What is link tracking and how can it benefit my business?
Link tracking comes off a little overly technical and might be intimidating to try, but it’s worth the effort.
In the simplest terms link tracking lets you post a link to the host service and then you are given another link that will direct anybody who clicks it briefly through the tracking system, then straight to the intended destination. It’s basically a digital pit-stop where the tracking service can gather information about whomever clicked on your link. This sounds ominous, but it’s really a simple and efficient way for a small business owner or social media buff to track who clicks on a link, where they came from, and the details of their visit. You can see where your hits are coming from and make more efficient use of marketing and advertising dollars and time.
My preferred service is usually Linktrack.info, but there are some other good ones as well. Linktrack offers their basic services for free so that you can get comfortable with the general concept before you make any sort of commitment.
The fact that you can try it out beforehand makes it a lot less intimidating to those who are less than technically savvy, myself included. The basic, free service lets you to submit as many links as you want and track them real-time with visual charts and graphs. Each link is good for a week or one hundred clicks, whichever comes first and you can redirect the links at anytime during that week.
Lets say, for example, I’m having a party and I put the event up on facebook. People can ‘RSVP’, give a ‘maybe’ or a ‘no’ through Facebook easily enough, but link tracking lets me see how many (and who) bothered to click on the link (along with a slew of other information for each click). Linktrack has options and features available with their free service, but the premium accounts are definitely worthwhile. Upgraded accounts let you do even more to track your link and the clicks it receives. The interface is easy to use and getting to see who is looks at everything you post up on social networking sites is addicting. After using the web-based interface, I was able to see stats on every hit my links got. It was absolutely fascinating!
I’m a casual user and use their ‘personal’ level of access for social networking. The personal package gives me unlimited click-throughs and I can reset them back to zero as needed. I’m not a business owner, but I can see why they’re popular with that crowd as well.
I stumbled on a new tool today that should help anyone in the business of direct mail marketing (sending postcards and flyers to generate business).
As always, the biggest issue with this kind of marketing is putting together a reliable mailing list. For that, I recommend CompactLists.com. Their search tools allow you to break down a mailing list by radius, demographics, even drive-time to a specific location!
I’ve been using them to create targeted consumer mailing lists. There’s not a lot of competition in this area, but I think these guys have it pretty well put together. Check them out when you get a chance.
Metrics are an extremely important part of converting customers to sales. If you run a web site, it’s important that you’re looking at your web site statistics like overall traffic to you site.
But what about traffic from individual links? What if I want to track the effectiveness of a link placed above the fold, or on the right side of the page separate from everything else?
Those are the questions I was asking when I found this link tracking service. It’s free (which is always nice) and allows me to track links on an link-by-link basis. Some of the metrics included for the clicks are timestamp, referrer (where it came from), IP address, and keywords (if it came from a search engine).
You put a link to your website at the bottom of all your emails, right? If you don’t you should – it’s free publicity.
Anywho, wouldn’t it be nice to know who’s checking you out from your emails? Use a link tracker like this one to let you know anytime someone goes to your website via your email link.
Here’s how to do it: Sample Email Signature
An economic downturn is a great time to buy, expand, and build if you have the reserves to do so. But if you don’t here’s what I suggest:
- Throw yourself into whatever you’ve already got going. If you had money you could hire cheap labor to help with this, but if you don’t then you want to be as ahead as possible when things start to turn around.
- Start some new projects. If you have an idea you’ve been sitting on, put in some late nights and get it going. A bad economy will force you into a shoestring budget which is a good thing for new projects.
- Unemployed? Business slow? There’s tons of free marketing available (particularly on the internet), but it takes time to develop. Get the social networking bug and get your name out there, or join some local small business groups. The most stringent investment for most of them is the time commitment.
- Do not: get depressed, stop looking for work, give up on your ideas, accept defeat. It’s OK to put things on hold to make ends meet, but don’t let the economy dictate your direction.
