
OK, I’ve crossed the line, but hey it’s been 50k words+ by now. Bad jokes usually slip there in between after a while.
Here is a takeaway from these tactics.
First – sometimes it is enough to just list your thing on sites and directories where targeted audience gathers. It seems very manual and fails to produce a viable reason at first, and for the most part, out of laziness I guess, we decide to skip this one. This guy bets his integrity so he can tell us otherwise.
Second – Giveaways are always cool. That’s how you connect with influencers, and that’s how you get the ball rolling and start to create some word of mouth traction. Social shares help, so figure out a way to put that into the equation as well. Maybe a share or a like for a free pass- or as we love to do- leverage the tactic described above (the 35,000-e-mails-in-two-weeks guy) and introduce referrals.
Also, this is good because if you are dealing with a digital product there is nothing to lose, and much to gain even from giving it away for free. Conversion optimization needs traffic, and by far this is the best way to find targeted and largely curious and interested audience. The more traffic you end up bringing to your site, the more you can work on your conversion optimization. This will help you when approaching affiliates later on, if you decide to go down that road.
Bottom line, tell as many people as you can about your thing. It seems far from scalable, and requires a lot of time, which initially seems like a waste, but eventually it will pay off. More traffic, better rankings, social buzz… all by doing repetitive work day in and day out for somewhat over a month. Besides, if it doesn’t pay off as you’d planned- what is there to lose?
The URLs I’m about to send you towards are going to teach the depths of pricing strategies. You will, among other things, understand how to choose the pricing model, experiment with numbers, and employ a strategy that converts the best. Also, if that means something at all, I will share the exact pricing strategy behind this model of ours, as well as all the experiments that led to its development.
The case studies within these URLs are complementing one another, giving you a crisp picture of everything there is to know about setting prices.
Conversion XL did a great job with a couple of articles, though the gratitude is not theirs alone for the taking – some of their work forwards you to even better pricing strategy resources; case studies for the most part. What follows ahead is golden, so make sure to pay attention – this can make or break your product.
To go over each article separately, as much as I’d love, feels somewhat wrong. There is nothing I can add, alter, or highlight that hasn’t been already so within each. What I can do instead, is list a number of principles, steaming from my understanding of these texts.
I will keep the list close to basics, and share few thoughts for each principle. After all, you have digested the materials, so there is nothing I can teach you further. In all humbleness, allow me to provide a structural frame. You can fill in details for yourself.
When it comes to pricing, everything matters – visuals, font size, color, contrasting backgrounds… But that is the layout. The strategy itself is what shapes the bigger picture. The three options instead of one, promoted options within, discount prices, limited and expiring offers. Heck, giveaways even.
So here is what to pay attention to, and how to structure your model.
Prices create perceived value
If we set the price for the offer that you just bought to be very high, you will normally assume that it is insanely valuable. Conversely, if we’ve chosen to introduce a very low price, people lose interest, thinking there is no value behind the offer.
See how the competition is setting prices, and go somewhere within that ballpark. Though I will list few additional tricks ahead, so keep reading.
Choose up to three options
While added choice might repel users by creating confusion, with proper guidance installed, it will only create decision reinforcement.
If the options are hard to go through, you clutter the user experience by adding additional burden for the customer – nine out of ten, he will walk. If however, the options are close to one another in terms of supplementing offers being easy to digest and understand, you give the user far easier time deciding.
But why more options instead of one? Rudimentary logic, when you think about it. When being presented with a single option, what the user does is compare your offer with that of a competitor. While this can go both ways, most often than not it is far easier to immerse the user completely within your offer, by making him forget competitors altogether. This is easily achieved by providing more pricing models, and introducing choice.
These articles are included within the one published by Conversion XL, but I want to highlight them separately, for you not to skip them by any chance. Three designers, arguing about what is the best model of pricing strategies. Each is profitable, to save you the suspense.
Read their posts in this order (as they were published):
Guide the user to choose one option specifically
In the spirit of making things easy, it helps to nudge the buyer towards a preferred option. Most people go for the second one, creating the impression that it is far more valuable than the first, while still being kind on the budget.
This makes the user feel like he made a hell of a deal.
