List Building with Lead Magnets

List Building with Lead Magnets

Well-designed lead magnets are great for building your email list, and they also serve as tangible examples of how you can solve the problems of your customer avatars. When I took Fizzle’s 7-day Build Your List Challenge recently, I knew that designing a good lead magnet was going to be a core component of the course. I thought it would give me a new lead magnet for list building, but I was wrong. What I did not expect was how easy this process would make inviting new clients into working with me.

Even if you don’t know precisely what a lead magnet is, you’ve probably seen them before. ‘Subscribe to get my free PDF workbook!’ is a standard call-to-action, to encourage people to sign up for your email newsletter list. The PDF workbook is the lead magnet – it is the free incentive that you offer your new subscribers.

My previous lead magnet was way off base. I was using the Sales Funnel Workbook, which is an awesome piece of content, but it’s way too advanced for the type of person who usually hires me. I love geeking out on sales funnels, but my clients, they hire me because they do NOT love doing this. They want me to do it, and deliver them the results.

I’m really glad I signed up for Fizzle’s 7-Day Challenge, because I knew my lead magnet needed an overhaul, and even though I’ve got really well targeted customer avatars (you can see them here) I wasn’t offering them something that they wanted.

By doing the foundational work, thinking and strategizing about what my customer avatar really wanted, I became flooded with new potential clients, and I was also able to show off some of the digital skills that I rarely get to showcase.

Here’s how it happened:

Step 1: Sign up for Fizzle’s 7-Day Grow your List Challenge

This is an excellent email course – and I say that as somebody who produces autoresponder courses for a living. There was plenty of content delivered to my inbox every day, but it was scannable, and focused on simple outcomes and tangible wins.

Step 2: Do the work for list building

I must confess, I started this course three times before I actually got all the way through. The final time, I doubled back when I had a better idea. All in all, it took me 10 days for this final run (and a combined total of 5.75 hours), but the extra time spent was worth it. When you’re digging, you never know how far it is until you strike riches; sometimes you just have to keep at it.

Step 3: Make the right thing for clients, not for list building

To give myself accountability, I liveblogged my homework for this course every day on YouTube. You can see it here:

When I was finished, I was surprised to find myself with a Homepage Audit. This was a 48-question self-assessment that anyone with a website could use to improve their website design, functionality, and loading time.

I started making this into a Homepage Grader instead, assigning a score to every question, but then I realised, once again, I had made the wrong thing for my audience.

Step 4: Iterate, again – just not for list building

The kinds of people who hire me are not going to sit through a 16-step fillable form, learning all about their website flaws along the way. The types of people that hire me, they don’t want to do all that stuff – they want to pay somebody like me to give them customised, specific recommendations, and then to implement those recommendations.

So I offered the first part for free.

Step 5: Gateway Product instead of list building

I’ve been trying to pin down a gateway product for years, and I didn’t figure it out until I went through this experience.

All I did was offer free homepage reviews to my personal network. Anyone who has a website (those are my kinds of customers) and filled out a simple form would get a free 5-10 minute video screencast review of their homepage, where I would discuss the 4 things I liked about their homepage, and listed 4 things I would improve.

Here’s what I made:

These quickly became very popular. Nearly half the people that I did this for asked me, “How much would you charge for doing those 4 fixes?”

It worked like a charm.

By providing my services for free to people who matched my customer avatars, I was able to do a lot of things at once:

  • Demonstrate my expertise
  • Provide some actionable advice that they can use right away
  • Open a conversation about improving their website
  • Build credibility, trust, and rapport

As a client generation tool, this has worked really well. I became so swamped with new work that I had to set up a paywall; instead of offering my homepage reviews for free, now they cost a few bucks. It’s still a great value, but having a paywall filters out the people who wouldn’t want to pay for my services, and preserves my time and energy for people who are already willing to pay for the work that I do.

