7 Tips for Creating Great Affiliate Tools That Boost Your Sales

Affiliate Tools PageOne way to boost your sales is to recruit affiliate marketers. There are a number of factors that will influence an affiliate’s decision to promote a product, including level of commissions, their familiarity with the target audience, and the promotional tools available.

Most affiliates are going to be less likely to promote products that don’t offer them resources like banners, well written content, promotional videos, etc. The more good quality, easy to use tools you offer the more likely you’ll be to recruit affiliates.

If you are unsure which resources you should be offering the following tips will help you decide.

1) Consider Your Audience

Who is the audience that will buy your products and/or service? Who do you want your affiliates to market to? Once you know the answers to these two questions you can think about the best ways to contact your prospects. Knowing this will help you create better, more effective tools for your affiliates. For example, if a sizeable portion of your buying audience use Pinterest you’ll want to produce images that can be posted there. If they are more likely to consume the written word then you need to produce that type of content instead.

2) Ask Your Affiliates

Your affiliates are the people most likely to know what works. If you already have a few potential affiliates in mind ask them to help you come up with a list of the types of tools they would need to promote successfully. Do they need great artwork, brandable content, videos, or other tools to promote what you are selling?

3) Have a Budget

Creating affiliate tools can be expensive. You need to determine if your investment will pay off. You should have an idea of the cost of producing the resources you want to provide and how much your affiliates will have to sell to cover the cost of creating them. If your numbers seem reachable you need to set a budget and keep to it. You could even plan to create and release some resources only after you have reached a certain level of sales.

4) Personalise the Tools

The easier it is for your affiliates to personalise your resources, the more likely they will be to use them. If you offer various versions of resources like review blog posts, ad text, etc. the easier it will be for your affiliates to personalise their promotional content and avoid looking like they are one of many affiliates who have just copied something from a swipe file.

5) Make the Tools Easy to Use

Use any means you can to make using your tools easier. Affiliates are busy people too and if you can shorten or simplify a task the more likely it is to be done. For example WordPress Affiliate Builder enables your affiliates to enter their affiliate code once and have that cascade down through all the resources you offer, saving them time and making the whole process easier.

6) Use Experts

If you want to offer good quality resources you are probably going to have to hire experts. If you don’t have the expertise to create certain affiliate tools it will be better to outsource these tasks to those that do. It is much better to use experts in coding, graphic design, etc. than to try to produce something yourself. It will likely take longer and produce inferior results if you try to go it alone. Hiring these people should be built into your budget.

7) Provide Training

When you create a resource, don’t assume your affiliates will understand the best way to use it, especially if you are recruiting newer affiliates. Create training that shows how to use the various tools that you supply. This could be provided in PDF reports that include screenshots, video walkthroughs of processes, or both.

Recruiting affiliates is a great way to help you contact a larger audience, market your products and services, and increase sales. But you can’t do it effectively without providing great tools for your affiliates and the training to ensure that they understand how to use them.

Solve Big Problems And Test New Ideas With A Quick Sprint

Sprint bookSprint by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky and Braden Kowitz reveals a process that focuses on making very rapid design and product improvements by focusing on a specific project for a period of one week. The book says it is a method “to solve big problems, test new ideas, get more done, and do it faster.”

The book is based on the “design sprint”, a five day problem solving process that Jake Knapp created while working at Google. His ‘sprints’ were used on Google Search, Chrome and Google X. Jake then joined Google Ventures, a part of Google that invests in startups and then grows them into successful companies. It was there that he met his co-authors Braden Kowitz and John Zeratsky, who had worked on products like YouTube, Gmail and Google Trends. Together they have run over 100 sprints with their portfolio companies and this book claims to be the distillation of those experiences.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure if I should spend time reading this book. It was based on a method used by companies and requires a team of up to seven people. However, this includes a number of experts, including a finance expert who knows the finances of your business, a marketing expert familiar with your competitive environment, and someone familiar with your customers. If you run a solo or low employee business you are probably those experts anyway. So I decided to ignore the big company aspects and just concentrate on the process.

