How to Shortcut Your Way to a Successful Online Business

Some of my experiences over the last few years have really reemphasized the importance of learning from people who are super successful online. Experts have "been there and done that." If you are facing a business challenge or numerous challenges it might be time to approach an expert in your field or a related field.

Learning From the Best
There are two common paths people travel down to engage experts. You can either build a relationship with an expert or pay for their services outright.  Both methods benefit your online endeavors.  The people who I've learned the most from and have helped me excel in business are the best of the best. Part of being the best means many experts charge a premium for their time.

Paying $1,000+ an Hour for a Consultant
Most people balk at high priced consultants, "Their rate is ridiculous, I'd never pay that much!" Let's be honest, there are too many consultants in this world that charge a lot of money and don't deliver any results. But, provided you've taken the time to find the best consultant for your field it might be worth considering an investment in consulting. Most high end consultants come with a proven track record. You should always verify a consultant's track record - CAREFULLY CHECK REFERENCES! Ask to speak with some of a consultant's previous and current clients. 

When considering the price of a high end consult ask yourself, "What is my time worth per hour?" As an example let's say you calculate your hourly time to be worth $35 an hour. If it's more, replace the $35 dollar rate with your rate. Consider the following examples:

  1. You can spend 100 hours of your time (at $35 dollars an hour) researching, implementing, and testing your ideas for a particular business challenge.
  2. Hire a $1,000 an hour consultant for an hour or two and spend the other 99-98 hours of your time implementing their proven suggestions.

I Don't Have $1,000 for a Top End Consultant
Not everyone can afford a high end consultant.  The consultants realize this and provide people a way to get around hiring them for a specific project.  Many consultants have created a systems or information product that anyone can purchase. The prices for some of the information products might not be as much as a consultant's hourly rate, but they can be expensive. These information products allow you to integrate a consultant's mindset or system into your business.  By integrating someone else's expertise you can spend the time focus on your strengths.

Everyone should decide what's best for them. Looking back at my own personal business journey, I would have hired more consultants and purchased more information products earlier in my career instead of spending thousands of hours of my own time to figure out a solution some else had already solved.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Start Small, Think Big

“I want a better looking web site!”  That is one of top comments I hear when companies look to rebuild or redesign their web site. Far too many companies waste a ridiculous amount of money on web sites that fail to bring a return on investment.  At the same time, companies and individuals with far less money for their web site make the mistake of investing in their wants versus their needs. You’re better off concentrating on your needs first.  You can save a significant amount of money and time by investing a few hours to think through what your web site needs to accomplish before starting any work.  There is no need to build the biggest and best web site right from the beginning. Below are some simple questions and suggestions.

Beyond Visual Design
Don’t make the mistake of over focusing on a web site’s visual appearance.  This isn’t to suggest a web site should be devoid of design.  There needs to be a consistent look and feel that’s easy to navigate.  Too many companies overemphasize a web site’s visual design.  There are individual with simple one and two page web sites that do six and seven figures in revenue annually.  Their web sites are visually bland and they have no programming skills.

All the Eggs In One Basket
A number of companies insist on vesting themselves heavily in web sites.  Web sites offer just one marketing channel.  Yes, web sites are great at automating some tasks but they aren’t a magic bullet.  Do you have an offline process for marketing and doing business?  If all your eggs are on the Internet, you are limit yourself.

Take an Online Field Trip

What does your web site need to accomplish? Get a piece of paper and start to jot down some notes.  Do you have any competitors in your market place?  Visit their web sites and write down your likes and dislikes.  Are they doing something particularly well that you could “re-purpose” on your web site. You can modify something that an existing company is already successfully utilizing. Most web sites build off what others have already done.

Interaction and Conversion Is Key
At a minimum a web site should give your users the ability to interact with you.  Make sure that you can drive traffic to your site and that it has some sort of conversion process in place.  Remember, most people come to a web site never to return.  Is your web site Sticky?

What Is Your Web Site Worth?
A web site’s worth comes down to a number of factors beyond just cost.  In what ways can you use your web site to reduce costs, increase revenue, and save time? With some simple math you can approximate cost and time savings, plus forecast additional revenue.

There are a plethora of additional factors.  Hopefully what’s listed above will get you at least thinking beyond “something that looks better” when you are rebuilding or starting a new web site.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:


Getting The Best Info – First!

One of the great things the Internet offers is the ability to share information almost instantaneously.  If you have an RSS (Rich Site Summary / Real Simple Syndication) reader you can get web site updates as soon as they’re published. You can educate yourself quicker and faster, provided the information is legitimate. The topic of online legitimacy was covered in a previous post: How Accurate Is Online Information? One of the largest online information hurdles is determining what information is good and which should be ignored. 