UPDATE: I’ve started using this free pdf invoice creator for quick printable invoices.
I recently had to design an html style invoice for a shopping cart system that users could view in their browser and print out. I couldn’t find one that I liked for free online, so I made my own.
To save you the trouble, I’ve posted my template below. It’s free to use except for the logo image which needs to be removed. It displays well in the browser and prints nicely. If you use the invoice for one of your projects, feel free to link to our web site.
Download the html invoice template
To use the template, view the source code and copy and paste it into your document.
If you’re anything like me, your in-person and on the phone sales often come to a close when the prospect signs off on your sales contract. From that point, you can get on with work and send a bill.
But what’s the worst part of closing a sale with a sales contract? It’s the waiting. Waiting for the client to receive a copy in their mail or email; waiting for them to sign it and mail it/fax it/scan it back to you.
This part of the process has always been a killer for me because it gives the prospect enough time to lose confidence in their ability to choose the right product and call the deal off. The solution that I’ve started using is an online contract tool called SignatureConfirm.
This utility lets you make a contract online that another party can digitally sign. You can write whatever you need to in the contract part, and it will show up in your prospect’s email box. The best part is that once they get the email, they can digitally sign it right then and there! I’ve used this tool to narrow my 5-7 day contract waiting period down to less than a day. In some cases when I’m talking to a client on the phone, I can close in 5 minutes!
Me: Hi Bob, thanks for taking my call. Did you get a chance to look at those estimates I sent over?
Bob: Hi Keith! I did, and they look good. We’d like to move forward.
Me: Great! I’m emailing a contract over to you and we’ll start work as soon as you sign off on it. Look for the email from SignatureConfirm. You should have it by now.
Bob: I got it – I just put in the code and check the box?
Bob: Good deal! Do I need to do anything else?
Me: Nope, we’re all set! Thanks for the call and if you need anything call or email me anytime.
This is a true story, and it’s not the only client I’ve signed off like that. The ease of use factor does wonders for the time turnaround. I also have a theory that as a whole, we’re starting to get pretty blind to those little “Accept the terms of usage” checkboxes that you see on web sites everywhere and we’re more apt to click first and ask questions later.
Regardless of how you use it, it’s a good tool and I highly recommend it.
Loss leaders are an integral part of sales. McDonald’s sells a double cheeseburger for basically the same amount it costs them to make it, but they turn a profit when you get fries and a Coke to go with it!
My business is consulting, which means my product is intellectual rather than physical. If I’m giving something away, it’s generally an information packet, a resource, or some advice. If you read my article on closing sales with email, you know that I generally have a good chance of closing sales either in person or on the phone. With that in mind, here’s a loss leader I ran on an internet advertisement recently:
Free Web Site Work – Tuesday, May 27th
On Tuesday May 27th, all the web site work done out of my office will be free. If you have a web site you would like updated, a project you want to discuss, or need some free advice please give us a call at the number below between 8am and 5pm.
Please don’t wait to call – calls will be first come, first served.
Our office phone: 999-999-9999
Who are you?
I’m the owner of medium sized web-design firm in the DFW area. Our focus is on web site design, maintenance, and marketing for local small businesses.
Why are you doing this?
Word of mouth is a powerful advertising tool. If we can help you and you like working with us, please tell a friend or consider us for your next project.
What can you help me with?
My specialty areas are web design, CSS, HTML, PHP programming, mysql databases, email marketing and online advertising. I have people in my office who can talk intelligently about search engine optimization and pay per click marketing as well.
Response to this ad was great, and I was really surprised at how little actual work I had to do. Most of the calls I got were from individuals who wanted to talk about ideas or just ask questions. I spent most of the day talking to prospects interested in developing web sites. The best part was that they called me!
At the end of the day I had finalized some sales, set up a new referral partnership, and scheduled meetings with prospective customers.
