What the Northwoods Knows about Guiding First-Timers

My husband and I just got back from a four-day trip to Bayfield, WI and Madeline Island in Lake Superior. It was splendid! Every meal we ate was delicious, the weather sunny and beautiful, and the people were all friendly.

I had never been to Bayfield or Madeline Island before. I realized that part of what made the trip so good was the various indoctrination strategies I encountered.

These parts of northern Wisconsin, also called the Northwoods, are tourist destinations. Over the years, businesses have grown used to guiding the experience of first-timers. And it makes for better experiences for the guests as well as the business owners

The Bed & Breakfast

In Bayfield, we stayed at a place called The Pilot House Inn. Jack, the owner, sent me an email when I made the reservation that instructed me to print out and bring with an attached page of instructions.

It included clear directions to the place, where to park, an access code to get in the door and where to go to get to our room. And it included pictures.

This way, Jack knew if he wasn’t available when we arrived we would be able to figure out how to get started on our own.

We got into our room with no problems and felt comfortable and secure having used the guide he created.

If he hadn’t explicitly told me to print these instructions and bring them, I may not have. This would have defeated the purpose of setting up the indoctrination strategy in the first place.

Alternately, had we been left to figure it out on our own, I would have been anxious and agitated by the time we arrived, which would not have been a great start to our trip!

How You Can Do The Same For Your First-Timers

Have 3-5 people who don’t know anything about your website or company go through an average first-time experience with your business.

You can ask them if they can tell if the 5 C’s of Indoctrination are present…

Or you could give them a list of tasks or steps you want your first-time customers to take.

Have your “guinea pigs” go through these steps, then let you know how easy or difficult it was.

Doing this helps break the “curse of knowledge.” Sometimes, as business owners, we’re too close to the problem. What seems logical and obvious to us can be a mess of confusion and anxiety for newbies.

Use the feedback you get from the simulated first-time experience to craft your own indoctrination strategy that naturally draws people to you and makes them feel comfortable and happy enough to want to do business with you.

Indoctrination Is the Pied Piper of Your Business

Season 3, Episode 9 of the HBO show Silicon Valley displays exactly why companies need indoctrination.

If you haven’t seen the show, here’s a quick set up: Richard Hendricks (played by Thomas Middleditch) has developed a revolutionary file compression platform called Pied Piper. The first few seasons of the show are about his misadventures in securing funding for his start-up and bringing his product to market.

So they finally get it launched and quickly reach a milestone of 500,000 downloads. An amazing feat. But the number of Daily Active Users, the number of people actually using the app, is abysmal. Only about 19,000 people are using it.

They put together a focus group to find out why people aren’t using it, what they don’t like about the app.

Richard is watching through a two-way mirror as the people in the focus group say things about the Pied Piper app like, “It totally freaked me out.” And, “It made me feel stupid.”

Richard busts into the focus group and commences to explain, in full detail, abut how the app works. When he’s done people are like “Yeah, I’d totally use this, now that I know how it works.”

Can you see the problem here?

A bunch of engineers created and rolled out a product that’s more advanced than anything available on the market.

But they just threw it out there, without any documentation, guidance or education to the layperson about how to use it and what to expect. When left to their own devices, people were overwhelmed and confused.

And most confused minds would rather move on to something they already know, like and trust. Regardless of how revolutionary the confusing product might be. As Richard says in despair, “You can’t fight public opinion.”

And so it is with your business

You can’t bust into every user’s experience and explain what they can’t see.

Creating and using an indoctrination strategy keeps confusion at bay and helps draw people into your business.

Like the Pied Piper of fable. And not just once, but daily.

When creating a new business be sure you incorporate indoctrination into your marketing.

If you’ve been in business already, no worries. You can retrofit your existing marketing with indoctrination to boost engagement and sales.

What they say about planting trees is also true for indoctrination strategies:

The best time to do it is 20 years ago. The next best time is today.


Get your 5 C’s of Indoctrination Checklist here.

Indoctrinate by Going Local

The Locavore trend refers to people who eat food grown locally whenever possible. You can use a similar sense of place in to indoctrinate cold prospects to either an Internet-based business or a bricks-and-mortar location.

Bricks-and-Mortar Business: Go Local Online

If people must come to you to get what you’re offering, then including your location on your website is essential. But you can go beyond a basic footer with your address and contact information. Include your location as part of the romance of your business identity.

Look at Celestial Seasonings tea, available worldwide. As part of their marketing and brand identity, every box proclaims “Blended in Boulder.” It also has a brief, Rocky Mountain company origin story.

And they don’t stop there. Online, the Celestial Seasonings home page invites visitors to come tour the tea factory in Boulder and try all 105 varieties of tea.

Even In Cyberspace, Place Matters

While the Worldwide Web smashes traditional borders, we still live in the real world. Place matters in the mind of the buyer.

While your global buyers may not care about where you’re located, the people in your community do. The folks in Los Gatos, California care about Netflix. People in Seattle care about Amazon.com and its impact on their community.

Amazon is the largest e-commerce retailer on the planet. Part of that success is their website, geared toward the user. They don’t get in your face about who they are, where they are, because they know most people don’t care.