It is also called anchoring – by introducing a higher price for the third option, you get the user somewhat comfortable to spend more. Experiments and case studies within each URL that I shared confirm this.
On the other hand though, you can bring the third and second option close to one another in terms of price, while adding quite more value to the highest offer – thus promoting the third price tag. Such experiments depend largely on the market and audience in question.
Option highlighting is achieved by using a slightly more enhanced color or adding some sort of a visual graphic element (a star, a banner, a circle within which it writes Special offer…) Subtle or not, it depends again on the market, audience, and your brand.
Here is my understanding of how this works – you chose to leave the old price number, crossed with a line, while adding another one, smaller, right next to it. Supermarkets and retail stores do this all the time. And it works. Why so?
First of all, it makes the impression that this is a very smart bargain. It is especially useful with informational products, where you can set the old price somewhat higher, and then introduce your real price.
The old price makes the perceived value of the product soar up, while you are still allowing users to purchase it for less money. Win-win.
Limit the offer
Few spots remaining, this week opening discount price, early bird rewards… As long as the clock is ticking, your users will find more reasons to justify the purchase. Better yet if the expiring offer is presented with a timer.
If your memory serves you well, and you paid enough attention to detail, everything I wrote so far was used when pitching our offer within the free guide. How very rude of me to make you feel being taken advantage of, but web psychology is best learned when you analyze yourself.
Use the .97 after a number.
I don’t know why this works, but I’ve caught myself being tricked by it several times this month only. If not convinced, try testing for a while
Besides, we all know about this catch, and the fact that retail stores still use it, speaks volumes about how easy it is to trick human psychology.
Forget initial sales, give things for free
Not referring you to another URL, I just wanted to share a strategy of my own, now that we are on the subject of pricing. Forget initial sales. Instead give things for free. Why, you ask?
Here is something to wrap your mind around.
When starting with a product, a service or whatnot, it is hard predicting how users might react. Whether they scroll all the way down the page, close the tab right away, click the places you want them to… Or, how well the landing page itself converts for that matter.
Here is what giveaways achieve – they fill your page with tons of traffic, providing you with some stats on user behavior. Better yet, they allow users to engage with your content by request of sharing it on social media. This brings more visitors, and ups the count on likes and tweets and social signals of all kind. What you end up with is social proof, and quite often better ranking signals (shares, likes, comments, decreased bounce rate, even links when things move viral enough… hence rankings soar).
This will help you tailor your landing page better, and improve conversion rates. Affiliates love an offer that converts well, and has already received a lot of stats.
Smart leverage of the Pop-up window
Continuing with wisdom from my own crib, here is another tip I advise you to employ – smart leverage of the Pop-up window.
So ’99 I know, but bear with me.
Nowadays tools understood the power of the pop-up (disruptive) banner, and figured out a way how to use it in conversion goals without so much of an intrusion as one might initially assume.
So you have SumoMe kicking butt, and other similar tools taking their share on the market.
Here is what I suggest. Tailor the pop-up message, in order to provide reassurance to the user, and customize it as much as you can. This can mean:
- Design, size, font
- Different pop-up versions for each section of the page [say a user scrolls all the way down to 10% of the copy (yup, suddenly 10% has become “all the way down”… It seems like I should stop writing 20k articles for a while), versus another one going down as much as 80%- the reasons why they leave completely differ from one another- address them, and provide appropriate reassurance; don’t ask for nothing, only encourage further action “keep reading, you cannot imagine what is ahead”, or “there is something I want to surprise you with at the bottom of this page. Make sure to read all the way through though”]
- The “I-hear-you-type of pop-up”. This is an experiment we tried running, and it returned some decent results. The setting is simple- create a pop-up message that allows people to tell you what went wrong.
Tailored well enough, this can receive a nice amount of feedback and engagement, and answer questions that burn at the back of your head.
Are people seeing my product as being not relevant, and if so, what were they hoping for?
Also, you can receive a ton of feedback, and reassure them with answers, or change your approach.
Take the free guide for example.
We asked people what they were hoping for, and what are they trying to learn about online businesses. If they say something like- we want to learn in more detail about the setting of a WordPress site- we can include a resource somewhere in there that teaches exactly that, or write down a 1000 words expansion within the free guide itself.
