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In today’s episode, we will be talking to Will Hoekenga from LeadPages. This is the eCommerce marketing podcast episode 1.

Robert: Hi! And today’s guest is Will Hoekenga. He’s a content marketing incorporated specialist for LeadPages. It’s the number 1 lead generation platform and landing page builder with over 25,000 customers and counting. You can find his work at the LeadPages blog, blog.leadpages.net. How are you doing, Will?

Will: I’m great. I’m great. Thanks for having me, Robert. How are you doing?

Robert: I’m doing well. Thanks for taking the time for doing the podcast.

Will: Sure.

Robert: To start off, how did you get started working at LeadPages? What’s your background with content marketing?

Will: It’s actually a funny story how I got started with LeadPages. For the past 4 years or so, leading up to when I started with LeadPages in May, I had been doing freelance copywriting and content marketing, helping people with blogging and just all sorts of stuff in the realm of content marketing and email marketing online. And I had started a new blog of my own about copywriting called Copy Grad and I was writing these posts where I was taking sort of marketing campaigns that established brands were doing and I was sort of breaking them down and pointing out just all the marketing techniques that were at play and a lot of copywriting stuff and I had become a LeadPages customer in December of 2013 and the more I followed their content, the more I noticed how great they were at marketing their products but at the same time offering really helpful content that was valuable on its own. And they were really great when it came to launching new features. What I did was I wrote a post about how LeadPages kind of builds a lot of anticipation into all of their launches and I analyzed that, published it on the blog and I tagged LeadPages co-founder and CEO Clay Collins on Twitter and I sent him a link to the post and he saw it and he liked it and showed it to a few people at the company and he wanted to jump on the phone with me and we started talking. I hadn’t really particularly been looking for a job or anything, but the more I learned about LeadPages, the more I got to talk to Clay and the people on the marketing team, it was just a great chance to work with what I think is the best group of marketers that I’ve ever been around. That’s how it all got started. So I started full time in May and just moved up here to Minneapolis with my wife about a month ago in July. That’s how all that came to be.

Robert: Wow. And it’s just amazing that you are doing your own blog and analyzing what LeadPages was doing and from you doing that blog post, it ended up getting you into LeadPages and now you manage their blog, like you’re the head blog content editor or you’re just…

Will: Yeah. I oversee the blog and sort of the editorial calendar with that and we have a set of content people. We have some awesome guys who do great video work – Jeff Lindbergh and Jack Anderson. Another writer, Shaun Bester, who’s great; Tim Page heads up our podcast, conversion-cast which is outstanding. I’m probably forgetting to name names but it’s just a fantastic team and everyone brings so much to the table.

Robert: From your expertise working at LeadPages and doing your own blog, what are some of the strategies or some of the techniques you’ve seen that have worked at LeadPages and that can work with other businesses like eCommerce businesses or anybody just with a blog or trying to sell online.

Will: Sure. Particularly, eCommerce is really interesting to me because I don’t see as many businesses in that field really investing as much in content marketing. I see some here and there but it’s not something that I see so much across the board and I really think it will be a great way for any eCommerce company to attract more targeted visitors, to build their email list and sort of the number 1 strategy that I recommend people to do whether they’re an independent blogger, whether they run an eCommerce site and this would be businesses of any size, from a company with 50 employees down to someone selling stuff out of their garage or something like that. What I would recommend is to create what we call an opt-in bribe and what that is it’s just a free downloadable resource, a piece of content that visitors receive when they opt in for your email list. Typically you’ll be on an eCommerce site and the email signup is pretty prevalent on the site because they want to drive email subscriptions so they can send promotions and offers and just drive interested people who are well qualified into their store. But what I usually don’t see is I usually don’t see the companies offering something in exchange for the email opt in and usually they’ll say something like “sign up to be the first to know our latest deals” or they might offer a coupon or something like that and those are all great but the thing about that is it still requires the customer to do something before they really reap the benefits of it. If you offer a 20% coupon, the customer still sees that they’re going to have to come in to your store and purchase something before they can get the benefits of that and I wouldn’t discourage eCommerce companies at all from offering things like coupons because people come to your site usually because they’re interested in purchasing something from you. But what I would also encourage you to try is to create a piece of content that will be relevant to your visitors that you would give to them without requiring a purchase. So for example let’s say your eCommerce site, let’s say you sold hiking gear, outdoors wear. Something that might be useful for that would be a packing list of like the 10 essential items every hiker should have in their backpack or something like that. People are really drawn to bliss and they’re really drawn to learning the tools that professionals use because there’s that belief that if you have the same tools, you can accomplish the same things. Maybe it’s a pdf download and this could be just a simple one-page thing that you could create in a few hours that just might list the top 10 pieces of gear you recommend for a particular type of hiking trip. When you offer that in your email opt in area, you would write something like “free guide – the top 10 tools every professional hiker has in their backpack. Sign up for our news letter and we’ll send you a free copy immediately.” When they see that, that is almost in all cases going to dramatically increase your email opt-in rate on your website because now there’s an element of instant gratification for your visitors. They come to your site and they may already be thinking of getting on your email list. Maybe they want to be able to receive your promotions and all that, but when people see that, see that you’re offering something free, a piece of content that’s relevant to their interest, even the ones who maybe are a little apprehensive about getting on your email list or aren’t sure whether they really want to buy from you or not, that gives those people a reason to now want to be on your email list. This is something I’ve implemented, help people implement back when I was freelancing in all kinds of different industries, from authors to the other freelancers, video development companies and I really think it’s a strategy that works across the board and I think it’s something that would be great for any eCommerce company.

Robert: So what you’re saying to this strategy, to make it successful, first you need to have the list or the bribe that the customer’s going to get. You need the bribe. You also need to be collecting the emails on the website. So you have to make it clear that they have to submit their email to get the bribe. You basically need three things. You have to create the bribe, which is going to be the content, the top 10, the list. Then you collect that email and what else? You have the bribe, the email and then from that you can just start nurturing those leads that you just collected in the email?

Will: Yeah. You would also, if you don’t have an email list already, you would want to set that up through an email service provider, email marketing service and there are plenty out there that will allow you to create an account for free until you reach a certain amount of subscribers. There’s MailChimp, AWeber.

Robert: GetResponse.

Will: Yeah, GetResponse, and then there’s more automation services that include email like InfusionSoft and thing like that and one of the things at LeadPages that we do to help people with this is we have a variety of tools that make capturing email easier and help you get more, get higher email sign up conversion rates. We have a tool called Lead Boxes that would allow you to just drop a simple image into your side bar where an email sign up would typically go. It could be an image of your guide, the free opt in bribe that you’re offering with a call to action to click to subscribe and when people click on that image, it will bring up a little opt in box where they can then sign up to receive it.

Robert: We’ve actually used LeadPages and we’ve used the Lead Box and we’ve seen the success of how easy it is to set up. It’s really simple, it’s to integrate and what are some of the opt-in rates you’ve seen? What are some of the numbers that if businesses were to create this bribe and start collecting emails, what are some of the numbers that you’d think eCommerce businesses will start to see?

Will: Well a lot of that really depends on the type of traffic the business is getting. I’ve seen customers using Lead Boxes that get 60% opt-in rates. I’ve seen higher than that. And I’ve also seen customers who use our landing page templates who are getting 30% of the traffic that they’re bringing in is opting in. I’ve seen ones that are up to 50%. You could really be converting a large number of your traffic and the funny thing is or at least for me, I know when I first started implementing this on my blog, I’d see that 50% of people who visited my site that day or 70% of people who visited my site that day were opting in. It was making me think, I’d go back and look at the amount of traffic that I’ve received on my website up to that point and I would just sit there and hate myself for not doing it earlier because I’ve missed out on so many subscribers. This is something that can really dramatically impact your email list growth for sure, and that in turn gives you more people to email your products, which is going to bring you more revenue.

Robert: So many businesses that you see out there usually don’t have this bribe. They usually want to collect the emails but they’re not encouraging the customer to fill out that email address because they’re not giving them a bribe, but by businesses starting to offer these bribes, then they should start seeing the email subscriptions going up, they start getting customers because they can start nurturing those customers and selling more products to them.

Will: Absolutely. And really, especially with eCommerce, the sort of cool thing about offering an opt-in bribe is that not only do you get their email addresses so you can sell to them later but you can also build a sales right into the opt-in bribe. In that example I used, top 10 pieces of gear in a professional hiker’s backpack or whatever, you could easily list several products that your store sells or they’re the best sellers in your store and easing the prospects into those items through information like that. They’ll be a lot more open to it a lot of times than just having a buy button shoved in their face.

Robert: Right. And with these bribes, how can you promote the bribe itself to try and attract customers to the page? Some blogs, some websites, some businesses already have some traffic to their website but if you’re a new business or you’re trying to get traffic to that page, what can you do as far as content marketing to get people to that page?

Will: One thing that I would suggest is to build a landing page around your opt-in bribe and again that’s another one of the main components of LeadPages, you can quickly and easily make custom landing page templates for giving away opt-in bribes, but what you can do is this landing page would be a dedicated single page that sells people on opting in for your free opt-in bribe. And paid media works really well with that if you want to do Facebook ads. We even have some templates that are specifically designed for Facebook and you can publish any template to Facebook as a page, Google AdWords, anything like that. Also there’s just straight up content marketing. It’s something you can invest in. Start a blog on your eCommerce site and write posts that are useful to your audience that are just pure content. Content is the main priority or sort of the main focus, as supposed to just talking about, just trying to sell prospects. You’re now providing them useful content. If you blog enough and you keep at it, you can start to bring in organic traffic to your blog. You can do guest blogging to get other audiences to your blog. Content marketing I think is something that is a really great channel for attracting customers to your site.

