Beware the Pet Projects that Bite!

quote-doingwell Internet marketing is as susceptible to trends and fads as any other niche. A couple of years ago it seemed almost every sales page featured a graphic that included a military gas mask. There were other testosterone fuelled macho images and even the products had names that included words like Sniper, Assassin and Bootcamp.

Titles and images like these are designed to appeal to the gender and age group that is most active in internet marketing. Think about it. Even the most popular internet marketing forum has the word ‘Warrior’ in its name.

At that time I was just beginning to form the outline of a product based on competitive intelligence and the idea of emphasising the spying element occurred to me.

Another trend in recent years has been the growth of the blind offer, where attention-getting promises heavily outweigh any details about the product.

Consequently when I came to plan the sales video for my product I was determined to be more open about what I was offering and I also decided to take the spy theme for a run. At least part of the video would include a closer look at the product and be presented as if it were a trailer for a spy film.

Many trailers in the spy film genre tend to be fast paced and involve a lot of cutting from scene to scene. So I planned accordingly and filmed and took screenshots of about 100 different images.

Ever had one of those ideas that you like and hate by turns? Your mind swings like a pendulum between thinking one day that it could work and the next day you’re convinced that it’s a terrible, unworkable idea. This part of the sales video is one such example.

Implementing the plan did not make things any easier. Without any substantial editing experience I loaded the live action, screenshots and PowerPoint presentations into Camtasia and started cutting and splicing.

Within a couple of days I ran into problems. The memory requirements of all the editing meant Camtasia started crashing. I contacted their support desk and, as usual, they were very helpful. They supplied a patch which effectively doubled the memory I could work with.

This worked fine for another couple days, but then the problem resurfaced. This time the support desk asked me to zip the file of the video so far and send it to them. My first Gigabyte transfer!

The data was promptly compressed and returned to me. By the end of the week the video was completed and ready to be posted online.

However, the doubts still remain. Is it a good idea? Has it been executed well enough? Will it have a good or detrimental effect on sales?

One thing I am sure about is that this part of the sales video became a pet project. One that was not necessary and one that certainly took a lot of time and effort. It’s not something I would recommend anyone else do. Keeping to a simpler, more straightforward format would have saved time and brought the launch date closer.

When you are putting together content, whether it’s a single ebook, a multi-video online course or sales material there are often decisions to be made regarding what to include and what to omit. I certainly believe material should be presented in a way that makes it unique to you, but you should also remember that you are operating a business. Keep your eye on the costs and benefits of the work you undertake.

In future I’ll try to avoid being lead astray by pet projects. Particularly ones that can cost excessive time, money or both. Beware the pet projects that bite.

Decisions When Building Your Product: To Ponder or to Pass?

A successful business is built on good decisions. Like the foundations of a house, decisions can affect the future stability and resilience of the whole structure.

This is why sometimes it can be so difficult to make a decision. Knowing that choosing to follow one path in favour of many others can have far reaching consequences sometimes leads us to hesitate and delay.

However not all decisions have the potential to cause disaster. Some just help you on your way without the risk of business-shattering repercussions. The trick is to know which decisions to ponder and which ones to simply make and move on.

Recently I’ve been putting together the components of a product. It is mainly video-based and I’ve been creating a transcript and audio recording to accompany each video.

As I was working on this I wondered how best to organise the material. Should there be an individual transcript available for download with each video, should I put all the transcripts together in one volume, or should I zip the individual transcripts into one file?

Obviously I had to make a decision, but the options kept spinning round in my head. I’ve seen many websites where the individual transcript was available below each video, but organising them into one volume seemed less work and perhaps tidier. Yet a single volume might be a large file, so maybe the zipped option was best.

I’m also beginning to think about the content and organisation of a membership site. Again there is much to think about. If I am to add new content every month, which topics should I start with and which should I leave for later? Should I organise the content on the site by its release date or by subject?

Eventually it occurred to me that I had been spending some time considering all the options and had yet to reach any decisions. Should I really spend ages pondering the finer details or should I breeze past them?

Then I came across a piece of wisdom from Alex Jeffreys. Something I could use as a rule of thumb. If you’re spending too long on a decision ask yourself ‘will the decision stop prospects becoming customers?’

Almost instantly it became obvious that the decision concerning the transcripts was not one to spend a lot of time on. The fact that there were transcripts might help a prospect decide to purchase, but they would not even know how the transcripts were presented until they had access to the videos.