My email list? It’s growing, but not very fast. Everybody who got a homepage review became a subscriber. But I can’t use this as a lead magnet; it’s too time intensive for me to offer a 10-minute customised video for every new email subscriber.

Besides, what’s better for me right now: a subscriber that might buy from me one day, or a new client that will buy one of my services, right now?

Moral of the story: New clients are more valuable than email subscribers.

I’ll keep working on the lead magnet, because I do want a good passive way to build my list.

The big lesson I learned here is to follow your creative impulses, even if you’re going off track. If you know what you’re aiming for, sometimes going off track can give you a much better shot at reaching your goal.

About The Author

Caelan Huntress is the father of 3 kids, and in his spare time serves as creative director of Stellar Platforms. He is also a writer, digital marketer, multimedia producer, and a retired superhero. He blogs about his adventures on https://caelanhuntress.com.

9 Reasons Homepage Sliders Suck

9 Reasons Homepage Sliders Suck

Like many website designers, I have a negative opinion about website sliders. At least half of my web design clients come to me with detailed ideas about all the slides they want on their homepage, and most of the time, I can talk them out of it. It’s not that sliders are hard to create; any web designer knows how to add a slider in a WordPress homepage.

The problem is that on your website homepage, sliders are just a bad idea.

Here are 9 reasons homepage sliders suck:

1. Website sliders slow down your website.

A website slider is a hefty piece of code. Unlike a text box with an image, a slider is a fancy section that can replace its own content with an animated transition. That transition takes some time to load, and your browser has to do it.

Each slide is a big image, and that takes some time to load, too. In a typical slider, the browser has to load multiple images, animated transitions, and the controls for navigating the slider – all above the fold.

2. A slider above the fold is not a lazy load.

‘Above the fold’ is a newspaper term, defining the content that is above the fold bisecting the first page of the newspaper. This is where you put your most important content, because it is the first thing that someone sees when they are deciding if they want to read further.

On a website, ‘above the fold’ content is what is in the browser window, without scrolling, when the page first loads. Ideally, this should be your fastest content, because you want to give your user something to see right away.

Many websites use ‘lazy load,’ or asynchronous loading, so they do not download (or display) images from further down the page until the user scrolls to that section. This is good for website usability, because if you have to wait for the entire long web page to download before you read what is on the top, you are sitting and twiddling your thumbs, waiting for the entire page to be delivered to your browser, instead of reading the top and waiting for the bottom at the same time. Sliders that are at the top of the homepage (above the fold) have to load first, and your user has to wait as soon as they arrive.

Pro tip: Put your website URL in GTmetrix.com to measure how fast your website loads, and see how big it is. You should aim for under 1MB and 5 seconds.

3. Your first page load looks bad.

At this point (maybe now is good) you may be heading over to your website in a new tab to take a look at your own website slider, to see if it’s doing some of the things I’ve mentioned. Keep in mind, you have seen your website slider before. This means that that your slider images are cached.

Your browser has already downloaded the big images in your slider before, and your browser, helpful servant that it is, has stored those images in the browser cache. This is great for you, as the user, because it means you don’t have to re-download the images every time you visit your website.

But that’s just you.

New visitors to your website will have to load your slider images from scratch, because they have never downloaded these images before. What they see may be different than what you see.

Pro tip: Clear your browser’s cache, and visit your website homepage. How long does it take the slider to load?

“Every second it takes to load a page past two seconds hurts the user experience, and has an impact on search performance.” Harrison Jones

4. Slider images are big and take time to load.

Your slider images should be big, anyway. If you’re using a 300px wide image in a full-width slider, it’s going to be pixellated and look really fuzzy.

While I do love the look of full-width images in web browsers, they need to be optimised for the web. If your image is 1.4MB, you are already way beyond the recommended 1MB threshold for total page size that you want to aim for, with just one image.