Anyone Can Become an Expert
Today anyone can buy a domain and have a web site up and running within a few minutes.  This allows people to publish worldwide at little or no cost.  Online information can be used to control and create either positive or negative outcomes.  There have been presidential elections impacted by what a person posted on their Blog. In the last US presidential election a Blogger challenged the traditional media when it came to President Bush’s military records.  How many times have you received an email or been given a link to an article that’s supposedly legitimate? A few minutes later someone is trumpeting around the office with the “shocking news” they received. Unfortunately all the junk floating around dilutes the credibility of the legitimate information.   

It’s Online First
Provided the information you find can be legitimized there is some great info to be found online.  Top experts write some of the most up to date information on their Blogs before any information gets published in traditional mediums.  If you’re reading it in a book, chances are the information is at least 6 months to a year old.  Some of the best information I get is directly from Blogs I believe to be highly credible.

There are reasonable steps anyone can take to make sure the information they’re getting is legitimate.  This allows you to be at the forefront of new and helpful information.

Ask yourself the following questions in regards to the information you find online:

  • How long has the web site been operating?
  • What are the author’s credentials and experience?
  • Is the author of the web site or Blog published elsewhere?
  • Is the web site updated on a regular basis?
  • Does the information come from a .gov or .edu extension?
  • Has the author been featured as a keynote speaker?
  • Does the web site provide good contact details?
  • Is the information presented in a balanced and objective manner?
  • With what organizations is the author or web site affiliated?

Be vigilant in making sure you’re getting the best information possible.  Below is a short list of Blogs that I trust and visit on a regular basis:

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Using A Little Sex Appeal

Vincent Flanders, who authored Web Pages That Suck, came up with a quote years ago that sums up what people will wait around for online: “If you've got a picture of a naked body -- hey, people will wait forever.”  This was especially the case in the days of the dial up Internet.  Today a large number of users have high speed access and they are impatient as ever, but they’ll still wait and give you their attention courtesy of a little sex appeal. Sex appeal can’t be applied to every web site, but some companies have found a way to take advantage of it and still stay classy. 

An Unexpected Fortuitous Disaster
We all know that sex appeal can have a significant impact on getting attention to a web site.  One of the first mass web broadcasts in Internet history came courtesy of Victoria’s Secret.  They attempted to do a live online broadcast of one of their fashion shows.  Superbowl advertising was bought to promote the online broadcast.  Most people who tried to log on to watch the live web cast weren’t able to log on. From a technology perspective it was a massive failure. 

At the same time, the technological fiasco turned out to be a stroke of marketing genius.  The Victoria Secret web site was flooded with traffic after people couldn’t access the event.  The show was later posted online driving even more traffic to the Victoria Secret web site.

A Real World Example
Maria_kermit One web site that makes use of sex appeal tastefully presented is Yahoo’s “THE 9.”  Host Maria Sansone strikes a good balance that appeals to both men and women. The video format and interactivity make it an easy winner with users. Somehow I don't think that Barbara Walters would have as much success as Maria enjoys online.  The appeal needs to be a good match for the audience and the medium.

It isn’t for every site, but the benefit of a little sex appeal can send significant traffic to a web site.  There are a number of tasteful choices.  The hard part is finding a good one.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

How Accurate Is Online Information?

How much credence can we give to information found on the Internet?  I know a number of people who read anything online and consider it fact. How many times have you received an email attempting to rewrite history?  You might question the validity of the information, but that isn’t the case with everyone.  The speed of the Internet can be both a virtue and a vice.  Consider the impact of Blogging in the last Presidential campaign.  Some people with their own personal Blogs have become their own news service.  Where does one draw the line between fact and online fiction?

Some educators won’t accept any sources of online information.  They either want it straight from a book or some other accredited organization.  Recently I visited one of my former teachers.  She indicated that their educational standards don't allow students to cite online resources.  If a online citation is provided it needs to be held to the programs standards.  Wikipedia isn't considered an authoritative source.  Wikipedia's validity has been questioned on a number of occasions. Yet it is difficult to search on something without a Wikipedia link appearing near the top of the SERPs.

Several universities and accredited organizations publish their findings online.  Does information found on a .gov or .edu carry with it an acceptable level of validity?

Web users are left with an interesting juxtaposition.  In many cases some of the most innovative ideas can be found online months if not years before appearing in books.  At what point in time do we acknowledge online information as valid or invalid?

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:


Getting Massive Marketing Insight from The Classic Marketeers

Buried Treasure
A few months ago I uncovered some advertising history at my local library.  A number of recent books on copywriting and marketing make reference to a list of advertising legends. John Caples is usually mentioned as a must read for anyone interested in learning more about copywriting or advertising.  The librarian had to go into the old stacks to find Caples’ books.  After spending time reading Caples you can see where many of today’s authors adopted and modified classic teachings.  Modern internet marketers have adopted many of their time tested techniques and found great success.

Timeless Techniques
Look at some of the timeless techniques the Internet has adopted from the newspaper industry.  One timeless technique is a powerful headline.  Headlines are a time tested chance to grab the reader's attention.  Great advertising headlines have transitioned into compelling email subject lines.  If your subject line isn't compelling, the email probably won't get opened.  The fundamentals haven’t changed in hundreds of years because they work.