But at the bottom of the marketplace page, under a heading “Get to Know Us,” you’ll find links to pages about the company.

Interested readers can see how Amazon reinvested in downtown Seattle instead of moving to the suburbs…

Discover the variety of programs they support in and outside of Seattle… Or that they sponsor the annual 4th of July fireworks in town.

Ignore the local community in which you do business at your peril.

Business and community are the building blocks of any place. The more you can blend the online presence of your business into your community, the better.

What can you do in your online marketing that celebrates your community and sense of place?


Get your quick-reference 5 C’s of Indoctrination Checklist.

4 Ways to Control the Narrative

The First C of Indoctrination is “Control the narrative around your product or service.”

This refers to how your product or service is positioned in the larger landscape of the Internet.

Remember that New Yorker cartoon by P. Steiner? It shows a dog sitting at the computer and the caption reads “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”

Because anyone can put up a website and say whatever they want, you must create marketing content that’s authentic, benefit rich and authoritative.

Here are 4 ways to control the narrative so you can stand out amid the countless, barking “Internet dogs,” or Netdogs, and indoctrinate new prospects into your world.

  1. Use benefit-rich keywords throughout your website. When people search, they don’t often look beyond the first 5 or 6 website listings. If you’re not there, they’re not noticing you. Keywords help your ranking so new ideal customers can find you.
  2. Write benefit-rich meta tags, meta descriptions and Google rich snippets. This will help your website ranking but also give you an edge over blank snippets (the bit of text that shows up under the website name in a google search). Get the click with enticing copy.
  3. Write benefit-rich product and service descriptions. Leave factory specs and big, fancy words to the Netdogs. Instead, describe how what you have to offer solves the user’s problems. If they’re not getting the skinny from you, then the howls of the misinformed masses will confuse and distract them. And a confused, distracted mind does not buy.
  4. Use your blog as a platform. There are a lot of Netdog blogs out there. These are sites run by folks who aren’t selling anything, who want a public forum to spout any and all uninformed opinion. As an authentic business owner you need counteract this nonsense with informative, benefit-rich content that builds your authority and makes people trust you.

The takeaway? By using the keywords your prospects are using, you build authority and answer your reader’s question (What’s in this for me?) simultaneously.

Incorporate these tidbits into your Artful Marketing and leave the Netdogs in the dust.


Get your own quick-reference 5 C’s of Indoctrination Checklist.

What Is “Indoctrination,” Anyways?

Many people associate the word indoctrination with military brainwashing, cults, religious dogma and sometimes even parenting.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the verb “indoctrinate” as “to instruct esp. in fundamentals or rudiments: teach.”

In marketing, we indoctrinate ideal customers by educating them on the value of what we have to offer. 

Good marketing doesn’t try to change your ideal customer’s mind or worldview. It doesn’t bully them into trusting you. That’s a one-way ticket to the business graveyard.

Good marketing meets prospects “where they live.” It enters the conversation already happening in their heads and paves the way for a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

To welcome ideal customers into the world of your product or service, create all your marketing assets (website, sales pages, emails, videos, etc.) with the user experience in mind.

A common mistake business owners make is talking all about the features of their product in their marketing instead of telling the reader/viewer/user about its benefits and the problems it’ll solve.

People don’t buy products or services. They buy solutions to their problems. If you’re not telling them how you can help them, they’ll keep searching until they find someone who does.

To write copy that converts the curious, put yourself in the mindset of your ideal customer and ask yourself, “What’s in this for me?” 

If your copy isn’t answering that question throughout the user experience, it’s wasting your money and their time…

And life’s too short for any of us to be wasting valuable time and money.

Get your own quick-reference 5 C’s of Indoctrination Checklist.

The 5 C’s of Indoctrination: Essential website elements to welcome cold prospects and convert the curious

If you only sell to people who know the value of your product or service you’ll quickly run out of new customers, doomed to forever be a small fish flopping around in a shallow pool of revenue.

To expand your market and increase sales you must indoctrinate new prospects.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of indoctrination is “to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments; teach.”

Your website must show cold prospects what you offer and how it benefits them.

While you can’t change people’s minds completely, you can channel their existing desire and curiosity toward your product.

Here are five elements your website must have to expand the crack of curiosity in their minds and turn cold prospects into raving fans of your products and services.

1. Control the Narrative around Your Product or Service

You control the information about your products by writing it out in benefit-rich copy on your website. This includes product descriptions, in blogs and content, meta tags and meta descriptions, rich snippets …

Everywhere you write about or market your products or services online, tell potential customers what problem it can solve for them. Don’t let the misinformed masses on the Internet tell your ideal prospects what you’re all about.

For example: herbal tea.

Tea is more than a way to pass the time. It can be therapeutic for a variety of conditions.

Your cold prospect may not be a tea drinker, but say she needs something to help get her blood pressure down so she can avoid going on prescription meds. Her sister the “health nut” told her hibiscus tea’s been shown to reduce blood pressure.

So she’s searching online for more information… If she’s convinced, she’ll buy a box or two.

When she searches “hibiscus tea” in Google, it returns a mix of information such as Shop for hibiscus tea on Google, Wikipedia and websites.