Robert: I agree. We used some of the techniques you’ve just mentioned and some of the strategies. Even that’s how at first I approached you or approached LeadPages. I was trying to get a comment from you for the piece of content we had.

Will: Right. That’s a great piece of content, by the way.

Robert: Thank you. It’s an eCommerce marketing guide we came up for some customers. But the good thing about coming up with great content like that is you can use it to attract customers and then just create the bribes that you can use to increase your email subscriptions and then from that you can use those emails to market to those customers, nurture them slowly. Everything you’re saying is something that a lot of eCommerce businesses, some that don’t do it need to do it because they will be getting more customers and they can start seeing a turnaround with their business.

Will: Yeah, it all points back to building that email list, is really sort of the essence of all of these strategies. I think eCommerce companies in general realize the importance of that email list because it’s that one channel that you can really own. I mean you’re seeing so many businesses who depended on Facebook traffic and Facebook fan pages and stuff like that struggling because a platform like Facebook can change the rules at any moment and all of a sudden only 5% of your Facebook followers can see your post. That advantage with email is that you are always in control and you can always instantly communicate with all of your prospects. That’s really what all these strategies point to, it’s helping you add more people, as many people as possible to your email list.

Robert: I agree. Thanks for mentioning all those strategies and sharing those strategies with our listeners.

Will: Sure

Robert: The last question I have is what are some of the resources you think our listeners can subscribe to? What are some blogs, podcasts or books you think can help them with managing the eCommerce business?

Will: The first 2 resources I’ll mention, I’ll admit, will be a shameless self promotion.

Robert: No that’s fine, go ahead.

Will: I mean we talk a lot about these strategies on the LeadPages blog, which as you mentioned is at blog.leadpages.net. We feature case studies; we show what’s working in our business and our customers’ businesses. We give free tools away. Another great one is the podcast, the LeadPages podcast, which is called Conversion Cast and you can just go to conversioncast.com. That’s another great one. Our conversion educator, Tim Page, hosts that. And he brings in people from all different kinds of companies. He’s done eCommerce companies. He’s done software as a service companies. He brings in people with interesting results that they’ve experienced in their business and then they sort of break that down and show listeners how they can implement the same strategy.

Robert: Was that Conversion Cast?

Will: Yes, Conversion Cast.

Robert: So you have the blog.leadpages.net and Conversion Cast.

Will: Yeah, those are our 2 name content channels. And then outside of that, when you emailed me you asked if there were any great books that have had an impact on me that I think could help with eCommerce and really in my heart of hearts, what I really am is a copywriting nerd and so copywriting is something that I always try to push people who are involved with sales or marketing in any capacity to learn and one of the best books that I read, several years ago, when I was first starting to get my feet wet with copywriting is an older book called Advertising Secrets of the Written Word and it’s by Joseph Sugarman. I believe it’s out of print but you can get it on Kindle and Joseph Sugarman, he was an old direct response copywriter, like the pieces of mail that you’d get back in the day, he wrote those kinds of campaigns. But really, at the heart of all online sales is copywriting and if you can learn how to craft the right messages, the right headlines, the right copy for your products, sometimes that can have a more dramatic impact on your sales than anything. Step 1 can be building your email list so you can get people to your products but then you also want the copy on these pages to actually convert them into sales. I can’t recommend enough for anyone, even people who don’t think of themselves as writers, learning as much as you can about copywriting. It can have a huge impact on your business.

Robert: Okay Will. Thanks for sharing all those strategies, all those gems. Hopefully our listeners will use them today or immediately to start helping their business grow. I really, really appreciate you taking your time and sharing all this information.

Will: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me, Robert. It was great to talk through this stuff and I appreciate you having me on.

Robert: And if listeners have questions or they want to follow Will, you can just go to blog.leadpages.net and your Twitter is @WillHoekenga?

Will: That’s correct, yup.

Robert: Will, W-I-L-L and Hoekenga is spelled. H-O-E-K-E-N-G-A, @WillHoekenga and blog.leadpages.net. Thanks, Will.

Will: Thank you, Robert.

Thank you for listening to the eCommerce marketing podcast. If you have a question for us, email us at [email protected]. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for eCommerce marketing podcast or by RSS at eCommercemarketingpodcast.com where you can also find a full transcript and show notes of each episode. Thank you for listening. See you next time.