As our nation pauses to reflect on the events that occurred a decade ago, we are reminded of the qualities that define us as humans and leaders. Standing up in bravery during a time of utter chaos is not an uncommon. The heart of humanity does tend to pull together time and again, so history has proven.
The tragedy of that event will never be forgotten by anyone who was alive that day. For some, the tragedy was much more personal due to the loss of loved ones and family. For others across the globe, the act of terrorism was celebrated, to our horror.
On Facebook, my nephew wrote this comment:
“The sadness and outrage inside me is just as much then as now. The question in my mind goes unanswered, why? I’ll never know the answer. If there’s a lesson to be learned from this it might be…don’t take life for granted, don’t just live the day like it’s any other day.”
There are no answers for acts of violence and terrorism. In and of itself, terrorism is a cowardly act because the perpetrators hide in the shadows and congratulate themselves on a job well done while the innocent suffer the consequences and grief. When they later take “responsibility” for their actions, it is nothing other than crowing inane justifications for their insanity. This has been my opinion since long before the historic events of 9-11 and my feelings were galvanized on that day.
Disregarding politics, Mayor Rudy Guilani rose to the top of the list of leaders whom I observed that day. His intentions were pure as he motivated his constituents to help each other recover during the crisis. Apparently, he was among those who impressed talk show host, David Letterman, during that time.
The civilians on United Flight 93, who took fate into their own hands and diverted the plane away from its intended target, acted without regard for their own lives as they protected our nation from further devastation. We can only imagine how it felt to be forced to make that life or death decision and, God willing, none of us will ever have to confront such a choice.
On this day, and everyday, remember the lessons of 9-11, a nation unites to keep the memories of those who served and protected us by taking a stand for the greater good during a devastating tragedy.
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Yep! It happened again today. I was invited by a Skype friend to look into a free program. Their claim was that it was free to join and I would not have to pay anything to earn money. I’ve been around the internet long enough to not believe claims of overnight wealth and to distrust “free” joins but I indulged their request to click on the link anyway.
Non-English Landing Page
The first thing that I noticed was that the page was in German. I have a toolbar installed that allows me to instantly translate to English so this wasn’t a huge issue.
Analyzing the Offer
The first sentence on the landing page was a disclaimer:
This is no joke and no dream … You get paid money, because investors want to distribute funds.
If you have to begin by telling stressing the fact that your incredible program is really incredible and go on to suggest that investors want to give away their money, I’m immediately suspicious. Investors want to leverage their money by investing in things which will earn them money. At least that is what I’ve learned…
The landing page encouraged me to read the terms and conditions, although I would have done that anyway before filling in any forms. It’s called due diligence. 🙂
Free Isn’t Always Free
Once you receive the gift, you have to pay into this program.
I didn’t need to read any further. Clearly, if payment is required to benefit from the program, it isn’t free.
I responded to my Skype pal by copying and pasting that text into our chat window. I added that I was a conscientious objector of cash gifting programs and that having to pay into it made it clear to mea that it wasn’t free. I thought that would be the end of it but they replied that I had misunderstood.
I re-copied and pasted the same text into our chat window and told them, in addition, that there was nothing ambiguous about the phrase: YOU have to pay into this program.
Denial of the Facts in Front of You
My Skype pal protested by saying that “no one had explained this” to them. I suggested that reading the fine print before joining anything, free or not, is a personal responsibility … and it is!
Are you entitled to a do-over if you sign a contract that binds you to a commitment you didn’t understand just because you expected it to be explained to you? If you are of legal age, the answer to that question is no.
I’ve worked in a business where contracts were necessary to proceed. I would spend no less than an hour going over the terms and conditions that my clients would be obligated to once they put pen to paper. I took pains to explain what their obligations were, as well as the authority they were granting to me as their agent. I never put paperwork in front of someone who might later claim diminished capacity because they had had a few drinks. I scheduled the meeting for another time and instructed them to hold off on the beers until after we were finished.
Not everyone will do this … especially if they are promoting a get-rich-quick-and-easy internet program.
Money for Nothing?
Call me old fashioned or jaded, but I’m not of the mindset that money will flow into your bank accounts without applying some effort.