Using a tool like optimizilla.com, you can easily and quickly optimize your images, reducing their filesize dramatically. As a practice, I always run my images through optimizilla before uploading them to the WordPress media library. Watch me do it here:

Pro tip: Replace some of your biggest homepage images by running them through optimizilla. This free tool reduces the filesize of your image without sacrificing quality. Re-run GTMetrix after this, and you can measure precisely how much your images have been slowing your sitespeed down.

5. Website sliders are vulnerable to hackers.

The popular Revolution Slider, which has some amazing animation features, is often a target for hackers, precisely because it is so popular. Unlike the WordPress core, this slider plugin is not nearly as secure, and not updated as frequently.

This makes it a tempting target for hackers, because if they can exploit a vulnerability in a popular slider plugin, they can gain access to many websites quickly, before a repair patch is issued and installed.

Pro tip: Install the free WordFence plugin to check your site for malware and clean up after attacks.

6. Website visitors scroll down for more information, they do not wait for a slideshow.

How often do you land on a new homepage, and wait for the pretty slideshow to finish its carousel?

Do you find yourself hovering over the navigation dropdowns, obscuring the slideshow?

Or do you scroll down to search for information, ignoring the slides entirely?

“The primary purpose of your home page should be to create a high-level map of the world for your visitors so they can understand the range of available products that you carry. The giant banner will take up all of the prime real estate on the home page and push this navigation off the visible top of the page – sabotaging the page’s primary purpose.”   Tim Ash

7. Multiple Slider CTAs split the user’s attention

One of the golden rules of landing pages is: give the user one option.

If you are sending a user to a landing page, through paid traffic (like a Facebook ad), you want this new user to do one thing, and only one thing. That is your Call-to-Action. Distracting them with other options (like your navigation bar or footer menu) will decrease conversions. In most cases, your homepage is not a landing page, but the same principle still holds true:

If you give your user too many options, they will select none of them.

[clicktotweet]

On your homepage, you’ve already got your entire navigation menu, maybe a sidebar, and (hopefully) a Call-to-Action to subscribe to your newsletter.

If you distribute some of these CTAs through your slider buttons, you are diluting the effectiveness of ALL of your Calls-to-Action. According to KissMetrics, “of users’ first three eye-fixations on a page, only about 22% are on graphics; 78% are on text (headlines, article summaries, captions). In fact, people often ignore images entirely until the second or third visit to a page. So taking up the majority of your page’s real estate with images is ass-backwards.”

8. Information in sliders looks better in columns.

Most times, if you are expressing separate ideas in separate slides, they would be easier for the user to view all at once, in columns. Take a look at these two options below, and ask yourself which is more effective for you, as a user:

Here is a Slider:

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is making your website easy to read by search engines. I wouldn’t go so far as calling Google stupid (it is, quite likely, the largest artificial brain on the planet) but it thinks in very different ways than we do. Part of the...

eCommerce Shopping Carts

At its core, the purpose of your website is to help strangers become customers. The transaction where this formally happens on the Internet is usually in eCommerce shopping carts. The moment a new customer pays you for the first time, that is when they are putting...

Third Party Integrations

Third party integrations can be confusing, but any website that is more than brochure-ware needs to manage multiple platforms by using them. What is 3rd party integration? Third party integrations with WordPress websites are when you sync another platform or account...

Here is the same information, in columns:

No Results Found

The page you requested could not be found. Try refining your search, or use the navigation above to locate the post.

Which do you like better, when you are scrolling down a webpage? I’m guessing the columns were easier for you to scan and digest.

If you don’t have a website theme that makes columns super easy, then consider a simple Hero Image. As the Altos Agency suggests, “A well-executed hero image serves as the very first glimpse of your site most visitors encounter, and should combine everything from your unique personality to a laser-focused look at just what you offer and why users might want to learn more. Pair that with a powerful CTA and you’ve got a static header image that actually attracts more clicks than any slider.”

9. Sliders are not that important.

If there was really something you wanted your user to see, as soon as they land on your homepage, you would show them that one thing. (Identifying that one thing is extremely difficult – that’s why it’s so important to work on your Customer Avatars.)