Similarly the presentation of the membership site’s content was less important than the topics I would be covering.

The principle is to firstly convince your prospect to become your customer. The decisions you make that affect that step are the most important. Then once they have access to your material they can let you know if your other decisions were right or wrong. Don’t try to second-guess your customers. They’ll let you know if they don’t like something.

It may be the case that people will prefer the transcripts presented differently to the method I choose, but I’ll never know that until they can access the transcripts. Members may be fine with content organised by subject rather than date, but they can’t have an opinion if they don’t even join.

So in the end it’s a case of don’t sweat the small stuff and it seems to me the best way to identify the small stuff is to use the rule of thumb: will the decision stop prospects becoming customers?

A Deadline Should be Like a Birthday

50th Birthday Cake

This week I’m 50 (well not 50 as much as 8 with 42 years experience, most of it forgotten). Which started me thinking about how we should treat deadlines like birthdays.

No, not having only one per year, but having planned one being determined to make it happen.

One year my son wanted to have his birthday party at one of those laser shoot-em-up venues, where he and his friends could run around like loonies shooting at each other with rifles that tagged each other with lasers. The nearest venue was about twenty miles away, but that wasn’t a problem as we had transport. So the party was booked and invitations were sent out. Every invite was answered in the positive. Everyone wanted to come and were looking forward to it enormously.

Three days before the party our car gave out a loud grinding noise and suddenly there was no power to the wheels. After getting it to a garage it was confirmed the car needed a new gearbox, which was going to take about three days to source and fit. Never mind, plan B was to use a friend’s car to get to the party.

The next day the friend picked my son up from school and brought him home. After a quick chat to confirm the arrangements for using her car she left. Within minutes she was at the front door with a sheepish grin. Her car wouldn’t start. An hour later the mechanic from the breakdown service announced that the fuel pump was broken.

So then we were on to plan C! We hired a car for the weekend, got there on the day and the party was a success.

So what can we learn from this? To avoid certain makes of car? Maybe. Or that sometimes you’ll pull out as many stops as necessary to make something happen. The fact is having decided to have the party and invited people to it there was no way it wasn’t happening.

Notice that our determination was increased because people were expecting the party to take place. Announcing something to people who’s opinion matters to you is a powerful motivator.

So perhaps we should approach business deadlines like birthdays. Not so much because we should celebrate when they’ve been reached successfully, but because once they are set they should be kept to no matter what.

However, you also need to remember to be kind to yourself. Don’t overload yourself with deadlines. In the past I have set 3 targets per week or just one. It’s important to consider what you can achieve in a week. That’s why you should record how long it takes to complete tasks. If you do them again you’ll have a better estimate of the time required to complete them and a better idea of what you can achieve in a week.

Planning Your Year Ahead

calendar

In my last post I outlined how you could review this year and plan for the next, producing a list of actions designed to help you reach your targets. Today I want to outline a way to plan the year ahead and ensure you fit in all the actions you want to take.

To do this you are going to create a calendar for next year and use it to manage your activity and keep you on track.

If have a Google account you can use the calendar provided there. This has the advantage that if you have virtual partners in your business it’s easy to share the calendar with other Google accounts. If you work with others in the same physical location it may be best to buy a physical planner. This doesn’t rely on people remembering to login to a calendar and can be placed where everyone can refer to it. I prefer the ones mounted on single fold card that are easier to carry around.

Now although the calendar is based around your online business the first thing you should do is add the time you plan to use for yourself. Holidays, family events and so on. It’s important to put these in first otherwise they can get squeezed out of your year.

Next add networking events you plan to attend and any other events with fixed dates that you want to take part in.

Now add those activities that should be regular events, like blog posting, email marketing, tweeting, using Facebook, etc. Just make a note that these need to be done. Don’t add the topics or themes just yet.

Next you need to address how you are going to make money next year. Many people online seem to set up blogs, Facebook pages and so on and yet do not concentrate on having a means of making money. So, what are you going to sell or promote next year? When will you do this and how will you promote?

Having decided this you can add special events like product launches, special promotions, etc. If possible add any launches in which you intend to act as an affiliate.

Work out the steps in your marketing and put them on your calendar. Start with the deadlines like product launches and work backwards. This will show you when you’ll need to start your advertising campaigns, your affiliate recruitment and so on.

As you plan the campaigns remember to allow for delays. Building in some catch up days often produces a more realistic plan than one that assumes everything will proceed like clockwork. Also don’t plan beyond the first three to four months of the year in great detail. Circumstances and plans can change and overplanning can be a waste of time.