When I was new to online marketing tactics, I got suckered into things. We all do. Once I abandoned the belief that the hype was more than it was and began to focus on things that I enjoyed doing anyway, which could earn income for me, my life has been simplified and I’m having a lot more fun too.
Many of the people whom I used to communicate with on a daily basis are still chasing the dream of instant wealth and fly-by-night programs. For them, and for those of you who pursue similar things, I wish you the best of luck and encourage you to return and post your results to my blog.
There are no Magic Wealth Pills. The recipe for business success is the same:
- List the things that you are interested in doing
- Analyze those things to determine if their might be a market for you to leverage
- Construct a plan for pursuing that business
- Devise a list of measurements you can use to validate your success
- Determine the best approach for marketing and promotion
- Follow your plan and monitor results
- Know when to revise or abandon the plan and try the next thing on YOUR list
Building backlinks to your pages is an essential part of SEO (short for Search Engine Optimization) for two reasons. The first reason is that it helps your pages get indexed faster, which is very important because you want the search engines to find them as soon as possible and crawl them regularly. The second reason is that it helps your pages get higher search engine rankings for the keywords of your choice. The more backlinks you have, the better. Period.
However, building backlinks can be a time-consuming, boring process and waiting to realize the results of your efforts can seem like watching paint dry. You can outsource the process to an agency and pay a lot of money… Or you can do it yourself with SocialMonkee!
SocialMonkee is an instant backlink builder that will help you with building backlinks, every day, FREE! All links are on unique C-Class IP addresses and domains. Imagine being able to create 25 unique backlinks every day, with the click of a button, FREE! Well, you can stop imagining…
So, 25 unique backlinks every day… That’s a total of 175 backlinks every week, 750 every month. If you upgrade for a one-time fee of $47USD, you will be able to build 100 uniques backlinks, 3 times a day! That’s a total of 2,100 backlinks every week, 9,000 every month! The good news is… you can get a Premium Account, FREE! All you need to do is to refer 12 members, and your account will automatically be upgraded. If you’re not really into referral marketing, you may upgrade right now for a low one-time fee.
Submitting a page to SocialMonkee via the members area takes under two minutes, but there’s an even faster way! They created a Firefox plugin that allows you to submit your page to up to 100 sites in just a few clicks, using nothing else than Firefox! If you have a Premium Account you will also get access to link reports and RSS feeds, which are great assets for building backlinks and getting them indexed fast. Submitting your RSS feeds to RSS submitters is actually a very important step in link building.
So what are you waiting for? Join SocialMonkee now while it’s still free!
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Like most online entrepreneurs, Skype is a staple of my business and one of my first logins everyday after having my 2nd cup of coffee. 🙂 Today, I was relieved to learn that the problem is not related to Skype hackers or phishers … a rising trend on Skype.
After being unable to login through the client interface, I immediately went to the website to assure myself that my account had not been compromised somehow. I was able to login and verify my account there, although that capability has since gone down.
While I was logged in, a brief visit to the support page revealed that Skype was aware of the problems that people were having with logging in. I followed recommended steps to remedy the problem, which included shutting down my home network and resetting the routers. I guess that should be done periodically anyway so, even though it didn’t solve the Skype login problem, it wasn’t a complete waste of time. 🙂
This is probably quite an embarrassment for Skype in the advent of their upcoming IPO. For the rest of us, we can breathe a sigh of relief that our Skype accounts have not been hijacked by the hackers and phishers who prey on Skype users.
A wise man with whom I worked during my earlier years once came up with a profound New Year’s resolution at our annual marketing support meeting. The entire group laughed out loud when he said his resolution was to never say “it should work” again.
There does seem to be a resurgence of people not thinking through the answers to questions that are asked. Responses like this are pointless:
“It should have been there by now.” or “That should have worked.”
Normally, a long explanation about how the process is supposed to work follows comments like these. All kidding aside, it almost seems like an assumption has been made that I wouldn’t have done something simple, like checking my spam folder or reading instructions. As the support person drones on about how their process works, I’m thinking, “If your system worked the way you’ve described it, I wouldn’t have picked up the phone to find out what was wrong.”
