New Year, New Timeframe?

2016 calendarSo as we rush toward the new year in only a couple of weeks it’s likely your mind has turned to resolutions, if only briefly. I’ve mentioned my resolution reservations before and suggested an alternative. Today I want to suggest yet another approach.

Missing targets is a source of disappointment for many, myself included. In the past I’ve looked for shortcuts and better practices as a solution, but today I want to suggest a different approach. One that may be more kind and gentle on your soul.

Give yourself more time.

Think about the targets you’ve missed before and the pressure you’ve put yourself under. I know I’ve pushed myself in the past and somewhat berrated myself when I didn’t hit a target in the timeframe I planned. In the worst cases this has lead to disappointment and some measure of feeling downhearted. The result of this has been to become less effective and reduce the rate at which I eventually reach the target.

It occurred to me that giving myself a more generous deadline might prevent the feelings of disappointment and in the long run mean I hit my target sooner in real terms.

So I’ve decided to extend my deadlines. I don’t do new year resolutions, but if I did I would probably do as everybody else does and aim to have achieved something by the end of January. After all that’s the usual pattern. Set an ambitious target at the start of the year, make insufficient progress by the end of January, and become so discouraged that progress after that date is minimal.

I know money loves speed, but it also is rather fond of consistency. If you’ve run through the same pattern I have in previous years it might be worth trying this different approach and skipping the drop in effort that follows disappointment in missing a deadline.

I’m not aiming to have a certain number on my list, or to have completed certain products by the end of next month. It hasn’t worked well in previous years so it’s time to try something different. My targets now sit 90 days into the new year. Of course I’ll have some milestones pencilled in for the end of January in case I have to increase my efforts after that date, but the target written in stone has 30th March 2016 next to it.

I already feel it has taken the pressure off. And I’ve been careful not to make the 90 day target harder so that an onerous target still looms at the end of January.

The worst thing you can do is continue following a method that has been proven not to work in the past. Now might be the perfect time to take a look at how well you’ve executed your plans in previous years and try to come up with an alternative. It could make all the difference to your success next year.

Quick Start Challenge Review

The Quick Start Challenge started four weeks ago (see my post Quick Start Challenge – Is it too challenging?) and finished in the early hours of this morning with a bonus webinar. As promised here is a review.

The Challenge

Each week consisted of a webinar that ran for at least 90 minutes. If you could not be present during the live transmission a recording was available shortly after. The end of each presentation included actionable steps based on the webinar.

For those who had never built a blog or started an email list there was a certain amount of self study involved. This is not a criticism of the course. The specifics of setting up WordPress, choosing a theme and so on can be found in videos on YouTube. Choosing and using an autoresponder is probably best done by visiting the websites of the options mentioned in the course.

The QSC followed the topics outlined in the sales page, except week 2 when the challenge was to create a video and put it on your blog. This was in place of the list building topic advertised, though that was covered in week 3.

I saw this deviation from the advertised plan as an early wobble and may have unsettled some of the participants, giving them the impression that the course as being put together ad hoc. However video is an important element in internet marketing these days so worth making a part of the challenge.

Getting Traffic

We were given two traffic strategies for getting people to blogs, both of which involved commenting on other websites. These are time intensive methods which need continual effort, but probably one of the easiest ways for those with basic online skills to reach and engage with people who might be interested in reading their blog posts.

The real challenge with these methods will come in the months ahead as people try to maintain the effort required while trying to build more into their online business.

Maintaining Momentum

Each of the first three challenges included an incentive. Access to Dean’s high ticket course and a secret Facebook strategy were used as a ‘carrot’ for completing tasks. The winner of each was announced in the following webinar.

The course also used the power of incentivised deadlines to force you to make decisions quickly and get things done. The philosophy of get it online, not get it perfect means you don’t waste time wondering which theme would work best or which colours to use with your optin form. You are encouraged to make improvements later.

The 4th week challenge was simply to continue on the course we had started, i.e. posting on our blog and building traffic by posting on other sites.

Interestingly, a number of participants said that it was harder to stay focused and do the work in the fourth week with no new task to accomplish. This points out one of the problems of challenges. They can act as an accountability partner, which is very important when starting something new and unfamiliar and to keep the level of effort going. However, once the challenge ends some people may not have the self motivation to keep it going, especially if they hit problems.

