Monthly Archives: October 2013

6 Mistakes you are Making in Your E-mail Campaigns

EMAIL

What’s the old saying? To err is human but to forgive is divine? Well if you are making certain mistakes in your e-mail campaigns, you’re going to be in desperate need of divine intervention if you want to make a living. I’ve written on this in the past but it’s worth looking at these things again so that we can all be reminded of these common bone headed mistakes:

No Alternative to HTML

This is something that I see all too often when I get mass e-mails. People send them out using HTML because it looks prettier. I get it – you want to sell products and HTML combined with good graphics makes this happen. There’s nothing wrong with sending out HTML e-mails in fact. However, you also need to realize that a certain percentage of your customers won’t see anything when they open your e-mail.

The reason is simple – many e-mail clients block HTML e-mails and do not allow them to be displayed unless the user specifically changes this setting. The reason should be obvious to anyone who surfs the net and has to put up with scanning everything for viruses – unscrupulous people tend to use e-mail as a quick and easy way to hijack computers.

There are several ways around this problem. One option is to simply send a straight text e-mail and then leave a link for people to get to your website, where you can use all the graphics and HTML that your heart desires.

In fact, you can even use Java and Flash (though in moderation) when you do this. Of course, you’ll need to ensure that you actually take the trouble to do good copywriting to get them to the site, but that’s important even with graphics and HTML.

Another possibility here is to simply offer an alternative option. Just have a text link which says, if you can’t read this e-mail, go here. Make sure by the way that you set up a text link and not an html link (in other words, you don’t want a live link because that’s also HTML.

Note also that some e-mail clients allow HTML but don’t download graphics because of bandwidth limitations. Again, you want to accommodate everyone so try to make sure that you have a plain Jane text link which people can copy and go to.

The best idea of course is to offer people two options for getting e-mails to begin with, when they sign up they can choose either to sign up for the HTML version or the plain text version of your e-mails. This allows people to get the option and hopefully get something that works for them. You should also offer the option in both versions of the e-mail to switch to the other version.

Failure to Put in a Call to Action

I just read a really cool article on Lifehacker about how to fix ideas into people’s heads. There are some pretty interesting ideas there about how to properly drop hints. However, one thing they don’t mention is that once you’ve dropped your hints, you still need to make the final call and try to get people to your side of the argument.

This is what we call a call to action. Too often, people send out e-mails to their client list trying to advertise a product and think that all it needs is the hinting part of the pitch. That’s simply untrue. You need to include a clear call to action. You need something to get them to actually click a link or otherwise interact with your company.

Calls to action can be as simple as “call now for a free quote” or they can take on a more complex style. Just make sure it’s clear that you are asking them to take some kind of action following reading your e-mail. An example of a good call to action might be:

Yes, I want to get out of debt and stay out of debt. Show me what I need to know in order to make an Internet living!

This is often reinforced with a “no” option as well such as:

No, I’m perfectly happy living a paycheck-to-paycheck life and worrying about whether I’ll get fired tomorrow. I don’t need to make an Internet living.

Mind you, that “No” option is put there even though 99% of people will never click it. It’s just mean to reinforce for people that they should want to choose the first option and click “Yes.” A smart Internet marketer will also have a message attached to the No option though. You can for example have a page that says something like:

If you’re really sure that you don’t want to learn how to make money online and you don’t care about having more time with your kids and for doing the things you love then we wish you luck. If you’ve changed your mind though, click here.

call to action

Failing to Confirm Your E-mail List and Conform with CAN-SPAM

This is another one of those bone headed moves that beginners make and often end up regretting. There was a time when spam was a good way to make money online. You could send out 20 million e-mails for a product and it didn’t matter if 99.8% of the people who got them didn’t respond. That .2 percent would still provide you with 40,000 customers.

These days however, even that .2 percent is unlikely to respond. You’re more likely to see a few hundred responses for your 20 million e-mails. However, that’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is that you also must concern yourself with getting sued. Sending out unsolicited e-mails is against the law today in most countries (certainly in the USA) and you can and will be sued for thousands of dollars for each customer who files a complaint.