In person sales are a talent of mine. I’m not the most silver-tongued devil out there, but I’m not afraid to stand in front of another person, tell them about my product, and ask for their business. It’s immensely helpful that I genuinely believe my product has value and that I have a list of clients to testify to that effect.
This is off the top of my head and has no mathematical basis whatsoever, but here’s an estimate of my close ratio based on different types of communication:
- Email close ratio: 10%
- Phone call close ratio: 35%
- In-person close ratio: 60%
These numbers assume that the lead has a mild interest and some available funds to pursue a project.
Note the huge jump between email correspondence and an in-person meeting. Knowing that the ratio is so much higher for a phone call or meeting means that my #1 goal in email correspondence is to get you on the phone. At the bottom of my first email to you, you’ll often see the phrase:
Do you have time for a phone call this week?
Can you call my office tomorrow at 9:00am?
With this phone call, I’ll often feel the prospect out for the next step. Sometimes I try to get their business then and there, other times I’ll go for a meeting. It’s a judgment call based on my instincts about the client. When in doubt, go for a meeting.
If for any reason I feel like the lead is a dead end, or is just not willing to take a call I do one of the following via email:
- Present an invoice and payment method. Asking for business is a hard thing, but it has to happen. If you wait for people to volunteer it, your closing ratio will suffer. I’ve sat in on sales meetings where an inexperienced sales rep will spend an hour outlining the product and extolling its virtues, only to forget to ask for the sale at the end! The best way to avoid this mistake via email is to state that you’re ready to start the project and to clearly outline your payment method. Here’s an excerpt from one recent email:
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today! I’ve attached an invoice to cover the initial payment on your project so we can get started. You can make a payment online at website payment address, or call my office and we’ll do it over the phone. If you have any questions, please email or call me anytime.
If upfront payment isn’t part of your business model (even though it should be) try to cement the deal with a contract. I use a digital signature service so customers can sign contracts online.
- End by asking a leading question to keep the communication open. The longer you stay in touch with your prospect, the better your chances of closing a sale. You have to keep current on your follow ups for this to work! Just reference anything from your communication so far and ask them to elaborate. People love to talk about their ideas.
- Be super helpful. One of the best ways I’ve found to get clients off the fence is to offer them free advice. I say things like:
Email me when you start doing blank. It’s not part of my business, but I’ve worked on blank before and I can probably point you in the right direction.
- Share a lead. People will be extremely receptive to you if they think they can make money off of you. Look into setting up a referral partner for this kind of thing. Nothing schedules a call faster than “I think I may have a lead for you. Are you available for a phone call?”
- Ask for permission to follow up. Something like:
I’d like to follow up with you when you hit the next stage of your project. When do you think would be a good time for that?
Don’t forget to follow up with them.
- Create a sense of urgency. Be careful with this one because it’s a gamble that doesn’t always pay off. If your client is teetering on making a decision, imply that your offer will expire or that there will be something to lose if they don’t act quickly. This is a classic sales technique (just watch any auto-dealership commercial on TV). The line I use most often in email is:
If you could, let me know about this project by Tuesday morning. We’ve scheduled another client for work this month, but I’d like to get you in before we start them so we can finish in your time frame.
None of these are magic bullets to close sales, but hopefully they’ll help you develop your own style. Remember that while having a few go-to tactics to help out in tough situations is nice, they are no t a substitute for hard work, common courtesy, and a product that you believe in.
Here are ten things that directly impacted the success of my web design business:
- Build sales leads through face-to-face in person networking.
- Accept credit cards online.
- Require 50% payment in advance before starting a project.
- People will respect you more if you charge them what you’re worth.
- Spend equal amounts of time developing your own projects.
- Track your profit and loss scrupulously.
- Lock in repeat services like web hosting.
- Build a network of reliable outsource vendors.
- Establish referral partnerships.
- Find a product you can deliver and focus on it.
I started this as an email in response to an article on kevinboss.net and it morphed into its own blog post. You can read Kevin’s article in full at:
5 Mistakes That Made Me A Better Freelancer