Thursday, August 21, 2008

Springtime for Twitter


Unless you happen to be Mel Brooks, the idea of using Adolph Hitler as a comic foil would sound like a bad idea. And—at first—you might not approve of this video posted at the Fallon Planning blog. But as you read the phony subtitles composed for a scene borrowed from a German-language movie, you might find yourself laughing at the angst of a despot who wants to share the heartache he feels on the news that a car struck and killed his dog Blondi. (Achtung: It includes a few four-letter words.)

An emotional Hitler confesses, "You know … I loved that dog. I need to tweet this."

And a General responds, with serious trepidation: "Twitter has been down since last night. Apparently Robert Scoble overloaded the servers."

Then, after clearing the room of those who "think they're too cool to use Twitter," Hitler launches into a frustrated tirade. "I have 2,000 followers who need to know every minute detail of my life! How else am I supposed to convey my sadness to so many people simultaneously?"

It doesn't matter that the premise for this monologue is a technical failure, or that the video pokes merciless fun at narcissistic users—rather, it reflects how indispensable Twitter has become to people who had never even heard of it a year ago. Your Marketing Inspiration is to create such passion for your product or service that customers can't imagine life without it.

More Inspiration:
Elaine Fogel: Why Are Some Webinars So Bad?
Paul Mininni: One Man's Trash …
Paul Barsch: Behavioral Targeting—Where's the Fine Line?

Open Me. Now.


YES! Thanks for clicking! Question: Did you open this because the subject line was just too good to ignore? That's what every emailer hopes for, anyway. After all, an email campaign can live or die with its subject line, correct?

LaTease Rikard certainly thinks so. "Fifty characters could be all that stands between you and success in your next email campaign," says a post at her Teasa's Tips blog. The post outlines 15 rules for getting subject lines right. Some highlights:

Read the newspaper. According to Rikard, headline writers face the same conundrum as email marketers—using limited space to entice and accurately describe content. You can learn from their expertise.

Front-load key information. Most email clients allow at least 50 characters—including spaces. Even if you think you're in the clear, it's best to put critical data like prices and keywords at the beginning.

Remember that open rates don't always measure subject line success. Study your web analytics for campaigns with low open rates, but high sales-per-order rates. "That could mean something in the subject line strongly appealed to a narrow segment of your list and could point the way to a more lucrative segmentation," she notes.

Sadly, there is no formula for writing the perfect subject line, Rikard concludes: "What works in one campaign might bomb with the next."

The Po!nt: Learn by writing. According to Rikard's post, the best strategy for subject line success is to think smart, test continually, and use the results of each effort to improve the next.

Source: Teasa's Tips. Read the full post here.

Problem and Solution Marketing‏

I came across an interesting article at Small Business Branding by Ed Roach, who discusses selling your product by marketing through "pain points".

The concept while certainly not a new one is still an effective strategy. Basically, you're just figuring out who your target market is, and considering what gives them the biggest headaches, and that's your marketing angle. Thoughts on this strategy?

You need to make them understand that they have a problem, and you are the solution.

It kind of ties into the scare-tactics marketing strategy I touched upon here, but perhaps not quite at such an extreme level. I guess that would really depend on what the customers' problem was.

The point is that customers need a reason to buy what you're selling. If you can make them understand why they need your product, you will have a better chance of making the sale.

Customers don't always realize that they have the problem that requires your solution, even though they do in fact have that problem.

For example, pest control company Orkin offers termite inspections. It is possible that if you had not seen their ad about termite inspections, it would have never even occurred to you that you should have one done. All the while, termites may have been destroying your home from the inside out.

They have presented a problem that you have, and right along with it, they are giving you the solution.

Even if you decide to shop around for the best deal on a termite inspection, they have put the idea in your head, and their business is right in front of you, which even if it doesn't land them a sale directly, it has accomplished some degree of branding in your mind.

Do you utilize this type of marketing strategy when it comes to your business? Do you think it is effective?

About the Author:
Chris is a content coordinator and staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz and the iEntry Network. Subscribe to SmallBusinessNewz RSS Feeds.

Google Is Everything - Or Is It?

By Bill Platt

As an article marketer, I say things that I believe will help other people accomplish their goals. As a widely published article writer, I am often criticized for the words I write. ;-)

In July of 2008, I wrote an article about meta-search engines called, "Look Beyond Google: Meta-Search Engines Can Help Online Marketers". In this article, the basic concept I was trying to share was that Internet Marketers should look beyond the presence of Google, to find more ways to drive traffic to their websites.

The Google Religion

This article apparently struck a chord of truth with a lot of people, as its reprint results are much larger than even I expected.

The article was also reprinted on the Link Referral website by someone who seems to have appreciated the article.

The first response to the post at the Link Referral website read as follows: "Thanks for the useless post. Google is everything. If you cannot be found on Google, pray for MSN and Yahoo. Anything else will give you 1 hit in 100 years. Link exchanging and buying ads would be so much more effective than buying into that article."

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not the least bit annoyed that someone criticized my article. The fact that someone criticized the article is only a testimony to the fact that my words touched the nerve of someone who worships the Google religion. I don't want to offend anyone's religion... That would be wrong...

Of course, this is not the first time I have offended those who preach the tenets of the Google religion. I also wrote about this subject in an article about Creating Page Rank, which can be read at: http://www.keywordtext.com/pudding/28.html. This article also drew criticism by those who mocked my assertion that people can truly generate substantial traffic from sources other than Google and that Google PageRank is not as important as many claim.

Answering My Critics

I will admit that if a website is not listed in Google, the task of trying to make monëy online is made more difficult.

But if a website is not ranked in Google, and it does not possess links to it from anywhere else either, then you might as well be working at McDonald's for extra money, as opposed to trying to make monëy online.

Honestly, Google is only "everything" when you have "nothing but Google" on the table.

The Proof Is In The Pudding

This is not just an opinion I hold. I can back up what I am saying with real data, from a real website that does not rely upon Google for its salvation... The statistics shown here are from my primary website: thephantomwriters.com

Even though I do not rely on Google for traffic, Google delivers a great deal of traffic to my website. I actually do quite well in the Google game. I get lots of Google Love for my website, as described here:

http://article-blog.thephantomwriters.com/google-love/2008/08/09

Nothing But The Facts

The following data reflects the traffic for The Phantom Writers for both 2007 and 2008 (through Aug 15th):

Total Unique Visitors
* 2007: 244,000+
* 2008: 169,000+

Total Page Views
* 2007: 1.2+ million
* 2008: 1.0+ million+

Unique Clicks from All Search Engines (59 in 2007; 58 in 2008)
* 2007: 119,309
* 2008: 129,749

Unique Clicks from Google
* 2007: 61,923
* 2008: 75,750

Unique Clicks from Yahoo, Windows Live, Ask, and MSN Search
* 2007: 49,291
* 2008: 50,148

Unique Clicks from Other 54/53 Search Engines
* 2007: 8,095
* 2008: 3,851

Important Data Analysis

In 2007, with 244,000+ total visitors and 61,923 visitors from Google, I would have had to turn away 182,077 visitors or 74.6% of my traffic in 2007, if I had relied solely upon Google to drive traffic to my website.

In 2008, with 169,000+ total visitors and only 75,750 of those visitors coming from Google, I would have had to turn away 93,250 visitors or 55% of my traffic, if I relied solely upon Google to deliver visitors to my website.

With 61,923 visitors from Google in 2007 and 93,250 visitors from Google so far in 2008, it is sure that Google is important.

I wonder how many of my critics are actually seeing 61,923 visitors per year? I suspect that many of those who claim that my advice is bad would be tickled pink to see my Google traffic to their websites. And I bet they would be shocked to realize that non-Google sources account for more traffíc for my website than their Google God does.

Beyond Google

In 2007, my website receíved 119,309 total visitors from all of the search engines combined, but only 61,923 of those people came from Google. That leaves 57,386 people who arrived on my website from the 58 search engines that are not Google. In the search category, Google accounted for 51.9% of my total search traffic.

The top five search engines accounted for 93.2% of my search traffic.

Had I ignored those unknown search engines, as my critics suggest others should, I would have been forced to turn away a full 8,095 people or 3% of all of my visitors in 2007. That is a far cry from "one hit in 100 years".

So far in 2008, Google has accounted for 58% of my total search traffic and only 45% of my global traffic.

The top five search engines have accounted for 95% of my search traffic. Those itty-bitty search engines have delivered 3,851 visitors to my website so far this year, accounting for 2.96% of all of my gross traffic in '08.

Itty-bitty is historically worth at least 3% of my yearly traffic. If you want to ignore that 3%, then that is your business. But myself, I am happy to receive traffic from anywhere that I can gain that traffic.

Beyond The Search Engines

As the owner of a professional article marketing company, who practices what he preaches, 90% of my advertising budget is spent on article marketing alone.

This is where the following two pieces of data come into play:

Unique Non-Search URL's Sending Traffic
* 2007: 9,036
* 2008: 5,811

Unique Visitors from Non-Search URL's
* 2007: 27,397
* 2008: 23,907

The remainder of my website's traffic comes from articles published in newsletters and on other websites, recommendations by other websites, bookmarks and name recognition.