Users are still driven by content.  If pictures and multimedia are all the rage, why do so many people still read novels that only contain words?  People still visit the library and take out books.  How many novels have you read in their entirety online? 

Split testing your ads. With the Internet and the ability to track performance via analytics, it has never been easier to split test your ads.  Today’s savvy web entrepreneurs are using the split testing methodology

Learn from the Past
Just like advertising and marketing there are certain techniques that work well for web sites.  Some of the most successful web sites integrate time tested director marketing techniques.  If you get a chance spend some time learning from the classic marketeers, look to David Ogilvy, John Caples, Victor Schwab, and Claude Hopkins.  Many of today's top advertising consultants have mastered and revised the works of legends.  For a more modern viewpoint look to people like Bob Bly, Dan Kennedy, Joe Sugarman, and Gary Halbert.  There is so much you can learn from the past.

What can you learn from marketing history and integrate into your web site?

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:


Do You Just Have A Web Site?

Greetings from Niagara Falls ARS.  This weekend my time is dedicated to the North East Council of Air shows' Annual Conference.  It is an excellent opportunity to catch up with some of the best pilots and organizers in the air show industry.  If it is air show related it always involves a bar(somewhat responsibly) and socializing.  As with most industries business is usually done at the bar.  You get the drink, engage in conversation, and press forward. 

Being the resident geek it is almost guaranteed that web sites come up in conversation. Through the late 1990s and 2000s people gave a great deal of credence to those with a web site. In today's business world it isn't enough to just have a web site.

People still check if you have a web site.  It is the first step in establishing credibility for a company or service.  After the first step, most businesses don't have a second step.  One of the most common lines said: "We have a web site and it isn't doing anything for us." It is imperative for companies to look beyond just having a web presence.  If you already have a web site, ask the following question: "How is my web site facilitating to acquisition of new business or supporting my current business?" Most people, who have a business web site, don't have a decent answer to that question.

In order to be successful online you need to be able to leverage your web site. Companies have spent millions, possibly billions on ineffective web sites.  Think of ways to use your site to not only build trust and credibility, but to also act as an active way to generate new leads or business.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Reaching Online Critical Mass

At what point does a web site reach critical mass?  The notion of online critical mass comes up a number of times when you’re building an online presence.  People always ask “what does it take to be successful online?” Your web site needs to reach critical mass. Your site should reach a point where it becomes self perpetuating.  You no longer have to fight for traffic or sales.  It’s the online version of easy street.

In the simplest business sense critical mass is usually achieved when a business meets some predefined threshold.  This is usually profitability or a certain amount of market share. (Source: Netlingo)   When it comes to your web site it becomes a matter of finding enough users to support the goals of your site.  Two critical components to reaching online critical mass are content and leveraging search engine optimization.

On Content
You need enough high quality content to lure users to your site and keep them coming back. Keep your content fresh and up to date. This is a big reason why news web sites and blogs are so popular. Updating your content on a regular basis will help you get new users.  If you establish the trend of regular updates try your best to keep things updated.  The most important part of your content is making sure that you keep it relevant to your users.  Focus on serving their needs and desires.

Search Engine Optimization
SEO is important in getting visitors to your web site.  If you have a significant amount of high quality content you are in a good position to make the most of SEO. A number online success stories can attribute SEO as a large factor to their success. Search Marketing is going to allow you to build a stead stream of targeted traffic to your web site. One thing to keep in mind is that search engine optimization is not a fire and forget tactic.  You need to be constantly working toward improving your search engine traffic.

A Matter of Time

One particular quirk to online critical mass is the notion of time.  Because the web is perceived to be fast, people’s expectations are set accordingly.  This keeps web site owners on their toes in hopes of serving up the latest and greatest.  Too many people expect results in a very short time frame. When they don't reach their goals they give up.  Make sure you aren't this person.  Time is especially important when it comes to implementing an SEO campaign.

Keep Learning and Trying
I have yet to meet a highly successful web site owner who had zero training or experience.  Some people are lucky and others fail miserably.  Those who succeed online are smart enough to learn from their experience and march on! Nobody ever gets it right the first time.  The Internet allows you to fail very quickly.  As long as you're learning from the experience, fail as often as possible.  There are only so many times you can get it wrong before you get it right.

In order to reach critical mass online you need content, traffic from search, and a little bit of time. Always keep your web site moving in the right direction, up!

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:


Ego: How to Destroy Your Business Web Site

The Quickest Way to Crash Your Own Web Site
Over the last decade there is one consistent vice that has worked against countless web sites. This vice is an egotistical mindset in relation to your web site.  It is specific to how you present your information to your users.  In many cases companies and web developers share a significant amount of responsibility.  Everyone feels the need to flex their online muscle and wisdom. The end result is users getting left out in the cold. Your users are the foundation of your web existence. "No users, no traffic, no income."  You cannot afford to alienate users. You need to start by recognizing the problems associated with an egotistical mindset.  After you've done that the solution is pretty simple.