However, even if you do have permission to send out e-mails to the people on your e-mail list, that’s not enough. Generally, you want to conform to the rules of the CAN-SPAM act in the United States even if you don’t live there. The rules protect you and allow you to operate legally as a mass e-mail marketer.

This means that you are required to include a real name and a physical address where you can be reached. In addition, you must include a link in every e-mail which allows people to easily remove themselves from your e-mail list if they choose to do so.

Ideally, you should also use double confirmation when building an e-mail list. This means that you need to have your autoresponder service send an e-mail to the customer’s e-mail address and they must then click a link to confirm they want to sign up for your list.

While the law doesn’t absolutely require double confirmation (it merely requires that you get consent), this protects you from malicious people signing up random e-mail addresses which would then sue you because there is no proof that they really agreed to get your e-mails . In other words, better safe rather than sorry.

Also, please note that I am not an attorney and am not offering legal advice of any kind. If you have any questions whatsoever about the CAN-SPAM act, contact your own attorney. Neither I, Eric Hammer, nor Quantum SEO Labs nor Yasir Kahn can be held responsible if you rely on anything written here from a legal standpoint.

The above is simply the law as I understand it but it’s purely a layperson’s opinion and doesn’t construe legal advice at all.

Blowing Your Whole Wad at Once

Let’s say that you have an e-mail list with 5,000 names on it. Now you might be tempted to send out the same e-mail to all 5,000 people today to let them know about this exciting new product that you want them to purchase. That would be a big mistake. The hallmark of every good Internet marketing campaign is testing, testing, testing.

I’ve written about this extensively in the past but the important thing to be aware of is that you really need to do split testing whenever you try a new campaign. Try different versions of the text of your pitch and different versions of the subject line of your e-mails. You can send these out to a small subset of your e-mail list, say 200 each to see what kind of reactions each version gets.

Then, you can combine the best elements of all the testing and send it out to the remainder of your e-mail list. This effectively means that you are going to make more money from your e-mail list than if you simply put together a single pitch and then hope for the best. What if it turns out that the pitch you made isn’t successful? What if you find that the subject line you chose doesn’t get opened regularly?

Split testing

Bottom line, you need to test, test and test some more in order to find out exactly which version of your pitch will make money for you before you blow your entire “wad” of prospective customers on a maybe version of an e-mail.

Sending Out a Generic E-mail from the Affiliate Provider

I have seen this over and over and over again. I’m on a rather large number of e-mail lists and I know that every single marketer who creates a product they’d like to sell through affiliates tends to provide you with a sample e-mail which you can send out to your own e-mail list to try to get them to buy the product.

Here’s the thing though – while these e-mails may well be written nicely and even work well, they also show me as someone getting them that you couldn’t care less about me as your customer. You just see me as another number. Another person you can tick off on your list and get a sale from. This effectively means that you’ve lost my sale before you ever started to try to make it.

Use the sample e-mail as a guideline but add something original. Maybe it’s a bonus of one of your products that you’re willing to offer to people who buy from you. Maybe it’s a free consultation for whatever service it is that you provide. Or maybe, you should just tailor the e-mail to fit your own voice so that you don’t sound like a drone trying to cash in.

Bottom line, this kind of tactic is little better than sending out spam to 20,000,000 people and hoping that a few hundred of them might make a purchase without your needing to be concerned about getting caught out as a spammer. It shows people that you don’t care about your customers and it’s a huge turn off which is likely to get people to not only stop buying from you but also unsubscribe from your list.

Going off Half Cocked and Hoping for the Best

This is one of those sayings that people know but it’s original meaning is basically lost. It refers to a position on a gun and it means to simply show up without really planning anything in advance. Before you start writing the e-mail that you want to send out, be clear on what it is that you want to accomplish with this e-mail.

Are you trying to get people to buy a product? Then go in with that idea. Are you trying to get people to sign up for a newsletter? Fine – go with that. However, too often, people get confused when writing their e-mails and they simply put together a hodgepodge of different ideas without really thinking things through. This effectively means that you will be wasting your time and your money when sending out your e-mails.

Instead, think carefully what your e-mail is mean to accomplish and then plan out how it’s going to accomplish that. If you do this in advance, you are that much more likely to have a successful e-mail campaign than if you simply hope for the best.