Communicating is such a critical component of business. Whether it is written or verbal, our phrasing has a lot to do with how the other side of the conversation receives our responses. We need to empathize with the caller and, above all, treat them professionally. Without our customers, we have no business. This applies to ALL business models … assuming the business is legitimate.
Even though this may sound cliché, there really is no such thing as a dumb question. Entrepreneurs who are operating a truly customer-facing business must learn how to respond appropriately to their customer’s questions. Here are some suggestions for improving your customer communications:
- Smile before picking up the phone.
- Establish set time frames during work days for taking calls to ensure minimal disruption..
- Draft agenda topics for scheduled meetings and allocate time limits to the topics. Distribute the agenda to all invitees in advance of the meeting. Be flexible to requests to alter or rearrange the agenda and time frames.
- Don’t make customers wait more than 24-hours for a response to their email or voicemail.
- Set “office hours” so your customers are respectful of your personal boundaries. Inform active customers of your vacation plans. If you have a dedicated business line, update your announcement to reflect any extended time away from your office so potential new business doesn’t think you are non-responsive.
- Ensure that you understand your customer’s problem statement before suggesting a solution. They’ve been immersed in it long enough to determine it is a problem. Sometimes you must back them up to the beginning so you can be of better assistance to them.
- Remain calm and be empathetic. Understand that your customer may have struggled for hours before calling you and that they could be tense as a result.
- Set expectations properly if your customer’s issue cannot be handled during the call.
- Publish an FAQ page on your website and refer people to it first. Whether you have a product or service, if you’ve been in business a while you know what questions are most frequent.
- If your product is digital, prepare documentation that assumes the least amount of knowledge while making it complete enough for advanced users.
Most of this blog’s readers are aware that I have a service business and that one of my services is WordPress Website Development. Many of my clients are unfamiliar with the software and part of my service fees include one-on-one training. I welcome client calls because I love teaching people things that will make them feel more self-sufficient and confident with the products and services they have purchased from me. Because I also enjoy the clients with whom I work as people, I have to monitor the gab time with some of them because we have so much fun just talking.
Email marketing came of age after direct marketing practitioners realized that their methods of engaging customers with postal mail could be applied to the Internet. For those who are unclear about what email marketing is, it is using email to promote offers and/or obtain new customers. Reports have proven that this is the next best marketing technique after search marketing.
You can rent a list, purchase a list based on demographics for your niche, or set up an opt-in page to gather list members from your target market. Even though it takes longer, building your own email marketin list from scratch is probably the safest and most reliable method to use.
No matter where you begin with your list building, a well-written email marketing message can gain a prospect’s trust by disclosing relevant information that helps them to make informed purchasing decisions. Email marketing also has potential to enhance relationships with existing customers if you continue to provide valuable communications that facilitate repeat or referral business.
The major advantages of email marketing is that there are multiple ways to automate your scheduled or broadcasted communications and it is much more cost-efficient than postal mail. In addition, your offers have potential to “go viral” because members of your lists can easily forward messages to friends and colleagues who they feel might be interested, which increases your opportunities to make sales and add new customers to your email marketing lists.
Within a relatively short period of time, a large audience can be identified and targeted. Autoresponders, like Aweber, allow you to monitor the responsiveness of your list with email open statistics and click through rates on your embedded links. They can also help you craft a message that won’t be filtered out by built-in spam catchers.
The sales ratios of your email marketing campaigns or inquiries from members of your list may lead you to new ideas for products and services. Email enables you to engage your customers in dialogue that helps you to scope your new product development by inviting list members to take surveys or provide feedback on ideas that you are forming. Talk about convenience!
How Much and How Often?
Loose statistics from direct marketing resources indicates that new customers may need to hear about an offer up to 10 times before making a purchasing decision. Equally important is that your messages must be timed in such a way that your new list members don’t feel overwhelmed. For example, I’ve enrolled in campaigns and opted out immediately after receiving multiple messages in quick succession or too many notes in a week.
In my opinion, more than one email marketing message a day is too many. I’m also of the opinion that more than a couple (3 or more) email marketing messages a week is too much volume, particularly prior to conversion. Setting up your campaigns to send email every 4th day, or so, keeps your offer on the prospect’s mind without seeming overly aggressive. That is the whole idea, right?