Web Development Firms
Far too many development studios and ad agencies approach their web projects like art.  It is your best interest to create a web site that strikes a balance between graphics and contentThe most effective web sites have great content supported by a clean and simple design.  In order for most developers to achieve this it only requires a small change in mindset.  Yet, there are very few firms that "get it." Remember it's more important to be useful than cool.

Too Company Centric

Companies who get others to create their web site are not immune from the adverse effects of being egotistical online. Many companies make a mess of their own web sites or a web strategy. These companies hire great web development firms and then insist on dictating how their web site should be built. Web developers across the globe have heard the following numerous times: "We're hiring you to do the work and you'll do it our way."  Companies need to hire web development firms with a proven track record.  After you have established your faith in the development firm of your choice let them leverage their expertise with your online goals.

If you or your company maintains its own web site make sure you are focusing on the needs of your user. Go to almost any web site and find an "about us" or "our services" page. Count how many times you see the following words at a beginning of each sentence: "(The company name), Our, My, or We." You need to let your users know how you are going to help them.  This starts with taking your ego out of the equation.  Smart companies know how to craft their online messaging to connect with the user

The Antidote: Staying Relevant to the User's Needs
The simplest antidote to an online ego is ensuring user relevancy.  In Jakob Nielsen's HOME RUN acronym the "R" stands for "Relevant to the User's needs."  The concept is so simple, yet so difficult for web site owners and companies to comprehend.  You need to make sure you web site stays relevant to your user's needs.  If you make your content easy to use and meaningful to your users it's not as difficult to be successful online. You need to focus on being user centric.  The information should be presented for the user's benefit, not yours.  Dr. Joe Vitale said it best "get out of your ego and focus on your user's ego."

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:


Starting on the Internet, Slowly

If you are thinking of starting a web site you might want to consider setting up a temporary web page.  A one page site is a great way to get your feet wet without committing large sums of money or time.  Start with a one page site and take a "Baby Steps Approach."  Build as you go and don't over commit. The emphasis should be on keeping things small and simple.  Your site can be used for business or personal use.

Inexpensive Entry
Hosting and domain name registration have become inexpensive.  In most cases you can register a domain and host a web site annually for under $75 USD.  No other form of advertising can offer you the flexibility found on a web site.  It's the "world's most inexpensive printing press."  You can test your concept or ideas online without over committing your time or finances.  You'll find a link below to help you with selecting a domain name.

One advantage of setting up your web site early is getting yourself established with search engines. Ask family or friends with a web site to link to your site.  This will help you get listed and build trust with the search engines.  This simple methodology will help you if you decide to stay online for the long haul.

Get Some Help
Before you start, spend some time researching other web sites, seek out someone in the web industry to help you out. You would be amazed at how many people are willing to pass along great information in trade for buying them lunch.  Go to your local library and check out some books on building web sites.

If you are apprehensive about building your own site, look toward a local university.  You might be able to find a student to assist you in setting up your site.  If you are going to get someone to work on your web site make sure they are trustworthy and reliable.  Ask for work references and call them. Keep some controls in place to make sure you aren't left high and dry. Make sure they provide you with backup copies of all the files, passwords, and all other relevant information.

Present High Quality Information
You can present comprehensive information on your web site, but don't bore people. Setup an email address and take advantage of two way communication.  Make sure your information is relevant to the user.  You would be surprised at all the one and two page web sites that are generating respectable amounts of revenue.

One thing too many people and companies do is neglect what they've started. There are numerous web sites on the Internet that were started, never to be finished. In another scenario too many people wait until they have all their information read before posting anything online.  As long as the information is high quality content, you can post something.  One thing you don't want to do is post an empty page or "under construction" graphic.

At a minimum have some information on what you do and contact information. Below are links to articles that should help you get started.  Gook luck and Enjoy!

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Persistence and Online Patience

How many times have you heard the phrase “Patience is a virtue”? That same idiom is applicable to the online world. Unfortunately most of us live in a world that has set its goal expectation levels at “I expect it now!” or “I expected it yesterday.” The same expectations are prevalent in regards to web sites and web strategies. When people or companies don’t see an immediate return on investment from their web site or web strategy they quit. This mentality is probably one of the biggest reasons why web sites fail. The opposite is also true. You shouldn’t wait too long for results or invest time and money into a pipe dream. One of the biggest online disciplines is truly understanding when to move forward with a process and when to wait.

SEO and Patience
Search Engine Optimization is a perfect example of where patience and persistence is so important, yet lacking.  Too many companies look at SEO and expect immediate results. “We’re going to hire you and you’ll get us on top of Google in a few weeks, correct?" That was said by someone after a SEO presentation. You try your best to thoroughly explain the process and expectation levels, but people and companies refuse to listen. They’re too focused on immediate results. Yes there are things you can do to get immediate results online, but SEO isn’t a quick fix. Those companies that listen and take the time to understand the process are usually very successful online.

