Free Programs and Fine Print

February 11, 2011 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Monetizing Business Ideas

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

free-programs-and-fine-print-postThe second paragraph on the Terms and Conditions page said this:

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:

  1. List the things that you are interested in doing
  2. Analyze those things to determine if their might be a market for you to leverage
  3. Construct a plan for pursuing that business
  4. Devise a list of measurements you can use to validate your success
  5. Determine the best approach for marketing and promotion
  6. Follow your plan and monitor results
  7. Know when to revise or abandon the plan and try the next thing on YOUR list

Website Conversion Tactics

May 14, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Featured, Website Conversion

Designing a website for conversion is something that every business owner cares about, if they are savvy and have a solid business goal for their sites.  Top gun internet marketers sell memberships and consulting services to people who want to get income online.  It is a good idea to have a mentor when you are starting out, for sure, but I wonder if there really is a one-size-fits-all approach to building an online business.  My instincts say no.

As an Online Branding Consultant and website developer, I’ve been monitoring website tools and trends for years.  When my daily research introduced the idea that the color orange converted better than any other color, it seemed like a reasonable thing to try.  Within a few months, just about every site that I saw had an orange buy now or add to cart button.  Recently, this button has gotten much larger.   Does the image below look familar to you and did you feel compelled to press the button?  It took me 2 seconds to find one.  😀 | Website Conversion Tactics

One trend that I have no argument with at all is to use WordPress website technology as the basis for a business and sales funnel.  The software is remarkable, easy to manage, and delivers great SEO benefits too.  Many top guns have migrated their sites to wordpress with good reason and anyone paying attention knows that WordPress is much more than a blogging tool.

Video capture pages are a very good idea and they have been for a long time.  However, there has been a disturbing trend with them recently.  The latest video marketing tactic is to enforce an opt in before one is granted access to the video.  This is a ploy to build a list, which I understand, but if you do this please manage your lists so you aren’t broadcasting the same message multiple times.  That is kind of irritating.

Another rising video marketing trend is to put up content with no controls or information about duration.  I find to be both inconvenient and rude, and I know I’m not alone.  If it is off-putting, why does it convert?  Perhaps someone who is doing this and tracking results can enlighten us all.

The OTO (one-time-offer) tactic has taken on new proportions of irritation.  When I opt in to something for free, I expect an obligatory up sell but is it really necessary to introduce two, three or more?  Newbie or not, I’m betting that I’m not the only person who loses patience and gives up.  It would be great to see the split testing results that support the claims of people who say this builds loyalty and increases sales.  🙂

Please save us all from the disingenuous “fear of loss” call to action tactic.  If you aren’t sure what this means, it is the one that compels you to decide right now and threatens that, if you don’t, the offer will be lost forever.  If it really is a limited time offer then using this tactic doesn’t constitute coercion.  A high percentage of the time, however, the claim is not true.  How many times have you bought something because you were led to believe you needed to decide right away and found that same site months after the fact?

When internet marketers began to sell products that teach how to target local business owners, it intrigued me.  I wondered if they really knew what they were talking about.  As it turns out, few internet marketers have ever dealt with offline business owners so please don’t expect them to teach you everything you need to know in order to succeed in this niche.  I’m not saying it isn’t a good idea but, trust me, it isn’t an automatic gateway to wealth.

If you want to have credibility with a local business owner, you need more than a spiel and a ghost written book to hand to them at your first meeting.  You must understand THEIR business and be prepared to explain how you can help them improve their bottom line.

Think about the different businesses that you see in your neighborhood for a moment, excluding chains and franchises.  I doubt that the target market for an attorney, accountant, florist, or day spa lends itself to hype, being forced into opting in to view a video that has no controls on it, or the huge orange “add to cart” button.  Please let me know if you think I am wrong.

Small busines owners understand their niche and they’re good at sensing deception or they don’t stay in business long..  You won’t know how to help them if you haven’t done your homework.  Customer acquisition costs are a factor to small business owners, as well as return on investment.  If you want to play in that field, make sure you understand business basics first.

The bottom line is this:

No internet marketing formula is one-size-fits-all.

How to Analyze Competition for Entrepreneurial Success

August 24, 2009 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Business Basics, Featured

As a seasoned entrepreneur, it is clear that having knowledge of business basics provides a competitive edge.  Regardless of the scope of your vision, if your intention is to use it to obtain financial freedom, having a solid plan is critical to your success.  As a former colleague of mine once opined, a plan is something that you can use to measure your progress. Also, if you are seeking to secure investor funding, you must have a formal business plan to present for their consideration and it must include detailed market research.

Assuming that you believe that the money or time you are investing or plan to invest in your business is valuable, you will find it easy to appreciate the need to analyze your competition but you might be asking yourself how to go about it.  Essentially, competitor analysis involves two basic activities:

  1. Obtaining information about important competitors
  2. Using that information to predict potential competitor responses

Casual knowledge about your potential competitiors is normally not enough.  Using a systematic approach to gather a wide array of information permits you to make informed decisions about how to best position your new product or service or how well the business you are planning to join is positioned.  The objectives and assumptions of competition are indicators about what they are doing and what they are capable of doing, which defines their strengths and weaknesses.  As you uncover market risks from studying competitiors, remember that one person’s risk can become another person’s advantage.

