Selling Your Vision: Adapting and Evolving

You have a vision for your business, and it shines through clearly in your ezine. But if you’ve had that vision for a while, could it be time for a re-examination and even change? Circumstances, customers, and products change in any industry, and if you expect your business to thrive, you need to be prepared to make some changes as well.

"If you are not talking dollars, you are not making any sense"

– Shawn Carter aka Jay Z

Some background

In the first part of this series, I wrote about selling your vision, developing your vision, how to make your vision real to yourself and how to make your readers “see” your vision. I also shared some real time experiences with showing vision, and ended with the concept that just as businesses and environments change, visions also change.

In this concluding part of the series, I will write about adapting your ezine’s vision to changing environments, focusing your emails and not turning off your client before the first sale is completed (or the first preferred action). I will also discuss the importance of following up with your prospect when he or she finally “buys” your vision, and shows you by “buying” your product (now you can sell your customer other items).

Before I continue with the concepts and ideas for selling your vision, let me talk a little about the importance of “ROI” and not just “rankings.” I know it seems like a digression, but I want to explain why SEO experts and web designers should (sometimes) think like “marketers” and not like Mysterious Voodoo Priests. Thinking like marketers will also help you craft and sell your vision.

The “real” importance of SEO

I actually never thought SEO was about rankings, maybe because I spend ages talking (apart from writing I absolutely love talking) with my clients before writing or modifying the first tags. All clients want one thing, and one thing only: more business. They see web design and SEO as a business tool and not as an art form. I see my job as that of showing them how the web design and the SEO will make them more money (get them more business), even if it is indirectly. So keep it in mind that the whole purpose of your ezine is to “get more business.” Without money your vision will not get to a large number of people.

Now back to vision selling. Let’s see all the possible ways things may change and how you may have to adapt your ezine to the changes.

Part one: the rules change, live with it

Unless you are a big mover in the Internet industry, you don’t have much say over the deliverability aspect of your emails. Sometimes solicited emails don’t get  through the spam filters of email providers! Sometimes personal email gets bumped into the “bulk mail” box if the filter believes it looks suspicious. As an email marketer, you learn the new terrain, adapt and move on.

Part two: the industry changes, adapt or die

Products get obsolescent. A few years ago pop ups were the “thing” in Internet marketing; users actually clicked on them. Now pop up blockers are hot. A few years ago, search engines such as Excite and Lycos prospered when the services search engines offered were similar to a commodity. Now the industry is an oligopoly/monopoly of the top three with Google as head honcho.

Services get new standards, customers get more informed, industries change with time. Whatever industry you are in now is facing competition from all over the world. Your next major competitor may be a teenage Filipino with a laptop and a dial up connection. Your vision has to adapt with the changing times. You cannot be offering content or products in a format which the industry left several months ago and expect the prospect to catch your vision, let alone buy it.

Passion Up Cards went into a tailspin because they did not change their mailing strategy as the deliverability rules changed. Yahoo filed a suit against them for spamming and they went from being a major online e-card provider to being just another failed e-business.

Part three: the customer changes, situation normal

Market research is a great concept, and market research should actually be done. But if facts on the ground contradict market research, you can choose to put your head in the market research and get run over, or you can chase the facts. Imagine that your market research told you most of your traffic comes from paid search engine listings; you optimize around paid listings and maybe grudgingly put up an affiliate page — then you discover that most of your traffic comes from your referral sites…and one day, a particular site did  a review of yours and boom, you run out of bandwidth. The facts say one thing and the research said another.

The same is true with your ezine. If you assumed most people that will sign up for your newsletter are teenagers (assuming your content and offers were designed with teenagers in mind), and you later discover that young professionals make up 70 percent of your subscribers, you should find a way to enlarge whatever segment attracts the young professionals pretty quickly. I will look deeper into this illustration when I write about focusing your ezine.

Note that apart from adapting your vision, you should also have a vision in the first place. Even if you are not selling anything, it is important to identify your email with something. Of your newsletter offers email tips, your vision could be “creating and delivering emails that persuade” by “providing creative email copy and delivery options for your business!” Even if you are not an ad agency, it actually works because your subscriber identifies your email with “emails that persuade.”

The more singular your message the better. Ideally your ezine should not be too cluttered and should not try to “cut across.” Of you have many segments, then divide them into different ezines and send them separately. Of your ezine has many sections, it is probably because you did not give your subscribers a choice; a lot of times the subscriber is only interested in one section and will bear with the other sections since he or she has no choice in the matter.

Focusing helps clarify your message and your vision, and different themes and segments only confuse your branding in the user’s mind.

Avoid turning the user off

Some users will subscribe to your ezine for months before taking a desired action. It is good enough for them that they are reading your content. Probably none of your offers interest them yet, or they lack the will (money combined with desire) to pay for a particular product. Even for content providers, it is essential not to turn your users off; doing so will not help you in selling your vision, increasing your traffic and improving your long term relationship with the subscriber of your ezine. Here are some things you should avoid doing if you don’t want to turn off your subscribers.

Poor design, poor ethics

In simple terms, if your site is hard to get around and the information is sloppily arranged, you will not get many repeat users. Also, if your ezine is not rendered properly, the links are dead or your graphics take forever to load, it gives the user a bad experience and your email may just get deleted without being read (even if it does get past the spam filters)

It is important to keep your database clean, respond to unsubscribe requests in a timely manner, and do not spam. Spam is inconvenient and about 70 percent of users believe spammers should be punished in one form or another. Avoid reducing your users’ experience and trust in you by renting out your unique opt-in list to third parties without letting the subscriber know. It sounds harsh but on the long term, it is better all around.

Avoid telling the subscriber how great your features and benefits are. Continue giving relevant information and endeavor not to tell us how horrible the competition is and how you are the very best. You can put that on your sales page, or on an offer, but to hear it week in and week out in a newsletter gets nauseating.

Be as honest to your readers as possible. If a service you offer has certain aspects which can be done by users, you can offer DIY courses for it on your website (like an SEO professional offering free “DIY SEO courses”). You will discover that most people would still out source the service to you simply because they do not want to do the work – plus they trust you! After all, you have their best interests at heart, and you don’t just want their money.

After the sale, say thank you

Off line businesses do it, and some get awards for it. For online businesses it is not a habit yet, but a sincere and heartfelt "thank you" after a sale, for subscribing to a newsletter, and a free gift (ebooks, discounts on products) as New Year and Christmas “thank yous” actually goes a long way. If you say thank you for an action performed today, the user may perform another action just to get another thank you (my editor does it, and it works). Go for that big thank you (and offer another product) and study the response of your users. If it works, send me an email, comment on the blog, and say thank you.

Change is normal, prepare for it

 Be prepared for your industry changing, even your product becoming irrelevant. Ideally you should be the first to make your product irrelevant; you should change your email vision before circumstances dictate you change it. You should not simply respond to the competition’s new strategies and new products. Your competition may change the industry, and some day you may not be able to catch up. Now let me take some of my own medicine — thanks for reading my article!

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