Six Months of Blogging
Blogging is another classic example of patience and persistence.  Of the group of “Blogeteers” I started Blogging with none of them are still posting. They’ve abandon their pursuits. Online guru Dave Taylor had a great suggestion when it comes to people or companies Blogging “you need to give it at least six months.”  You need to update a few times a week and stay committed to your pursuit.  To which I’ve heard the all too common response “I don’t have the time.”

Your Rate of Return
You can look at your web site like an investment medium. But unlike traditional markets, you have direct control on your rate of return. Some people only get a few percentage points on their return on investment, whereas others get astronomical rates of return. If you make the right decisions and implement the correct strategy you can increase you rate of return and beat almost any other form of investing.  It is important to remember web sites are like investing, value is built over time, not in a few days or weeks.

There is a fine line between patience and knowing when to move forward. I have yet to find a strategy that is definitive in determining when to move and when you should be patience online. It’s far better to smartly wait and see how a situation pans out as opposed to getting impatient, not learning from the experience and quitting. Try to be patient and persistent with everything you do online, but don't drag your feet. You aren’t wasting time if you’re learning a valuable lessons on the way. Reapply those lessons and move forward!

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Are You Listening To Your Users?

What Makes the Internet So Great?

The Internet's ability to act as a two way communication channel gives it a distinct advantage over traditional forms of media and advertising.  Other media can give you tremendous exposure to a vast number of people, but its one way communication.  Your ability to target your audience online is significantly easier. One of the best ways to get to your market's needs is by leveraging the two way communication channel.

Get User Centric
Use email, newsletters, and online surveys to build a picture of user wants.  Drill down to the user's needs. In the past I've written about the "Me Me Me" mentally that many companies have online.  Companies spend a lot of money and time telling you why they are the greatest and why you should buy from them.  If users aren't interested in what you have to offer even the best advertising in the world won't help you. You need to remember that users are far more skeptical of anything they see online. Companies fail every day to meet user needs and desires.  Make sure you concentrate more on the user's ego and don't over hype.

Make sure that the information you present is there for the user's benefit, not yours.  Too many web sites try to "sell" their product or service to the user.  Instead of "selling" to your user think of ways to present information to your user.  Online Marketing guru, Dr. Joe Vitale, recommends presenting user's with 95% High Quality Information, 5% sales.

Establish Relationships

When you find ways to leverage the two way communication channel you build trust and credibility with users.  Trust and credibility are two of the most important factors in a user's decision to buy.  "When all things are equal, friends buy from friends. When things are unequal, friends still buy from friends." Create a database of all the people who have emailed you.  These people have expressed some interest, good or bad, in your web site.  Use the ability to communicate with them to your advantage.   Do you buy products from people or companies you don't trust?

Using All That Feedback

The truly savvy Internet Marketer uses the web to collect data and feedback to create better products and new services.  Google and Yahoo are constantly following this model.  Integrating user feedback and trends are a significant reason why theses companies are so successful. Think of ways to do the same.

The web offers a number of ways to communicate with your users. Are you making the most of it?

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Is Your SPAM Filter Confused?

It started with a telephone call from an unhappy Air Force Major.  He wanted to know why I hadn’t responded to his email.  My first thought was “what email?!?!” I double checked my email Inbox and there were no messages from him in months.  After a telephone call the issue brought up in the email was eventually resolved.  Unfortunately the time wasted between us playing phone tag and actually solving the problem added up to at least an hour or two.  I eventually found his email in my SPAM folder.  The software I was using tagged the email as potential SPAM.  I spent time going over documentation and everything on my filter seemed properly configured.  This is an example of how filtering SPAM can interfere with legitimate email.

Nobody likes spam.  My personal SPAM record is somewhere near 300+ messages in one day.  We all have to deal with it.  The most difficult thing can be filtering the good from the bad. The case presented above illustrates just one example of misdiagnosed SPAM.  My two recommendations for the day are to configure your spam filter properly and have a backup plan in place if email fails.

The Challenge of SPAM filtering
I believe the best way to deal with SPAM is at the individual email account level.  We host a number of web sites for various companies.  Clients call me on a regular basis about the amount of SPAM they’re getting in their mailbox.  The challenge for any hosting company or email provider is filtering the good from the bad.  As soon as you filter a legitimate piece of email, you’re in trouble. We can configure SPAM filtering on the server, but it isn’t perfect. You can’t guarantee someone that legitimate email won’t be filtered. I believe that people should manage SPAM at an individual level.

Proper SPAM Filter Set up
One of the most important things you can do with your email is ensuring that your SPAM filter is setup properly.  Start with your SPAM filter documentation.  Too many people use restrictive default settings and filter good emails. I see this happen all the time.  Set your SPAM filter to an acceptable level to significantly reduce SPAM.  If you are too restrictive or use default settings you might block legitimate emails.  Some filtering programs allow you to backup your settings. Find a setting that works best.