For many businesses the traditional method of approaching a problem is to research a market to uncover insights into the products or services they could offer, then develop and test the solutions. In the ‘sprint’ approach you design a prototype first, then test it to uncover more insights. You learn by testing rapidly built prototypes first, not by focus groups and surveys.

Esentially the first three days are spent working through ideas and solutions, day four is spent on prototyping, and on day five you stage a user test. So within one week you solve the problem conceptually and create a prototype.

The book breaks this process down further. The ‘sprint’ runs from Monday to Friday, but I’m going to present it in terms of days. Each day starts at 10am and runs to 5pm with lunch and breaks between sessions, but if you’re a solopreneur or don’t have to round up and coordinate a lot of people you can follow your own timetable.

Day 1: You start by creating a path for the sprint week. Start with the end in mind and identify the goal you want to achieve by the end of the fifth day. What would success look like? What problem(s) would achieving the goal solve? What answers do you need?

Day 2: Start finding solutions by reviewing what’s already on the table. Consider which of the existing possible solutions you can remix and improve. The core principle of design thinking is that “all design is redesign”. So each member of the team (or just you, if you are working alone) works individually to create redesign variations and then creates a rough ‘sketch prototype’ of their preferred remix. The goal for this day is to produce these sketch prototypes ready for the next day.

DAY 3: In the morning, the team (or just you) critiques the sketch prototypes, selects those most likely to succeed and decides which one to progress or which ones to combine and progress. This is done using a voting process involving coloured stickers placed on the sketches. Next you turn the winning sketch into a customer storyboard that outlines the steps from product discovery to purchase, use and disposal.

Day 4: You adopt a “fake it till you make it” philosophy and convert the storyboard into a realistic prototype that you can present to a customer and learn from their feedback. It doesn’t have to be a finished product, it’s a prototype. So you can use Powerpoint, Keynote or a word processor to summarise a digital product, or outline a sales page. You could create a prototype advertisement or even build a rough webpage to send people to. Alternatively produce some prototype packaging or a brochure related to your product or service.

Day 5: It’s test day. Share your prototype with customers and record their reactions. The authors suggest you get the prototype to five customers as that number will probably identify around 80% of all problems. Collect feedback with followup questions and combine the answers with your observations and customer comments to get an early insight into how end users will see the product or service. If feedback is favourable you can get an idea of how successful your solution might be. You’ll also get an idea of what and how to improve.

So what insights can we take from this process?

  • Take time to map out the problem and decide on the goal you are aiming for.
  • If you are working as a team it’s best to work independently to come up with possible solutions instead of brainstorming as a group. Then present the options, discuss, vote, then optimise.
  • The quick development and voting aspects of the process stop progress being held up by endless debates and deferring decisions.
  • Develop a quick and easy prototype that you can immediately show a few customers.
  • Once your customers have seen your prototype observe their reactions and get feedback so you can learn, adapt and optimise.

In summary, if your product or service is fairly straightforward ‘sprints’ can help move you forward quickly and give you the chance to fix obvious issues at an early stage.

If you’re interested in taking a closer look at this process you’ll find the book at http://www.thesprintbook.com. There are also free resources, including slides and pdfs, and there’s a bonus pack available too.

Finding It Hard To Take Action? Try The 10 X Rule

Front cover of 10X RuleThe basic premise of the 10 X Rule by Grant Cardone is if you multiply by ten times what you believe is possible in your life and consequently multiply by ten the actions you are willing to take you are more likely to make that vision a reality.

Cardone suggests there are four ways we can approach life and problems: decide to not take action, want to act but retreat and avoid taking action, do what most people do and take normal levels of action, or take massive action.

Another element of your success you can increase ten times is your goals. Check your goals daily and set them beyond what you think you can do.  They need to be inspirational enough for you to want to revisit them daily. If you choose goals that are too unambitious and easy to achieve you will not be sufficiently excited, inspired, and motivated to achieve what is possible. If you set an ordinary level goal and then increase it by a factor of ten, you may not reach that but you will achieve far more than you originally aimed to. Setting a bigger goal means you will be more likely to focus and invest more time and effort in achieving the goal.