If all of your all of your email marketing messages are pitching something, people will learn to ignore you. Keep your email marketing messages relevant and brief. Most folks are dealing with information overload when they peruse their email inbox so your subjects must stand out if you expect your email to get opened. Using fantastic email marketing titles that compel people to open may work according to some people but it also can make you seem less trustworthy. To earn and keep the confidence of your list members, stick to actual facts about your offer and try writing messages that DON’T require disclaimers in tiny print at the bottom of the note. 🙂
Email Marketing Can Have a Dark Side
Some companies collect email addresses of people illegally and send irrelevant mails to them, which can be very annoying. To get past spam filters, these messages will often have many lines of irrelevant text below the offer with “safe” words in them.
Some hackers intentionally design an email that looks like an advertisement but, when the ads are clicked, malicious software is downloaded that creates headaches for an unsuspecting or naive end user. I will never understand why smart people, like hackers must be, use their creativity and talent to wreak havoc on people! Even though your email marketing message is not malicious, you need to understand that everyone with a computer and email has heard one or more horror story and this will affect the success of your campaigns … especially if you have purchased or rented a list.
In my previous post, I discussed the highlights of the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. Caution is recommended for any list you choose to join but this does not keep you from receiving unsolicited email marketing, just as postal regulations do not restrict sending demographic based mail to your home.
Since the CAN-SPAM act only applies to US businesses, it is legal to initiate an email marketing campaign from a purchased or rented list as long as a physical address and a functional opt-out is included in the message, and email marketers are allowed up to 10 days following the request to remove people, the CAN-SPAM act seems to protects marketers more than consumers. Sadly, my single voice isn’t loud enough to get these laws changed anytime soon and corporate entities with much more influence than me are working hard to loosen SPAM regulations, not tighten them.
Most email clients and webmail systems have spam filtering capabilities that can help to keep your inbox clean but those algorithms aren’t perfect. How many times have you found a legitimate messages in your spam folder? How many legitimate messages have you accidentally deleted?
Email Marketing is Only ONE Marketing Channel
As the saying goes, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. This is especially true for marketing and advertising expenses. Email marketing is a great tool for building your business out there but you should also be testing other marketing methods and you should always be tracking the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Go forth and prosper, and make sure you use this marketing method wisely.
Email marketing is a proven method of developing a relationship with your customers and, if that relationship is properly developed and nurtured, a way to generate affiliate cash flow when you need it. All that is well and good, but when your opt-out doesn’t result in being opted out, email marketing campaigns can result in driving business away.
One of the inboxes that I own began receiving email from Elizabeth Jackson. Since I used to know an Elizabeth Jackson, I was enthused to see her name. It was disappointing to find an advertisement for Work At Home jobs when I opened the email.
I used the option to unsubscribe, more than a dozen times during the past 3 months, and I continued to get email from Elizabeth Jackson from different email addresses. Each time, I opted out again. Further research today helped me deduce that Elizabeth Jackson is a fictitious name used to “protect the affiliates” who are promoting a certain CPA campaign offered by Clickbooth, to get income. Clickbooth advertises themselves as the “exclusive CPA Network” who is ranked #1 by Website Magazine.
Ok, that is all legal but my question today is, who is protecting me, or others who didn’t invite these CPA email offers?
SPAM and the Consumer
Prior to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, I was forced to close a business email account that was being overwhelmed by no less than 50+ messages an hour in a language I couldn’t even read! Things have gotten better, for sure, but it is possible to be in compliance of that act and still be doing nothing other than irritating customers or prospects. Case in Point: Elizabeth Jackson.
Here are some CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 cliff notes:
- It is an opt-out law and, for most purposes, permission of the e-mail recipient is not required. If a recipient wants to unsubscribe or opt-out, however, you’d better stop sending e-mails you are at risk of being subject to severe civil and criminal penalties.
- Fraudulent or deceptive subjects, headers, return addresses, etc., are prohibited.
- Sending sexually explicit email without clear markings is a criminal act.
- Email marketers must have a functional opt-out system that is easy for consumers to use and is operational for at least 30-days following each mailing.