Go To A Backup Plan
One of the biggest annoyances of email is people using it as a scapegoat.  I hear it all the time “I didn’t get your email.” If you send an email and someone doesn’t respond within a reasonable amount of time, pick up the telephone and call them.  This simple, yet often forgotten, process can save you a time and headache.  Take responsibility by picking up the phone and asking someone “did you get my email?”  Don’t make any judgments, just ask.

Computers only do what people instruct them to do and people aren’t perfect.  It’s a match made for disaster.  When it comes to SPAM filters, double check your setup and go to the phone as a backup.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:


Why Should People Give You An Online Donation?

Cap I ran across the donation request box on the right while surfing the Internet. Initially I didn’t give it much thought.  It’s a donation request just like all the other donation requests, right?  Upon brief study I noticed something a little different - "please" repeated four times. It gave donation box a sense of urgency - but not in a good way.  Finally I ended up clicking on the “Make a Donation” button just to satiate my curiosity.  After the click, there were no further details indicating how my donation was going to be used.

Wishful Thinking
What is the probability of someone just clicking on a donation button shown? I would argue slim to no chance. The button above gives no compelling reason to donate. If you are asking for donations online you need to compel users to take action.  I contacted the site owner to inquire how the donation would be used. They never replied.

Low Donation Barriers
Online donations have far few barriers for their donors.  Compare this with offline donations.  In the offline world you normally get a donation request letter.  Usually they have a self addressed envelope and donation cards.  If you fill out the card you then need to either enter your credit card or make out a check.  After that’s complete you seal up the envelope and drop it in the mail box.  For many people this is way too many steps.  Let's be honest, please just don't have the time. If you want to contribute online you can go to the site, get your wallet, and enter your credit card number - BOOM! your done.

Give Them a Good Reason Why
There are a small number of simple things you can do to increase the likelihood of someone donating to your cause.  The first place to start is with a good cause.  You need to give your potential donors a very good reason to donate. Don't be afraid to be descriptive. Very few people are willing to give up their hard earned money - regardless of their level of financial wealth.  It is your job to create and present a compelling reason.

Make sure that your donation button is above the fold.  It constantly needs to be in front of your audience.  Some web sites hide their donation buttons or pages in the most obscure places.  If your donation box is at the bottom of the page, you're not going to do well.

Some of the most successful donation drives are run by political organizations.  Politics is an ideal example of involving emotions into the decision making process.  "Whether online or offline, you must make your pitch, you must provide a sense of urgency, and you must make it easy to donate.” says Tom Hockaday. His firm helped John McCain raise $6.4 million dollars online for his presidential campaign. Source: Ireland & Nash, Secrets of Successful Online Fundraising: Tips for Increasing Donations

What do They Get for Their Donation?
Tell people what they are going to get for their donation.  It could be anything from a free t-shirt to an autographed copy of a book.  There needs to be a value added incentive.

It is also important to follow up with a thank you for anyone that donated. It has never been easier to automate the thank you process.  Let your donors know how their charity was used.  People are much more likely to donate to a good cause more than once if they know their money is being well spent. If you want to raise the bar even higher, send a hand-written or hard mail piece. An email thank you is nice, but it doesn't have the impact of a hand-written note.

Web donations will only increase in the coming years.  Make sure you do the simple things that encourage your target market to donate to a good cause.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

False Hopes and Internet Domain Name Brokers

I was listening to the radio yesterday and heard an ad that was upsetting.  It was a domain registration company that was trying to convince people of the riches in domain name brokering.  If you register a domain from them you could get paid millions of dollars.  There are very few people that have made millions by selling a domain outright. What are the chances? You honestly have a better chance of getting hit by lightening on a clear day.

Companies shouldn't advertise online get rich schemes.  In my book that is completely irresponsible. If a domain name/web site is sold for a large dollar amount it's usually because of web traffic and advertising dollars. Other high valued web sites generate revenue from products or service. Throughout this article I'll use "domain name" and "web site" in an analogous manner.

A Bit of Realism
None of my friends or close associates have become rich off selling a domain name.  In many cases they spent hundreds and some cases thousands of dollars on domain names.  A business mentor of mine jumped on domain name band wagon years ago.  Again, he bought hundreds of domain names and spent thousands of dollars.  To this day I think he only has made a few dollars off all the domains he once owned. Unfortunately he bought into empty hopes and promises.

The Only Domain Name Success Story
There is one person I knew who sold his web site for millions of dollars.  It was during the dot-com revolution.  The company that bought the web site consolidated the domain into one of their own web sites.  Why did this person get paid millions of dollars for his web site? The web site generated "more than 40,000 downloads per day and more than 10 million page views per month."  A web site like that has massive value. This person positioned himself in the right place at the right time. It was a different time and I don't see that ever happening again. 

