Yearly Archives: 2006

So what actually works these days?

I was chatting to a friend the other day and we got talking about Internet marketing.  During our conversation, he asked me what the latest ‘thing’ online was and what actually works these days?

When I asked him to clarify exactly what he meant by ‘works’, he said, ‘Oh you know, what’s the best way of getting traffic and making sales?’

When I took a step back and thought about it, there is no ‘latest thing’.  The things which work tend to be exactly the same things as worked a year, two years, even five years ago…..

Let’s take getting traffic as an example.  Broadly speaking you can spilt traffic into two main camps:  free traffic and paid for traffic.  Free traffic can come from a variety of different sources such as organic search results, affiliates, virally via eBook links and so on.  Paid for traffic can also come from a variety of sources including pay per click advertising and general banner advertising.

Five years ago (actually probably longer than that), a large percentage of my traffic came from organic search results from the main search engines such as Google.  Nothing has changed today – Google and the other engines still send me tens of thousands of visitors every single month.  So clearly this still works 🙂

I was a couple of years into my Internet marketing career before I really discovered the true power of affiliates but again, going back five years, my (much smaller) team of affiliates were sending me a reasonable number of paying customers each month.  These days I rely far more on affiliate traffic and I would say it is probably my favourite type of traffic.  Not only is it great when someone sends you a new customer but it also makes me genuinely happy to send my affiliates their commissions every month.  I am all for earning money with the minimum of effort and if I can help someone earn a few hundred dollars a month for doing nothing more than having a link to one of my sites on one of their sites then I am all for it!

I wrote my first eBook over five years ago and I still sell the same title today (albeit a more updated version).  In addition, countless people have purchased resale rights to this product which means I have a small army of resellers distributing the eBook on my behalf.  The eBook contains links back to some of my websites and every single day these sites receive traffic as a result of these links (as they have done for the past five years).  Of course, I haven’t written just one eBook since I have been marketing online, I have written several and each one of them is a little traffic generator. 

Another example of ‘old fashioned’ marketing is writing newsletters and articles such as this one.  Again, something I have been doing for years and something which is still very effective at driving traffic to sites today.

Email marketing is another example.  Fair enough, getting emails delivered has become far more difficult in recent years because of spam/junk mail filters etc but it is still a very effective way of reaching customers and staying in touch.

It’s the same story with paid traffic although the main downside with this is that the costs have risen sharply in the last couple of years.  However, with the right product and sales page, it can still be worth buying traffic and I know many marketers who do exactly that week in and week out. 

So once you have a visitor at your website, what’s the latest technique to persuade them to get their credit card out?  Again, in many cases, exactly the same as would things as would have persuaded them five years ago…..

An informative and well written sales page which outlines the benefits of the given product to the buyer.  A choice of payment options.  Fast shipping if it is a physical product and clear instructions if it is a download.  In short, a site which makes it quick and easy for a potential customer to make a buying decision and gain access to their purchase.

To support this view, I have sales pages which I wrote years ago and which I have only slightly tweaked since originally uploading them and they still convert at very satisfactory levels today.

The bottom line therefore is that even though things do change very quickly online, the basic rules of marketing often stay the same.  When I launch a new product or website, I tend to stick to the same procedure as I have done for years.  Why?  Because it works.  Sure there will always be little twists and new techniques which help to improve results but these are normally things to be tried AFTER you have adhered to the basics in order to squeeze a couple of extra sales out of your visitors.

Stick to the basics and you won’t go far wrong 🙂

Do you get it?

I base many of my articles and newsletters on my own day to day experiences in the world of Internet marketing.  Things that have happened to me.  Emails I have received.  Interactions I have had with customers, subscribers and other Internet marketers.

The more I work online, the more it becomes apparent to me that some people just don’t ‘get it’.  What don’t they get?  Well in my experience, many things but the ‘thing’ that someone didn’t ‘get’ this week was the benefit of marketing an affiliate product which has a recurring income element to it…

One of my membership websites, SimplyWholesale, has an affiliate program which allows anyone to link to the site and earn 50% of any sales generated by their visitors.  Nothing special here – millions of websites offer a similar deal.  In addition, because one of the payment options offered by SimplyWholesale is a monthly subscription, my affiliates can also earn 50% of future monthly subscription payments made by a member who they introduce to the site.  Again, nothing special here – many membership websites have the same arrangement.

So what’s the story?

Well, last week I received an email from an affiliate ‘complaining’ that he wasn’t earning enough money from his customers who were only signing up for the monthly subscription option.  (A monthly membership is £4.99 so his earnings would have been £2.50 on each one).  Now, this individual had been referring, on average, one new member to the site per day and the vast majority were opting for the monthly membership.  The odd one here and there was paying for a yearly membership which generated a higher commission but the majority, as I say, were paying monthly. 

So everyday for the past couple of weeks, this guy has earned £2.50 from having a single banner on his website.  Assuming this continues for the next two weeks, he will have earned at least £77.50 for the month.  Actually it will be more than this due to the annual subscriptions but let’s keep things simple 🙂

Ok, £77.50 isn’t a life-changing sum of money but let’s move things forward a month or two (and this is the bit that the guy clearly hadn’t thought of when he emailed me with his ‘complaint’)…..

Month two, assuming the level of sales continues, he will earn another £77.50 BUT he will also see an income from the second monthly subscription payments made by the members he referred to the site in month one.  It is fair to assume that some members may cancel their subscriptions but to date we have a pretty low cancellation rate.  Let’s work on the worse case scenario and say that 20% of his members cancel in month two – he will still earn over £60 from the renewals.  Add that to the £77.50 from the new members and month two earnings are getting on for £140.  Things are starting to look a little more interesting….

This isn’t just theory – let me back it up with some ‘real-life’ figures based on one of my actual affiliates….

This particular individual has one link to the SimplyWholesale site from one of his own sites and in the first month of being an affiliate, he earned £60.

Month two, daily sales continued and with renewal subscriptions, my affiliate earned £230.

Month three (the current month), this particular affiliate is on target to make over £400 in commission.

Each week this affiliate refers roughly the same number of new members to the site but look at how quickly the commission payments are growing each month.

The point of this article isn’t to try and persuade you all to sign up as affiliates for SimplyWholesale (although that would be great!) but to get you to think about the potential of small payments either for your own products or as an affiliate. 

I have built several businesses around very low pricing structures and it works very well.  I am also an affiliate for one or two low price products and some of these schemes have been sending me cheques for years even though I stopped promoting the actual product ages ago (the commissions are earned from customers who I referred years ago who are still using the site or service in question).

With online business costs so low, it doesn’t always have to be about the hundred dollar products and in fact, the ‘less than a tenner’ products can also be extremely lucrative….

Let’s make some money!

One of the downsides of living on the coast as I do is the winter.  Whilst I get to see some of the best weather the UK has to offer, I also get to see the worst.  We are not even close to the main winter months yet but I have still spent the last couple of days holed up at home watching some spectacular storms over the sea and ‘enjoying’ force 8 winds battering my house!  Some of the more crazy locals chose to windsurf in the incredibly rough sea but given that I managed to crack a rib a few weeks ago windsurfing in next to no wind, I figured I would give it a miss.  It looks as though the summer sun has been and gone for another year…

On the plus side, as we creep into the autumn/winter months many business owners will be heading towards their busiest time of the year.  This is especially the case if you are in retail of some kind as the run up to Christmas should, ideally, mean that you will be rushed off your feet for the next two or three months.

Every year I start to see the same signs around the end of September/beginning of October and this year is no different: 

• My wholesale search engines start to serve noticeably more search results each day.

• My wholesale directory sites start to attract more visitors and members.

• I start getting more and more emails with wholesale-related questions.

• General online activity increases as buyers start to think about purchasing Christmas presents and sellers start to offer suitable purchase options.

Of course, many retailers will have been thinking about how they will approach the Christmas rush for months already but if you haven’t, there is still plenty of time to jump on the bandwagon and make some cash!

eBay still offers one of the best online opportunities for anyone wanting to start selling stock on the Internet.  When I traded on eBay my sales during November and the beginning of December always used to skyrocket.  One of the main reasons for this was that I chose to sell relatively low cost products (less than £20) which were ideal for people to give as Christmas gifts.  Often time I was only making a few pounds profit on each item but because I was able to sell so many of them, the overall profit became substantial.

Of course, eBay isn’t your only option and indeed, you don’t have to restrict your trading to the Internet either.  Going back fifteen years or so, I worked in a large office of around 100 staff for a major UK bank.  I didn’t have the luxury of the Internet back then but that didn’t stop me making a few quid at Christmas.  Instead of selling online, I would simply buy some stock and sell it to my work colleagues – it saved them trawling around the shops and my prices were cheaper too! 

If you work with a large number of other people, this might be a perfect way for you to make a bit of extra money this year?  Remember, the Internet isn’t the ‘be all and end all’ – the offline world does still exist 🙂

If you are stuck for what to sell, take a trip to SimplyWholesale.  There are thousands of individual products on offer from a variety of UK wholesalers and loads of perfect gift ideas.

And if you are keen to get started right away, forget about Christmas for a bit and concentrate on Halloween!  Fancy dress is getting bigger and bigger in the UK and we have access to a huge fancy dress costume supplier with superb costumes from just a few pounds each!  Last year I needed a fancy dress costume for Halloween and left it until the last minute to order and ended up really struggling to find something suitable as everywhere had sold out.  No doubt demand will be just as great this year so why not take advantage of it?

If you want to make some money from the Christmas rush, you need to start taking action NOW!  Don’t let the opportunity pass you by because it’s a long time to wait until next year…

How much easier can it get?

In my last newsletter, I wrote about how you need to put in a fair amount of hard work before your online business becomes successful – there is no such thing as an ‘overnight success’.

Despite this, setting up and running an Internet business is a hundred times easier today than it was, say, five years ago.  There are just so many more services and products available to assist you and I got to wondering how much easier things could really get?

This week, the UK Post Office has announced a new free service which allows people to buy their stamps online.  You simply pay for the stamps you require with a credit/debit card and then print off a label to stick on your envelope.  I haven’t used the service yet but as far as I can tell, the label even includes the address to which the letter is going so you don’t even need to write it out (or print off a second label)!

A similar service has been in operation in the US for some time but this is fairly new technology in the UK.  Just think how much time this new service could potentially save the average eBay seller….

One of the main reasons I stopped selling on eBay was because I couldn’t stand queuing up in the Post Office to get stamps for my packages.  Using the new online service, I could just print off my stamps and then drop all of my letters/small packages straight into the letterbox.  There would be no need to even go into the Post Office.  Admittedly this might not be the case for larger parcels but the PO/couriers will pick these up from your house for regular senders (how much easier can it get?!)

The other thing I used to have to do was venture out to buy packing materials from a local office supplies company.  Of course, there is no longer any need to do this as for several years it has been possible to get all of your packing materials (and in fact pretty much anything else) delivered to your door.  In addition the prices are cheaper than the local stores too!

Whilst taking my packages etc the Post Office, I also used to have to visit the bank to pay cheques/checks in and then wait for them to clear.  Again, this hasn’t been necessary for years with the growth of services such as Paypal and NoChex.  Now all an online trader needs to do is check their email!

With so much of the offline world gradually coming online, it is already perfectly possible to run an Internet business without ever leaving your house.  I used to joke that if the mood took me, that I could run my businesses without ever getting out of bed.  This was never completely true since there would always be one or two tasks that I couldn’t do from the comfort of my home but these are getting fewer and fewer. 

So we are heading towards a situation whereby you can build and manage your own business without ever going outside, without ever talking to anyone and if you wish, without ever getting out of bed!  Not only that but this business has the potential to earn you more money than you would ever earn by doing the exact opposite (ie. going out and working).  Ok, staying in bed for the rest of your life may not be the best thing for you and the lack of social interaction would probably drive you mad but is it just me that finds this possibility an incredible thing? 

I mean, how much easier can it get?

How much effort do you actually think you need to put in?

Before the Internet came along, if you wanted to set up your own business it took a lot of money and an unbelievable amount of hard work.  You would have to give up nearly everything and live hand-to-mouth for months and work every single waking hour.  You would never get a day off and eventually if luck was on your side, you would end up with a thriving business which generated a nice healthy income for you and your family.  You would still have to work most days (if not all) and when your normal working day was complete, there would always be paperwork to do in the evening. 

If you were fortunate enough to be able to go on holiday you would still have to ‘check in with the office’ – however good your staff were, you couldn’t possibly leave them on their own for more than a day or two without making sure everything was ok.  Of course, you could close the business down while you were away but this would mean that you would be losing money everyday that you were lying by the pool (which might take the edge off the enjoyment slightly).

(I could go on but I won’t because the struggles involved in building an offline business aren’t the point of this article…)

So then the Internet arrived.  Suddenly you could set up your own business for next to nothing.  All you needed to do was throw up a few web pages and a six figure income would flow from your computer directly to your bank account.  It was quick, easy and anyone could do it with little training and little effort.  Right? 

Er, no actually – in fact, absolutely and completely WRONG!

I have said it countless times before, if you want to build a successful online business, it takes time and a lot of effort.  You can do it on a budget but you still need to work very hard and really put the hours in.  I won’t bore you with the details of how many hours a  week I have worked in the past but believe me, it is more than I knew existed when I had a job!

Unfortunately these facts seem to have been missed by a large percentage of the online population.  Over the past few months I have received more and more emails from people who clearly don’t want to do any work whatsoever but seem to expect money to just pump out of their computer as soon as they turn it on each morning.  Not only that but they have this expectation that I and others owe it to them to help/guide/support them for free!  Some lazy so and so’s have actually suggested that I do all the work in building their website business and then take a cut of future profits!!  Why on earth would I want to do that?  Why don’t I just build the business on my own and cut them out of the deal?

I received an email from someone this week complaining that after buying one of my wholesale guides, he had been unable to find what he was looking for at a decent wholesale price.  The product he was trying to buy was incredibly competitive and has a very small profit margin anyway so the chances are that he was simply expecting to be able to buy it for an unrealistic price.  Either that or he had only looked at wholesalers on the Internet because he couldn’t be bothered to move from his chair and actually visit the huge number of excellent suppliers who don’t advertise online (I am beginning to suspect that this is primarily because they don’t want to deal with characters like this!).  Anyway, you know the funny part of this story?  The guy bought my wholesale guide in 2004 – it had taken him two and a half years to write to me to complain!  Does this sound like the kind of ‘go-getter’ who is going to put the required effort in and succeed in any kind of business? 

No one is going to do the work for you and you really only have yourself to blame if your business is not working out the way you want it to.  If something is wrong, change it.  If something isn’t working, try doing it a different way.  If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, find something else that you do enjoy.

Internet marketing isn’t for everyone and it isn’t a quick and easy route to easy money.  I haven’t had a proper day off work for over five years (even when I am on holiday I usually spend an hour or so a day dealing with emails).  Yes the money is good but if it is only the money that attracts you, believe me, you will soon get bored. 

Internet marketing is a lifestyle – it can be a very good lifestyle but like any business, you need to be passionate about what you do if you really want to make a success of it. 

If you don’t fall into this category then you could well find that your Internet business dream becomes just another JOB…