The first two websites after the Wikipedia page provide conflicting information: “11 Surprising Benefits of Hibiscus Tea” and “Risks of Drinking Hibiscus Tea.”

When your cold prospect gets this kind of conflicting info she’s not sure what to believe, and a confused mind does not buy.

What’s worse, when she clicks on the options under the “Shop for…” the product descriptions and websites aren’t any more helpful.

There’s no information about blood pressure (or even about “supporting cardiovascular health”) and the products are described with near-meaningless words like “effervescent,” “evocatively fruity” and contain florid descriptions of the hibiscus flower’s beauty.

Your ideal prospect doesn’t have time to search all over the Internet, so she drops it.

If you’re a tea seller, you’ve just missed an opportunity to convert a cold prospect into a customer.

Not only that, but your lost customer continues to struggle with solutions to her blood pressure problem, becoming increasingly despondent that she’ll have to go on expensive Big Pharma drugs.

2. Confirm Your Claims

Back up all statements, especially those regarding health, with proof. In the alternative health niche staying FDA-compliant can be a little tricky, but there are ways to provide proof of your products’ benefits.

The FDA won’t let you make direct claims in a product description such as “cures arthritis” or “emphysema remedy.”

However, the regulations around content such as blogs, emails, or newsletters are not nearly so stringent. You can write articles and provide information to your prospects about the research supporting your implied product benefits.

(BONUS: Creating benefit-rich content on your website can also help boost your organic search ranking. Instead of Wikipedia and blogs that don’t sell anything, your site can be one of the first a cold prospect sees.)

Another way to prove your statements is to use social proof. Post customer ratings and testimonials. Link to them on your website and pepper pages of copy with one or two brief social proof statements that back up your claims.

Plant Therapy essential oils is a great example. In the lower lefthand corner the Google Customer Reviews box shows they have 4.9 out of 5 stars. When a prospect clicks the box they have easy access to more than 5,000 customer reviews.

3. Clean Design, Clear Copy

This applies to both the design of your website and your copy. Think of your website as a bricks-and-mortar business.

You want people to feel curious, confident, relaxed and engaged when they enter your domain. Not looking around wondering, “Am I in the right place? What the hell is going here?” And then click away as fast as they can.

Clean design and clear copy draw in cold prospects and make them feel comfortable. The Benefits of Honey website is a classic example how NOT to design and write your website.

  • There’s no one focal point so there’s no “flow.” Your eyes bounce around like a pinball trying to figure out what to do.
  • There’s an overwhelming amount of pictures, links and options
  • There are too many ads and they’re placed in such a way that they get in the way of reading the content.
  • The social media buttons aren’t standardized and they’re repeated twice on the home page.

It’s paralyzing.

Set up your website like Starbucks sets up their coffee shops: the flow is controlled from one logical point to the next (the front door, the order-and-pay station, the pick-up station).

If you’re waiting in line there’s plenty of interesting and relevant add-on purchases available, such as newspapers, muffins, mints and gifts.

Plan your website with these successful principles in mind.

4. Come Say “Hi!”

If your website is the virtual home of your store, where are you in the mix?

Are you at the counter, greeting folks as they come in? Or are you hiding in the storeroom, leaving guests to wonder, “Who runs this joint?”

Don’t hide behind your product or company. Your ideal customers don’t trust faceless businesses. They rely on people like you to help them.

Include your backstory, why you care about what you do, and why you’re an authority on the subject. Include the names and pictures of your staff as well.

The Traditional Cooking School About page is an excellent example. Wardee Harmon shows who she is, why she cares and how you, the visitor, can benefit from traditional cooking, all in one clean and well-written page.

5. Capture Your Visitors’ Contact Information and Continue the Conversation

It’s imperative you offer your visitors something of value in exchange for their email address. Don’t say, “Sign up for our newsletter” without offering something in return.

Nor should you offer a discount on their next purchase. That devalues your product or service in their eyes, and they’ll probably unsubscribe as soon as they get what they want.Instead, offer them something they want and can use.

Food Babe Vani Hari specializes in investigating the hidden toxins in food and everyday items. The gift-for-contact-information of “10 foods plus 6 habits” is easy to consume and engages her new visitors with the healthy living lifestyle.

There’s a saying in marketing, “The fortune is in the follow up.”

So when you collect this contact information, use it! Have a welcome sequence and regular emails in place to keep the conversation going and the prospects engaged and curious.

The purpose of your marketing is to build a relationship with potential customers and your fan base alike, so include content and value in your emails, not just “Buy more stuff!”

Implementing the 5 C’s of Indoctrination will help bring new customers into your world and make them feel comfortable and valuable enough to do business with you. They discover the benefits of alternative health and you increase your reach and revenue. It’s a win-win.

Get your own quick-reference 5 C’s of Indoctrination Checklist.

Links in this article:

searchers “hibiscus tea in Google”: https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=hibiscus+tea&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

Plant Therapy: https://www.planttherapy.com

Benefits of Honey: www.benefits-of-honey.com

Traditional Cooking School about page: traditionalcookingschool.com/about/

Food Babe: https://foodbabe.com