Link Tracking – What I Use

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, 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.
Photo by sookie
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.

How to Close a Sale with a Contract

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!

Picture this:

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?

Me: Yep.

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.

Improve Sales with a Loss Leader

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.

Closing Sales with Email

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  4. 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?”
  5. 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.

  6. 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.

Autoresponder Success

Email auto responders are responsible for approximately 30% of the online product sales from my information based web sites.

My typical auto responder follow up happens like this:

  1. Prospect signs up for the mailing list and receives a thank you email that day.
  2. A second email is sent the next day with a follow up.
  3. For the next month, we send emails on a weekly basis – always on the same day and time of the week. If this is when they were free to sign up, then they’re most likely free to read follow up emails.
  4. Following the first month, we go to bi-weekly emails.
  5. After that, we send out monthly until the end of the follow up series.

A lot of people ask me if it does any good to follow up for such a long period of time. Here are a few samples from the sales results of that site:

  • Joined 12/18/06, purchased product on 01/28/08, 405.97 days from signup.
  • Joined 01/07/08, purchased product on 01/25/08, 218.54 days from signup.
  • Joined 11/08/07, purchased product on 06/09/08, 213.95 days from signup.
  • Joined 08/19/07, purchased product on 02/19/08, 183.88 days from signup.
  • Joined 04/15/08, purchased product on 01/15/08, 90.59 days from signup.
  • Joined 11/13/07, purchased product on 01/10/08, 58.41 days from signup.
  • Joined 12/31/07, purchased product on 01/24/08, 24.07 days from signup.

Here are a few techniques I use to ensure successful campaigns:

  1. Pre-qualify the recipient. In order to collect emails, I usually do a product giveaway. The product should be directly related to what you’re selling. That way, you know that anyone who signs up will have a good chance of becoming a customer.
  2. Avoid stodgy subject lines. I try to use an email subject line like I would title an article – a three to five word description of what I’m about to talk about. I avoid things like June Newsletter
  3. Personalization – During the signup process I ask the prospect for their first name and include it in all of the emails that go out to them.
  4. Familiarity – I always try to write in a personal rather than formal tone. I find this more engaging and I think it helps to build trust with the reader.
  5. Offer something of value. I rarely send out an email that’s just a straight sales pitch. I find people are more receptive to reading the emails if they offer something of value. It can be a short and informative article, a free download, or a helpful tip.
  6. Pitch the product. Just because you’re a nice guy doesn’t mean you can’t try and sell your product. That’s what the autoresponder is for! Be sure to include a link to your product at the bottom of each email.

Automating Sales with Auto Responders

I’m a big fan of sequential auto responders (the automated email programs that send a pre-written set of messages over a period of time). I like them because they automate part of the sales process and automation is good.

I use them to great effect on sites like my ITAR Compliance Training web site.  For this site, I give away a free product in exchange for email and contact information.  Once you sign up for the product, you’re placed in the queue for follow up.  I have about 11 emails written for that site, and they go out:

  1. On the first day
  2. On the second day
  3. On the first week anniversary
  4. Once week for a while after that
  5. Once every other week for a while
  6. Lastly once every month until the end of the sequence.

I’ve had prospects purchase the products almost 200 days after their initial sign up.  It’s just a matter of tickling the prospect at the right time and staying conveniently in front of them for when they’re ready to buy.

Total time to setup an auto-responder for this site: one afternoon.

Total cost: about $10/month.

Value of the auto responder: 30% increase in sales for a web site earning an annual five figure income.

Rigging the Fishbowl Drawing

A friend of mine and a fantastic in-person salesman shared this gem with me the other day. Hopefully he won’t mind if I publish it.

Next time you get a booth at a trade show or similar and you’re doing the put your business card in a fishbowl giveaway, try this:

  1. When people walk up to the booth, give them your spiel. Ask for a business card or have them fill out an information card. Business cards are better because the information probably isn’t faked.
  2. If the prospect is hot, take their card and mark the back of it. Act like you’re going to put it in the fishbowl, but stick it in your pocket instead.
  3. At the end of the day, group up with your sales team (who should all be doing the same thing). Decide who has the hottest lead and the best chance to close a sale.
  4. And you guessed it – the most prospective lead will also be the winner of your giveaway!

Hey, it’s your money – you rented the booth and you set the rules for the giveaway. I’ve never once had someone ask me the rules for a fishbowl drawing, but if they do feel free to tell them the truth.

Fake It Until You Make It

I’m not the world’s greatest salesperson by any means, but one thing I’ve learned is that people want to do business with people who are already successful. For the most part, they view your business relationship as a stepping stone to something they want to achieve. There’s nothing wrong with this self-preservation style of thinking, and it’s actually responsible for many mutually beneficial business relationships.

The thing people desperately want to avoid, however, is being dragged down by someone else. If you’re out hustling your product, cutting your margin to the bare minimum, pleading for every scrap of business like a dog hoping for a bone, then you’re driving away your best clients.

Go out today. Buy a nice suit, set your pricing to a respectable level, and fire your worst performing clients. Walk around for a week treating yourself the way you want and deserve to be treated, and you’ll find that people respond. If you believe that you are a success and a rising star, other people will believe it too. They’ll want to be a part of whatever you’ve got going and will bend over backwards to help you.

Don’t like the “Fake it until you make it” phrase? Here are some others that mean the same thing:

  • Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
  • Believe to achieve.
  • Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.

Referral Partners

When you’re doing network marketing, you might hear the phrase “giver’s gain” being thrown around. Basically, this is the idea that people will respond to your referrals and goodwill in kind by sending you referrals. There’s a lot of truth to it, and it’s definitely something I believe in.

But what happens when you have nothing to give?

There’s nothing worse than running into a hot new referral partner who services your target market and has excellent potential to bring you business when you have nothing to offer them. Sure, you might have something for them down the road, but we all know that the longer you go without “making a sale” (e.g. securing the new partnership), the less chance you have of developing a long term relationship with them.

This used to happen to me a lot. I’d meet a new referral partner (not a prospect, but someone who was in a position to send me some business). We’d hit it off and would talk about what kind of business we could refer to each other, shake hands, and leave. I’d go back to the office and desperately look through my contact list hoping I could scrounge up an introduction for my new partner so that I didn’t lose their interest. Most of the time, my search came up cold and the referral partner was never heard from again.

Nowadays, I have a different strategy. I got together with a close friend in a similar but non-competing business. We discussed the situation and agreed to be each other’s “guaranteed referral”. Essentially, we would refer each other whenever we needed to score points with a new relationship. This would put us in good graces with the new partner while we found some more legitimate prospects for them.

So far, the new strategy has worked out well! Having a guaranteed referral in my pocket when I meet with a potential partner gives me the window of opportunity I need to keep my name in front of them while I dig up some legitimate leads and secure a mutually beneficial and profitable relationship.

The BIGGEST Risk in Life, is NOT taking one

And one last gem for the day, you may have heard this, but read and re-read this one, because we have all been faced with this, and have often times felt guilty about it later for letting it control us… ready for this dandy quote? “The BIGGEST Risk in Life, is NOT taking one!” Read that again! The last thing you want to be doing years from now is saying to yourself, I should have done this, or I should have done that, or if only I had done that… Just like NIKE has said for years and years, JUST DO IT!