8 Secrets of Successful Videos

video cameraVideo went from being a curiosity on the Internet to a useful addition to a necessity which most people knew to add to a commodity that pretty much everyone adds these days. However, even though almost every guy and his brother (or sister) has a video available for their website, a great many people still do it wrong. Here are seven strategies for getting video right when you  want to make money online:

Forgot about Viral Videos

I know – you desperately want to see millions of hits and have your video become a modern day version of the original numa numa video. Or maybe another gangham style video (I honestly cannot understand why that song has become so popular by the way – it is incredibly annoying but whatever). However, the fact is that nobody quite knows what makes a viral video.

Now I know all the theories – that cats and other animals along with babies seem to make videos go viral. But then again, we’re never really sure of that. I mean, look at Friday, which is also an annoying song and which ended up becoming a massively viral video even though there are no cats or babies in it.

Of course, all this is to say nothing of the fact that viral videos don’t guarantee sales anyway. I remember seeing a pretty funny viral video from Jennifer Anniston which was intended to sell Vitamin Water (I think). However, I’ve never bought the stuff and have no intention of buying it because it’s frankly not something that interests me in spite of the fact that I enjoyed the video.

Now if you’re still thinking that a viral video is such a wonderful thing for your business, consider this: the fake Steve Jobs, who ran a blog under that name for several years got all kinds of publicity for his blog. He eventually shut it down though because the publicity and the massive number of people dropping by ended up costing more for the hosting than he made from advertising.

Bottom line, don’t worry about viral videos. They’re almost impossible to predict and they often don’t have the results that you want them to have anyway.

Figure Out What You Want to Do

Videos come in all shapes and sizes. You can create videos intended to do branding (like the Vitamin Water video I mentioned earlier) or you can create videos intended to sell a product. You can also create videos which are intended specifically to generate links. However, what you generally cannot do is to create a video intended to do all these things and more all at the same time.

Before you start creating your video, you need to sit down and make a plan for what it will actually include. Be sure that you think this through carefully, Make a list of things you want to accomplish and then narrow it down until it gets to the point where you are ready to figure out what will be in your video. You need to make a plan in advance so that you know what you’ll try to accomplish.

For example, if your plan is to create a video which will allow you to gather links, you want to create something that people will want to share. A good example of this is the Camp Gyno video, which ended up going viral. This video is funny and allows young girls to express themselves about something which is a little embarrassing for them.

If instead your goal is to create a video which is instructive, then you need a completely different take on how the video is created. Mind you by the way, instructive videos should be a bit more professional than someone using Camtasia Studio and say “uhm” all the time. You don’t need something fancy but you do need to make sure that it seems professional.

Encourage Home Videos

Vine and Instagram both offer to allow people to post short videos of themselves doing all kinds of things. The Vine service, from Twitter, does six second videos while Instagram allows a whole 15 seconds. Neither of these are meant to be used for professional, highly polished videos. Instead, they’re intended to be used to make fun short videos.

Now the thing is, you can encourage your own customers to use these same services to create videos which show themselves using your products. You can use these things to get more buzz about your product without ever having to create a single marketing video of your own (although you definitely should make your own as well).

An even better way to make this work is to actually run a contest with your customers taking videos of themselves using your product. The beauty of doing this is that you can then take ownership of any content that was customer created and use those to create a slick video which you can then repost as a single, longer video on YouTube and other video sites.

In both cases, you should encourage this by linking back to the customer’s videos and showing them that you provide links both from your YouTube account and your website. This allows them to have a feeling that they are actually engaging with your company as opposed to simply posting something without getting and kind of recognition. Staples recently ran a promotion similar to this which was highly successful.

Try Rich Snippets

Here’s another really cool idea that you should definitely be looking into using in order to push your videos and make sure that you get the name recognition that you want. You need to use Rich Snippets. In essence, rich snippets are similar to the Google authorship system that I’ve written about in the past.

These things work by creating a more attractive looking Google results page which in turn means that you’ll get that many more visits to your videos.  Basically, rich snippets will allow your potential customers to see a summary of what your video is along with a link to directly click on the video itself.

