Archives for August 2010

Is It OK To Profit From Rejected Affiliate Leads?

Here’s an interesting issue.

James is an affiliate who sends a company leads to a page where the prospect shall complete a form requesting for – something free. Once the prospect does that and is considered a ‘good’ lead, James gets paid his commission. This is a pretty classic cost-per-action campaign or pay-per-lead affiliate program. Nothing wrong with it right? But what if…

The lead is ‘rejected’ by the company. Maybe because the form wasn’t complete or the prospect did not complete all the required steps because they changed their minds. The prospect doesn’t receive his freebie and James doesn’t get paid for that lead. However, unknown to the prospect and James, the prospect’s contact information is not discarded but actually saved into a ‘rejected leads’ database or mailing list.

Soon, the company begins to send the ‘rejected’ prospects some other offers and related emails. The links in the emails do not carry Jame’s affiliate IDs and cookies only last 30 or 45 days. Eventually, James is totally out of the picture. Yet, the company has gained a lead that James sent for free.

We’ve been cavalierly told, this is standard practice everywhere, giving names of large Internet stores as an example. Well, that may be true but does ‘standard practice’ make it OK though?

How do you handle it?

Why is it OK?

Why is it not OK?

We’d really love to hear your thoughts on this.

Photo by Ali Farid

How Bad Do You Want It?

How many people do you know who long to be in their own business? They have lots of great ideas and yearn to “be my own boss.” They put a lot of energy in dreaming and wondering if this will be their ticket to financial freedom. I had the opportunity (I use this word lightly) to meet one of these dreamers the other day. They had that great idea that was going to do it for them. We shared a conversation over coffee. Essentially it was a web-based business, lots of coding etc. I said I’d investigate and can back with a price for this dream of theirs.

(You probably know where this is going)

When I submitted the fee, the instant reply I got was… “If I had that amount of money, I’d buy a car.”

I’d buy a car. How perfectly telling. No – they wouldn’t finance their dream – invest in themselves – they would buy a car! I guess they figured this would cost very close to nothing. It showed just how valuable their dreams are. I believe you see this all the time with start-ups. They have lots of cash for office equipment and decorating – things that make them “0” amount of income. Weeks before launch, with their budgets very nearly depleted, they then see “what’s left” to put towards marketing. The very thing that “makes them money.” The sad fact is that in many cases, decorating is fun. It’s dressing up the dream. Marketing somehow feels and looks like air.

The smart ones get it and realize their dream. The rest – well, they’re out buying cars!

If they don’t have faith in themselves, how can they ever expect to succeed? That person I was dealing with, should have considered the fee and found a way to finance the dream just like all of us. Sometimes that financing is time, sometimes its money, and sometimes its perseverance. Whatever it takes. When I started, I put up my house, everything to realize my dream.

How bad do you want it?

Barriers to Branding Success

Everything that touches your brand affects it. How you market it, is the voice of your brand. Positioning is the stand you take. Community involvement is the heart of your brand. Brand perception is reality to your audience. How stake holders describe and talk about you has some impact on your brand standing and the perception factor. With all these influencers (and more that I haven’t mentioned) there are any number of barriers that affect your brand’s success.

Your job ( and a mighty big one) is to minimize any negative impact these influencers may have. Some of these are external and internal barriers. External barriers are situations like compliance issues and not keeping current with technology – this impacts productivity, dragging you down. Uninspired marketing addresses nothing and flies under the radar of your audience. Lousy service and union problems are massive barriers to your brand’s success.

Every day in business something pops up that challenges your brand. How you react to them or not, impacts the brand. Couple the stress of this with personal barriers. One would be your alertness. Depending on how you tackle everything, fatigue has a huge impact on your efforts. Family responsibilities are another influencer. Whether you have a positive or negative point of view is a barrier. Have you noticed that when you dwell on the negative, it seems to attract more negative things to you? Lack of education – upgrading is another barrier.

Barriers are a fact of life. How you plan for them and how you overcome them are the bench marks of a truly great brand. Don’t allow barriers to overwhelm you, and view their challenges as just another way to improve your overall performance. As I hurdle each one, I take pride in knowing I am in control. Surrendering to barriers is just the top of the spiral down.

A good exercise is to list your own external and internal barriers and develop a strategy to overcome and build on them.

Lowest Price Guaranteed – All The Way To The Bottom.

Lowest price guaranteed!

We will not be undersold!

If you find a lower price we will…

Competing on price, not something we all relish. If you’re a discount store, it is part of your brand values. It’s what gets ’em in your door. For the rest of us, it’s something that can easily drive us out of business. Reducing our business to a commodity, is a horrible place to be. That’s especially true if the other guy is willing to buy the business or sell below their cost in an effort to outlast you. (who has the deeper pockets).

In the graphic design business, designers are repeatedly competing with anyone with a computer. How does a graphic design business compete with others who charge a fraction of their cost? Branding – plain and simple. When a person hires design projects on price they surrender professionalism, expert business advice, experience, communication smarts and ethics. Design professionals repeatedly win projects for several thousand dollars where their competition sells it for a few hundred. When you are aware of how brand works, you stop taking client relationships for granted. You over deliver on service. You keep your brand front and center and you continue to add value. Take the high road with your brand, look as powerful as you can.

The minute a business takes their eye off their brand, they start to slide toward commodity hell. At first glance, you might assume that there isn’t a problem competing on price. But ask yourself, “Where will this strategy take me, if my competitions believes it is the solution as well?” Definitely – it will take the both of you straight to the bottom. Deepest pocket wins!