A Little Domain Name Valuation
The value of a domain has a vast number of metrics.  There are a variety of algorithms, each taking something different into account.  When it comes to valuing domains the financial geek in me takes over.  Show me a balance sheet and income statement for your web site.  As they say "Money Talks." If you don't have that information you can make some safe assumptions based on research.  If a web site sells millions of dollars in products or services, it definitely has good value.  Or if the domain gets so much traffic that it's plastered with banner ads and Adsense, the domain probably has value.
My bottom line on value is based on content and utility.

Be Careful Out There
My lesson for the day is don't get shammed by people who claim instant online riches.   I do believe that the Internet can make people very wealthy.  There are systems out there that can help you generate additional revenue streams, but this isn't something that happens over night. Make sure you do your homework on any offer that sounds too good to be true.

Additional Resources:

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

2006 Blog Highlights

Today’s post is short and sweet.  I’ve collected user data and visitor feedback to present my 2006 post highlights.  The highlights cover a wide swath of ground from aviation to Internet marketing.  My hope is that the various posts will get you thinking more about your own business ideas.   Make sure you take action!  Please feel free to pass the information to family and friends, because everyone interested in the web needs to know this stuff.

The Most Fun You Can Have with Your Clothes On
This post contains a short video and article about following your passion.  When your work is your passion, you’ll never work another day.

Thomas Edison and the Internet

Like computers, too many people fear making a mistake on the Internet.  Learn how Thomas Edison embraced mistakes and why you should strive to make mistakes online.

Online Marketing Like P.T. Barnum
(Part I)
More Marketing Like P.T. Barnum (Part II)
A look at Joe Vitale’s synopsis on P.T. Barnum’s “Rings of Power.” Learn how you can apply the techniques of the world’s greatest marketer to your web site or business.

Networks and Marketing

Discover the power of networks. You need to tap into the power of your industry networks.  Are you ready? Warm up your business cards.

Unexpected Online Business Success
Things never go as expected, especially online. The small things and targeted niche markets can help you.

Why Worry About Search Engine Optimization?
Learn why every business needs to consider leveraging Search End Optimization. SEO can drive high quality traffic to your web site.

Above the Fold
Do you know why it is so important to keep your most important content above the fold?

On Being Late
It’s important to be on time.  Yet there comes occasions when we become detailed.  Use this helpful advice to smooth over the next time you are late.

I’m really looking forward to the New Year.  It’s my goal to publish two Internet related books in the coming year.   Look for my “Do it Yourself Usability Guide” series coming shortly.  I’ll also be releasing a series of downloadable PDF documents focusing on SEO, Usability, and Internet Marketing.

See you later 2006!

There Is No Perfect Web Strategy

People approach me all the time about starting a web site. One of the most common questions is "What exactly should I do?"  They're usually disappointed by my answer.  Businesses need to understand there is no cookie cutter web strategy for every web site. Yes you can concentrate on some macro fundamentals like design, marketing, and usability.  These are things any web site should possess.  But in many cases it's the small things that count.  More important is a business giving their web strategy time to work.  Here is the best part; there is no set time frame. You need to use your own judgment.  Two important factors any company needs to take into consideration are time and strategy.

You need to look at your time frame with patience.  I've stated this previously, many businesses want immediate results with their web site.  The one thing you will learn on the web, much like investing, is that wealth and prosperity are built over time.  The "I want it yesterday" mentality dooms more web projects than you can imagine.  I've seen Fortune 500 companies sacrifice very smart strategies because they became impatient.  Yes you have to set limits on time frame. But make sure that limit isn't too short.

When it comes to strategy I look to other good examples within the business world.  A brick and mortar company that is an ideal success analogy is Wegmans Food Markets.  Wegmans' core model is based around being a grocery store. They have a very simple yet systematic approach to ancillary services.  Most stores have your staple grocery store service bakery, meat department, and pharmacy.  In many cases individual store demographics dictate which additional services are provided.  If a service (Sushi bar, Kids Fun Center, Photo Processing, Dry Cleaning, etc.) doesn't work out it is pulled and replaced with another.  If no ancillary service works out the individual store reverts to their core model.  This is a continuous store by store process until the right combination is found.

You can apply the Wegmans' methodology to your web strategy.  Concentrate on creating a long term strategy supported by ancillary services.  Your core strategy can be rooted in design, marketing, and usability.  These core services can be supported by additional technologies or services including: Organic SEO, PPC Campaigns, Copywriting, Public Relations, E-newsletter, Surveys, etc.  In many cases additional services can be added at comparatively low cost. Mix and match what works best.  You need to determine the proper time frame to test each service or combination of services.  Once again, there is no perfect combination and you can't rush success. Organic SEO can take several months to take root. Time is the largest mitigating factor.