- Email messages should include a physical address of the company in the email.
- Spammers AND those who procure their services are culpable and both can be prosecuted.
- Personal emails, and perhaps non-profit emails, are not addressed by the act. It applies to all US businesses who are sending commercial email of a transactional nature.
SPAM and the Business Owner
Looking over the guidelines again, a smile came to my face. I do feel that some of the earnings claims in subject lines from a few of the internet marketing lists that I’ve joined are nothing other than deceptive, in spite of their disclaimers. This is especially true when the click through leads to a product or service that was not developed by the sender. But I am a perpetual student of marketing methods and completely understand that this is how affiliate programs work. 🙂
Email marketing is a good business strategy, especially for affiliate marketers. At Flippa, sites with lists are worth more than other sites at the time of sale. Thus, whether your motivation in launching a site is to build a Niche Empire or develop a site to later sell for profit, building an email marketing list is very important!
An apparent loophole in the CAN-SPAM Act, which is always exploited by senders of unsolicited email, allows email marketers have up to 10-days to complete an unsubscribe request. Although those business owners are adhering to the letter of the law, I find it absurd. All the autoresponders that I have ever used or recommended facilitate immediate removal from a list.
Pick Up The Phone!
In my desperation to stop getting three more months of unsolicited email from Elizabeth Jackson, whom I now know is a fake person, I was prepared to send a snail mail letter but I dug deep enough to find a phone number to call. I did allude to the CAN-SPAM act during my call, which may have inspired them to be more attentive, but that remains to be seen. Regardless, it was comforting to actually speak with someone who listened to my concerns and gathered up the email addresses that I wanted to eradicate from their lists.
The phone seems to have gone out of fashion but the truth remains that consumers sometimes need a phone number to call. Business owners might conclude that including a phone number on your primary sales page footers or within the terms and conditions page at your site is a good idea for owners of affiliate programs. After all, the program owner is equally exposed to the fines and penalties outlined in the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, and they are legally obligated to manage the affiliates who are issuing email marketing messages on their behalf.
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We joke about watching paint dry when time seems to move too slowly but, believe it or not, this is an actual role for which people are paid. Duties include touching the painted item to ensure that it is dry. What does this have to do with businss and online income? Read on…
Many people put up pretty websites and expect immediate results. Very few people get what they desire, unless they have found a particular niche that is in demand and has not already been exploited or they have a well established and responsive list.
As a website consultant, I’ve always recommended beginning with the end in mind. During initial meetings with any new client, I always inquire about their keywords and SEO strategy. Of all the hundreds of sites that I’ve built, only one customer actually had a plan in place. Statistically, those who did not embrace the idea that they needed to identify niche keywords and strategically pursue them experienced less than optimal results.
Once you’ve determined your SEO and linking strategy, you must set about the task of doing the work necessary to accomplish it. This entails tactics that will build relevance based on keywords through on-site and off-site content.
Perhaps the best known method for getting links to your website is writing articles, adding a link to your signature in a forum, or commenting on blogs. But, how do you know which sites have importance from Google’s point of view? Michelle MacPherson recently released a free tool for monitoring top internet properties for your content and links. I don’t know if it is still available but I’ve used it and it is very helpful. The caveat is that each site has different rules so make sure you read the fine print when you register and begin to use them.
Lately, there has been a resurgence in using videos to promote your business or opportunity. This isn’t big news. Video marketing has been a great way to give voice to your brand for years and new video distribution channels are popping up every day. Your videos need to go viral, for them to really provide benefit, and if you don’t use good keywords when posting the video, it is just “out there” waiting to be found. Alternatively, and as I mentioned earlier, you can deploy it to your dedicated and responsive list.
Differentiating yourself online may be the biggest challenge you face. Most of what I observe is a lot of emulation. That isn’t a bad idea. Heck! It worked for me when I wanted to learn to sing like Joni Mitchell. 🙂 Still, emulating what everyone else is doing only makes you like everyone else. Your market will choose to buy the offer, if it is something they want or need, and they will buy it from a link that appears in early in their search results. Thus, if you have no SEO strategy, whether or not you’ve done your niche research homework, there will be a lot of people ahead of you in the pile.