Now you can plan the themes of your blog, Facebook and Twitter content and how to time them so they work best for your marketing. You can even plan website updates and changes to your Facebook cover image. If you aim to have guest bloggers schedule them too so you know when to start approaching people to write for you.

If you want to plan your blog posts and have a WordPress blog you can go to Add plugins and search for ‘editorial calendar’. This is a free plugin and you can even try it out before installing it. Once installed you’ll find it under the Posts menu. The fact you have it installed should encourage you to plan ahead and have an overview of your blog posts.

Lastly remember to schedule reviews and use them to adjust your plan as you take action. I used to review my progress every 2 weeks but often tasks took longer than this and consequently the reviews became rather pointless and depressing as nothing had been completed. I could review monthly, but that produces only 12 reviews per year, which seems a bit sparse to me. I now review every three weeks, but you decide what works best for you. You can do larger reviews every 6 months or quarterly.

Once you’ve worked through these steps you should have an overall plan for next year and a good idea of what you need to do for the first couple of months. The calendar won’t guarantee you’ll achieve all your targets but if used correctly it will make your success more likely.

Was the above useful? Do you already use a calendar to plan your marketing or blogging? If so is there anything you do that you have found particularly useful? I’d be interested to read any comments or feedback on this topic.

This is for You if You Don’t Review

It’s the time of year for reviews. This is usually when we are reminded of what has happened in the last twelve months in the worlds of politics, sport and music. Yet how many of us perform a review of our own?

If this is something you don’t usually do for your business let me suggest the following process.

Firstly you must have some record of the past year to review. I used to be quite poor at keeping track of what I did each week. Eventually I realised it meant I was overlooking my (admittedly modest) achievements. Ultimately this lead to me losing motivation, so I started keeping better records. (Though they could still be better – see below). Now I just go through this year’s desk diary and look at each week and the 3-weekly reviews I do throughout the year.

If your records are less than useful perhaps you could look at when certain files were created or downloaded to get a clearer idea of what you have been doing over the past 12 months.

Use your records to write out a quick summary of your year and then ask yourself the following questions.

1. What did you accomplish? If you set targets at the start of, or during, the year did you reach them?

There were several for me, including starting this blog. I also recorded some videos using Camtasia for the first time and opened a business Paypal account. These may appear to be small steps, but they seemed daunting and troublesome at the time.

2. What were the biggest disappointments during the year?

This may be the easiest question to answer so guard against writing a long, depressing list.

For myself the biggest disappointment is the slow, almost glacial progress I have made putting together a product.

3. what have I learnt? Thinking of the answers to the two previous questions may help you answer this one.

Personally, I realise that I still need to improve how I plan and record my work, and that steps which seem daunting should be done anyway. They often turn out to be nowhere near as difficult as I assume them to be.

The next questions build on your answers so far and look ahead to next year.

4. What results do you want next year? You need to be clear about your destinations if you are to make the most of your footsteps. (Sorry, came over all Confucius there!)

A completed front end product and a new membership site are my main targets at the moment. I don’t have the concept for the site fully formed, but it’s enough to know the general direction I want to take.

Having an idea of the results you want and thinking about your successes and failures this year, try these next questions.

5. What should you stop doing to get the results you want?

6. What should you start doing to achieve the results you want?

7. What will you have to keep doing to get your desired results?

8. Is there anything you should do more of to get the results you want?

Your answers may seem to produce something of a wishlist of actions for next year. The big question now is will you have time to do all the things you plan?

For now just concentrate on answering the first eight questions. In my next post we’ll address this last question by planning your time.

Do you review your year? If so what approach do you take? If not, is the above helpful? I’d be really interested in your comments and feedback as I believe a good review and planning process can have you hitting the ground running in the New Year.

Director’s Cut or Blooper Reel?

I can understand why there’s so much hype in internet marketing. The need to stand out from the crowd has become greater and harder to do and this has lead to claims getting wilder and more exaggerated.

But understanding it doesn’t mean I agree it’s the best way to go.

Unfortunately I seem to be in a minority. Positioning and ‘fake it till you make it’ seems to have spread from the sales page to how some people present themselves. Newbies get suckered into acting like experts. People with minimal traffic and small lists give out advice that just doesn’t match their achievements. Sooner or later they’re going to trip and fall from the catwalk as they strut their stuff.