In 2007, my website receíved 27,397 visitors from 9,036 verifiable links to my website from articles that we wrote or from recommendations people made for my website. Of course, I am willing to bet that many of the 97,294 visitors who were untrackable in 2007 were the result of the many articles of mine that were published in newsletters.

In 2008, my website has so far pulled 23,907 visitors from 5,811 verifiable external URLs. There have so far been another 15,344 visitors that I receíved from untrackable sources, many of which were probably from the articles that we have successfully had published in newsletters.

The article marketing that we do provides a lot of verifiable traffic to our website, and potentially a lot of our untrackable traffic was also derived from the article marketing we do.

In the end, we credít article marketing for our great search engine placement, for hundreds of keywords, and our substantial search traffic as well.

One Quarter Million Reasons Why Google Is Not God

If I believed the poster who said that "Google is everything" and I had followed his advice for the last several years, then I would have had to turn away 275,327 additional visitors to my website in the past 20 months!

OMG!!! To think that I could have turned away a quarter million visitors or 67% of all of my websites' traffic, if I had simply followed the advice of my critics.

Wow! Some of my critics are absolute idiots!

Yes, Google is important. But, is Google really "everything" ? Only if you want to fail...


About The Author
As the owner of thephantomwriters.com, Bill Platt has been providing article ghost writing and article distribution services since 2001. In recent weeks, Bill overhauled his website format, in a way that improved navigation and simplified the process of finding the highest ranked authors and most popular articles on his website. You will also find a lot of great information in Bill's article marketing blog, which can be seen at: http://article-blog.thephantomwriters.com

Phone It In


You might scoff if someone were to suggest that phone support was obsolete, but Sarah Hatter of 37signals makes the argument that you no longer need an 800 number. "We get requests every day from people who don't think email support will cut it and demand a phone number to call us," she writes in a post at her company's blog. "Their worries are assuaged when they get a reply from me in less than 15 minutes that is informative, helpful and obviously written by a human being. It's absolutely 100% possible to provide excellent customer care without a phone or phone number, and our company proves that daily."

The Service Untitled blog adds a "yes, but … " to that claim. "A lot of times, a 10 or 15 minute phone call can resolve an issue that would take multiple days of going back and forth via email to resolve," they say. And with the concession that the online-only model works for 37signals, Service Untitled concludes that it probably isn't feasible for most companies.

Here are the key questions they think you need to ask:

-Can you afford phone support?
-Will phone support increase the speed and efficiency of your company's customer-service?
-Do your customers expect phone support?

The Po!nt: The idea of conducting all customer service online is intriguing, but think hard before abandoning phone support. "Sometimes it is just necessary to pick up the phone and work with your customers live," says Service Untitled, "regardless of how efficient the medium is."

Source: 37signals and Service Untitled. Please click here and here to read the full posts.

You Woo Me, But Can You Win Me?


The attributes and benefits of your brand can vary in how tangible they are to consumers. And that can affect buying decisions.

A product's intangible attributes are abstract—like quality, prestige, sentiment—and can't be experienced directly. For example, a new wine's ads can speak of romance; its label can evoke a feeling of exotic adventure.

Its tangible attributes are concrete—those that can be seen, tasted, touched, and smelled. The wine's taste and color fall into this category—and so does its price.

Research shows that each attribute plays a different role in customers' evaluations (what they like) and decisions (what they choose). Specifically:

1. Customers tend to place more weight on a product's intangible attributes when deciding what they like.

2. But they place more weight on its tangible attributes when they're choosing what to buy.

So, what's a marketer to do? Well, it seems the right formula might come down to this: Woo them, then win them over. Set the mood with the product's intangible attributes; then, when it comes down to making that sale, clearly state its tangible benefits.

The Po!nt: Consumers want to be woo'ed and won. Their preferences may not always predict their choices. To make sure you close that sale, stress the product's concrete, tangible attributes.

Source: "Stating Preference for the Ethereal but Choosing the Concrete: How the Tangibility of Attributes Affects Attribute Weighting in Value Elicitation and Choice." by Horsky, Dan; Nelson, Paul; Posavac, Steven S. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2004.

The Dummies Prove a Point


How well does your subscription process handle improperly entered—or clearly malicious—email addresses? If the findings presented in a whitepaper by FreshAddress are any indication, the answer might be: not so well.

For its study, the email marketing service created 13 dummy accounts that replicated typical errors. In addition to those with obvious red flags (eg, spam@hotmail.com) and misspelled domain names like yahoo and hotmial, they included basic syntax errors like:

-A comma instead of a period
-A missing .com
-An extra @ sign

Ideally, a website's sign-up system will recognize these problems and respond to the user with a prompt to try again, and brief suggestions on how to resolve the specific issue. But FreshAddress found that major online retailers accepted nearly twice as many invalid addresses as they rejected—a full 63.4 percent made it through to the list. Even the strongest performers blocked only 6 out of 13 bad addresses.

FreshAddress notes that these retailers did a better job of identifying syntax errors. What really tripped them up, though, were misspelled addresses, dead accounts and—worst of all—bogus accounts.

The Po!nt: Sloppy sign-ups can cost you. According to the FreshAddress whitepaper, “It is estimated that the typical Internet retailer who emails to its house list loses almost $7MM per year in net revenues due to invalid email entry on their websites.”

Source: FreshAddress. Download the whitepaper here.

Don't Look Past Your Local Internet Audience‏

When it comes to Internet marketing for small businesses, it can be easy to get caught up in the enormous number of tactics and resources available online.

You might even forget about the good-old fashioned local media that has been working for businesses for ages. What types of local sites do you advertise on?

I'm talking of course about local television, local radio, local newspapers, etc. You can still look to these resources for advertising in the online world, because chances are, most of these outlets have web sites that offer advertising opportunities, providing not only a chance to have your message appear to users across the web, but have it targeted to local residents at the same time.

You've got your obvious local audience looking for local news and items of interest, and thanks to blogs, social bookmarking, and news aggregation like Google News, stories will be linked to and picked up all over the place.

This will translate to more eyeballs on your ad. Think about it.

On WebProNews, Mike Sachoff talks about a study that finds how consumers trust advertising on local newspaper, magazine and television Websites take action after viewing ads on these sites.

According to that same study, the following percentages of consumers taking action correlate with ads on each type of site: Local Newspaper Site: 46%


- Local Television Site: 44%

- Local Magazine Site: 42%

- User Review Site: 39%

- Portal: 37%

These are not small numbers.

When you are evaluating the different pieces of your own Internet marketing puzzle, it is not wise to count out the sites that hit closest to home for your most likely customers.

About the Author:
Chris is a content coordinator and staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz and the iEntry Network. Subscribe to SmallBusinessNewz RSS Feeds.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Another Advertising Option: Product Placement‏

Visit the backpack and lunchbox section of a major retailer and think about what you see; Hannah Montana this and Batman that will be on display everywhere and getting snapped up at an impressive rate. So for the sake of a huge sales boost, imitating this phenomenon seems worth a try. What do you think?

It's unlikely that you'll create a marketable and/or iconic figure, of course, and even getting Miley Cyrus or Christian Bale to hold something and smile is pretty much out of the question. What we're talking about is product (or service) placement.

Show something to enough people and some of them will want it. "Sex and the City" did wonders for a type of drink and several clothing designers (or so I'm told). White Castle was only too happy to accommodate the makers of the first "Harold and Kumar" movie. And even if these examples are still large-sounding and expensive, there are smaller scales at which product placement will work.

MG Siegler has a post discussing a book's mention on the show "Mad Men." He writes, "Apparently it went form #15,565 on Amazon's sales list all the way up to #161 after the episode in which it was placed aired. Again, this is a 50-year-old book." A book of poems, too - not exactly something that's a traditional hot seller.

So consider seeking out something that appears approachable, whether it's a local television personality or a minor blogger. A contract will offer a sure thing, while freebies might get mentioned or shown following nothing more than a minimal effort on your part.

Or feel free to go wild and investigate the commercial viability of Small Business Guy and Local Company Girl.

About the Author:
Doug Caverly is a staff writer for SmallBusinessNewz.

Why Are You Asking Me This?



Josh Nason knows why someone who clicks on your subscribe button—with every intention of joining your list—has a tendency to disappear a few seconds later. "It starts rather simply," he says. "You're setting up fields for your email signup form and instead of grabbing just the [basic]…information, your mind starts to wander." Pretty soon you're requesting everything from mobile numbers to IM addresses. "Sure, you don't make it required that all the fields are filled in," he notes, "but while they're there, why not offer it, right?"

Wrong. In fact, you're scaring them off by asking for too much information, or making it hard to find the salient fields. Instead, keep your sign-up page simple, and try other data-collection strategies:

Build trust by sending content-rich newsletters. Subscribers are more likely to volunteer information for an event like a contest when you've earned the right to ask.
Award prizes in a recommend-a-friend campaign. If they're willing to give you a friend's info, they might also trust you enough to give more data about themselves on a sign-up page.
Ask subscribers to participate in a quick survey. If you say it'll only take a minute and it actually does take only a minute, you also increase the level of trust.
But first things first: If a prospect has opted to give you their email address, says Nason, "you've ... achieved your goal. Stop right there."