Assuming that you’ve are now convinced that learning SEO and keyword research is important to your business success … online or offline … what can you do? Well, you can begin by learning more about SEO and keyword research from an expert. Dan Thies has availed a great ebook entitled Fast Start SEO which you can download at this link. Dan Thies also offers a free membership where people aspiring to learn more, or those who are active in the arena already, can interact and swap ideas. You can choose to outsource the task to someone who knows what they are doing, if you feel you have more important things to do, but I imagine it will be hard to sift the wheat from the chaff when interviewing potential outsourcing partners without any knowledge so learning something about how SEO is done is still advisable.
Building an online brand requires patience, dedication and belief. Once you have your keywords and SEO strategy in place, all that remains to be done is to implement it. However, waiting for the benefits you seek can be difficult if you are impatient. Not much different than watching paint dry, I suppose. But, if you’ve done your homework and selected a good niche and linking strategy, your results will come.
Tools help. I use a product called Micro Niche Finder that is easy to understand and provides a lot of data very quickly. If you don’t want to buy a product, you can also use Google’s free keyword research tool.
If you’d like to know how I can help you, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can complete the contact form at www.VirtuallyMarj.com and I will certainly respond. I’d love to learn more about your business and, if it feels right to us both, help you build your online brand!
Most of us don’t think twice about what is involved in maintaining the platforms the Social Networking and Social Bookmarking potpourri of sites that we use each day in our online businesses. These days, the focus is mostly on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Other useful sites are LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Flickr, MySpace, and Last.fm … to name a few. Then there are he multiple free email accounts we have.
When it comes to our home computing environments, we unconsciously manage disk space every day. If we have self-hosted blogs, we look for and choose hosting vendors who permit us to have unlimited storage for our websites. Yet, we take the storage of our Tweets and posts for granted.
Every piece of content must be stored somewhere. In the early days of email, I was part of a group who studied email etiquette with interest. We discussed computing capacity issues, like storage, too. A friend of mine, who worked for EMC, wrote a fascinating white paper about the exponential growth of data storage. Her predictions have been exceeded by mounds and mounds and mounds of data. None of us foresaw the advent of micro-blogging in 1985, let alone text messaging on a cell phone! 🙂
Recent research by IDC revealed that our digital universe grew by 62% during the last year alone. The stunning amount of storage online at the time of the study was 800,000 petabytes, a measure better described at this link. In short, it is one million gigabytes. By the end of 2010, it is predicted that there will be 1.2 zettabytes online. A zettabyte, incidentally, is roughly half a million times the entire collections of all the academic libraries in the United States. Whew! And I’m worrying about a few gigabytes around here. 😀
Computers and the internet have made our lives easier, much more public and availed methods to get income online for some of us too. Pages upon pages of material sifted and listed, categorized and presented for our reading pleasure with a few keystrokes and a button click. Since our content is cached and stored online indefinitely, one begins to wonder if our content will outlive our grandchildren. Who can say?
Social networking is a great way to connect with prospects and friends. Over the past few months, there have been a lot of internet marketers advising that Facebook is a better advertising spot than Google. When you must advertise, it is good to have choices where your ads will be targeted but has Facebook gone too far to serve up data for their advertisers? It would appear so, if the US Federal Government has gotten involved.
Many Facebook users won’t care one way or the other. Still, there are those among us who don’t enjoy unsolicited advertisements. I’m sure one. When I logged into my account today, I found a dozen ads that were geo-targeted to my location. Local shops, product providers, service providers, Realtors and bars. I’d rather not be bombarded like that. I looked for a method of opting out and I just couldn’t find it! 🙁
Facebook is not wrong to sell advertising space. Their on-screen real estate is valuable and they must fund the site support. All things being equal, Facebook ads are less expensive than Google Adwords.
The fact remains that nothing replaces good SEO with a solid keyword strategy. In my online branding business, I never advocate that my clients use paid advertising. I will provide some consulting services to help them learn the SEO ropes. It isn’t a big secret or anything. Most of the information someone needs to learn SEO is available online for free. With interest, the ability to read, and the willingness to monitor results and experiment, perseverance will take your site where you’d like it to be.