Or, we can say – yup, that’s already included in the guide, scroll down in the section of setting up a site…- or, we can refer them elsewhere- Nope, that is not included in the free guide, but there is a whole lot explained about stuff like that in the advanced guide. It’s only $$, but you can still read the free guide for now and learn lots of other things as well”.
Market segmentation is one of the hardest things you will ever come across. If you don’t know your audience well enough, and are trying to pitch something to an audience that hopefully comes along from Facebook advertising, you will feel frustration kicking in as soon as you start receiving your first clicks.
We faced a similar problem, when advertising this offer for the first time.
Take this in consideration – while the free guide was all-inclusive in regards to online business resources, it didn’t speak directly at any targeted group whatsoever. It’s not like we tried reaching through to young entrepreneurs who wanted to learn about online business specifically, nor did we tailor our welcome paragraphs of the copy towards baby boomers who wanted to create an online business after retirement.
Quite expectedly, this resulted with poor user retention.
Eventually, we did manage to create a better copy, but I would try another approach as well.
Why not create your product for a broader audience, and simply send different audience groups to different, slightly changed copies or landing pages.
The guide can still be the same, but the first 5 paragraphs could address problems that baby boomers (45-60 years old now) are facing, and sell the rest of the guide from that perspective. Same goes for young online entrepreneurs who just started a business, or wannabe entrepreneurs who look how to monetize a hobby of theirs.
Problems and setbacks
By now, there is enough knowledge shared, that you can easily go ahead and create something moderately profitable with above moderate amount of work. Enough trial and error and you will save on time and increase on profit with each next project. Not to mention the business ideas shared within the Advanced guide.
This is not flowery prose I’m sharing, but a fair assessment from someone who’s been at this line of work for a while and have seen the internet business landscape for what it is.
Assuming that you face the same challenges as a number of other people (myself included) that I personally have spoken with on the subject of creating and running a profitable online business, you are cursed with the same set of problems.
You are experiencing some of these problems:
- Fear of failure, hence not trying at all
- Fear of commitment to a project (a great thing would be to go with the exercise from above- running a blog)
- General laziness
- Not enough time due to living a life of a grown up (you guys under 25 or so, without a toddler crying around your house don’t qualify for “I don’t have enough time”, but rather fall back to the previous category of general laziness)
- Not enough motivation to stick with something and see a project through
- Spending time on all the wrong steps on how to actually create something (nope, reading Business Insider for one hour every day does not actually help- unless you are doing it for the sake of enjoying reading itself- it will not teach you anything worthwhile about businesses and how they get themselves created. Sure, ideas circulate from everywhere, and having an epiphany stems down to being around things and concepts, but there is a point where information consumption is simply enough)
For all of you, and myself included, this next URL helps rather much.
It stems down to being passionate enough about what you want to create, achieve. Seeing the bigger picture for what it can be, thus not being content with reality for what it is.
Don’t mind my personal improvement rhetoric – this blog was a personal improvement website long before it became anything else, so there is still some of that in store, which I’m unable to entirely get myself detached from.
I remember the first two years of us running this site – never a publishing deadline being missed, insanely pumped about all of this internet business thingy.
Revising this URL now, I think I have work to do for myself.
Here is another one that I’ve picked up throughout these years. Unable to credit it to a source, let’s just know that I’m not the one who came up with it.
Just as you sit down every day in order to read the reason behind your work, you can also take about 30 seconds to visualize the work for the day being done. Here is why this works.
If you have a place in your house right now that needs tidying, say your bed, take only 30 seconds to close your eyes and create a mental picture of the bed being made. It sounds naïve, I know, but bear with me for about a paragraph more.
So, the bed is a mess, you take a good look, then close your eyes and visualize how it is all made and tidy.
About 30 seconds will pass, and you will be left with this great feeling that comes along as a result of your -in this example- bed being perfectly made. What happens after is you open up your eyes only to find the bed same as it was. The discrepancy between the picture you visualized, all of them good feelings that come along, and what you see and how you feel in reality about it becomes increasingly noticeable, so you act in order to erase it by surrendering yourself to the urge and making the bed.
