How to Generate Leads for Local Businesses Using Blogs – Case Study

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On 18/7/2012 (Wednesday), I have decided to do an online experiment – an experiment to help business owner to leverage on the internet and to collect local leads using blogs.

Business owners include plumbers, piano teachers, violin teachers, tutors, interior designers, carpenters, furniture shop owners, doctors, chiropractors and so on. The list goes on and on.

One of the major obstacles they face is getting new leads. Without new leads, there won’t be any new customers to sell to and their businesses will die a slow (sometimes painful) death. Most small business owners are very busy managing their daily business affair. So most do not have a proper marketing system to help them get new leads.

In Singapore where I am staying, the common online marketing strategies that business owners use are listing on coupon sites such as Groupon, listing on online classified ads and directories, using Google Adwords and Facebook Ads.

These strategies will ONLY work if you have a proper product funnel. Most just signed up for these programmes and hope they get LOTS OF Customers and LOTS OF $$$. But it seldom works this way. Let me share with you why. Listing on coupon sites like Groupon is bad for small businesses and most owners are going to lose money. Listing on online directories is not ideal too as their ad is competing against thousands of other ads. Most have underperforming ads. Using Google Adwords and Facebook Ads is going to burn a BIG hole in their pocket as too as most use them blindly by not optimising the ads, the squeeze pages and lowering the cost per click.

So possibly, using blogs to reach out to customers may still be one of the most cost-effective (I didn’t say free) methods to educate your customers, to get them to buy from you and to build a strong following.

So what is this online specifically about?

Even though I have started this experiment about 2 months ago and it is still ongoing, I really want to share with you what I did, the challenges I face, the results I gotten (small, big or none) and the steps I took to solve some of the problems I face. I am also sharing what I had been doing due to the good response I had gotten for the 3-parts Niche Tutorials.

When I first started, I have no idea if everything is going to be ok:

Honestly then, I have no idea if it would have worked or not. There were many factors to consider such as category of your niche, competition of keywords, type of customers, spending per customer, whether they will buy online and even if they buy online, what kind of products/ services they really want and how much they are willing to spend.

Looking through all these unknowns had given me a BIG headache and I was scared too – scared to have created an experiment which had a negative outcome and to hear my readers booing at me.

I was hesistant then but my buddy, David from “Learn Niche Marketing” encouraged me to start this experiment so as to prove that lead generation using blogs REALLY works. So now, I decided to create this case study and share it with you.

Well, since this is just an experiment and whatever happens, it will be for the fun of it, right?
Plus by sharing what I did, perhaps you will be able to tweak my methods and develope your personal strategies to help your local business.

 

Choosing my niche:

So I have decided to go into a niche which I really love – Math Niche. Having background in children’s education psychology, my strength (beside coaching and internet marketing) is teaching students and helping them to drastically improve their academic results within a very short time frame.

As the Math niche is very wide, ranging from pre-school Math to University Math, I must narrow it down further to Primary school Math. I chose this niche because I already know parents are spending a lot of money in this niche plus I have over 10 years of working experience with parents whose kids are in this age group (9 to 13). According to this article – Asia spending billions on tutors: study, Singapore spent US$680 million in 2008! Imagine how much more parents are spending NOW? Perhaps 1 billion dollars solely in Singapore? Who knows? :p

After doing more research and observing the local tuition trends, here is the demographic of my customers:
– Parents with children who are in Primary 5 and 6
– Parents’ age falls between 30 to 50
– Living in Singapore
– English speaking
– Internet savvy
– Already spending money on their kids by signing them up for tuition, buying Math assessment books, registering for motivational workshops. (monthly expenses per parent is estimated to be at least $100 per month and it can go up to over S$5000/ month considering the fees paid for more premium tuition services and other enrichment programmes.)

So the niche has been selected and I am going to set up my blog – my online vehicle for collection of local leads.

There will be a 3 key components:
– Free content as blog posts
– Subscribed content (Reader needs to opt in to get my free e-book)
– Paid content (Reader needs to pay to get it)

Now, let’s go!