There are many sources of public information for you to use while gathering your intelligence.  If competition is organized and traded publicly, you can review documentation required for them to sell stocks.  This includes shareholder reports, 10K reports, analyst interviews, management statements and press releases.  Most of this information is available on sites like E*Trade.  Another good resource is to scan press releases from PRweb, a site you might even use in the future.

If you understand the business objectives of your competition, you can more accurately predict their response to various competitive moves.  As an example, a business focused on short-term financial goals will not be willing to invest financial resources in response to an apparent competitive attack.

You can determine what is important to your competition by learning more about their structure.  An organizational overview will reveal a lot.  The functions that report directly to the chief executives are those that will, most likely, be given priority.  If your idea targets functions with lower priorities to your perceived competition, it is your advantage.

If you clearly understand the assumptions of your competition, you can predict their reaction to your interference.  Imagine that the company has previously suffered a product failure which has caused their executives to determine there is no market for that product or service.  This knowledge presents an opportunity to be explored.  Little known companies like Honda have leveraged advantages just like this!

Evaluating your competition’s resources and capabilities provides insights into what competitors are capable of doing in response to a threat.  You can delve further to determine how quickly they will be able to react too.

Business StrategyAfter gathering information about your competition’s objectives, assumptions, strategies, and capabilities, compile it into a response profile of possible moves they might make against your idea.  Like pieces on a chess board, you can use these profiles to anticipate the possible moves on the board well in advance of the plays and have a plan of action that keeps you in the game.

We all are aware that that there is competition in any market.  Whether your business idea is online or offline, it is critical to evaluate competition, as well as buyer behavior.  In fact, some schools of thought suggest that one ought to evaluate consumer behavior prior to analyzing anything else, which makes sense.

Michael Porter, the man who imagined strategic analysis, was a business thought leader in the early 1980s but … well … his stuff was written in the early 1980s.  As we all are aware, business has changed significantly since then, partially due to major advances in technology.  A couple of theorists named Brandenburger and Nalebuff extended Porter’s work to include evaluation of consumer activity using something called the Six Forces Model in the mid 1990s, and their work involves game theory.

If your product is internet based, there are many tools that measure what people are searching for and some even offer statistics about consumer behavior but, without knowing what data was used to calculate it, the onus falls on you verify assumptions you have made about the market niche you want to reach.  The next post will provide more details about this topic, so stay tuned!

If you are enjoying my articles or find them valuable, please leave a comment and let me know.  You also might want to share them with your friends on your favorite bookmarking site or social network.

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Strategic Analysis – An Entrepreneur’s Best Friend

August 22, 2009 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Business Basics, Featured

When you are disappointed by anything, what are your tactics for overcoming that feeling? Not so long ago, my grandson answered that random question in this way:

“Oh … I just look out the window and take some action.”

My curiosity was satisfied through further inquiry. The action that this astute 6-year old boy takes is to imagine that he has gotten what he wanted to have. Without thinking too hard, he knows how to do something that many people have paid money and invested many hours to learn. My grandson mentally rewrites the story so it ends in a way that he can feel happy. He shifts his mindset!

Whether this is intuition or instinct remains a curiosity but there is no doubt that my grandson’s method works. Envisioning a desired outcome enables you to see, hear, and feel it in such a way that it can become real. It is the basis of the popular Law of Attraction philosophy.

Envision Your SuccessEnvisioning what you want to go after is only the beginning, however. After you’ve imagined it, you need to perform some soul-searching that measures your personal readiness to operate in that niche, as well as performing due diligence about the future you have envisioned.

Two models are used for strategic analysis in business; PEST and SWOT.

A PEST analysis should always occur first. It measures a market, including competitors, against four external factors; Political, Economic, Social, and Technological. When conducting this phase of due diligence, it is critical to be crystal clear about the market aspect you are addressing so you can observe the external factors from any of the following standpoints:

  • a company looking at its market
  • a product looking at its market
  • a brand in relation to its market
  • a local business unit
  • a strategic option, such as entering a new market
  • a potential acquisition
  • a potential partnership
  • an investment opportunity

Within each of the aspects of a PEST analysis, there are several details that need to be evaluated. This analysis may seem more useful and relevant for larger propositions, but very small businesses can use it to locate significant issues that might otherwise be overlooked.

A SWOT Analysis evaluates the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This tool measures a proposition or idea, including competitors, and assists with understanding and decision-making for many business situations. Here are some examples of what a SWOT analysis can help you assess:

  • a company (its market position, commercial viability, etc.)
  • a sales distribution method
  • a product or brand
  • a business idea
  • a strategic option, such as entering a new market or launching a new product
  • an acquisition
  • a potential partnership
  • supplier changes
  • outsourcing services, activities or resources
  • an investment opportunity

Strategic Planning may not seem essential but, even if you are the only one at the party, careful evaluation of any business action prior to making an investment is prudent. In a small way and somewhat unconsciously, we perform these analyses every time we go to the grocery store so it makes perfect sense to do so when considering a business, doesn’t it?

At internet speed, the pressure to act quickly is always a factor when deciding whether or not to pursue something. Whether the decision involves $5 or $5,000, the result is the same if that business doesn’t pan out and there is no one to blame but yourself if you have taken no time to investigate it.

Using PEST and SWOT templates to evaluate your plans will force you to think through all the aspects of whatever you are investigating.  The internet is a remarkable asset in this research but it should not be your only resource. And, if your research reveals that your idea is not all that you had originally envisioned, young children also teach us something else. When they are interested in what they’re doing, a fall rarely causes them to stop playing the game.