Some may scoff at this article. Even they have to admit that at times they too have purchased the more expensive product or service, from businesses that on the surface are identical to their competitors. Roofers, hardware and auto parts suppliers for example. But the reason for these more expensive purchases was the value added. The experience of the employees from whom you draw great advice. The fact that they look like they are going to be around next week. All these perceptions are branding advantages. Consistency of image itself breeds familiarity and a sense of comfort.

If you want to avoid commodity hell, find valuable ways to build relationships with your customers. Stay in touch with them. Offer them valuable advice and connect them with resources that make them appreciate their connection to you. Have a positioning strategy that absolutely differentiates your brand and resonates with your audience in a big way.

Sure, every now and then it’s about price. Nothing is absolute. But this doesn’t mean you can’t step your brand up and try to side step the approach, by adding more value. You want to grow the new relationship not based on price but on brand. This involves a sell-up strategy and strong adherence to your brand values. It’s a constant battle – but the good news is that it’s winnable overall.

How To Use Your Cell Phone As A Wifi Hotspot

Too many things run on wifi these days – even cameras! But practically for an entrepreneur, it would certainly be nice to use your existing hardware to connect your netbook, iPad, Kindle or whatever devices from anywhere. I know I would love to have this option and so set out to find out what is available out there.

This is one area where Windows Mobile phone owners have a leg up. Considering how many applications and services these days are iPhone and Droid only, this really came as quite a surprise. Here are my findings.

iPhone

I suppose this has to do with the draconian rules Apple places on app developers and what type of apps it will allow on iTunes. But there are very few options and the options I found require you to jailbreak your phone. I don’t think many want to do that but if you are sort of techie and motivated, here are two apps you can try.

Windows Mobile

Like I said, this platform has the most options and pretty painless process as far as I can tell. No hacking the phone at all and that’s always good.

  • PdaNet ($34)
  • WMWifiRouter ($19.99)
  • WalkingHotSpot ($24.99)
  • HTC CM Wifi Internet Sharing (free). I don’t recommend this though especially if not on an HTC phone or if you don’t care for geek speak it is free but quite technical if things don’t go right.

Droid

  • Droid Wifi Tether (free). I don’t run around Droid circles nor own one (yet) but sounds to me like some hacking involved.
  • PdaNet (18.95 for a limited time). No root access or hacking involved.

Blackberry

And there you have it. Before you do some serious Wifi sharing, make sure you understand the implications and how much access you have on your data plan too.

Quick And Easy Ways To Share Info Clips With A Team

One of the many hats I wear is a Girl Scout troop co-leader. Even though it is a volunteer position, we are part of a large non-profit organization and that doesn’t make our day-to-day business challenges that different from for profit organizations.

For example, one of my biggest challenges is to properly share information with my troop leader and new co-leaders. This is very much like the core team in our business.

Throughout the year, we are always on the look out for fun venues and activities the girls can participate in. Museums, farms, skating rinks, tours or cooking classes. There are also ideas we suddenly think of when we’re out and about. For example we get news of organizations that need help, community service projects, craft ideas and all that… stuff.

Personally, I store these snippets and bits of information in Evernote. When I find awesome links to venues and information online, I clip it and store it there. I also have Evernote on my phone so when I am out and about, I can snap a photo, record audio or enter a text note and have it automatically synced.

Another option that works similarly is Springpad. However, Springpad is organized more like a social notebook. You can also see what your friends have shared. Evernote on the other hand is more personal. Both let you control access to your notebooks. But there is one big thing that Springpad has – which is alarms. You can work around that and still get email reminders for Evernote.

I still have not decided which to recommend to our leaders but am leaning heavily toward Springpad because it is organized in a more fun way and it has apps like meal planners, reusable grocery lists and household project planners that I believe will make it more attractive to women and therefore make it easy for them to adopt.

To be sure, you can do all that with Evernote but you will have to structure it yourself – part of the beauty of Evernote – I think that’s why in the beginning I had such a difficult time getting people excited about it.

For general business/work setting, I think Evernote is awesome for teams to share snippets of code, ideas, suggestions, information, audio, files when working on a project. Evernote also operates on a large variety of platforms – Windows, Mac, Android, PalmPre, iPhone, Windows Mobile and more which makes it tops in my opinion. Give it a go – if you haven’t already. Click here for an Evernote review.

Photo by sanja gjenero

Are You (Gulp!) Scared?

scared My wife has been declaring to the world via Twitter and Facebook each time she tackles tasks that are outside her comfort zone. As any good spouse does, I listen to her talk herself through those fears – OK maybe sometimes I do zone out a little. I’ll admit, I don’t really understand some of her worries because she’s great at what she does and others are hard for me to identify because I don’t struggle with the same things.

But, I can tell you, those fears are very real for her. Today, I see she’s challenging herself again by publicly proclaiming she’s going to do something new that is outside of the norm for her. I’m proud of her.

Truth is, I too have my own fears. As a matter of fact, almost anyone who’s ever run a business fears something in varying degrees at one point or another.

Scared about some new strategy we have not tried, worried about upsetting customers over product changes, losing sleep over legal issues that have not materialized, nervous over the new product you are launching, quaking in your boots over the upcoming seminar you’ll be speaking at or an interview with the media. The list goes on.

The question is, will you rise over it? Face it and move forward or bail out and put a choke hold on your business? You can’t move forward if you bail out. But if you take them head on and do it afraid, next time, it won’t be that scary anymore and you’ll find yourself on the next upward rung of the ladder.

Some resources that you might be interested in concerning fear.

Photo by Bob Smith

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