The Po!nt: Don't get greedy. Be happy to accept a prospect's opt-in. Get more info over time—by making it worth their while to provide it.

Source: MarketingProfs. Click to read the article.

10 Key Things to Look for in a Good Web Designer‏

By Gary Klingsheim

The pace of business today is positively supersonic. There doesn't seem to be enough time for anything anymore, and businesses of all sizes are working harder and faster all the time.

It's important to work smarter, too. And that means when you have to choose an important vendor for an essential service, you need to slow down and make a deliberate, careful decision. This is particularly important when you are getting ready to put your company's face on the World Wide Web in a new or newly-refurbished web site.

Before listing the ten key things to look for in a good web designer, let's define a few terms. Even though you may encounter variants on the name – like web developer, web artist, webmaster and so forth - we're talking about an individual who, alone or with some assistance, is going to "get you up and running." This means more than simple design.

You may need someone who can help you conceive and write copy. You may need someone who can plan smart site structure. You may need help getting a domain registered, files uploaded, e-mail accounts set up, and other technical details. You will definitely need someone who can do just about anything, or quickly find out how, or have an associate who can at the ready.

With these caveats, and serious encouragement to shop around for price and professionalism, here are the ten things to look for, in rough order of importance:

1) Experience
You will need someone with all the techniques, tools and tricks that will help you prepare your web site and accomplish your online goals. You should confirm that the candidate knows the entire alphabet soup of protocols, web markup languages and coding utilities: HTML, XML, CSS, PHP and so on. Ask all prospects for a portfolio, ask if they can "hand code," find out how many years of experience each has, etc.

When you interview designers, on the phone and/or in person, you will get these answers swiftly enough. But take due time to get more important insights as to the individual's character, level of expertise - and how well your personalities mesh. You will be working closely together, after all.

2) Customer Service Orientation
As important as experience is a mindset and attitude of making customer service a priority. If a designer/developer is too busy to answer e-mails or phone calls, will they be able to keep the production schedule? Ask for references, and make a point of actually calling them. Ask the prospect's previous clients if the web developer was responsive, on time and effective.

3) Original copy and Graphics
Creating professional and 100% original web graphics separates the adults from the kids every time. Most anyone can do some "quick and dirty" copy writing and slap it on a page with some pictures and hyperlinks. On the other hand, a talented and veteran designer will demonstrate knowledge of page layout, have a way with color and know how to place elements on a page for best appearance and web site performance. Take a good look at a number of the sites each prospect has built, and make sure no one is using "templates" or "starter pages" that come with some software programs or are available (even free) on the Internet.

4) Creativity
You need to decide right away (before you even start talking to designers) just how much the designer you find will be involved in the conceptual process. Your designer may need to help you with some of the "big picture" questions, such as marketing, web copy writing (for search engines) and how to generate traffic. You want someone creative, but not a "diva" who won't follow instructions or work with your ideas to bring them to fruition.

5) Marketing Experience
The easiest way to find out if your prospective web designers are good at marketing web sites is to view their site and their portfolio. That you are considering selecting them to design your site is a good first indicator that their designs convert. You'll further want to ensure that you can find what you're looking for on their site quickly and easily and that you can do the same on some of the sites in their portfolio.

6) Cost
Pricing for a professional web site of 10-15 pages with the standard features runs all the way from $500 to $5000. It may be that your idea is so complicated that you might have to pay for an estimate. For a full picture of all the costs involved in the project, ask for all the costs to be broken out individually - domain name and hosting, graphic design work, marketing fees and web development matters.

You may need to place a deposit if the job is large enough, and you should have all payment terms worked out before work starts. You can work out an hourly rate, a flat fee or some combination of the two. Leave nothing unstated or assumed: Get every detail in writing, including deadlines and how many revisions are included.

7) Job Timeline
After you ask the developers how long the process will take, make a point of asking references if the project was, in fact, completed on time. A basic web site may take as little as a week, while more involved and technically challenging sites could take a month or more. You need to know what the real-world turnaround time is for the specific people you are considering.

8) Communication Skills
Don't hire anyone who insists on speaking to you in "computer-ese" or won't explain unknown terminology. You have to communicate with this person about things that are important to your very survival, so you need to be clear at all times. If you cannot establish a good working relationship, it won't matter if you have Leonardo Da Vinci working on your code, it just won't work out.

9) Full Service
There may be one or two things that your designer/developer cannot do, but for the most part you should be able to find a reasonably-priced professional who can handle just about everything. If the designer needs help installing a particularly complicated shopping cart, or your site requires some heavy database programming, it is reasonable to expect that your designer might need some assistance. All of this should be spelled out in the pricing, of course (see #6, above), and you shouldn't be surprised by anything your designer is telling you. If you are, you overlooked something in this list!

10) Availability
Are these prospects full-time web professionals? Or are they moonlighting from some other job, even a completely unrelated one? It may be that a part-time web designer who's working at McDonald's really can do a great job for you, but will he/she be available to meet with you during normal business hours? No matter what decision you make - full-time pro, part-timer or student - you must be able to get hold of your designer.

Finally, do you homework before speaking with anyone. You don't need to be an expert - after all, you're hiring help, because you're not - but you need to know enough to know what you're hearing. If you are uncertain of your ability to keep on top of what's going on, get a fríend with at least basic web knowledge to help you locate, interview and assess candidates.

Use all of this "head" knowledge to narrow down your list of candidates, but don't be afraid to use your intuition ("heart" knowledge) to get a feel for each person's honesty, integrity and character. Using this mix of study, inquiry, discussion ,and feel, you will start to develop judgments about the candidates. Following this procedure thoroughly should result in your finding a good match for your Internet needs.


About The Author
Moonrise Productions is a full services San Francisco web design company. They provide complete design services, web application and ecommerce development and more. With New York, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles web design presence – no matter where you are, we've got people to serve you.

I'm Rubber, You're Glue



Imagine you're Alissa Bayer—owner of the upscale milk + honey day spa in Austin, Texas—and a client has directed you to the Church of the Customer Blog, where a post by Jackie Huba takes your business to task for selling gift certificates with a $1.50 "handling fee." You scan through the comments and see a number of people denouncing the practice as a rip-off.

There's a sinking feeling as you realize your company is getting bad press because someone at your front desk goofed up. The $1.50 surcharge is for an upgraded gift card—it's not a standard fee. In other words, if Huba wanted a free card, she should have gotten one.

Bayer, however, handles the situation with finesse by explaining her spa's actual policy, noting she's grateful for the feedback and offering this honest analysis: "I'm sure you're not the only gift certificate buying customer who has been given bad information about the optional upgrade and is understandably peeved."

She goes on to say the upgraded cards—which cost substantially more than the $1.50 she charges—were added when her customers asked for them, but that she had year-end plans to discontinue fee-based certificates.

"Looks like I shouldn't wait any longer," she concludes.

The Po!nt: Bayer's candor and even tone earned her a prominent update that clarifies her company's policy in the main text of Huba's post. And she leaves the experience with helpful—if rattling—feedback.

Source: Church of the Customer Blog. Click here for the full post.

What You Can Learn From Starbucks' Mistakes



Comedians used to make jokes about cities with a Starbucks on every corner. It seemed ridiculous at first, but we've gotten so used to their ubiquity that the closure of 600 stores came as a surprise to many customers. And in a post at Harvard Business Online, John Quelch argues that the Seattle juggernaut made a few key errors in the management of its premium-priced brand:

Losing the loyalty of early adopters who appreciated personalized service and a relaxed coffee-house atmosphere. "To grow," he says, "Starbucks increasingly appealed to grab and go [sic] customers for whom service meant speed of order delivery rather than recognition by and conversation with a barista."

Introducing a bevy of new products that appealed to a broad audience. Customizable drinks were conceived to draw those grab-and-go customers, but diminished in appeal when they took longer to make. The pricey concoctions also seemed expensive when compared to premium alternatives from budget-minded competitors like McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts.

Creating artificial growth with new stores. "Eventually," he notes, "the point of saturation is reached and cannibalization of existing store sales undermines not just brand health but also manager morale."

"None of this need have happened if Starbucks had stayed private and grown at a more controlled pace," says Quelch. "To continue to be a premium-priced brand while trading as a public company is very challenging." And we think the concept of moderating growth to protect your brand is pure Marketing Inspiration.

More Inspiration:
Cam Beck: Superior Air Power: How the Airlines Can Win
Valeria Maltoni: Blog Council Unveils Disclosure Toolkit
Paul Dunay: Is Social Media for the Young ... Or Is It More of a Lifestyle?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Are You Being Served?



As the country begins to cut back on non-essential products and services, customer service becomes an especially important element for those of you who market specialty items. And in a post at the Church of the Customer Blog, Jackie Huba lauds the personalized approach from Hem, an Austin, Texas, boutique that specializes in high-end jeans.