It always amuses me how people can sit in front of their webcam claiming to be successful and having the sort of income and lifestyle we would dream of having when in the background you can see a cheap plywood bedroom door or budget shelving.

Have these folk never dated? If you hope to build a long term relationship isn’t it best to just be yourself? If you’re on a first date it’s no use pretending the sports car you hired for the occasion is your own if you usually drive round town in a clapped out Fiat. Or that you work for a big company in the city when a simple phone call will prove that no one there knows you. Sooner or later you’ll be found out.

A couple of weeks ago I replied to a comment on this blog and mentioned a phrase that I had recently come across: we tend to feel inferior to others because we’re comparing our blooper reel to their director’s cut. I can’t help thinking that feeling inferior is the last thing someone trying to get into internet marketing needs.

Wouldn’t it be helpful to see how someone overcomes the real challenges and setbacks they encounter? Wouldn’t honest reporting of outcomes keep expectations realistic instead of overhyped and unattainable? Wouldn’t being more transparent build more trust?

What do you think? Would you rather see the real results that someone gets online or only the edited highlights of things that appear to work outstandingly well?

Profit Hacks – An Opportunity to Learn to Launch

The You Diagram
If you don’t recognise the diagram here it may be time to stand back and take a good look at your business. It comes from the Internet Business Manifesto, a report issued some years ago by Rich Schefren.

It essentially shows how the majority of internet businesses are organized, with too many tasks being handled by one person. The business owner. You.

Now, years later, Rich claims to have found the solution to this problem and it’s based on leveraging your time and effort. The solution is contained within his next product: Profit Hacks. Unfortunately for many it’s likely to be a high ticket solution and possibly beyond the means of many starting an online business.

However that does not mean it will not be worth watching this launch as it progresses. Rich has successfully predicted a number of changes that have come to pass in the internet marketing arena and has also been very successful at getting his marketing right.

Now let me give you a little insider information. This is actually the third time this product has been launched.

It was first launched to his high ticket buyers in June 2011. Back then the website contained only a couple of videos in each of the 5 modules. Selling at a lower price point than the one he is aiming for now, Rich used this launch to gather testimonials and make improvements via feedback.

The second launch was to the rest of his list, and now he’s starting the third launch to the general internet marketing public via affiliates. After feedback from the first two launches Profit Hacks now has 7 modules and includes an outsourcing course that has been sold seperately in the past.

So there’s the first lesson to learn. Even the most successful marketers do trial runs and react to feedback. They are also not averse to using repurposed evergreen material.

As with previous launches Rich has started his current campaign by issuing a free report. You can get The Profit Prophesy without even having to opt-in here.

The no cost, no opt-in setup is to remove two main barriers to entry. He’s trying to get as many people as he can into his sales funnel.

Take a look at the report. It’s an interesting perspective, but don’t lose sight of the fact this is the opening of a launch process. Rich is not just alerting people to a “mind virus that’s affecting online entrepreneurs worldwide”. He’s reinforcing his positioning as an expert, arousing interest and inviting interaction for the next stage of the launch.

This is likely to be teaser content. As Profit Hacks is about leverage and efficiency it’s probably written or video material he has used in the previous launches.

There’s also going to be another Schefren trademark: a multi-hour livecast. This is an interesting component considering the product is aimed at entrepreneurs who are swamped with work and are supposed to have little free time! I assume this is to get attention, be seen to be offering some of the information for free and to further qualify the list of prospects.

Even if you don’t see the value of Profit Hacks or even if you do but cannot afford it I recommend you watch this launch unfold. You can often learn a lot by watching a master at work and Rich is one online entrepreneur who clearly is successful at what he does.

Two Resources to Speed up Your Writing

When I first started in internet marketing back in 2004 there was a lot to do. Even after researching and writing my first ebook I still had to setup a website, open a Clickbank account and drive traffic.

There was search engine optimisation to setup and there were articles to write. Although it was all new to me at the time, looking back things seemed so much simpler.

Today there is the whole realm of social media and social networking to add to the list. Video marketing has grown to be another area you cannot really ignore. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and many other sites have been added to the list of resources that can help you spread your message.

There are also far more blogs and forums to interact with and more competition for the attention of your potential audience.

All of this means you have to put in more work to produce more content and spread it further and wider. More than ever there is a need to be more organized and more efficient.

It’s quite possible that the next big growth area in internet marketing is the provision of services, tactics and software to streamline and speed up content creation and syndication.