The beautiful thing about this is that it means that people will be that much more likely to click and thus share your videos. There is however one catch when doing this. You need to do direct hosting of your videos. If you want to host with YouTube, rich snippets doesn’t work. There is however a nice workaround using a plugin made by the kind folks over at Yoast. Here at Quantum SEO Labs, we use another of their plugins and they tend to do some nice work.

rich snippets

If you’re still confused about exactly how rich snippets works, you can take a quick look over at Google’s website and see their own official explanation of how rich snippets works and how you can make them work for your videos. The short version though is above. You also will need to make some changes in your XML site map in order to ensure that everything works according to spec. Google’s own explanation of it can tell you more.

Make Your YouTube Channel Pretty

Now I know I just got through explaining to you that rich snippets generally requires hosting your videos privately as opposed to hosting them through YouTube. However, there’s no reason that your videos shouldn’t appear both on YouTube and on your own website so that they get maximum exposure for your company.

However, when you do put your videos onto YouTube, you need to ensure that your YouTube channel is attractive looking. It is possible to include all kinds of graphics and other materials to ensure that your channel reflects the character of your individual company. This will help to ensure that you get more subscribers who are then more likely to purchase your product and link to your videos.

A pretty nice example of a successful YouTube channel is the Lady Gaga channel. It has some nice graphics along with a clean design which allows it to function well as a place for fans of the pop singer to find videos of their favorite person. There is also a video which auto-plays as soon as you drop by the channel so that you can quickly grab the attention of people visiting the channel.

Lady Gaga

Don’t Ignore Text

I know – this entire article is about video. What does text have to do with video? Well as we’re all well aware, Google and the other search engines can’t actually search through videos. They can only search through text. This means that even though the videos you create for your website should be visibly appealing, you can’t ignore text in ensuring that you get the kind of exposure you need.

You should be optimizing your descriptions as well as your titles so that they actually provide genuine value to your customers while at the same time also including keywords which will be important to getting yourself noticed in Google.

In addition, unlike with most other kinds of SEO work, the keywords on your videos actually do matter. Google does weigh those keywords as long as you are not engaging in obvious keyword stuffing so be sure to include that meta data both on YouTube and on your own website whenever you post a video. This can only help you as long as you do it correctly.

Remember as well that it’s not just the videos that need good, useful descriptions but also the channel on YouTube. Google does cache the description and keywords for your channels so that means that you need to ensure that these things are also up to snuff when trying to get yourself noticed by your potential customers.

Finally, check to see what Google’s speech to text system has come up with on your YouTube videos. You can manually correct it so that it better reflects what was said on your video. This again will  allow you to increase the number of views of your videos because Google does take this into account as well when it ranks videos.

Forget about Unimportant Statistics

I have read elsewhere (I cannot confirm if this means anything or not so take this with a grain of salt) that comments are not considered an important matrix in figuring out how popular a particular video is on YouTube. The number of people who viewed your video and the number of links is supposedly much more important.

Either way, I’d say that a video which has inspired no comments or just one or two comments is that much less likely to get noticed even if all the other numbers look good thus it is useful to make sure that some of your visitors leave comments.

The important thing though is to be checking on your number of viewers (let’s face it – we’ve all checked out a video simply because it had a high number of previous people viewing it) as well as the number of times that your video has gotten links from others around the web.

Don’t Be Boring

When was the last time you went to a presentation at work and found yourself quite literally nodding off while some guy from a department you have nothing to do with prattles on for 30 minutes about why this new piece of accounting software is the greatest thing since sliced bread? We’ve all had it happen at one point or another in our lives, haven’t we?

Well your customers deserve better than that. They’re not interested in why YOU think that your product is such a wonderful thing and they would be fools not to buy it. They want to know what you can do for them. What kind of problems you can solve for them in the real world. And, they want to see this done in a way which doesn’t have them nodding off while you prattle on for 20 minutes.

So spice up your act a bit. Play on whatever your own abilities are. Make a fun video which doesn’t make people want to change the channel and you’re that much more likely to get more links and more sales out of it.