The Challenge included access to a dedicated Facebook Group which was a great resource. Perhaps it could have been used to set up accountability partners before the end of the challenge to keep the momentum going.

The Upsell

The course ended with a bonus webinar. Unsurprisingly it was an opportunity to promote an upsell. This is Dean’s iPro program which is essentially a ready-made sales funnel that offers commissions, including $1000 for the high end product. At just under $2000 I thought it was a bit of a leap from a $20 challenge aimed at first timers, but I presume Dean is only interested in a highly targeted and motivated customer base.

However I suspect this leaves many who completed the challenge without an affordable, natural progression and I can’t help feeling an opportunity was missed here. Firstly, despite a bonus webinar that lasted over 3 hours I am somewhat unclear as to the products in the iPro sales funnel. Even if I was prepared to invest the money in iPro I don’t know anything about the products I would be promoting.

It may be that one of the lower price point products in the sales funnel would help people take the next step after the challenge. Could just one of these have been offered to those who finished the challenge but didn’t want to invest in the $2000 upsell?

Conclusion

According to Dean Holland over 1000 people joined at the start of the challenge, but less than half took action. This is not unusual for online training. Many of the hundreds that stayed the course now have their first blog online, are driving traffic, building email lists, and some report they have begun making money using affiliate marketing. It seems the sales page description of the challenge as a “4 Part System That Gets You Traffic, Builds Your Email List And Banks You Cash In 28 Days Or Less – GUARANTEED” is accurate as long as you do the work required.

Many people in the Facebook Group reported getting results quickly. Some mentioned they had made more progress during the challenge than they had made in a long time.

To answer the question I posed in my first post: there was a lot of learning and work involved if you were a total newbie at this, but many seem to have kept up with the schedule despite hitting challenges along the way. But then it was called a challenge, and technical difficulties are part of the deal with internet marketing.

For myself it helped me regain some momentum and using the traffic methods this blog has received just over 150 visitors in the last 9 days of the challenge. Would I recommend it to anyone wanting to start internet marketing? Yes. It may not be for everyone, but it seems to have worked for a good number of those who started and kept working at it.

Quick Start Challenge – Is it too challenging?

Quick Start Challenge logoI decided it was time to hit the restart button on my online business. In last week’s post I mentioned that when we fail we should Fail Fast and Fail Forward. I had planned to take six months to a year to rebuild my online business, but I’ve seen an opportunity to possibly start that process quicker, and maybe a kickstart will be useful.

I am starting the “Quick Start Challenge”. It’s run by Dean Holland, Craig Crawford and Robert Phillips, each a well respected and successful online entrepreneur. Dean was Alex Jeffrey’s first success story and I have met him a couple of times at IM events.

The course is in its third year and I was surprised to see some marketers who I have also met at events giving testimonials. I had not been aware that this was how they made their start online.

So what can I expect? The sales page says the challenge is a “4 Part System That Gets You Traffic, Builds Your Email List And Banks You Cash In 28 Days Or Less – GUARANTEED”.

How will they fit these targets into a month long course? According to the sales page the next 4 weeks will cover the following:

Week 1

Creating a “hub site” and how to establish yourself online quickly and easily even if you’re a total newbie. The hub site must refer to a blog. Any other type of hub site would not make sense.

Week 2

This is about building an email list. The sales page refers to creating a lead magnet and giving it away without needing any technical skills.

Week 3

The topics for week 3 include getting traffic without paying for it, a secret FB strategy, and using videos to get more traffic.

Week 4

The sales page mentions covering the fastest way to earn commissions online, how to automate your income, generating recurring commissions and using video to increase profits.

I’m interested to see how they keep to this schedule and the amount of work and learning a ‘total newbie’ is going to have to cope with. However this is the third year the course has been offered and I’ve been unable to find any negative reviews from the previous two.

The next month should be interesting. I’ll let you know how it goes.

A mid year review

Time for a mid year review. It’s tempting to make a sweeping statement like ‘no progress’ and quickly hurry on, but if the next six months are to see real improvement I’ll need to come up with something more useful than that.

At one point during the last six months I considered abandoning this blog. It was taking too much of my time. I had realised I needed to get ahead of my posting schedule to free up time for traffic and product creation tasks, but I could not seem to do it on a consistent basis. The blog is established and a hub for what I am trying to build. I decided to persevere, but will review the situation again before Christmas.