As Michiel Hiejman says on Yoast, “What you’re saying with a slider is basically: ‘I really don’t know which product or picture I should put on display on my homepage, so I’ll just grab 10 of them!’ In that case, you really need to add focus. If you don’t know what to choose, how would your visitors or clients?”

With every lukewarm offering you have sprayed across your slider, your website visitor gets more distracted.

“Unless the image slider is the only thing on your website (bad idea!), it’s not a good thing. It means it takes away attention from everything else – the stuff that actually matters. Like your value proposition. Products. Content.”

homepage sliders peep laja

– Peep Laja 

Do we need to talk about your homepage?

If you have a website slider that is dragging down your sitespeed, I can design a multi-column section that conveys all the same visual and text information as your slider, but loads your website much faster.

We can have a complimentary 30-minute consultation, and I can answer any questions you have about your website or digital marketing. Schedule a time here.

Or, I can provide you with a free 10 minute video review of your homepage. Sign up here.

About The Author

Caelan Huntress is the father of 3 kids, and in his spare time serves as creative director of Stellar Platforms. He is also a writer, digital marketer, multimedia producer, and a retired superhero. He blogs about his adventures on https://caelanhuntress.com.

Why I Started Stellar Platforms

Why I Started Stellar Platforms

I built the wrong platform for myself, and that’s how this all started.

After years of working with successful authors and coaches, improving or creating their digital infrastructure, it gave me the opportunity to examine how a thought leader builds a successful business on their teachings.

There were a number of similarities. (I call them Cornerstones.) Once I identified what these similarities were, and how the most successful platforms worked, I resolved to make a platform for myself.

I made the wrong platform.

My intentions were noble, at least. I did some really deep soul searching, and I asked myself: how could I have the most positive impact on the world? Not just today, or in ten years, but in a hundred years – how could my work provide the most positive benefit to humanity, one century from now?

I settled on fatherhood.

If I could help men become better fathers, then they would raise better children. Better kids grow up to become better people, and better people make a better world. This was the area I identified as having the maximum impact for my life’s work, so I built a platform around it.

I made a logo, and a brand, and a website for BeTheBetterDad.com. I started blogging about the habits that make me a better father, and I made a free online course, the 5-Day Father Fitness Program. That gave me some customers, which meant I could ask them about the problems they face, and structure my offerings around solving those problems. I made Customer Avatars, and discovered, to my surprise, that I was in no way qualified to help this audience.

The problems that modern dads are facing – divorce, depression, having kids living in separate households – I wasn’t equipped to help them with that. I’ve got no experience with divorce, and I’m not a therapist or a relationship coach – I’m a guy who has a good handle on his habits, and I tried to share some of those.

But what this audience actually needed was not something I could provide.

So I went back to the drawing board. I asked myself, “What am I uniquely good at doing?”

I looked over the entire infrastructure that I created for Father Fitness, and I thought, “I can do that. I can make a platform.”

Stellar Platforms was created so that I can help people with what I do best: create the branding and automation infrastructure that financially supports a thought leader as they grow their audience.

The Four Cornerstones

Like many polymaths, I’m not an expert in any one thing, but I have a modest level of mastery in some very different things. It turns out this variety of skills is especially useful for the 4 Cornerstones of a Stellar Platform.

  • My theatrical training gave me an artistic flair in creating characters, which I use when making Customer Avatars.
  • My sales training has given me the psychological understanding of why people buy, which I use to make Sales Funnels.
  • My time as a writer gave me the ability to produce and disseminate ideas clearly, which is a core component of Content Marketing.
  • My freelance web design business taught me how to integrate complicated platforms together, which is essential for eCommerce.

I never thought these separate areas of my interests would combine anywhere. I only pursued the interests that appealed to me most at the time. Now I have the opportunity to use each of these areas of mastery as a Cornerstone to my own Stellar Platform. That’s why I started this business.

Stellar Platforms are for Rising Stars.