Huba freely admits that she—like most women—dreads the usually intimidating task of shopping for jeans. But with the guidance of Hem's approachable owner, Loree, Huba tried on at least 20 different styles to determine which worked best with her body type; along the way, Loree peppered their conversation with helpful advice that ranged from setting the color with the first wash to removing the odor of cigarette smoke. "Because of Loree's attention to the buying process," says Huba, "I bought two pairs of jeans confident I will look great in them. That will be my rational and emotional foundation to a strong referral."

The friendly, insightful service at Hem not only removed anxiety from Huba's shopping equation, it led to a satisfied customer and a word-of-mouth recommendation that will be seen by thousands of her readers—and now by you.

"When it comes to luxury items," says Huba, "there's an inverse relationship between price and service. The higher the price, the higher the expectation for hand-holding during the purchase." Keeping that in mind is your Marketing Inspiration.

8 Things That Motivate Web-Audience Response‏

By Jerry Bader

It's always a good idea to stick to the basics. When businesses stray too far from the fundamentals, problems arise, but sticking to the basics doesn't mean boring people into a state of unconsciousness. If Web-visitors' eyes glaze-over upon entering your site, you've lost them before you've begun.

Web success is based on creative implementation of the basics, and that's where your Web-marketing presentation should begin.

1. Web-Audience Response Demands Communication

The Web has a lot in common with television but there are fundamental differences; it is important for Web-entrepreneurs to understand these differences and similarities, and learn from them.

Television and the Web are both communication environments, but television, like magazines and newspapers, are primarily advertising platforms. Of course there are plenty of websites around that follow the advertising financial model, but for the average business website, depending on third party advertising not only dilutes their marketing message and brand, but it also makes for a confusing and cluttered visual presentation.

Just because your website presents information, doesn't mean it's communicating it to your intended audience in any meaningful way. The manner in which you communicate your message is as important as the message itself. The medium is increasingly becoming the message, and even in situations where it isn't, it definitely shapes the message.

2. Web-Audience Response Demands Content

You have repeatedly heard the comment, 'content is king,' but we think, 'communication is king' because without communication your content is meaningless. But here's the dilemma, your information is basically advertising, after all you're in business, and business is about selling something - a product, a service, an idea, or your know-how. So the real underlying purpose of your website is to make that advertising message worth listening to, and to do that, you need to turn it into content.

To turn advertising into content you have to accept that sales take time. You have to be patient. You can't hurry a sale, you first have to build confidence; stop rushing the close and start thinking of selling as a courtship. You would never ask someone to get married on a first date, so why would you expect to get an order from a potential Web-client on their first visit.

3. Web-Audience Response Demands Courtship

No one is going to make a substantial financial commitment without reaching some level of comfort with who you are and what you do, and that requires some repeated contact: a courtship, or negotiation if you prefer.

Therein lies the similarity and difference between websites and television: the success of a television program is based on habituation. If you get people to tune-in every week on the same night, at the same time to see their favorite program, you will be able to keep delivering your marketing message through the commercials that pay for the content. In the same regard, if you can make your website interesting enough through the compelling presentation of content, you will get visitors to return again and again, each time gaining confidence and respect for what you do and what you sell.

The difference is people accept television commercials as the price they pay for free TV programming, but the same cannot be said for the Web. People want free information on the Web without the irritation and bother of ads; so the challenge for website owners is to turn their marketing message into compelling programming that creates habituation which is just another form of negotiation, or courtship of potential clients.

4. Web-Audience Response Demands Consistency

You hear the word strategy bandied about with little relevance to its precise meaning. In marketing terms, strategy is a big idea, a sustainable concept that you can build a business around.

Successful companies rarely change their strategies, a concept that should not be confused with tactics, which are the various methods used to implement strategy in order to secure the ultimate objectives.

Business has to be resilient and open-minded enough to adapt to an ever-changing business environment by constantly updating tactics, but strategy needs to be a constant, a touchstone or benchmark for implementing action. Staying on course requires confidence in the strategy with a vigilant eye on the big picture.

Websites that are nothing more than brochures or catalogs of product that anyone can purchase at the local mall or box store is a tactic that delivers little relevance to today's Web-savvy consumer. And the same can be said for the blatantly obvious direct marketíng sites based on old magazine subscription techniques. The new multimedia communication-based Web requires new presentation tactics in order to successfully implement marketing strategy.

5. Web-Audience Response Demands Expectation

Successful marketing is not just about persuading people that what you have is what they need, it's about creating a series of deliverable expectations.

If you expect a product to be easy to use because that's what the marketing communication states, then that product better be easy to use. Effective marketing presentations not only prompt action but just as importantly they create a set of realistic, deliverable expectations.

Ask yourself, why do people mistrust politicians, car salesmen, and telemarketers? We all know the answer: many will say, and promise, just about anything to get your vote or order, and the result is a disgruntled, cynical voter or customer. Read my lips, no false expectations!

6. Web-Audience Response Demands Trust

When customers' expectations are met, you begin to create trust, and trust is one of the hardest things to achieve on a website that lacks any kind of human connection to the audience.

I can't tell you how many websites I've visited that make no effort to humanize their presentations, and consequently their businesses. When you go to a contact page and all that's there is a form to fill-in, with no contact name or phone number, it says to people, 'I really can't be bothered talking to you.' Hiding behind email tells people not to trust you, and if they don't trust you, they are not going to do business with you.

Business is about connecting to people, whether they are consumers, purchasing agents, or suppliers. If your website doesn't have some kind of human element like a video Web-host, audio message, or even a contact name and phone number, how can you expect to connect and build confidence, and trust in your intent to satisfy their needs?

7. Web-Audience Response Demands Personality

By building trust with your Web-audience you are also building your brand and defining your corporate personality. Here again we have a bit of a dichotomy since personality is a human-based characteristic, so how then can we create a personality and instill human characteristics into an inanimate entity like a business?

Corporate personality does not derive from a logo, packaging, or your website's aesthetic qualities. Corporate personality is the sum total of the collective experiences your audience has with your company. In the brick and mortar world, corporate personality is a result of dealing with people, sales people, receptionists, and telemarketers; in short personality is derived from interaction with real human beings.

Clever, well written website copy can help create personality as long as it is written in a distinctive human voice, but we know that 70% of all website text is never read; people skip to bulleted points and captions. But the same material delivered by a real person either through Web-audio or video, not only delivers the marketing message in the most memorable and compelling fashion, but it also defines the business personality and humanizes the website.

Two caveats: avatars are not people, and unless you can afford to hire the creators of the Simpsons to develop your animation, you best forget it; as well, using yourself or a non-professional as a spokesperson or Web-host is a dangerous practice, and speaks more to ego than it does to effective business development.

8. Web-Audience Response Demands Motivation

Lastly your website must communicate content that excites and motivates people to do business with you. The ability to motivate people isn't about what you're selling; it's about how you present it.

Motivational speakers, whether in the business, entertainment, personal coaching, or sports arenas, all deliver a similar message; but the ones that truly stimulate people to act, are the ones that know how to present their ideas in the most exciting and compelling manner. If you want to motivate your Web-audience to respond, your presentation has to be delivered by a real human being: a professional with charm, charisma, and a distinctive character.


About The Author
Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design firm that specializes in Web-audio and Web-video. Visit MRPwebmedia.com, 136Words.com, SonicPersonality.com, and CacheClosed.com. Contact at info@mrpwebmedia.com or telephone (905) 764-1246.

How To Create a Perpetual Traffic Machine‏

By Titus Hoskins

The Internet is such an unknown commodity anything is possible. One of the most intriguing questions concerns the idea of a perpetual traffic machine. Create a website and design a system of automatic programs (both interior and exterior) that delivers content and backlinks to a site that updates itself automatically and keeps growing without any help from the creator. In the process you build a flow of traffic that doesn't stop, even if the site is abandoned or not touched for a couple of years or never again.

Is such a perpetual traffic system really possible?

Before you conjure up pictures of HAL and creepy talking computers in distant space... realize that question may carry more weight than it would seem at first glance. But is it like its predecessor, the perpetual motion machine - just more an illusion than actual fact?

For curiosity's sake if for nothing else, the idea of a perpetual traffic machine does require further investigation. Such a system would have special interest for millions of webmasters whose main task is acquiring traffic for their sites, not to mention the potential for monetary gain a PTM (rhymes with ATM) would produce. Some credence was given to the idea recently when Tinu Abayomi-Paul, a well-known online free traffic expert, produced with the help of Marlon Sanders an info-product entitled "The Evergreen Traffic Machine."

Tinu's story is very interesting. Tinu had built up a whole array of sites and optimized them successfully for countless keywords in all the major search engines. She had built up a steady flow of traffic, resulting in thousands of visitors "a day" to her sites. This in itself is not that extraordinary, but that's not the full story.

Because of a personal illness she abandoned or left alone most of her sites for over a year or more - only to discover the traffic systems she had put into place didn't just dry up, they still kept producing tons of traffic even though the sites weren't being updated.