For those starting out in internet marketing who cannot afford their own full-time employees there have always been two solutions: outsourcing and software.

About three years ago I realized that my typing was too slow for the rate at which I wanted to create content.

When I sat down to write my typing started out quite accurate. However as time at the keyboard passed it was as if my fingers grew thicker. I no longer hit the keys I was aiming for but instead too often pressed the letters adjacent to the ones I wanted. As I typed with two hands letters often appeared in the wrong order as frequently one hand was too fast for the other.

To this day I rarely type the word peopel, sorry, people correctly!

My solution was to buy voice recognition software. I did this with some trepidation as I had used some before without much success. However accuracy has improved immeasurably since the late 1990s.

At this moment I am not typing this blog post. I am speaking it into a headset microphone and using Dragon Naturally Speaking version 10. Version 12 was released this August and if you’re interested in purchasing it I suggest you keep an eye on the price at Amazon UK. Apparently it’ll be on special offer during part of November.

If you find you are frequently typing the same phrases or paragraphs you should also take a look at text expander software. This enables you to type just a couple of letters and let the software type an entire message for you.

Once you have set it up this can be useful if you want to leave the same message on several websites or if you want to repeat a message to several people with only minor personalised changes.

For a pc version of a text expander take a look at Breevy. If you are a Mac user  TextExpander will be of more interest. Both have free trials.

Are there any tactics, shortcuts or software you use to streamline your online productivity? Perhaps you’d like to share your recommendations below.

What Use Is Unmeasured Failure?

See what I’m doing with the title here? Most internet marketers put a positive spin on everything and give the impression that their efforts always go to plan. Every product makes their customers thousands, all of their email campaigns get excellent responses and their productivity and income are on a continual upward trend.

Meanwhile in the real world online business is just like any other. Opportunities are missed, mistakes are made and failures occur.

I’m not trying to be negative, but rather to point out that such things happen and ask what’s the best we can do to prepare and even benefit from them?

Several years ago I attended a series of workshops on how to grow a business. It was presented by two men with years of experience between them. One of them was an accountant and he had a saying that was almost a motto: “If you’re not measuring it what’s the point of doing it?”

His point being that if you don’t monitor the results of your efforts you’ll never know what needs to be improved, maintained or even abandoned.

The way I used to explain it to our web design clients was to get them to imagine their online shop was a real shop. If they were not measuring what was happening at their website it was like sitting with the till behind a screen at the back of the shop. They couldn’t tell if anyone was in the shop, who they were, what they were looking at or how long they stayed. They only knew something was happening when someone came behind the screen to pay for something.

That’s no way to grow a business.

Fortunately it’s easy to measure what’s going on in an online business. The most basic thing to do is add some tracking software to your website.

Google Analytics is probably the most common one used because it’s free and can give good insights into what’s happening.

For those who suspect Google is using the software to spy on sites a good alternative is Statcounter.

The important thing is to have some way of tracking what is happening in your business. On your website, in your email campaigns and your advertising. That way whether something does or does not go to plan you will be aware of it and can search the results for how to respond.

The alternative is to be clueless if something doesn’t work, and as I asked in the title: what use is unmeasured failure?

An Important Business Lesson From a Cooker

Broken cookerIs your online business hiding an Achilles’ Heel? A weakness buried deep in its setup that can bring the whole thing to a grinding halt?

I’m asking because after 16 years of loyal service our cooker finally died this week. In all that time we only had to replace one oven thermostat.

You’d think it was sturdy and reliable. Yet it was built around a fundamental flaw.

One of its features was a versatile timer. It could sound an alarm after a selected period of time, it could also switch the oven off at this time and it could even switch the oven on and off at preset times to cook stuff while we were out. Yet it was this level of control that was the problem.

The passing years finally took their toll and the timer stopped working. And because the two parts of the cooker were so intimately connected so did the oven.

So this small, crucial and, after 16 years, obsolete component means we have to replace a machine that is still more than 95% in good working order. Crazy.

So it started me thinking: is there any small component in my online business that could bring the whole thing down? Is there such a hidden weakness in yours?

Perhaps it’s how rarely you backup your hard drive; or the autoresponder you use. Perhaps it’s who you use to create product images or you’re overly reliant on the people you promote as an affiliate.

Just in case, it’s an idea to take a look at your business now and again, think up some worst case scenarios and see if there’s room for improvement. It could just keep hot meals on your table.