5 Things to Consider when Setting Prices

Photoxpress_5221009

One of the most important decisions that you will make as an Internet marketer is deciding what price to charge for your product or service. There is actually an entire field of science devoted to figuring out what the best price points are for a product and it’s not a simple matter. Most of us however, tend to just pick a number out of the air and hope for the best. Here’s how to do pricing the right way:

Don’t Get Into a Race to the Bottom

When was the last time you went out shopping for a pop up toaster? If you haven’t been in a while, drop by some stores and just take a moment to price them. You can even do it online. Be sure to compare apples to apples by looking only at standard two slice toasters. Don’t start looking at the four slice kind or the kind with special features.

Okay, done? What did you notice? If you’re like me, you might have noticed that name brands are priced a bit higher than off brands. However, you’ll also have noticed that the basic toasters pretty much all compete based on price. That’s because toasters are a commodity item. There’s really very little difference from one to the next and unless they have special features, there’s very little to distinguish one from the other.

In a quick comparison I did on PriceGrabber, all the basic two slice toasters (there are some other styles that got mixed into my search results but I’ve circled the ones that are relevant) are priced within around $20 of each other. Commodity items like a basic two slice toaster mostly compete based on price though you may seem some modest differences. For example, one of the toasters in my comparison is red which some people may like for their kitchen.

toasters

The thing is, if you can avoid it, you don’t want your product to be a commodity. You want your product to be something unique which will grab people’s attention and will get them to want your product, even if it costs more than the competition. Otherwise, you inevitably end up in a race to the bottom where you are always going to be outpriced by someone offering basically the same thing for a cheaper price.

Positioning Your Product

I recently started taking some graduate classes in a local university. Many of my new colleagues in my classes come to class with a laptop. In fact, on the first day of classes, we actually ended up with people jockeying for position to grab one of the wall outlets to charge their computers. That’s not what I want to bring up though.

It happens that the majority of my new colleagues are using Windows based PCs. One of them however, a retired MD (medical doctor) who is doing this program just because he’s interested in it, brought along a sleek MacBook Air. It gets the requisite oohs and ahs from anyone who knows anything about computers. It’s super thin and just looks great. It also happens to carry a really hefty price tag (I guess as a retired physician, he can afford the best).

My new colleague likely spent in the neighborhood of around $1,500-$2,000 for his computer. I recently bought myself a cheap laptop which cost me under $400. Now I’ll grant that the Air probably has a few more bells and whistles than my budget laptop. However, the thing that makes the Air so appealing is at least in part, the Apple brand name. It has cache.

Ideally, when pricing your product, you should think about who your potential market is going to be. Remember that going after the bargain seekers is often a bad idea. My own experience as a freelance writer has shown me that the people looking for super cheap writers are often the ones who are the worst customers.

As an example, one guy, who ostensibly is a very well off professor at another university, tried to hire me to ghostwrite a scholarly book for him and wanted to pay me $6 per page. I told him I’d never agree to such a low price but because I found his project interesting, I gave him a discount to the price I usually reserve for my best customers. Big mistake. The guy repeatedly complained and then refused to pay what he owes. The case is now pending in court.

Bottom line, think about what your product or service is really worth and don’t sell yourself short. If you believe that your product or service deserves to command premium prices then by all means – price it accordingly and don’t be shy about promoting it to people willing to pay a premium for the best.

Remember that it’s often easier to make $10,000 by selling a $1,000 product to ten people than it is to make $10,000 by selling a $10 product to 1,000 people. Of course again, it depends on who the potential market is for your product. If what you sell should be priced low because it’s a commodity then by all means, do so. On the other hand, if you can aim for a loftier clientele, it’s often best to position yourself to appeal to them.

The Power of 9

For some bizarre reason that nobody has been able to explain to me, there seems to be a trend in the IM world where products are priced with a 7 at the end. I see it constantly. People price stuff at $27, $37, etc. This may well work specifically in the Internet Marketing world simply because of the fact that people have come to expect it.

However, for virtually all other kinds of products, which are marketed to the general public, you simply cannot beat the power of 9. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology along with researches from the University of Chicago did a fascinating study. They tried different price points for products and found that the number 9 at the end of a product holds a certain resonance for people.

The power of 9

In fact, and this is the weird part – people were actually willing to pay more if a product had a price ending in 9. Products priced at $34 didn’t sell nearly as well as the same product priced at $39. I know it’s weird but I think that we’ve all become so accustomed to seeing that 9 at the end of a price that we automatically flock to it.