You need to realize that there is no magic bullet or perfect web strategy.  When I recently asked a friend how he attains 40-60K visitors a day, he didn't have a concrete answer.  As he put it, "I just kind of did it." Successful web sites are built upon a systematic strategy that is continuously modified.   You need to make a decision on what you want to do and set forth in your strategy.  Regardless of your strategy make sure you give it time to work.

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:


Expecting Success Online

Everyone with a web site should have a goal in mind.  As I’ve stated before, having a web site just to have a web site isn’t enough.  Be pragmatic when setting online goals and strategy .  Most businesses miss the boat by setting goals that are far too difficult to achieve.   When the desired result isn’t achieved, in the shortest time possible, most get frustrated and quit.

I’m fairly pithy in this article.  Please don’t confuse an experienced and pragmatic viewpoint as negativity.  Many people get frustrated when I don’t tell them what they like to hear.  I refuse to pass along impractical online dreams to the masses.  But, I do believe you need to be smart, realistic, and positive with your online pursuits.  To be successful online takes dedication and hard work.

One of the biggest keys to online success is embodied in the following words “Marketing. Marketing, and Marketing.” People need to know about your web site and how to get there.  You can take a decent product or service and market it properly to achieve tremendous success.  Or you can have the best product in the world with zero marketing and go nowhere.  Smart marketing is quintessential!

I have a number of friends who want to become wealthy using the Internet.  Yet when I tell them what’s involved they respond with “I don’t have the time.” I think this is a load of dung.  The people who are serious about being successful online find the time.  I’ve tried to help and encourage almost a hundred people over the last decade.  Of all the advice that I’ve given to friends; two people have taken the initiative to move forward.  They understand the risk versus rewards scenario.  At the end of the day it’s up to the an individual to take initiative.

Almost every single online success story had humble beginnings. I cannot think of anyone who did remarkably well right from startup. Several people stumble through the online growing process.  Most of the Internet gurus started off making a few hundred dollars a month. Today some of them make in excess of $150K a month.

Set your online expectations reasonably high, but not too high.  If you choose to play the online game: play it with knowledge, tenacity, and determination.Nobody is entitled to anything but opportunity.  Not even to a level playing field. Nothing. Nada. Just opportunity.”  - Dan Kennedy

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:


Discovering Web Site Ideas

I am a big advocate of everyone having their own web site.  It doesn't even need to be something business based. But if you are thinking of a business idea, web sites are a great place to start.  You can have a web site to share photos or create a Blog to get great information to the masses.  One of the top challenges everyone faces at the beginning is: "What should my web site be about?"

One of my business mentors gave a very simple concept for generating great business ideas.  His concept can easily be adapted to generate web site ideas. Get a piece of paper or a notebook and write "What can I teach someone?" across the top.  Some people can instantaneously create a list and others take their time.  Put that question in the back of your brain for a day or two.  As you begin to think of ideas write them down on the piece of paper or notebook containing the question.  As soon as your brain kicks in it is amazing what you can get down on paper.

Your ideas should be something you a passionate about.  People who really enjoy their field of work are passionate about what they do. This includes people who are highly successful in business and on the web.

I used this approach in a slightly different manner when I started this Blog.  There were a few ideas floating around my brain in terms of article topics, but not many.  I found a piece of paper and wrote "What can I write about in my Blog?" across the top.  In between workout sets at the gym I'd write down a few article ideas.  By the end of my workout I had over 60 article topics.

Regardless of how good your web site ideas are, look carefully at the market you are going to tackle. You should always do a little homework on the competition of the market and saturation levels.  If it is a broad market look toward a niche market.

Though this is a very simplistic approach it really does help to get your brain energized.  Writing the question and answers down on paper is very important.  The last caveat is as follows: Ideas are nothing unless they are acted upon.  Go out and have some fun!

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below:

Unexpected Online Business Success

If you think your great idea is going to be huge and profitable online you usually get a very different result. How often does anything go the way you expect it to? There have been a number of wild ideas that I invested in over the years that were financial duds.  Everything looked good on paper but something didn't pan out as expected.  Fortunately I learned valuable lessons along the way. 

I found a similar trend amongst successful online friends. One friend was running a series of web sites for years without making a dime. Today he gets most of his traffic and income from a site he started two years ago.  For him the difference was in his thinking and approach.

A site I started last year led me to rediscover a whole new side of the Internet.  It was a fundamental that I knew existed but never fully embraced.  If you really want to be successful online learn the skill of direct marketing. You can have the greatest product in the world. But, if nobody knows it exists or wants to purchase it, you're going to have a hard time making sales.  Other people can take an average product or service, market it like there is no tomorrow to the right niche market and be very successful.

Gladwell points this out in his book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference; it is the small things that can make a world of difference.

There comes a time on the Internet where you have to stop doing your homework and start executing on your ideas.  Gone are the days when you had to invest large sums of money to get started online.  Make sure you have you've done some homework, have a strategy, and ensure your marketing skills in place.  When your ducks are in a proper row go for it!

Want to get more great info? Check out the articles below: