Abandoned shopping carts are a hurdle for online merchants.

Abandonment rates range from 60 to 80 percent, depending on the study. Some of this is “window shopping” on the part of visitors. Some of it is due to the complexity of your checkout process.

Thus optimizing your checkout will likely increase sales. In this post, I’ll review methods to streamline and simplify a checkout process. I’ll cite examples from the WooCommerce platform. But the broader points apply to all merchants, on all platforms.

Read my latest post at Practical eCommerce

There is a lot to keep track of when you’re starting a membership site.

What is the right way to reach your potential members?

Is your pricing right?

Will your members stay around?

What other tools do you need that you don’t know about yet?

Today we’re going to look at three plugins that all membership sites need as soon as they get started. No skimping and saying you’ll get to it later. If you don’t plan the time now, you won’t get to it.

1. Drip

Drip is an email automation service. It’s not only email marketing like you see elsewhere, it’s automation.

It can do stuff like tag a customer that visited a page and then send them an email to advertise the product if they didn’t purchase within 2 days.

It can email prospects that abandoned their carts.

And so much more.

If you want to have the ability to knock your marketing out of the park, you need to get Drip on your membership site.

2. Optin Monster

Yes Drip comes with some forms you can use to get subscribers to your email list, but OptinMonster is so much more powerful.

With OptinMonster you can set different calls to action on different posts and feed them all to Drip. You can have a popup that shows on click in a single post and then if someone is leaving the page, show them a different call to action.

All of my clients use this to make managing their email calls to action easy.

3. Facebook Conversion Pixel

Maybe you’re not going to dive in to Facebook and it’s marketing potential today. Maybe it won’t be next week. But you’ll want to do it. That’s why you put the Facebook Conversion Pixel on your site right away.

By adding it the day you get started, you start getting data on the people visiting your site right away. Later when you start getting serious about your marketing you can use this data to build an effectively targeted campaign.

When you start a membership site make sure you use these three plugins and services to build the site you’ve dreamed of.

PS: If you need help getting your marketing right, we should talk.

photo by: fallentomato

In my last post I talked about the importance of building your marketing to speak to all levels of your prospective customers. You can’t only focus on the experts and those that know you well. You need to spend time nurturing those that are getting to know you.

This task of speaking to all your prospective members is easier once you’re already established. You can pick people you’ve met right out of your community and use their traits in your persona’s. If you’re developing a new membership site, it’s a much harder endeavor.

You don’t have members that you can draw on for inspiration. Instead you need to build up these persona’s from scratch.

Here is the research strategy I use with my clients when we are looking deeper in to their market to develop their marketing strategy.

Develop your keywords

Before you can dive in to the research phase you need to know what you’re looking for. You’ll need a few keywords to use in your content research.

For this site I’ve used:

  • WordPress Membership site
  • Membership site
  • WordPress Membership
  • and a few others

I walked through each of the terms using the research template below. Now I wasn’t new to the WordPress Membership site market so it didn’t take me long to work through each term. In many cases I didn’t even need to click through the search results because I knew what the site was about.

The newer you are to your market the longer this should take.

Blogs

It all starts with blogs. Yes there are many other social networks and media channels that can bring in prospects, but blogs are king. Blogs are text that’s easily read by search engines. This is going to help you now because you’re going to use Google to investigate other sites in your niche.

Start by going go Google and typing blog: $keyword where $keyword is one of your search keywords.

Make note of the names of the site. Check the comments and make note of the names of the people that have something good to contribute.

Forums

Next we’re going to dig in to the forums for your industry. Again, go to Google and search forum: $keword. Make note of the sites that come up.

Visit the forums that come up and make note of the names of the participants. Make note of the brands that are mentioned.

If the forum has a search function use it to search for ‘help’ or ‘question’. Doing this can help you see what problems your customers suffer from.

YouTube

YouTube is the second biggest search engine. While the medium lends itself to less text, you can still glean lots of information by watching the top videos in your market.

Use each of your keywords in the search field. Watch the videos and make note of the people that are doing them. It’s likely you’ll start to see some overlap here between the blogs and those that produce video.

Also note the brands and products that are mentioned.

Take a minute to look at the comments to see if the viewers are asking any questions. Make note of these questions because they are problems that your possible clients are having.

Podcasts

Next up let’s dig in to podcasts. Use the following search with your keywords to find podcasts in your field.

"$keyword (incontent:podcast OR intitle: podcast OR inurl:podcast or inurl: episode)"

As with the other search’s, make note of the names you see. What brands are mentioned? Who makes comments on the episodes?

As you see repeats across your research, add stars beside the ones that keep coming up.

Influencers

If you’ve don’t the rest of this well then you’ve likely amassed a list of influencer’s. It’s time to dig a bit deeper in to them. Start by using their name to see if they have a site. If you they do and they dominate the results for their name (and they likely will) then add -influencersite.com to your searches to exclude their sites.

With this research in hand you’re ready to dive in deeper to your marketing. You know the podcasts you should be trying to get on. You should have seen the same brands and sites come up a number of times. Target these as the relationships you want to build.

You’ll also have a great handle on the users in your industry. You can use this to develop the persona’s that you need to be marketing to.

Every time I tweak my content marketing or business positioning I work through the process above to make sure that I’m targeting my prospects properly.

PS: If you need help digging in to your market we should talk.

photo by: edwicks_toybox

Every piece of content that comes out of your business should be aimed at a specific person in your target audience. Writing content with no target person in mind will lead to unfocused content. Unfocused content is not compelling. Content that’s not compelling won’t bring readers.

In addition to targeting a single person for each piece of content, you need to make sure that you spread your marketing efforts across all the experience levels of your prospects. It does you little good to only talk to the people who have followed your work ‘forever’. Nor is it effective to always target those that have been recently introduced to your work.

I’ve been building membership sites for years, but not all of my clients have. When I mention churn, a number of my prospects don’t know what I’m talking about. The longer I’ve been building websites the more I’m tempted to use insider terms that my clients don’t understand.

Don’t fall victim to this trap. Maybe you have been running your Crossfit Box for years and all your marketing efforts unintentionally assume that the person you’re talking to knows what a Power Clean is. Most of the people looking for a place to workout with a group that they can connect with won’t know what that is and using insider language will make them feel like they can never be an insider.

Your marketing should make them feel like they can be insiders and that working with you is the best way to get what they want.

How to make sure you speak to all your prospects

The first step to making sure that you speak to every level of prospect is to define who they are. That means sitting down and developing ‘personas’ for your business. A persona is nothing more than a name you use to describe a certain type of prospect. Maybe ‘Ben’ is the beginner that you talk to.

Your persona’s should cover three areas in your business. First, you should have that beginner. Second you need to develop a persona for your intermediate prospect. They know a bit about your field, but aren’t experts yet. Finally, you develop the expert persona. This final one knows lots about the same things you do, but they look to you as a leader in the field.

With these three persona’s developed it’s time to look at your content. Assuming you’re writing once a week you should work to have 1 blog post a month geared towards beginners. Two should be directed to your intermediate persona and the final 1 post should address the concerns that your expert has.

This break down of persona’s should go for all your marketing efforts. Go to conferences where you’ll meet colleagues, but don’t only go to those. Make sure you head out to meet the beginners in your field.

Most sites slowly start to neglect the beginners. This is a death knell for your sales funnel because beginners are looking for someone to walk along with them. If that’s not you, then when they’re ready to purchase as intermediate or experts, they’re following someone else that talked to the beginners.

If you need help developing your marketing plan we should talk.

photo by: cross_stitch_ninja

Most site owners have a dream where they get their site revamped and then everyone comes to see their beautiful new site. Clients love it and make purchases. Readers interact and love the site.

You feel this is the way things should happen because you put so much work in to building your site. You’re invested in it, in a way that none of your prospects are.

You can’t build the site and then hope people will come visit it. You need to have a plan to market the site. Without a solid marketing plan your hard work will provide little fruit.

Here is the marketing plan I get my clients to follow so they can see the results they want.

Blogging

Your marketing should start with your blog. Blogging is text that is searchable by anyone on the web. Yes videos are great and it can be a part of your blogging strategy, but search engines can’t index the content of your video.

The best way to start with a blogging strategy is to write down the big problems that your prospects have. Every time you encounter a client and they tell you about the problem they’re having, write it down as a blog post idea.

At a minimum you should be posting once a week on your site. If that seems like a lot to start then go for twice a month and work up to once a week.

I know that some people aren’t writers, if that’s you then your best bet is to hire a writer. Most writers will do an interview with you about your site and the problems you solve for clients. Out of that they’ll develop blog posts for you to review and then put up on your site.

Once you get some content going, the next big hurdle is management. Here the key is that you need one person that you pay to manage the content. There is one local store that has many possible writers but every time I submit content it takes weeks to get anyone to look at it. This isn’t because they have so much content. It’s because no one is really in charge of the content. Also, whenever anything else comes up in the business the blog gets pushed to the background.

Unless you give someone the time to manage your content properly, it won’t happen.

Email

Along with your blog, it’s time to have an email list. It doesn’t need to be fancy to start. Add a simple opt-in form and then send out your blog post to your list.

Email is so powerful because you have direct access to the inboxes of your prospects. Where they have to choose to visit your site, email is sent to their inbox. For most people that means they get a notification and check their email.

A strong email campaign results in a good increase in sales for most sites.

As you have more time to market your business you can get in to tracking users and pitching them special campaigns as they get ready to purchase. You can provide short email courses and then pitch a product. Or you can detect when people have put items in their cart and then left the site without purchasing those products. Send them a follow up email to remind them about the purchase.

Events

Finally, don’t forget that there is a world that isn’t in front of your screen. It’s easy to sit behind your computer safe and sound writing or podcasting. While these are great things in your marketing plan they’re low trust. In general the closer you can get to shaking someone’s hand the more likely they are to trust you.

That means getting out to a local networking event allows you to shake hands with lots of potential partners and prospects. If you live in a very rural area, target the bigger cities within an hour drive or look for a few further afield events you can attend. Maybe a trade conference.

The biggest mistake that most site owners make when the attend events is that they stay narrowly in their niche only talking to their colleagues. While there can be huge benefit from talking to your colleagues in the form of partnerships, it means you’re not talking to your customers.

If you’re going to attend 4 events then make at least 2 of them events where you get to interact with your target market directly. Better yet make 3 of 4 events focused on your prospects and 1 focused on meeting more colleagues.

If you can start with this basic marketing plan and stick to it for the long term, you’re going to build that successful site you want. It may start slow, but most people will quit. If you stick with the plan sooner than you think you’ll be the ‘old hand’ reaping the rewards of the marketing effort you put in.

If you need help executing this marketing plan, we should talk. I can help you build a site your members will love and help you speak their language.

Many stores see most of their customers coming from a single country. Most of my clients are selling items to US customers.

Something that’s always been a bit of a tiring issue for us has been that you can’t set the default country for Billing and Shipping at checkout. We can save most of our customers at least one click if we default the checkout process to have the country US selected.

Luckily Justin Sainton over at Zao provided the code needed to make that happen.

A second improvement is deals with the fact that most customers are using the same billing and shipping addresses. Why do we force users to check this box when we can automatically check it for them.

This second chunk of code will default the ‘Shipping same as Billing’ checkbox to checked so that users don’t have to do it.

With these 2 pieces of code in place you can save your customers time in the checkout process. Saving users time and clicks is almost always a path towards making more sales.

One of the things that’s super frustrating is to find out that your site is down. Doesn’t matter the reason, it’s time when your readers and customers are not going to your site and getting your content or purchasing your products.

Today I’m going to talk about the plan I use with clients to keep their site up and running and how I help them have 24/7support for their site, even when I’m out of town or hiking in the mountains.

Hosting

My host of choice is Siteground particularly their ‘GoGeeky’ plan. It’s inexpensive and their caching is fast.

Their support is amazing, with tickets being resolved often times within minutes of being submitted. I’ve put in 3 tickets to Siteground and had them all resolved in the time it’s taken other hosts to simply respond to a ticket they had an 8 hour head start on.

Honourable mentions here go to WP Engine and Page.ly. I’ve been on both services before and chose to head over to Siteground because it had some ‘nerdy’ features that neither of the two options above had.

It’s quite likely that you don’t know what WP CLI is or how to use it in which case none of those nerdy features matter to you and either of the 2 options above are great places you should look at.

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Support

I’m not setup for 24/7 support. Your first line of defence here is your host which is a reason I recommend Siteground since they are so fast.

But what if it’s something that Siteground can’t quite take care of? What if you need a bit more than they can take care of?

Here is where WP Site Care comes in. This is an awesome team of WordPress professionals that can help you 24/7 with small issues on your site. They provide security monitoring, plugin updates, SEO Optimization and a few other awesome things.

I set all my long term clients up with this service so that when I’m away on the weekend and they have something their host can’t help with they have a resource to work with.

Backup

For backup I take a 2 pronged approach. My first stop (if you’re only going to use one service) is VaultPress. VaultPress provides a nearly realtime backup of your site. So that means a few minutes after you add the latest blog post, it’s backed up.

My second stop is to set clients up on Manage WP. Here I setup 3 snapshot backups for them. One is a daily full site backup and the other 2 are set at different times of the day to catch the database (all your posts, pages and content but not the images you uploaded).

I choose two options because the chances of both of them going down and not backing up is very small. I choose offsite options because if your server has a hack it’s entirely possible that the backups on your server will be also compromised in some way and then you have no ‘clean’ copy of your site.

I choose automatic backup options because there is no way anyone is going to remember to back up the sites every day many times a day. You’ll forget and when you forget something will happen and you’ll need a backup and you won’t have one.

Now none of these options absolve you from going in and making sure that the backups are actually happening. I put it on my schedule to log in to Manage WP once a week and make sure that the backups are working.

Again, the times you don’t check are the times you’re going to find that they were not happening automatically and then you will have an issue and you won’t have a backup.

Updates

Unfortunately many clients miss this crucial part of making sure that their site stays online. It’s not uncommon for me to get a panicked call from someone I worked with a year ago and they have been hacked and they want me to fix things.

When I check the site out, nothing has been updated since I worked on the site.

You need to keep your plugins and themes and WordPress itself up to date all the time. In all the years I’ve been building WordPress sites there are only a handful of times that an upgrade has actually done anything ‘bad’ to a site and even then it’s been so minor we just turned off the plugin and figured out a solution.

If you’re running an older version of WordPress then you can be sure that you have known security issues on your site and you’re choosing to run an insecure Web site.

For those of you running eCommerce businesses (which is most of my clients) you actually need to keep it all up to date to stay abreast of PCI guidelines. If you have a security breach and client information gets out then you could lose your merchant account, which means no more charging plastic.

Yup that’s pretty serious.

Since we have multiple types of backup running we know that we can fairly easily roll back to ‘stable’ version of a site which means that having an update go ‘bad’ is really of little consequence.

Keep your sites up to date and you’re going to resolve most issues that people have with uptime. I update client sites once a week which is enough to stay on top of any updates that need to be done.

There you have it, you now know my ‘secret’ method to have the highest possible uptime on my client sites. You can see how I make sure they are backed up and how often I keep them up to date to do our best to make sure that security issues aren’t found on the site.

photo credit: julochka cc

I’m not the type of person to regret much. I generally live a happy life regardless of what’s going on around me. I’m upbeat most of the time.

I could be doing many things with my life and be happy about them. I’d be fulfilled with many jobs but I choose to help people have awesome Web sites that make them sales.

Of bikes and outside

I talk about it on my process page before, I like to ride my bike. It’s more than that though, I just like to be outside.

I take my kids on a hike at least one day of the week 3 of 4 weekends a month. I think that many, actually most people now spend way to much time in front of their computers and screens. Yes that’s very ironic for someone that is using a screen as he writes this.