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Blog set up:

To house these 3 key components, I need my blog to be up as soon as possible. So once I bought the domain here. Some of you may wonder what domain to get. Get one which is brandable. For example, “HelpingKidsToStudy.com” is not a brandable domain. But “KidsMathTips.com” is a shorter and sweeter domain which is more brandable. It is also easier for your customers to type in the address bar. If you are not sure if your domain choice is good enough, do not register it. Discuss with your friends and tell them about your plan. Ask for feedback and you will have a much better and clearer picture if your domain name is your best choice.

In the past, DNS propagation would take at least 24 to 48 hours. But now, it is almost instant. So within a day, I set up my WordPress blog and change the following settings:
1. change the permalinks
2. added a www. to my WordPress address

Next is to install the plugins. Here is a list of plugins I had installed: (Use the search function in WP and you can find them easily.)
– 404 Redirected
– Akismet
– All in one SEO
– Contact form 7
– Google Analytic
– Google XML Sitemap
– Hyper Cache
– Login Lockdown
– Popular Posts
– Pretty Link
– Sharebar
– Simple Facebook Comments
– What Would Seth Godin Do
– WordPress Database Backup
– WordPress.com Stats
– WP Security Scan
– XML Sitemap Feed

 


Content creation:

As I had mentioned, I have chosen a niche which I am very passionate about. So creating content is a very simple task for me. Since it is a Math for Primary 6 students, I have thought of creating solutions for some of the local top school exam papers.

Top school papers could be purchased from local shops and parents were already eagerly including them in their children’s practice arsenal. So by providing systematic and easy to understand solutions should be the right move for parents to start liking my blog and perhaps telling their other parent friends aboout my blog. I decided to do this by myself and it turned out to be a bad decision made. I took 7 days to complete the blog posts of 39 Math questions including solutions. Maybe I could have this outsourced too but I couldn’t find any freelancer who is familiar with Singapore PSLE Math syllabus. So this explains why I did it myself. It was nightmare and I am so glad I had completed it.

In fact, to better understand this market, I spent long hours in local bookshop browsing through various assessment books. This is my personal market research. I also stood by the shelves observing which assessment books first caught the parents’ attention. If you feel comfortable, you can chit chat with the parents and ask them how they choose the books. Nothing beats asking your customers and hearing from them what they want, how makes them buy and how much they spend on average per month.

“Business is Always about understanding your customers’ needs and giving what they want.”

On 25/7/2012, I planned on getting more content and I had decided to outsource all of them, not wanting to go through the mental nightmare I had been through a few days ago. As you know, I have writers in my team and they are great writers. And they are fast too. If you love writing, you can create all your blog posts. However, I feel my writers can do a better job than me and I should outsource my work to them.

So to speed things up, I created a list of 5 blog titles and added in some instructions for them on how they should write every article.

In short, I gave them a map to follow for every article so they know what I want.

For example, one of the blog titles is “Great exam smart tips”. In the instructions, I wrote that my writer has to write about cutting careless mistakes, allocating time to check solutions, empowering the mind to do well for the exam and so on. Of course, I added some examples just to make sure my writer knows exactly what I want.

You should use this method to communicate to your writers too so you will get what you want. It is not necessary for you to write all your writers. You are a business owner and learning to delegate work to your team is vital for your business.

Remember that your aim is to generate and create leads so that you can generate sales and profits.

Normally, each writer can churn out one article per day. So you can do your Math and delegate your work to them so you can hit your quota. Remember, I am going to grow this blog into an authority blog and thus, the content must be of high quality. So if your writer can write better than you, pay them to help you.

 


Product creation:

Again, Math being my passion is making my creation of the products very easy. (So the lesson here is choose a niche you are very familiar with.) I have always known that speed is a critical factor in doing well for exam. If the student can do fast with high accuracy, he is definitely a winner. Within 3 days, I created a 10-questions e-worksheet with solutions. My selling angle is to help the child learn to speed up.

I had also designed a great ecover. As I am trained in copywriting, I created a simple sales copy on the 4th day. I also did some screenshots of how the e-worksheets look like so my potential customers (the parents) can have a visual of what they are buying. Lastly, I top it up with a nice checkout button to make this simple sales page look professional.

In fact, if you are green and may not know any one of these skills – graphic design, copywriting, product creation, you are going to face a lot of difficulties. However, one possible solution is always to outsource these. I suggest using Odesk.com According to Wikipedia, oDesk is a company with a global job marketplace and a series of tools targeted at businesses that intend to hire and manage remote workers. So you can get all the help you need.