February was the tenth anniversary of setting up in business. The web design part has been going well, but the IM side has seen much less progress than I’d hoped. It feels like almost nothing has been achieved in the last 10 years. Of all the projects I’ve started in that decade there are just a couple of pen named ebooks on Clickbank to show for it. Perhaps it’s a reflection of how hard IM is, how difficult it is to get good support and guidance, or if I give in to my darkest thoughts, how lame and incompetent I am at implementing the advice I’ve paid for.

The course I came so close to launching last year is languishing on Amazon S3 and behind a couple of websites. At the moment it’s pretty much abandoned as I’m showing more despondency and caution than courage.

The lesson I’m taking from this is to do lots of testing in small doses instead of investing everything in one large project that has a major impact if something goes wrong.

However I have to move on. See this as a temporary setback, not permanent failure. Make a course correction then adequately resource the amended plan. People in a job will never fail to this extent. But that’s not the only opportunity they miss.

When we are working on a product we look forward to taking the credit, but we should also be prepared to take the blame and ridicule. You need to be on your guard as it is easy to fall into the “Victim Trap” and to blame others, the outside world or outside forces for our own inability to succeed.

We must be strong. It is in failure that we learn and grow most. It is what we do when we fail that matters. We can wallow in self pity and loathing or we can do something about it and take action to improve our lot. It is in the trying that we build character. We must guard against anything diluting our energy for the next project.

So we should embrace our failures, take ownership of them, look at them as a chance to learn so we do not repeat the same mistakes. When we fail, we should Fail Fast and Fail Forward, making a proactive choice to learn from them.

Counting my blessings, I still do not work for a large company or organisation that regards me as a disposable number. I’m not restricted by what I can and cannot do because I have a Boss to answer to. I have a life where I am mostly in charge, no longer reliant, dependent and trapped by a J.O.B. Many would envy me for that foundation. Now it’s about time I restarted building on it.

Mastermind Meetings – The Advantages

Mastermind groupIt always helps to get a fresh pair of eyes on your plans, business and products. A different perspective can stop you making mistakes, under or over valuing your offer, or give you new options to consider.

This weekend I had the pleasure of joining a group of people with varying degrees of internet marketing experience at the Crowne Plaza hotel near Heathrow Airport for a Mastermind Group Meeting.

The advantage of a mastermind meeting over a larger event is that you are more likely to have your own specific problems addressed by a group of internet marketers with a range of experience. A large event can be impersonal and often dominated by presentations given by people operating at a different level of business to you. In a mastermind meeting you are more likely to get information and advice relevant to where you are now.

One way you can achieve this is to have hot seat sessions, which is what we did last weekend. Each person takes a turn in the hot seat, presenting a specific challenge that they have in their business and the other members of the group offer their advice. This means you are exposed to different opinions and perspectives that can give you lots of ideas, perhaps a range of solutions, and the benefit of everyone’s experience. Sometimes even listening to someone else’s hot seat session can suggest strategies or resources that you otherwise would not have heard of.

You may think you are not in a position yet to offer any advice, but often people in a mastermind have expertise in different areas. One member of our group was making money in solo ads, but had no experience of PLR, and I found this was an area in which I could make a contribution.

Masterminds are also an opportunity to meet new people and start or grow friendships. Outside the meeting room you can also make connections over a meal or at the bar. Over time these can lead to joint ventures, gaining affiliates, accountability partners, or advisers.

Sometimes we spend so much time on our work that we can be too close to our own business. A mastermind group is an opportunity to see things from a different perspective. Most businesses have staff who chat, bounce ideas off each other and offer different perspectives. Internet marketing can leave us isolated, so interacting face-to-face with a group of like-minded individuals is usually a rare, but useful experience.

So a mastermind meeting is usually cheaper, more personal, and more relevant than a large event. If you are organised you can even keep these advantages after everyone has returned home. Although the meeting is over the participants are going to stay in touch through a Facebook group, and we plan to get together again sometime next year. If you’ve never attended a mastermind meeting and you get an opportunity to attend one I strongly suggest you get along to the venue and give it a try.

Deja Vu and the Sound of Success

A quick update this week. Recently I’ve been looking further ahead and trying to identify good topics for Kindle books. I purchased a course related to choosing Kindle niches and found that I already had access to a software that the course recommended: Ebook Niche Explorer.

You put a keyword that’s related to a niche into the software and it gives you a number of stats that indicate whether the niche is potentially profitable. It takes the prices of books on Amazon that are in that niche and their sales ranks to give the estimated sales and estimated monthly income. To make it easier to judge whether the niche is worth pursuing there is a traffic light system where red means don’t bother and green means yes, go for this niche.

Watching a demo video I saw several keywords highlight some good niches. Unfortunately they were not ones I would care to enter. I’m uncomfortable with medical and fitness related niches as these are not areas in which I have any expertise and wouldn’t want to contemplate the potential for damage. I avoid financial niches for the same reason. So, having watched the training I started to enter keywords related to niches I feel I can contribute to.

Unfortunately as I entered keyword after keyword I never found a niche that produced a green result. After a while I began to get a sense of deja vu.

This was just like the bad old days last decade when some internet marketer would say you only had to enter some keywords into the Google Keyword Tool to find ones that fit into the sweet spot where you could get tons of traffic if only you incorporated the words into your website. So I would sit at my computer for hours at a time until I began to suspect the only words that did fit the criteria were the ones shown in the expensive course I had bought.

So, I’ve abandoned this course of action for now. Perhaps it’s yet another example where watching what the experts produce is going to be more helpful than following a method from a course.

I’ve also been working on a Kindle book about list building. Unfortunately I decided to try a new method I have found which involves taking multiple pieces of PLR material and combining them to make a Kindle book.

Amazon banned the use of PLR material some time ago, but I had found a course that shows how you can still use it without upsetting Amazon. Part of the process involves spinning the PLR material for use on Kindle.

Spinning in this context is changing the words in a piece of text to create a different version.

I’ve trialed spinning software before and was so unimpressed that I’ve never used it again until now. I’ve even found some of my own articles written years ago that have been mangled by others putting it through spinning software. However I thought it possible that the process had improved over the years and so was worth another try.

The problem is I haven’t been able to discover how Amazon decides whether a Kindle book contains PLR. How far from the PLR material must it be for it to be accepted? So how good does the spinning have to be?

Unable to answer these questions to my satisfaction I’ve decided to abandon this method too. Deja vu again as I decide spinning still isn’t good enough. Or perhaps it was more a failure of nerve. With the threat of being banned by Amazon as a consequence, I’d rather be too cautious than too relaxed.

On a more positive note I have also been trying working with background music. Usually I find it too distracting, probably because I listen to the wrong type of music. So I went to YouTube and searched for ‘best music to work to’.

The first couple of days it seemed to be working. I stuck to tasks and was completing a number of repetitive jobs, but after a while it became too distracting or wasn’t to my taste. Then I found recordings of ambient noise, usually sci-fi related. The most effective ones for me have been the Enterprise engine from the 2009 Star Trek Movie and the sound aboard Discovery from 2001 (though I couldn’t get my garage doors to open while it was playing).

Give it a go if you think it may help. You might also take a look at www.focusatwill.com. It plays music that gets you into a better flow of concentration and is based on the findings of neuroscience. There’s a music library to choose from and you can set the length the music plays for, so it’s useful if you work in set blocks of time.

Marketing Summit UK2

Marketing Summit TicketI spent this past weekend in Manchester at the Marketing Summit UK 2. Having attended the very first one last year I had high hopes for this event and it didn’t let me down.

Over the two days the presentations ranged from applying NLP to marketing and mindset, to the opportunities of Bitcoin. We were also shown how to get coders to deliver exactly the software we want and how to use ‘old’ media (TV) to promote a new media business.

There were also presentations on more ‘core’ skills like how to identify your typical customer, how to write high converting sales letters and how to organise your online business.

For those starting out there was also plenty of inspiration. Peter Garety revealed his first product sold only 8 copies, but his company has since grown to serve over forty thousand customers, and Michael Christon spoke about how to build a business that becomes a personal fulfilment machine that can run in your absence.

There were also plenty of opportunities to socialise and meet friends old and new. I had the pleasure of the bumping into Phil Gosling, who was my first mentor when I started out online, and sat next to Sue and Dan Worthington who have recently launched their 30 Day Facebook Challenge.

So another event it was definitely worth attending. As I have mentioned before , you really should build attending some of these events into your yearly calendar for the help and inspiration they can give.

Overcoming Setbacks

Fall down seven times, get up eightIn light of my hoped-for launch date being abandoned it’s rather easy to fall into a deep well of despair. Hard work, opportunity and the chance to connect with others in this niche seem to have been wasted.

At times like this it’s always helpful to look for some inspiration, some rays of hope that help lift you off your knees and get you moving again.

The following are some examples of authors, musicians, entrepreneurs and scientists who faced setbacks, but persevered until they were successful.

George Orwell – When Orwell sent the manuscript for Animal Farm to an American publisher he was told it was impossible to sell animal stories in the USA. In the first four years of its publication it sold 600,000 copies in the US alone and today it has been translated into 70 languages and sold millions of copies worldwide. Just a few years later Orwell believed he had ruined 1984 but luckily sent it to his publishers anyway.

C.S. Lewis – Lewis is believed to have received about 800 rejections before one piece of his writing was accepted. He went on to write the Chronicles of Narnia which has sold over 100 million copies.

Robert M. Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was rejected by over 121 publishers before it was finally accepted.

Stephen King – His first book, Carrie, was rejected thirty times before finding a publisher willing to give it a chance.

The Beatles were told guitar groups were “on the way out.”

Lady Gaga was dropped by her first record label after only 3 months.

Bill Gates‘ first attempt at business was called Traf-O-Data, but failed. He tried again and named the business Microsoft.

Steve Jobs was fired from his own company.

Soichiro Honda was turned down by Toyota when he applied for an engineering job. He went on to build scooters to make some money and started his own business.

Sixty five year old Colonel Saunders had his secret chicken recipe rejected over 1,000 times before a restaurant finally gave him a chance.

Thomas Edison famously faced setback after setback whilst trying to invent the lightbulb. Less well known is that years before he was fired from Western Union after spilling acid during an experiment.

And there are plenty more examples in other fields; Walt Disney was told he lacked imagination, Fred Astaire was told he could “dance a little”, and Van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime, and that was to a friend.

What really matters is how you respond to setbacks. So if you feel like you’ve met a stop sign or even a brick wall, try to regard the experience as a rite of passage that you have to get through to be successful, not an end to your hopes and dreams.

Launch Aborted

One of the reasons I started this blog was to serve as some measure of inspiration for those trying to start their own online business.

If you believe everything the so-called gurus tell you then starting online is an easy, unchallenging process that involves a minimum of work, creativity and discipline, and leads in a short period of time to millions dropping into your bank account as you watch on your laptop screen from some sunkissed exotic beach. In other words they tend to show you the director’s cut instead of the blooper reel.

Reality is somewhat different. Not only does it involve hard work, but the fact that you are probably working alone means there is also a mindset minefield to negotiate if you are to keep consistently progressing.

It has been said that at the start of his tenure as British Prime Minister in the Second World War Churchill used to throw bad news at the House of Commons as if he were throwing raw meat into a den of lions.

So here goes.

Today was to be the launch day for my first internet marketing product, complete with upsell and downsells. Unfortunately not everything was ready and in place as this day dawned.

Often it is the upsell that makes most money when a product is launched. The downsells also produce some extra profit as prospects refuse the main product but are sufficiently interested to buy the downsell. Even a free downsell can contribute by gathering the contact details of prospects who may make a purchase at a later date.

As I am having my first launch in this niche I was relying on the help of affiliates and Joint Venture partners. Building the income from a product is important if you want to attract their help.

The problem is though the downsells are complete, they had not been fully incorporated into the sales funnel. I could have sold the main product and the upsell, but the prospects would not have seen the downsells.

Then there is the behind the scenes setup. To support the promotion of the product by affiliates and JV partners I had set up JV resource pages which included promotional emails, social media tools and banners. However in all honesty it would have been better if there had been more resources available.

So, faced with the situation of being ready but not optimised for a launch there were two possibilities.

I could have gone ahead, but feel that I would have let my JV partners down by not giving them the best opportunities to earn maximum commissions. Not the best way to start in a niche as competitive as internet marketing.

Or I could postpone the launch. Unfortunately this could mean my JV partners will regard me as unreliable and unable to meet a deadline. Their level of support may drop somewhat.

Neither scenario is what I would have hoped for, but I had to make a decision. So I have decided to postpone. This means the launch will be pushed back to later in the year. As I see it this course of action still gives me the chance to make the launch as good as it can be, the alternative would not have done so.

So, there is a glimpse behind the scenes at my blooper reel. Building a business online is not without challenges. Realise this, try to plan for it and be ready to make some decisions if things don’t go as you had hoped.