The kinds of people who need these four Cornerstones are the thought leaders and authors who have a message, and have an audience, but they don’t yet have a platform to enable them to make a living by simply spreading their message.

If you are one of the Illuminators of Tomorrow, let’s work together.

How To Make a Customer Avatar

How To Make a Customer Avatar

To sell more of your product, reach a bigger audience, and grow your list, the single most effective thing you can learn is how to make a Customer Avatar. Having a good Customer Avatar will give you a near-superhuman ability to communicate powerfully with the people who are most likely to become your customers.

Note: A Customer Avatar is also often called an Ideal Client Profile, or a Buyer Persona. In this article I will use the term ‘Customer Avatar’ because it sounds much cooler.

Let’s face it: not every customer is right for your business. Your message can resonate really well with some types of people, but not with all of them.

Having a Customer Avatar allows you to identify the specific characteristics of people who like to buy what you’re selling. You can make your own Customer Avatars by following these 5 simple steps:

Customer Avatar Step 1

Find a template

A Customer Avatar Template is a document with blank spaces for you to fill in the defining characteristics of your ideal client. These templates are very useful, and I recommend you try a few different ones. You might end up liking one, but then find that another has better questions, or a better layout.

Here are three places to find Customer Avatar Templates:

If you use iWork’s Pages, you can use our own template for making Customer Avatars here:

Customer Avatar Step 2

Prepare your questions

There are lots (and lots) of questions you can ask while building your Customer Avatar. Read through the links above, and you’ll find dozens to choose from. (Be sure and use the “But no one else would” trick in the Digital Marketer post.)

We recommend you read through the templates and articles above, and collect a list of questions that you will ask about each one of Customer Avatars.

Some of them will be redundant, and that’s okay. Asking the same questions over and over forces your brain to dig deeper, to look past superficial answers, and discover something new. Something clear. Something definitive. That’s what you’re looking for with these questions, is tiny little characteristics that define this type of person.

Developing that list of questions will make you think how to get into your customers’ minds, and that’s a useful exercise. Don’t skip it. There is a full list of questions that you can use in the DIY Customer Avatar Creation Kit at the end of this article.

Customer Avatar Step 3

Set the space to work

What you are planning to do is some of the most fundamental, introspective work you will undertake this year. This work could have dramatic positive results for your business. So, don’t throw it together on your lunch hour. Set the space. Decide for yourself:

  • Where will you physically do this work? At your normal desk, or somewhere else?
  • What time of day is best for you to do it?
  • What kind of music, beverages, and/or snacks do you want to have available?
  • Would it be better to do this alone, or with a partner?
  • Will you print the templates, and fill them out by hand? Or type your answers into a computer?
  • What day will you do this work?

Answer these questions thoughtfully. That’s what this exercise is, after all – it’s a series of questions answered thoughtfully. Start off right by asking yourself how to best set yourself up for success.

Customer Avatar Step 4

Answer the questions

You’re at the appointed time and place. You have all of your materials. The rest of the world is put on pause for an hour or more. Do the work.

While you are here, think of your best customers. Think of who they are, why they came to you, and in a hazy, non-distinct way, think about the type of person that person is like. Think about someone famous that you would love to work with. Don’t define these people in your work, define the group to which these people belong.

Customer Avatar Step 5

Edit and review with friends

Your first draft of your Customer Avatars are just that – your first draft. Show them to colleagues, friends, and even competitors, and ask them for feedback. You will likely have a few surprising responses that make you say, “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!” This feedback is just as important as the work you put into it, and you can see dramatically positive results in your business if you are open to receiving feedback from others.

Revise your Customer Avatars regularly. As you grow with your business, you will learn more about the people you serve. Incorporate that knowledge into these foundational documents, and your business will continue to improve.

Use the DIY Customer Avatar Creation Kit

If you’d like a step-by-step guided process to make your own Customer Avatars, try the DIY Customer Avatar Creation Kit:

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