Fear stops people taking action. It feeds on time. If you are anxious about taking action the longer you do not address the problem and delay taking action the more anxiety you will feel. The solution is to take action as soon as possible. Starve the fear. Don’t give it the time it needs to grow.  Whenever you feel like avoiding something go straight for it instead and get it done.

Cardone also mentions the tortoise and hare fable. The tortoise wins because it was persistent, but the hare would have completed the race if it had maintained the effort. Cordone asks what if there was a creature that can start strong and sustain that level of effort. Such a creature would have speed and persistence and would have won the race. Becoming such a creature means looking after your nutrition and your sleep routine so that you have enough energy to start strong the next day and the next.

If you’re wondering how you can set goals that make you motivated to achieve more the 10 X Rule may have the approach you’re looking for. It doesn’t have all the answers, but it can get you thinking about how to get yourself to take action.

The Pitfalls of a Free WordPress Theme

Wordpress logo 8

If you’re thinking of starting a blog or website on a budget WordPress is probably your best free option. As it’s WordPress you’ll have the choice of a number of free themes that you can use. There are even free responsive design themes to choose from. However a free theme may not be the best choice.

A Free Theme May Have Poor Code

The code for a free theme may not be as clean as with a premium, paid for theme. There may be bugs and structure issues that need to be fixed, but that cannot be fixed without upgrading to the premium version. They may also be poorly set up for SEO.

A Free Theme May Not Be Current

A free theme is often released as a lead generator. The designer will be hoping you’ll want more functionality and upgrade to the premium version. Some designers won’t keep the free version up to date, thinking it will make you even more likely to upgrade. Unfortunately an older theme that is not updated may be less compatible with the lastest and best plug-ins, and become vulnerable to security issues.

A Free Theme May Not Be Entirely Under Your Control

There may be some aspects of a free theme that you will not have permission to change. For example it may include encrypted links to ads that are displayed in the site’s footers. Some of these may be inappropriate to your website.

A Free Theme Usually Has Fewer Features

Developers are going to spend more time making a premium paid-for theme better so that it can compete in the premium theme marketplace. Consequently it will often have a number of features that the free themes don’t offer. These can include more flexibility, better compatibility with different browsers, and can also include access to FAQs and even one-on-one support.

A Free Theme May Not Be Free

In the long term a free theme may cost in terms of time and effort in getting it and keeping it working correctly. WordPress are now making updates more frequently. This can stop a theme working, and if you have an inflexible free theme that offers little support you may need to find a better, newer theme.

The bottom line is a premium WordPress theme will have more features and be more robust. If you look at premium themes you’ll find more designs that are responsive, an important consideration now that many of your potential visitors are getting online via a mobile device. Although a premium theme has a price, it will also help you avoid issues with WordPress upgrades. When you purchase a premium theme you become a designer’s customer, and that means they’ll want to keep their themes working well to keep you happy and avoid negative feedback.

How to grow blog traffic with efficient blog hopping

Feedly page of resultsBlog hopping (also known as blog commenting)is a traffic generating method where a blog owner visits other blogs in their niche, leaving comments on blog posts and getting links back to their own blog. The idea is to increase the links to their blog and get an increase in traffic.

The great thing about this method is that it can be done by someone new to working online and it actually works. The drawback is that if you are not organised you can lose track of which blogs you have visited, revisit posts you have already commented on, and spend so much time on this method that you don’t make progress in other areas of your online business.

So here are some tips to help you blog hop more efficiently.

Firstly you need to identify and list appropriate blogs to comment on. You may start with a pool of blogs belonging to people you have met at an online hub, like a Facebook Group or forum. However, you’ll want to increase your blogging circle, especially you are new to blogging and the hub is a place for people with as little experience as yourself. Nearly everyone will be starting from scratch and you’ll only end up with a small circle of people leaving low quality comments on each others posts.

You can search for blogs in your niche by Googling the niche keyword + blog. Also look for experts in your niche and see if they have a blog. Add these to your list.

Next you want to consider how active the bloggers are. If you are part of a group of people new to blogging there are going to be some who give up and stop blogging after a while. The most active will make themselves known when they announce their latest blog post or visit your blog to comment. At this stage you can comment on their blogs. After a few weeks those who give up will simply stop posting.

Once you have reached this stage it’s time to weed out those who have stopped posting and start getting organised.

You can waste a lot of time visiting blogs that have not posted since your last visit. To overcome this you need a resource where you can see when a blogger has published their latest post.

Feedly is a site where you can follow blogs and organise them into categories of your choice. The site suggests blogs for various niches and you can add blogs from your list too. Once it’s set up you only have to login to Feedly to see the latest posts from the blogs you are following. They can be viewed in their categories or as a list with the most recent posts at the top. The list includes the title and the first few words of the post. This overview helps you quickly decide if it is a topic you could leave a comment on and is a great time saver.

You can login to Feedly using your Google or Facebook accounts. The basic version is free and I’ve found that adequate for this purpose, but there are paid upgrades available. One advantage of upgrading is you can receive alerts so you know instantly when new content is posted. This can help you be an early commenter, increasing your visibility to those visiting the blog later.

On many blogs when you leave a comment you have the option to receive an email if replies are made. Take advantage of this as it means you can follow up on any replies, giving you an opportunity to further engage with other blog readers.

Blog hopping is a long term traffic method. Ideally you should leave comments on different blogs in your niche every day. However you may want to allocate more time on days when you post on your own blog to quickly get a healthy number of comments.

When blog hopping set yourself a target and use a timer to ensure you do not spend too much time on this task. For example, you could allocate one hour to this method. At first you may aim to spend ten minutes per post and only reply to six posts a day, but eventually you will become faster at reading and replying to posts and could get it down to six minutes per comment, giving you ten new links to your blog each day.

Could the above help you with your blog hopping? Are there other steps, methods or resources that you’ve found improve your blog hopping efficiency? Let us know in the comments below.

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.

Choose Yourself – A Review

Choose Youirself
Choose Yourself by James Altucher

Choose Yourself by James Altucher was written shortly after the recession and it shows. The impact of that economic event is seen as the point where the middle class start to die out, technology begins replacing you and it becomes obvious your employer never wanted you anyway. Essentially he is saying that a job is about keeping you Just Over Broke. Nothing new there.

Choose Yourself is about giving yourself permission to do something other than work for someone. Strike out, be creative and don’t look to be a small part of a cog in a vast corporate machine. The tools are now available to create products or provide service without the need of a vast corporate structure. Altucher goes into some detail about self publishing, but there is not much practical advice for those looking to start their own business.

Altucher appears brutally honest about his many failures and successes. This makes his advice more valuable. You get the impression he’s come by it the hard way and while he’s not positioning himself as an infallible life coach, he is probably more successful than most of us. It gives his advice more credence and makes it more authentic.

There are plenty of examples of others’s successes too. His analysis of Braintree (which was sold to Paypal for $800 million a couple of years ago) is interesting, especially if you are trying to come up with a business idea.

On a more immediately practical level the author suggest adopting daily habits that should be applied to your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual self. Some are hardly eye-opening (get enough sleep), some you may have heard before (come up with 10 new ideas everyday to build your ‘idea muscle’), while others are a little more controversial (you don’t have to have a purpose in life – in fact searching for one can be damaging).

Other advice includes staying focused by working in the early hours before the world can interrupt you. Ignore wasteful thoughts like regret and resentment. Live in the now because the past and future don’t exist.

Altucher says the fear of rejection is one of the greatest impediments to taking the steps that can lead to our progress. Choosing yourself means you don’t need someone to validate your success. You shouldn’t allow the decision of any one person to affect your life. It’s better to spread the possibilities so if one person lets you down you have others to turn to.

There were many ideas that appealed to the contrarian in me, but then I haven’t worked for someone for over a decade now. My current circumstances mean it’s also a good time to be reading that I should not be bound by past failures, nor rely on any one person. A lesson I learned the hard way a couple of times last year.

The underlying message is if you are being rejected by companies (whether you are applying for a job or already in work) or by people, choose yourself. Take some measure of control. Give life a chance and choose yourself.

If you find yourself in such a situation and it sounds like this book could be useful Choose Yourself is available on Amazon.

Who needs willpower when you have Google Chrome?

Ever wished you had more time to get work done? Ever sat at the end of a working day and struggled to list your achievements since you fired up your computer that morning?

For those of us who work online it’s often not a lack of time that holds us back but a lack of focus. It’s been said that there is no such thing as time management, because you cannot affect time. Instead it’s all about self management.

This requires focus and willpower, and I can’t beleieve I’m the only one who has read this far without a slight pang of guilt creeping in. The problem is focus and willpower are difficult to sustain.

So many tasks, yet so many distractions.

If wandering off down digital rabbit holes or flying off at cyber tangents is a recurring problem perhaps you should consider some of the software solutions available.

Stayfocusd is a Google Chrome extension that limits the time you spend on websites. Identify the websites you want restricted and the amount of time you will allow yourself to spend on them. Program these details into Stayfocused and once your alloted time has expired your chosen sites will be blocked for the rest of the day.

If you use Firefox LeechBlock is an add-on that works in a similar way.

So that’s the artificial willpower in place, but what about the focus? The danger is that you will eventually rebel against your self-imposed restrictions and deactivate the artificial help.

This is where Timewarp could be a better solution. Instead of brutally ceasing access to a site this Chrome extension interrupts your wayward surfing with a motivating quote, a reminder of how long you’ve been on a site, or by redirecting you to a site where you can be more productive. It’s a gentler approach that gives you the chance to realise where your focus should be and how you should be spending your time.

So if you regularly fritter away your time on Facebook, loiter on LinkedIn, procrastinate on Pinterest, tarry on Twitter, waste time on Wikipedia, or play around on poker sites,(or spend too long looking for alliterations for blog posts) these could be part of the solution.

Do you know of any other solutions that can improve productivity at the computer? Let us know in the comments below.

4 Resources for Clear, Readable Blog Posts

Blog key on keyboardThis week I’m going to outline some resources that may make it easier to produce clear, readable blog posts. All of these are free. I hope you find them useful.

1. Blog Topics

If you’re stuck for ideas for your next blog posts take a look at Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator. Enter some nouns that best describe the information you want to convey and the software will produce a list of five post ideas.

For example I entered the words “Facebook” “privacy” and “Europe” and received these suggestions:

15 best blogs to follow about Facebook

10 Signs You Should Invest in privacy

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Europe

14 Common Misconceptions About Facebook

5 Tools Everyone in the privacy Industry Should Be Using

Okay, in my opinion some suggestions are better than others, but it gives you a place to start.

You can also get a year’s worth of suggestions in exchange for some details (email address, etc.). Take a look if you’re frequently short of ideas.

2. Content Ideas

Another resource that might help with content ideas is Portent’s Content Idea Generator.
Put in a keyword and you’ll get a title that may be instantly useable or one that suggests others.

Having written your blog post it’s time to edit. Here are a couple of resources that will help you improve your first draft.

3. Clear writing

Go to Hemmingway and you’ll see an explanation of how it works. Essentially the text is colour coded to highlight where you could use a shorter word, a verb instead of an adverb, and how easy sentences are to read. There’s a key at the side of the page to explain what you should be aiming for and there’s also a colour bar to indicate the readability of your text. Get a grade less than ten and you’ve produced a piece of bold, clear writing.

Select the Write button on the page and you can paste onto the page or type in your text. Then click the Edit button and your text is evaluated. Alternatively a desktop version is available.

4. Readability

If you want to check the readability of a post you’ve already published go to The Readability Test Tool. Here you can enter a web address and get an analysis of the content. At first the results seem a bit too technical to understand, but scroll down and you’ll get an explanation. Essentially anything given a green colour is easy to read.

You can also enter your own text as with Hemmingway, but this time the tool strips out any HTML coding that is included.