The traffic was still coming. The traffic was still fresh.

Tinu basically built her perpetual traffic system around three major areas: High Profile Article Marketing, Exact Keyword Focus and Blogging/RSS Feeds. Tinu's system proves you can create a traffic system for a year or two, but the real question is will it still produce traffic five years from now? Fifty years from now? How about a hundred years?

The real question: how long will such a system work without fresh input of unique content like the viral articles and blog posts now feeding it? This question is even more tantalizing when you consider it is now possible to create fresh content on your sites with RSS feeds, blog comments and user contributed content.

What's more intriguing is the fact that all aspects of a website can be automated, including payment for all renewals: domain, hosting, autoresponders... as well as the collection of revenues such as affiliate commissions and advertising fees.

Are we at the stage where the Internet will be filled with these automated human-less web sites drawing traffic/visitors and slowly building and expanding on their own for eternity? Many cynics would argue this is already the case with the majority of sites on the web.

In case you like that idea and want to fully embrace this brave new automated perpetual Internet, here are a few tips to create your eternal traffic machine:

1. Build lists and pre-load your AR system with follow-up messages to keep visitors coming back to your site. You can rotate these messages and ask your subscribers to opt-ín to different lists on related subject areas. Always ask your readers to recommend your content to others.

2. Use social bookmark software or links so that your visitors can easily bookmark your content which brings in both new links and new traffic. Simple programs like the one offered by Addthis.com will get your visitors building your backlinks for you, bringing in fresh visitors who in turn will also bookmark your content.

3. Write viral articles, reports and ebooks that have your backlinks in the resource boxes. Likewise, viral software programs can help bring a constant flow of traffic to your site. If your content is of a high quality and your themes universal... new sites will pick up your content and build your backlinks, creating fresh traffic. The search engines will also index these new links and your rankings will rise, bringing in more traffíc.

4. Use blogging and RSS feeds to get your content out there. You can also use these RSS feeds to bring in new fresh content to your site. Creating new content will be your main obstacle to creating perpetual traffic... you can get new content from feeds but will it be unique? Comments in your blogs could bring in unique content but if you're not monitoring them, you must have solid software in place to fight against spam.

5. Have "Tell a Friend" forms on all your content. This will bring new traffic to your site, which can be self-refreshing as new people discover your content.

6. Encourage user generated content such as articles, comments, posts... you can even have a community monitoring system where your site's members monitor this new content.

7. Form JV alliances with webmasters in your related field. Do co-registration so that you help build each other's lists and traffic.

8. Likewise, if you have products to sell, create an affiliate program to get your affiliates to build your traffic for you. Affiliates are an excellent source of permanent traffic.

9. Automate all aspects of the running and managing of your website. Set up automatic payments for your AR system, hosting, domain renewal, PPC payments... thru PayPal or credít card. Likewise, receive affiliate commissions thru PayPal or direct deposit. Many advertising programs like Google Adsense provide direct deposit.

10. PPC Traffic - While we have mainly looked at free traffic systems, don't forget creating a PTM is relatively easy with Pay Per Click advertising if you know what you're doing. Target less competitive keywords to keep your costs down, tie this traffic into a good squeeze page for feeding your AR system with leads and have a good landing page that converts. You can create a system that delivers perpetual traffic and pays for itself from your affiliate commissions and advertising fees.

In summary, the argument for the existence of the PTM mainly relies upon the quality of your content or site. Is it unique enough to draw in new visitors? Does your topic have universal appeal that people don't tire of? Does it solve or provide advice on a common human problem? Will or does it have a viral "word of mouth" element to it?

As we move to a more and more automated world, all the automated programs and hardware are in place for the creation of such perpetual traffic machines.

Computers, autoresponders, content management software, RSS feeds, viral marketing, direct deposit, automatic payments... and the líst goes on. If we haven't already created the perpetual traffic machine - we are getting tangibly close to doing just that.


About The Author
The author is a full-time online marketer who practices what he preaches. Get a Free Perpetual Desktop Calendar. Read a review of Tinu's Traffic Machine at BizwareMagic.com
2008 Titus Hoskins. This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.

Kick the Web Development Blues



In a post at the True You Marketing blog, Tina Ferguson outlines the most common mistakes companies make when they create a Website. No reason you have to make any of them. Here's a sampling of how to get the best bang for your Web development buck:

Get to know the technology. Ferguson says vendors want to work with marketing or communications departments because they're less likely to understand the ins and outs of ASP, HTML, Java Script and Flash. She recalls one meeting where the marketers paid more attention to the vendor's shoes than the technical presentation—and wound up paying $500,000 for a site that should have cost $10,000. Avoid this fate by including your IT department in all buying decisions.

Know your position in the marketplace. "Your place and status … determine what companies charge you for their services," says Ferguson. "If you are at the top of the market don't expect too many people offering bargain web development and design services to you."

Ask to see working client sites. All of those great layouts a vendor shows you might be nothing more than stylish mock-ups. Ask for URLs that you can access and assess using your own Internet connection.

The Po!nt: Says Ferguson, "I have seen sites that don't match [a] brand, take forever to load, SEO that doesn't matter … and even navigation issues that you would think don't exist [in] this day and age." All it takes is the right approach to skirt all of these issues when you develop or overhaul your Website.

Source: True You Marketing blog. To read the full post, click here.

OMG! The Coupons Are Here!



In his book, The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm, Kenneth W. Gronbach tells a story about stopping at the top of his driveway to retrieve the mail, getting back in the car and hearing his two daughters—aged 13 and 16—excitedly ask what came for them. Both, it turned out, received direct-mail offers from their favorite clothing retailer, and they immediately asked if he would take them shopping. "This is not a real question," he writes, "because they know I'm trapped. How else will we save all the money reflected in the coupons?"

Even though kids live in a digital-online-wireless world of iPods, laptops, mobile phones, text messages and downloadable media, his daughters' enthusiasm for the low-tech approach of direct mail is not unusual. According to Gronbach, Generation Y customers—who will number 100 million by 2010—watch little broadcast television, don't read newspapers and rarely listen to broadcast radio. It's a good thing for marketers, therefore, that they respond so well to this tried-and-true channel.

"Put some compelling coupons in a snail-mail offer and watch what happens," he says.

It might not have the glamour of avant-garde marketing, but here's your Marketing Inspiration: "Generation Y loves direct snail mail," writes Gronbach. "I know this seems strange in the cyberage, but if you need to brand Gen Y and you are not using the U.S. Post Office, you are making a big mistake."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

SOS for SMS?


Apple's iPhone has proved wildly popular, even at a price point that made it prohibitively expensive for a large portion of the population. So, as the new version (iPhone 3G) hits the market in July with a price tag of only $199, we'll probably see a flood of new iPhone users. How will this impact the technology you use for email campaigns? In a post at the mobileStorm blog, Eydie Cubarrubia says, not much: "[I] believe older messaging technologies will stay relevant for iPhone users." Here's why SMS and mobile email, not Web ads, will still work best to reach iPhone users:

-AT&T's new data plan is $10 more than before. Even though AT&T is subsidizing the cost of the iPhone to get the price down, it's making up costs with a new monthly fee. "Since it will cost more to use mobile Internet," she says, "consumers might not want to spend as much time online with their phones—and thus could be less likely to stop and look at ads, or let themselves be directed to Web sites they didn't intend on viewing."

-The iPhone still lacks MMS (multimedia messaging). According to Cubarrubia, this leaves good 'ole SMS the top pick for text-only messages and mobile email. Further, these are also the technologies used by most everyone else.
"[T]hose on a budget—and let's face it, that's the majority of cell phone users in both the US and around the world—are going to stick with cheap phones with SMS," Cubarrubia concludes.

The Po!nt: SMS and mobile email are here to stay. Says Cubarrubia, "SMS and mobile email will remain at the forefront, no matter what Apple does."

Source: mobileStorm. Read the full post here.

How To Market Your Products and Services On Twitter‏

By Willie Crawford

Twitter is one of well over 1000 social networking sites that I know of. I actually have a list of that many, but have only checked out a handful of the most popular ones.

Actually, my list is about 1800 bookmarking and social networking sites. I may share that list with my inner circle soon... after my assistant goes over it with a fine toothed comb :-)

I've already shared my list of the most popular (and productive) bookmarking sites in an ebook called, "How To Bookmark Effectively For Massive Free Websíte Traffic!" You can actually download that ebook for free, without needing to opt-ín or fill out any forms at: TheRealSecrets.com

Back to Twitter... Twitter is actually a micro-blogging platform. You register, and then you can "follow" others, and others can "follow" you.

When you log into Twitter, on the homepage you have a window where you can type in messages ("tweets") of up to 140 characters. When you click the "update" button, everyone who has subscribed to your updates... everyone following you, sees that message instantly... provided they are logged-in to Twitter.

When someone that you're following updates, and you're logged-in, you see their posts instantly.

There are Twitter users who post dozens of messages a day. There are Twitter users who seem to stay logged into Twitter and following their friends tweets for hours each day.

At a recent JV Alert Seminar where I was on the expert panel, I watched other panel members, who are also avid Twitter users, actually carrying on conversations over Twitter... right from the stage. They simply pulled out their handheld devices, and twittered away!

While Twitter is fun to just chat with friends, many "capitalists"... like me, wonder if it can be used for conducting business and making sales.

The answer is "Yes, but you shouldn't post blatant ads on Twitter."

Instead, you should post links to resources and news, and those links CAN be your affiliate links.

Twitter also has a "Direct Message" feature where you can post a message directly to someone who is following you. No one else sees that message, and using that feature is more appropriate when your post only pertains to one person.

I have made numerous sales via Twitter. Some examples include:

1) When I noticed that the World Internet Summit was hosting a live event in Auckland, New Zealand, on July 17th - 20th, 2008, I twittered about it. This is the first time that they are holding an Internet marketing seminar in a location that doesn't get very many of those type of events, so I considered it news.

Shortly thereafter, one of my followers from that area, posted a thank you. The next time that I checked my email, I DID notice that he had already registered for the event and that I had earned a nice commission.

2) When Jeff Walker launched Product Launch Formula 2, I tweeted about the bonus package that I offered. I had several followers ask me questions about my package (via direct message) and two of those purchased the package. That earned me nearly $2000.

3) When a friend noticed that I was twittering about how easy it is to earn money marketing to offline businesses as compared to the Internet marketing niche, she posted a link to a product that she suggested I check out.

I clicked on her link and saw that a friend, Rachel Rofe, along with a co-author, Jaime Mintun, had a product that they were selling called "How To Makë $10K In A Weekend." The product was literally "a seminar in a box." It contained everything that I needed to conduct local seminars teaching offline businesses about the internet. In fact, the product even included:

-A PowerPoint Presentation that I could use to conduct a 1 or 2-day live seminar.
Ads that I could run to get commission-only sales people to actually sell the seminar seats for me.

-A script that I could use along with the slides or even give to someone else to conduct the seminar for me.

-Supplemental materials that I could use as bonuses, handouts, or products-for-sale at my seminars.

-Very detailed start-to-finish instructions.

The package literally contained everything that I needed for a local seminar that I was already planning on hosting quarterly in my hometown.

I drooled over the webpage, but didn't buy right away because I was getting ready to travel to JV Alert Live in Philadelphia that upcoming weekend, and I didn't want to get side-tracked. However, at the seminar, I got a chance to chat with Rachel Rofe, and she talked me into both getting a copy of the course, AND becoming an affiliate for it.

Wrapping up this story... After going through the course, I fell so "in love" with it, that I twittered about it as well as mentioned it in an ezine editorial. The ezine editorial sold enough copies to earn me nearly $1000, and the tweet, triggered several old friends asking questions about the package. One of those friends subsequently purchased the package.

Those are just a few of the many sales that I'm sure that my twittering has generated. The key is not to just post blatant ads, but when you have something worthy of sharing, and that you know your followers will likely appreciate, then you can generate sales from just pointing out resources.

Aside from direct sales, I've noticed dozens of posts on my followers blogs about things that I've posted to Twitter. These blog posts were others indirectly promoting me and my products to their audiences.

Your posts on Twitter are also indexed by the search engines, so I've noticed my "tweets" showing up in Google for some of my prime keywords. That's very powerful.

So, there you have a proven formula for marketing your products and services on Twitter without being too "in your face." The only thing left for you to do is go over to Twitter.com and set up an account. It only takes a few minutes.

Be sure to add me as someone you're following. My Twitter URL is: http://twitter.com/innercircle1


About The Author
Willie Crawford is founder of The Internet Marketing Inner Circle, Executive Directory of The International Association of Joint Venture Brokers, and co-host of the Internet Marketing Momentum Bootcamp. Have Willie teach you serious marketing firsthand at: InternetMarketingMomentumBootcamp

Monday, June 23, 2008

On Target

Not long ago, a MarketingProfs colleague went to Target for some laundry detergent and toothpaste. Because he only wanted two things—both easily carried to the register—he sailed right past the array of shopping carts and hand baskets located near the store's entrance. As often happens while shopping at Target, he noticed other products he could use, and soon found himself juggling a number of items.

When it started to get unmanageable, our colleague began to debate whether he should return to the front of the store for a cart, or ditch the extra stuff and get it later—perhaps at another store he planned to visit in the afternoon.

Just then, however, he glanced down and saw a small stack of hand baskets conveniently located in an aisle filled with the smaller items he was trying to carry. He took one, did some more shopping and wound up making a purchase that was four times the amount he initially planned to spend.

It's a good reminder to think about how your customers shop, and to consider the impediments they might encounter between selecting a product or service and completing the sale. If you reduce their effort, you'll in all likelihood increase your bottom line.

Making it easy for your customers to give you their money is essential Marketing Inspiration. Target's stylish campaigns, well-stocked aisles and good value got him into the store—but all it took was a simple rack of hand baskets to impress him with a thoughtful touch and quadruple the size of a sale.

You Can't Beat $5 Sunglasses ... So Don't Try

In a post at his Influential Marketing blog, Rohit Bhargava talks about walking down the street in New York and watching people as they buy $5 sunglasses from street vendors. He knows there's a rationale for purchasing cheap knock-offs, even though they are of clearly inferior quality:

-A customer might lose or break sunglasses on a regular basis, and so hesitate to spend $100 or $200 for the genuine article.
-It could be an impulse buy.
-Or someone might operate under the mistaken impression that they can pass a fake off as the real thing.

Whatever their reasons, says Bhargava, they point to an interesting lesson: "[F]or some people, good sunglasses just aren't worth paying for." In other words, you can demonstrate the features and benefits of your product or service until you're blue in the face, and still fail to get any traction with a certain audience.

"[I]f a consumer doesn't believe products in your category are worth paying for, you are unlikely to convince them to make an exception for you," he says.

The Po!nt: "Instead of asking if your marketing is selling the right messages, you really need to ask if you are targeting the right customers," says Bhargava. "The real question isn't whether you can compete with the guy selling sunglasses on the street … it is whether you should even be trying to."

Source: Influential Marketing.

How to Market on Social Networks - Effectively‏

By Dr. Mani Sivasubramanian

Online social networks, like the World Wide Web itself, are a microcosm of a vibrant human community. If you participate on services like Twitter, Facebook and MySpace for some time, you'll notice the same types of people as you might on a trip to the shopping mall or a weekend at the beach.

There is but one difference. While 'offline' you see people, on the Web you see their personality.

Understanding this is core to your effective use of social networks for marketing.

While others will rush into these digital fora blatantly spewing advertising messages willy-nilly, you'll be able to tap into their minds more intelligently. Because by following some simple principles, you'll create an online persona that people WANT to engage with and listen to.

Over 2 years of intensely being involved in various social media marketing channels, I have learned some lessons you may find useful too.

Less Is More

When you're getting started, it is natural to explore many different services. This 'flit and fleet, dip and dabble' approach is often necessary, because each of them vary in significant ways from the other.

But once you find the right one(s) with the ideal mix of audience, features and convenience to suit your personality, stick with it instead of trying desperately to sample all the available alternatives (there are over 1,000 of them as we go to press, so that's practically impossible).

By honing in on your preferred social networks, you can better carry out the important other steps of engaging your audience and participating actively in your online community.

Engage Your Audience

Be yourself. Let your personality shine through. It is your unique advantage over everyone else in the online social media marketing space.

Carried away by the potential to drive more traffic or make more sales, eager marketers often explode on the social networking scene like a bombshell. They launch into what is the online equivalent of a full-throated sales pitch right in the middle of a Sunday morning sermon in church!

Won't that shock the others? Of course. And then, they'll ignore you.

Engagement is not instant, automatic or easy. It is however powerfully effective. Over 9 months, I have 1,000 'followers' on Twitter. We share a relationship - even if it is at arm's length.

Build Your Following

The conventional approach of herding audiences into closed spaces so that you can market to them are long gone. Social media marketing is not as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. These fish are swimming in a vast ocean. You need to reel them in - by using powerful bait... intelligently!

The formula that works consistently is simple. Be interesting. If what you share on social networks is useful, valuable, funny, entertaining, new, insightful or soul-stirring, people will find you - and stay with you.

And because control is in their hands, you have little choice in the matter anyway. Social networks are all about 'attraction marketing'. You attract them into your circle - and keep them there.

Be Real

That does not mean you need to reveal every intimate detail of your life, like what you ate for breakfast or what you watched on TV this morning. Or even where you live, work or play.

It does mean that you should have a persona - and be true to it. All the time.

I'm a heart surgeon. I also have a little daughter, love reading, travel to interesting places and blog actively. All of these aspects of my life make their way into my posts on social networks.

Almost incidentally, I also slip in the stuff that makes my social networking effective - like my Internet infopreneur business and my non-profit Foundation that raises funds to help children from poor families receive expensive, life-saving heart surgery.

Give To Get

Many people are selfish and self-centered. And these people are on social networks online. While you may hope and wish it were different, in reality, they do it for what's in it for them!

To smartly leverage social media marketing, you must take advantage of this knowledge - and give enough value to satisfy your audience, and turn them into raving, loyal fans.

Only then do you ask for something in exchange - a visit, a click, a sale.

When you do this consistently, you'll notice a reciprocal benefit that grows and swells until you are swamped by a return far in excess of anything you ever gave.

Now, It's Up To You

Will you make your social networking and marketing effective using these simple insights?

They are deceptively simple. But when you try following these principles, you'll discover how effective and powerful they really are.

Another test of their impact is to try and ignore them. You'll see how badly social networks can burn you. But then, you're not going to try, are you? No way... You're smart!


About The Author
Dr.Mani Sivasubramanian is a social infopreneur and uses his Internet marketing to fund heart surgery for under-privileged children in India. He blogs at Money.Power.Wisdom - and is on Twitter (drmani), Facebook and MySpace too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Using Social Media To Drive Traffic‏

By Matt Jackson

SMO, or Social Media Optimization, helps build website traffic by using social media based websites. The dawning of web 2.0 has seen many different social media websites crop up in an equally large number of different guises. Content sharing, social bookmarking, and collaborative websites form the basis of this initiative and it is these types of websites that you need to use in order to leverage the power of the social web.

SMO as Guerrilla Marketing

The nature of Social Media Optimization is such that it could be considered a form of guerrilla marketing. Website owners and blog owners have the choice of either investing money or their own skills and time in order to generate traffic from social sites. As long as your efforts are directed appropriately, the more work you put in the more reward you will reap.

SMO as a Link Building Technique

Social optimization also has a happy side effect - it helps to build your link profile so you will usually gain search engine traffic in the long term. Becoming a part of an online community is essential to your social optimization and this, in turn, will naturally provide links to your website. The links will usually be from relevant pages based on a similar topic to that of your page. The more popular social sites are also given a lot of weight by certain search engines.

Optimize Your Existing Site

Create genuinely interesting, intriguing, or informative pages. Include images, links, video, and collaborative tools so that visitors really get involved when they do visit your site. SMO is basically digital word-of-mouth and, if your website doesn't provide some kind of appealing experience to your visitors, then it simply won't attract the positive word-of-mouth that you want.

Add new pages, if necessary, so that you can include more information. However, don't just add pages for the sake of it - ensure that each page really does have something unique to offer. A website still needs to be well structured.

Get a Blog

Add a blog. Every website has potential blog posts in it so find yours and start blogging regularly. Blog posts tend to attract links from other blog posts and those in turn will spread the word of your website. The more popular your blog becomes, the more value it is perceived to provide and the more visitors you will continue to get.

Be active in those blogs that are within your industry and use your link where permitted and relevant. Don't spam because that will lose you more friends than it will make but, if you provide relevant information and a forum or blog allows you to link to it, then provide an insightful comment and provide a link.

Be Active

Being active is a vital part to your whole SMO campaign. Simply registering with social bookmarking sites and content sharing sites is not enough. You need to be involved, post regularly, and generally become a part of the community. If you don't have the time or the inclination to do this, then find somebody else to do it instead.

Some Social Sites To Join

You really do reap what you sow in terms of SMO. Determine the sites that are most suitable to your website, join them, and become an active member. Choose some broad topic sites as well as some that are specific to those interested in the industry in which you operate or topic that you cover. Look at social news submission sites, content sharing sites, bookmarking, and networking sites and try to get a broad coverage of all of them. Here are just a few of the sites you should seriously consider using:

Social News/Media Sharing Websites

• Reddit - Reddit is a very popular social news website that boasts a lot of subscribers and covers a wide range of topics.

• Digg - Initially, Digg was reserved to technology and related topics but is now a broad topic news site that again has a lot of subscribers and regular readers.

• Newsvine - Not as popular as the two above but offering a slightly more formal tone to its content. Again, a good range of topics are covered.

Social Networking Sites

• MySpace - It may be largely riddled with spam, but there are still too many genuine users for you to ignore MySpace. You don't have to be an unsigned band to take advantage either.

• Facebook - Has caused quite a stir and offers users the chance to create and distribute their own applications as well as content. Another very popular site.

• LinkedIn - LinkedIn is a social networking site dedicated to professionals and businesses. It can really help to build a huge network of partners, customers, and other useful contacts in a business network.

Social Bookmarking Websites

• del.icio.us - Register, store bookmarks that you find useful, and include a bookmark to your website and use a public profile.

• Stumble Upon - Same again. Alternatively, you can add a Stumble icon to each of your pages, blog posts, and other media and let your readers do the walking for you.

Buttons For Your Pages

Many social websites provide a button that your readers or visitors can use to automatically add a page. Bookmarking and content sharing sites, in particular, have these buttons and, if you've ever read a website or an article site, then you will have seen the Digg This and Stumble buttons at the bottom of each entry. Users registered with these sites can click the button and quickly add your page. The most popular websites are usually displayed on the high traffic home pages delivering yet more visitors to your site.

Offering Quality

The Social Internet has opened up a whole new avenue for promoting your business, but it needs to be done properly and carefully. Simply tagging, bookmarking, and sharing every page you have regardless of its quality will not bring you the desired results. You may find that it does you more harm than good in the long run.


About The Author
Matt Jackson is a web content writer offering appealing and professional web content. Whether you are looking to implement an SEO or SMO campaign, or you want to improve your visitor's experience while on your website WebWiseWords can create the content you need.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Three Factors to Consider Before You Jump on the Social Media Bandwagon

by Lee Erickson

Editor's note: See Lee in person at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Driving Sales: What's New + What Works. Catch her session on "Creating a B-to-B Social Media Strategy: A Guide to Defining It and How Your Company Should Take the Social Media Plunge." Sign up for the event and use promo code ESPK08 to save $200 on the registration fee.

If you're like most B2B marketers, you're probably wondering whether you need to jump on the social media bandwagon. You're likely getting asked whether your company should start a blog, open a Facebook account, or be on YouTube.

Every day there's a new hot site, a new viral marketing success (or horror) story, or a new technology to learn about. There's a lot to keep up with, and it's continually evolving.

So how do you decide what to do?

Start by taking a giant step backward and assessing the social media landscape as it relates to your market, your buyers, and your competitors.

Here are three key factors to consider.

1. What's going on in my market?

Identify where your buyers go to learn about new products and services. What are the destination sites and who are the influencers (also known as A-listers) in your market?

How to start:

1. Search the Web:

-Use Google Blog Search and enter the top 5 phrases your prospects would likely use to find information about the issues that your products and services help solve. See
what analyst sites, blogs, online publications, and organizations show up.

-Search Technorati and del.icio.us and look for high-traffic sites.

2. Survey your buyers: Send out a survey asking customers where they go for information about job-related issues. What are their favorite blogs, online publications, organizations, and associations?

3. Ask the experts: Ask industry analysts and leading speakers where they go for information, what sites they write for, provide information to, or blog on.

What to look for:

1. Destination sites: Are there clear destination sites that have active conversations that would appeal to your buyers?

2. Quantity and quality: How many people are joining in? What's the frequency and quality of new posts? Are they talking about things relevant to what you do?

3. Who you should know: Are there respected A-listers or other influencers who you should get to know?

2. What are my competitors doing?

It's important to understand what your competitors are doing in relation to social media. If they're all over the destination sites that your buyers visit, that's a potential competitive threat. If they're not, that could represent a competitive opportunity.

How to start:

1. Search the blogosphere: Use Google Blog Search and enter your competitors' names, products, and company evangelists (if they have any).

2. Review destination sites: Go back to the destination sites that you identified in step one and search for company names, products, and people.

3. Check your competitors' sites: Look for signs that they're engaging visitors in conversation.

What to look for:

1. Activity level: What's your competitors' presence on the Web? Do their names, products/services, or employees show up on destination sites? Are A-listers talking about them in a positive way?

2. Use of social media: What social-media activities are your competitors engaged in? Do they actively engage in blogs, forums, reviews, and critiques—on their sites, on other sites? Do they have a following? Are they engaging their customers in new and different ways?

3. Syndication of content: Are they pushing out or syndicating content to destination sites? Are they educating buyers by providing whitepapers or "how to" guides? Are they establishing a position as a thought leader?

3. What activities do my buyers engage in?

Another critical factor to evaluate is what activities your buyers want to engage in. If your buyer isn't the type to comment on blogs or post ratings or reviews, then it doesn't make sense to put a lot of effort into creating these tools or participation on those types of sites.

On the other hand, if your buyer is already actively engaged in blogs, social-networking sites, or social-bookmarking sites, you can accordingly plan the activities you should focus on.

How to start:

1. Ask them:

- Survey your customers to gauge their participation with social media.

- Use free tools like PollDaddy or SurveyMonkey to create and send surveys to your in-house list, or add a survey to your corporate site.

2. Tap into current research: Both Forrester and Pew (pdf) have conducted research to determine the types of activities that people like to participate in online. You can match the demographics of your buyers, in terms of age and gender, to current research and draw some high-level conclusions about what activities they participate in or whether they engage at all.