So back to the setting up of my product, everything was done and ready to roll out. The worksheet was priced at S$4.90. Why in Singapore dollars? Because I am targeting local market. So price your product according to the local currency.

And why I only did onee- worksheet and not do 10 of them? Doing 10 of them needs more time. And one very important business skill I learnt is you got to roll out a low-end product with a reasonably good sales page within 7 days so that you can test the viability of your business. Is anyone in your niche buying stuff from the internet? If yes, how many and how much are they spending. In fact, almost all assessment books and worksheets are sold in physical forms. So it was really a gamble for me to start my Math blog and sell assessment worksheets in digital form.

 


Traffic generation:

First, I created the sitemap and submit to Google Webmaster Tool. Next, I created the feed using Feedburner. Once done, it is time to ping my blog using Pingomatic.

In the end of August, I was looking for cheap or free alternatives to generating more traffic to my site. I chance upon this great video from Strayblogger.com

The methods were relatively simple but it could take a lot of my time to create those videos, upload them to Youtube and creating powerpoint files and upload them to slide sharing websites. While I was figuring out how to do so much within the limited time I have, a friend, who is working in a company which runs a very popular Parenting website, contacted me. He wanted me to contribute content for their PSLE exam related articles. This website has over 38,000 pageviews per day and the best thing is their readers are exactly the readers for my blog. They wrote two articles about exam techniques and my website was featured with backlinks to my website. They even promoted my site to their list of 32,000 Facebook fans.

On the day that my first articles were featured, the traffic shot up by about 3 times.


Building my subscribers and customers list

After my blog was launched (end of July), it took a few days before real humans could find my site by doing a Google search. My first subscriber opt in on 7th August. It was not until I have launched my sales page and my first sale came in 20 days later.


– 877 Unique Visitors
– 39 subscribers (conversion rate of 4.4%)
– 7 copies of e-worksheets sold (conversion rate of 17.1%)
– 10 enquiries on my consultation service (conversion rate of 25.6%) – this alone is worth at least S$2000 to – S$5000 per month
– 2 customers who wanted to arrange their first appointment for my consultation and coaching (conversion rate of 20%)

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With the traffic I am receiving, I am expecting more people to opt in and more people to buy my e-worksheets. Maybe, the freebie offer is still not attractive enough for more people to opt in. Somehow, the traffic is wasted. Interestingly, it was until last week that my subscription rate went to a complete halt. Before that, I still have about one opt in per day or every 2 days. My analysis told me that perhaps, the exam is coming soon (next week) and that is why the parents are probably looking for something else such as how to help their children cope with exam anxiety or how to equip them with last minute exam preparation tips.


Once PSLE is over, I plan to do an overhaul for my blog. I was talking to some parents who have kindly offer their honest feedback about website. Though they are not website designers, they know what they want for themselves and their children. They feel that my blog lacks professional feel. Most parents will prefer to consult “experts” who have tuition centres (more credibility and credential here.)

The reason why they didn’t opt in is because the freebie is not compelling enough. They don’t see the value once the exam nears. So this taught me to be mindful of how parents change their decision to opt in as the exam nears.

So I would need to create a better and different freebie for different period of the year or merge all of them into one. I am still deciding. I also plan to invest money in getting a professional copywriter to improve my sales copy. In addition, I may add more relevant products to increase the value and focusing on the “How to” rather than the “What”. I am also asking my designer to redesign my site to give it a more corporate feel.


Here is a list of the resources we used:

Odesk.com
Namecheap.com
Pingomatic.com
Feedburner.com
Google Webmaster Tool

You can download the ebook version of this post.
Right click and Save target as.

Having said that, some of you may or may not know that I actually have a personal coaching section on my blog. If you are interested to find out how you can receive coaching from me, you can send an email to askjohnyeo@gmail.com for personal coaching. You got to be quick because I am only taking one student this time round.

What do you think of this case study? What other information do you hope to see in my next post? As always, I love to hear from you. Do post in the comment box below.


Comments

One Response to “How to Generate Leads for Local Businesses Using Blogs – Case Study”

  1. Allen Tan says

    John… Your blog is awesome and clear… Well done! Glad to know you…. and i believed we contacted before on blog design…

    Keep it up…

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