I could be happy being a bike mechanic. I’d get to work with my hands all day and help people enjoy their life more while they get a bit more fit. I’d help commuters have a reliable bike to ride to work/school every day.

I’d get to talk about bikes all day, which is something I think about.

I could be happy being an outdoor guide (a former profession). Taking people in to the mountains and making the experience is pleasurable is awesome. Taking teenagers for their first real experiences outside is my real favourite pastime.

When I first got married my wife and I were the offsite trip leaders at a camp and we had a young lady from an ‘alternative’ school. For her it meant that no other school would take her but this school for difficult girls.

She was certainly difficult to start the trip. She didn’t want to carry anything when we had to move our group gear. She didn’t want to serve anyone, but wanted everyone to serve her.

This attitude came to a culmination on the second day when we had to carry our canoes and all the gear between lakes. It was her turn to carry one of the heaviest packs but she refused. She said that it was too hard and she didn’t come here to work hard that was my job.

I simply said that was her choice, but no one was going to touch that pack but her and we couldn’t leave till we had it with us. Then I laid back in my canoe and pulled my hat over my face while she yelled and took a nap. Yup I fell asleep and about 30 minutes later my wife woke me up to say she was going back to get the bag.

So I joined her and helped her put it on (while I carried nothing) and when it pulled her off balance and over I helped her stand up. When she took it off and left again I laid back down and pulled my hat over my face on the trail and attempted to nap again.

We got the bag where it needed to be and a few days later she told me that no one had ever told here she could do something hard, then made her do it. Her whole life people let her off the hook as soon as she complained that a job was hard.

That young lady went from barely being allowed to stay in her ‘special’ school to the class president and valedictorian. Her and her husband guide climbing, canoeing, skiing, and rock climbing to this day and she says it’s the fault of my wife and I making her work hard.

That’s a life I changed and the opportunity to do that again is something I’d jump at and be happy with as a job.

Okay so why Web sites?

Now the question is why do I build help people have awesome Web sites when I could be working with teenagers and spending my time outside with them?

Building Web sites helps me have similar leverage over people’s success. One of my favourite clients is Greater Impact. They help ladies have awesome marriages. Each extra person I can help purchase the course is someone that I can help affect.

But the affect doesn’t stop there. It means that this family has a better relationship all the way down to the kids. It means this lady can affect other friends and help them have better marriages. It means that she’s likely happier and that’s going to affect everyone around her.

I’d be happy being outside, but the work I do now has a huge reach and I want to reach far and wide.

photo credit: julochka cc

Well it’s that time for a new release of Easy Restricted Content for WooCommerce and this one shall be called 1.2.4.

We introduced a bunch of changes around stability and…well stability.

But wait, that’s not all.

Remove from Account

A number of customers reached out and had lots of pages as restricted content. This left the My Account page on WooCommerce with a huge list of pages that just cluttered up the interface.

With 1.2.4 we’ve added a checkbox to remove a page from the My Account page, much like we already had the option to remove a page/post from the WordPress menu area.

Shiny new remove from My Account button

 

Translations in bbPress

There were also a few users that reached out with issues around our text matching in bbPress for the restricted content messages.

We added 2 new filters wecr_bbp_forum_message_global and wecr_bbp_topic_message_global that allow users with different translations to filter the incoming and outgoing text here so you don’t have to hack the plugin to get the proper text in your restricted messages.

That’s it, fire up your updaters and enjoy the day.

Something that some sites do well is onboard their users. For those not familiar with the term onboarding I’ll define it.

Onboarding: Walking new users through a series of step designed to help them get the most out of your site.

Most membership sites do nothing about user onboarding at all. They don’t spend time identifying what the key things a good long term member has done. Then since they don’t have that information they don’t do anything to make sure that all new users do those same things.

Cushion

I recently got beta access to Cushion and it did a great job of walking you through the 3 steps you need to do to setup your account. You can see the 3 steps below.

 

One thing that’s not 100% clear in the shots above is that the only thing on the page during the onboarding process is the goal you need to currently accomplish.

Nothing distracts you from the task at hand.

How are you going to figure out what the key things are your long term members have done? How are you going to define your onboarding process?