What to look for:

Preferred activities:

1. What types of activities to they gravitate toward? Are they online or do they prefer traditional media? Do they read blogs? Participate in social networks?

2. Define "sweet spots" (high-participation activities) and "dead ends" (not interested).

What's next?

By focusing on your market, your customers, and your buyers, you'll be better positioned to build a strategy that works for you and the people you're trying to reach. You'll be less likely to get caught up in the latest craze and more likely to select the right tactics to move your company forward.

The final step is assessing your company's readiness to dive in.

Lee Erickson is cofounder and president of Erickson Barnett (ericksonbarnett.com), a B2B technology marketing firm. She can be reached at lee@ericksonbarnett.com.

The Engagement Game

by Martin Lindstrom

If I were to glance through your media plan, I'm sure I'd discover it contained all the usual, well-known media options. The TV and radio ads, the print ads and the outdoor advertising. We've all been going with these options for years, decades in fact.

We've always known we wouldn't be fired for nominating them. Just like an IT guy wouldn't be fired for installing an IBM solution.

But this security is fast disappearing. One day soon, you will be fired for your adherence to these options.

The computer gaming market's revenue is many times greater, and more rapidly growing, than that of the global movie industry. In 2004, Nielsen was already predicting that, by now, the movie industry would be just one-third the size of the computer gaming industry. So where is Hollywood's marketing power drifting? Online.

Are you ready for the brand building potential inherent in this scenario?

It's fascinating to reflect on the fact that almost every medium has a price which, at a click, you can Google and find out about within seconds. These are fixed and well-known prices, except in once case: the computer gaming channel.

What's the price of placing a commercial message in a computer game? I'm sure you haven't got a clue. Is it $1 per user? A million up front? One cent per second? Who knows? No fixed model exists. No media agency has, yet, really specialized in booking space in computer games.

This is new territory for brand-builders. And new territory often means new prices. New low prices.

Let's do the math. Research from my book, BRANDchild, showed that kids now, for good or bad, spend almost the same time in front of computer games as they do in front of a TV. These numbers will soon trend away from each other as computer games take the lead in the way kids allocate their time.

But here's the really crucial difference: Your TV commercial probably secures some 30 seconds with consumers; your potential computer game commercial is very likely to spend hours with them.

No wonder that Red Bull, the energy drink, claimed it had secured its success because of its appearance in one of the first PlayStation games. "Want more energy?" was the message. I don't have to tell you what the answer was.

If you belong to the IBM gang, inclined toward the secure solution, stop reading now. However, if you believe that TV is no longer the one and only path to brand success, you should be already considering your opportunities in the wonderful world of computer games.

The prices are still low as this is currently unexplored territory. The results are still high as branding clutter is limited. But it's full steam ahead in the computer gaming world.

Sims Online, one of the world's best-established computer game creators, no longer operates in a non-branded world but in a world where players buy McDonald's outlets and sell the company's branded food products, earning "simoleans," the game's currency. Eating that food will also improve players' standing in the game.

This is building brands through interaction. In the past, brands haven't interacted with their customers or been able to engage them in their philosophies. Now the relationship between brand and customer is set to change. Brands are learning that to create an engaged consumer, you have to... engage them. Surprise!

The potential for engagement represented by computer games is kick-starting a wave of brand movement from passive relationships with consumers to relationships that demand constant interaction. These relationships demand that brands adopt a role, play to it, and give constant feedback to consumers.

The ever-dawning world of branding has written another new chapter, this time online. I hope you're part of the story.

Update: The CAN-SPAM Act

Since 2003, the CAN-SPAM Act has regulated various aspects of email marketing campaigns. And now—after a three-year period of consideration—the Federal Trade Commission has announced four new rule provisions you should know about.



Following are the four topics that these new provisions address:

1. An email recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her email address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply email message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future email from a sender.

2. The definition of "sender" was modified by the FTC to make it easier to determine which of multiple parties advertising in a single email message is responsible for complying with the Act’s opt-out requirements.

3. A "sender" of commercial email can include an accurately registered post office box or private mailbox established under United States Postal Service regulations to satisfy the Act’s requirement that a commercial email display a "valid physical postal address."

4. A definition of the term "person" was added to clarify that CAN-SPAM's obligations are not limited to "natural persons."

The good news: If you're an ethical email marketer, these provisions may well just reinforce what you're already doing for your customers.

The Po!nt: The odds are good you won't need to make major changes to comply with the FTC's revised rules. "From the FTC press release," writes Laura Atkins at the Word to the Wise blog, "it seems that the rules are reasonably sane and any current mailer following best practices will already be in compliance."

Source: Word to the Wise. Read the full post here.

Source: Federal Trade Commission. Read the full press release here.

Optimizing Tactics For Generating Website Traffic‏

By JD Reilly

Internet marketing has been around for as long as there has been the internet. It really took off, though, once the World Wide Web caught fire in the late 1990's.

What many people new to internet marketing lose site of, or perhaps didn't know to begin with, is that internet marketing is based on the fundamental principles of marketing. It just so happens that internet marketers use those principles with a new medium, the web, to reach buyers.

The fundamental principle of marketing is - if you want to sell anything, you need prospective customers.

For many people, knowing how to generate massive amounts of traffic is the "missing link" to internet marketing.

Everyday there are lots of people who struggle to create websites and products, make them look pretty good and then... nothing. Everything was built and nobody showed up!

This is one of the biggest reasons people quit before they are successful.

It doesn't have to be that way. There is no exact strategy that is guaranteed to bring you millions of visitors everyday. However, there are proven techniques for generating huge amounts of traffic, some very quickly and some for free.

Higher traffíc increases the potential for sales and referral commissions. The goal is to boost search engine traffic because this means a wider audience and long-term profit from various sources like ads. That is why there is such a lot of innovation in the field of search engine optimization (SEO).

Long Tails and How They Help

One of the most recent techniques, and a very effective one at that, is the use of LONG TAIL keywords to direct search engine traffic to your website.

The term may sound intimidating, but all it refers to is a new marketing trend. In the past, a few major keywords were identified to pull traffic through search engines. In the new model, websites will be drawing their business from a large variety of low-volume search queries or phrases. So, it's goodbye to all those oft-used, clichéd keywords.

This brings about a paradigm shift in your strategy to identify keywords and phrases. Instead of opting for the most obvious keywords like 'Makíng money online', web marketers now have to identify several keyword phrases that attract streams of low volume traffic. The combined action of several streams of low-volume traffic will eventually add up to high revenue.

To identify Long Tails or multi-word search queries (for that is what they are), you have to pick out the actual phrases that visitors use to arrive at your website. These key phrases are more specific than general. They embody the specific information users are looking for. So, a phrase like "Top 5 SEO techniques to earn money online" will pull in more targeted traffíc than 'makíng money online'. Ultimately, such a strategy leads to an overall jump in web traffíc.

For example, 'Self-hypnosis' is a general keyword. The keyword phrases within this niche would be 'Self-hypnosis to lose weíght' or 'using self-hypnosis techniques to improve memory' or 'benefits of self-hypnosis for controlling anger'.

Methods to Identify Keyword Phrases

Use tracking programs: Certain automated programs generate a number of subject-specific keyword phrases. But you will still have to filter and select specific phrases from a long catalog of results. Further to this, you may have to run your selected phrases through a search volume analyzer, to zero in on the top phrases.

Keyword research tools: Tools like Google's Keywords Tool can help determine the popularity of keywords, thus enabling you to develop a wide variety of secondary keywords to improve web traffíc to your site. Stringing together these words should enable you to identify keyword phrases.

Search boxes: Using on-site search boxes will enable you to monitor specific keyword phrases your visitors are looking for. This way, you get direct feedback from your visitors. This is an amazing method you can use to learn more about the general public's search habits.

Check out your competition: Find out what phrases they are using. Search their meta tags, titles and headers. Here, all the work has been done for you. You only need to fine-tune the words and string them together to make phrases that will pull lots of search engine traffic. Keyword parsing tools help you analyze other websites.

Advantages

By using keyword phrases, you reap a number of benefits:

-High search-engine rankings: Competition will be weaker for the phrases you have identified so you can easily climb to the top of search engine rankings for your particular choice of phrase.

-Higher conversion rates: Since you are using the actual phrase your visitors are looking for, the website traffic you get is highly targeted. People who come to you in this manner are more likely to click the 'Buy Now' button than people who come in out of curiosity.

-Increased inflow: Since you will be using many keyword phrases, you will build up several streams of low-volume customers. These streams will improve your search engine traffic.

-Make more money: Your monetizing potential is high when you pull in search engine traffic because people who come to you are serious about your product, service or information. They are more likely to subscribe to your newsletter or RSS feeds.
Using Long Tails on your websites or Blogs will undoubtedly improve web traffíc to your site.

And of course, more traffíc is always good news!


About The Author
JD Reilly is committed in helping others succeed at marketing online products and implementing strategies for success. The success is built upon-- A focused target market, A product people are hungry for, A marketing strategy, Automation. Learn more Now: Silver Bullet System

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