By the way, to maximize your pricing potential with this, put up a “regular” price and a “sale price” with the number 9 at the end. The researchers found that this was by far the most effective method of grabbing customers.

Sell the Experience

This is somewhat similar to what I wrote above about selling at a premium and targeting the clientele willing to pay extra for “the best.” However, this is a slightly different take on things.

Most people like bargains, even millionaires. Millionaires who go out shopping for a yacht will still try to haggle on the price and if they save a few thousand dollars off of the price of a multi-million dollar yacht, they feel they’ve scored a deal. It’s just human nature. On the other hand, we also love to feel as if we’ve bought the “best” there is so we can show off to our friends.

It is possible to take advantage of these innate desires for a deal and to get the “best” though by offering different, similar products at varying price points. A good example is pricing an apartment in a luxury building.

If you’re trying to sell two very similarly sized apartments, one of the best ways to sell both is to make one of them much more expensive than the other with some relatively minor differences which make the more expensive one better.

The reasoning behind this is that you can then size up a customer and if they seem like the kind looking for a bargain, you can show them both and tell them that the “penthouse” is really overpriced since it’s virtually the same as the apartment directly below it but for three times the price.

On the other hand, the person who is looking to show off will insist that they must have the penthouse at three times the price even though it’s virtually identical to the “ordinary” apartment on floor below.

In both cases, you are selling your customers an experience. For the former, you sell them the experience of feeling as if they’ve gotten a really shrewd deal. For the other customer, you sell them the experience of feeling as if they paid top dollar for the very best.

One of the most interesting experiments on this that I’ve ever heard of is where a jewelry store managed to completely sell out its inventory of turquoise jewelry because it accidentally priced it at double the price instead of half price as had been  intended. Apparently, the doubled price point made the turquoise seem particularly desirable (it was the best) and so people snapped it up.

You can do something similar by positioning different products with “value” pricing and “premium” pricing. This will allow you to grab both kinds of customers and ensure that they’ll all want to buy what you have for sale.

Pricing Perceptions Matter

I really love reading magazines. Lately, I’ve gone a little crazy though and ordered a bunch of them through Amazon Kindle. If you go and take a look at the pricing of magazines on the site, you’ll notice that almost inevitably, they charge per month as opposed to per year. Ever wonder why that is? After all, wouldn’t they prefer to lock in a customer for a full year?

Try this: open a printed magazine and grab the subscription card. Notice what it says about the “price per issue?” Usually it’s $1 per issue or some other similar very low sounding price point. The reason for this is simple and it’s the same reason that Amazon prices many of their Kindle magazines on a per month basis rather than a yearly basis.

It’s called price perception. I had subscribed to a whole bunch of different magazines on Kindle and thought to myself, this is not a big deal. It’s $2.49 for Forbes Magazine (by the way, notice that power of 9). Cheap, right? And I’m fascinated with history so the Smithsonian Magazine for $1.99 a month sounded like a bargain too.

kindle magazines

I had ended up subscribing to nearly a dozen magazines before I stopped and realized what was happening. I had perceived that the prices were “cheap” because it was being sold to me as a minor expense (who can’t afford $2.49 a month after all?).

By the time all was said and done, I calculated how much I was spending per year on magazines and found that my total came to well over $200 per year. Now that’s still not a terribly large sum of money but when I saw that, I started asking myself, do I really need all these magazines? Will I ever read them all? I ended up cutting back until my total yearly cost dropped below $100 and even now, I’ve got too many coming in.

What I was fooled by though was price perception – Amazon mastered this and found that if they simply offered me a price that sounded really, really cheap that I’d think of it as a throwaway item and not think twice about ordering.

You can do the same by showing your customers an amortization of how much your product costs them. For example, you will often see people offering packages of 1,000 backlinks for $99. They’ll point out that this is less than 10 cents per link (by the way, be careful – many such packages aren’t worth anything).

By pointing out that it’s just 10 cents per backlink, they are taking advantage of price perception to shift people away from thinking about the $99 price point and push them to think about the 10 cent price point instead. Amazon of course took it one step further and never lets the customer even see how much a magazine costs per year, preferring to hook you and keep you hooked with a cheap “throwaway” price.

by EricHammer, on       Comments are off for this post