At first, you can practice this technique on mundane tasks for several days, only to create more complex visualizations on more complex tasks – say adding a newsletter plugin to your site, or sitting down and creating a perfect infographic, or filming a video for YouTube.
This all sounds fairly naïve, but you’ve trusted me so far and I’d like to borrow some more of that same trust.
Step-by-step landing page copywriting
Enough Meta, let’s focus on more tangible examples of improving your work. What comes next is a very very long article that Nathan Barry (they guy from the e-books pricing models) wrote, on the subject of landing page copywriting.
He documented his first draft, and a couple of iterations, with the advice of Amy Hoy included. The Skype conversation transcripts, where Amy is giving valuable and detailed advice are in the article as well.
Through a couple of iterations, you will see why something is the way it is, and how to go about landing page copywriting.
The article is pretty much self-explanatory, and if you have the patience I’d advise you to give it a thorough read. Much to be learned.
Transparent product development
Before continuing with the next URL, or to be specific, with a set of three URLs from Amy Hoy’s writings, let me include another interesting idea, which is in fact a business model in itself.
If you’ve been careful enough while reading Nathan’s article, and curious enough to skim over the comments of this one as well, you will notice something really interesting – the idea of transparent product development.
In short, this is a process of creating a product, all the while talking about the process of creation itself. Surveying each move, analyzing each technique and method employed. It is as if we were to create this product, dissecting each move in writing, or podcast, even before we shipped the actual product.
It turns out that there is a market out there for this model, and it is rather profitable. Few reasons why this is so:
- People rarely have the opportunity, skill, and drive to see a product created and launched all the way through. Lacking this scenario, they are happy to see how someone else goes about it. Learning from someone else’s mistakes does for sure help.
- You can find many people who fit this description
- They are ready to pay good money to learn from your mistakes and failures
- It creates a niche for itself, thus allowing you to create content that drives audience. One that is likely to buy your product once it’s out.
How do you think Nathan managed to create such a buzz with his product? Sure, he worked his ass off, but this approach helped rather much.
Skimming and re-reading
Since you’ve managed to come this far, let me confess something – before creating this product for you all, my knowledge was, to put it roughly, thinner by 20-30%. Bringing all the bits and pieces together, re-reading all the articles included, and going back to the drawing board for most of our ideas and projects, helped me refine a large portion of it.
Every once in a while (say 5-6 months) I recommend doing the same thing – opening this set of guides, and skimming through for perspective. It’s funny how knowing something is entirely different from becoming aware of it for the second or third time.
Product creation process
Amy Hoy teaches people how to create products, and she does that for a living. Lot of know-how, combined with trial and error from her projects, but those of other people as well, made her somewhat of an expert on the subject.
Her advice is rooted in much experience, steaming from successful and failed projects of her students.
And since these notes stretched for far longer than I initially thought (given the recommended readings- over a dozen of URLs so far, each including more than 3000 words of text on average), let me send you over to the next set of articles. You can read them in this order.
Skipping commentary on the first and third, I will only say a few words over the second.
As you can notice, creating a tiny product first, is the smart move before tackling your big idea-driven-rainbow-special product. Unaware of this at first, we were lucky enough to do it anyway.
Here is what we learned from experience:
- Creating a product takes a lot of time, effort, and it is not nearly as easy as it seems in your head. This set of guides was a joy to work with, but a pain in the ass at the same time.
- Figuring out the answers to the three questions that Amy outlines is far more important that you think at first. Doing your research makes or breaks your success. This comes from someone who didn’t pay enough attention at the very beginning of creating the product, only to be bitten in the ass afterwards. We changed many things in the copy of the free guide, which we otherwise wouldn’t have to if we cared enough to do some research prior.
- Creating a product is an elusive thing, which comes into a full and clear picture only after you go through the process. Doing it with this set of guides, enables us to better understand the whole thing- insanely helpful once we start building our fitness workout product.
- Some things are not as you think them to be. For example Facebook advertising, imaginary conversion rates, user behavior… Testing makes perfect, but also teaches volumes of know-how as well. Doing it with a tiny product saves money, time, and amount of stress you wouldn’t believe. It also builds up confidence.
- The word failure is not so scary when talking about a tiny product. You are emotionally invested, sure, but the burden is significantly lighter. Besides, learning from failure is better when the project at hand is not tied with months of works, and thousands of dollars and much of your reputation at stake.
The perfect pitch
If you ever go down the road of pitching someone for an investment, have this URL in mind. Reverse engineer every aspect of it, and you will be creating pitches that potential investors want to read in no time.
Learning from example is great, and learning from a great example is even better.
Give it a read, and think about it for a while.
The intro is simple, then goes the problem (as in any good copywriting), and a perfectly laid solution cross referencing the product at hand. Then, at the end, you get reassurance by a nicely crafted text about who sits behind the curtain, and how passionate, determined, and hardworking he is.
Here is a deal – try making one of these for yourself, i.e. the product or service that you are planning to offer. As an exercise in good copywriting, try keeping it short.
Content curation and aggregation
Forget URLs for a second and focus on what I have to say instead. This can well turn into a big opportunity for your project.
I want you to plan a couple of days – up to a month even – where you will be closely researching your industry. What you are looking for is old content, something that is already available for people to see. Be that articles, books, data, statistics, case studies, software, even things in the physical world such as already existing products or service providers…
And here is what you do – survey them, gather them, structure them into a piece of content – a huge compilation, mash-up, aggregation of a sort.
This achieves a couple of things.
- Creates a valuable resource for people to use
- Sets you up as an authority of some kind
- Creates brand awareness
- Creates social signals, mentions, links, improved Google rankings
But most important of all, it connects you to people within your industry, makes you learn volumes about competition, influencers, and the ins and outs of your soon-to-be playground.
The Whiteboard Friday video series compilation – think within those lines.
In another industry, you can also survey fitness enthusiasts about what their problems are. You get the picture.
Inspirational video content
Text is the way in which I communicate best, but there is a set of three videos that impacted the way I see work, projects, creativity and everything that ties them up together.
One is by radio host Ira Glass, and the other two are by Seth Godin, a person I very much admire, and would like to recommend to anyone interested in entrepreneurship.
Here is the one by Ira Glass. No need for commentary on my part, it is pretty much self-explanatory.
Here is the first one by Seth Godin. It’s an interview for Behind the Brand – an excellent content, but that’s not the point now. Seth has much to say – make sure to listen through the whole thing. The point of it all is failing until you succeed. When you decide to look upon failure as Seth here describes it – much might go up for your business projects.
And the third one, also from Seth Godin, as an reinforcement for your idea to do work from home, to make something unique, something out of nothing. The more you can recognize your passion, dream, idea as something real, achievable, the better you are off. This should be a tap on the shoulder.
That’s all folks
Till I have something more to say in the future, now is the time to part ways.
I like to believe, sincerely, that I leave you a changed person.
- From one who didn’t quite believe in this internet business opportunity – to one who sees opportunity almost everywhere.
- From one who was overwhelmed by the magnitude of complexity that building an online project brings along- to one that understands that it can all be achieved without any particular stress attached to it.
- From one who was skeptical and even afraid to think that online businesses can generate income- to one that sees financial freedom a couple of projects (maybe one) away.
- From one who lacked direction and informational structure – to one who is now well equipped with info and knows what to apply all of it.
- From one who believed that online businesses require a magical set of skills- to one who now understands that it is all a matter of work ethic, and knowing and applying principles, processes, strategies, and tactics.
Don’t rush this thing, but don’t kill progress and success by inaction as well. Find the balance, start part time if need be, and work your way up. There is plenty here to guide you, and you can return to this set of writings, reading for fifteen minutes a day, and then applying what you’ve learned.
I tried to lay out everything I know about online businesses in general, and the hope goes it is all nicely put, neatly packed, and tied with a shiny ribbon. You and your work will be the judge of that.
Huge thanks go to all who helped in creating this set of guides. Those who provided feedback, those who returned to our emails when we asked for help… Here is a pledge I like to make as gratitude. If we exceed the 100k barrier in $, 10% of that goes to charity.
Thank you guys for taking the time, money, and for trusting us to lead you through this.
All the best.