Personal Blog: http://www.HorseSenseandCents.com/blog
Bio: Founded marketing firm Fulcrum Communications, leveraging creative and cost-effective solutions for small businesses, in 1989. Paid marketing writer, feature freelancer and op-ed columist for a variety of business publications. Active small business advocate, including attendance at the 1995 WHCSB as an appointed delgate. Writer for equine trade magazines. Horse trainer specializing in working with young horses starting under saddle and resolving issues of those started badly. Publisher of the Horse Sense and Cents(tm) series.
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Many bloggers who are focused on social media issues have joined the affiliate marketing bandwagon. The tactic du jour seems to be for the same band of buddies to blast their opt-in list with dozens of links, video clips, sales letters and other annoying pitches daily. All seem to be in competition for the same royalty payments and the number of e-mails they can aggravate their readers with. Just because someone purchased consulting support on blog building does not mean he wants 30 in-box messages a day on everything from list software products to outsourcing courses. So, for those who think a quick buck is worth alienating your loyal customers trusting you with protected contact information, make sure you include the following to ensure they unsubscribe and vow to avoid your wares in the future:
- Send at least ten affiliate links to your opt-in e-mail list every week. If you really want to get your reader’s attention, do a few each day to ensure they are clear on your disregard for their time and trust.
- Write long, rambling preambles to the sales pitch, waiting until the end of your message to alert your reader about its spam nature. Laugh as you take a page from the old school you generally shun for evidence of your modern insight. Prove the recipient doesn’t feel invested in the read time that ancient practices indicated increased sales, as he instead moves you to his blacklist. Save it for a future case study as you go back to touting the ineffectiveness of traditional marketing after all your client subscribers have bailed.
- Send the same affiliate link out on the same days as at least ten other bloggers.
- Better yet, synchronize your auto-mailer to deliver the announcement at the same time (usually midnight on the announcement date) so anyone who is subscribed to multiple feeds can sift through dozens of messages with the same purchase push.
- Exclaim in your messages concerning every one of the thirteen different affiliate products you tout in a week that it’s the coolest product/service/event you’ve ever encountered. Underscore your trust factor by indicating you’ve tried it (but fail to mention you didn’t buy it) and it’s the best darn thing you’ve ever seen (until the next affiliate link comes through).
- Don’t forget to mention how unusual it is for you to recommend the products of others and how selective you are in screening and approving affiliate links. It’s best to do this for each of the dozen or so affiliate links you send out in a week.
- Make sure the landing page you send people to requires an opt-in before they can see any of the information you promised.
- Better yet, ask for credit card information (which you won’t have to worry about because product satisfaction is guaranteed and you can always cancel the order if you don’t like it) before you allow readers access to sales information.
- Use a deceptive subject heading to make sure your readers feel tricked and betrayed when they open your message.
- Finally, be sure to insult your readers’ intelligence by indicating that this great deal is only available through your affiliate link for a very limited time (debunked by your earlier group think strategy).
Nanette doesn’t often write about social media, but you can find her blog designed to provide useful information to novices and professionals in the equine industry at www.HorseSenseAndCents.com/blog. Even if you’re not a horse person, you may appreciate her humor, opinions and marketing approach as she strives to appeal to a niche audience.
Does it strike you as curious that some of the most vocal about establishing a niche are all blogging about increasing your social media prominence? Or, more accurately today, podcasting, webcasting, video conferencing and writing via internet tools to sell a “unique” product or service that will show how “you too can get the secrets that made me a millionaire before I reached the age of twenty-five.”
It’s ironic in the true sense of the word – particularly as it pertains to the audience purported to be the beneficiaries of these products and services. Actually it’s sad, as the irony seems to be lost on the minions that line up to pay for the landmark program now being offered “to only thousands before the offer ends at midnight on Friday.” No wonder there are so many in the me too crowd crying about how success has evaded them as they’ve joined the ranks of bandwagon believers copying a niche formula with proof it “worked to generate a six-plus figure income” – when it was a new idea.
You’d think the only industry capable of benefiting from social media is the consultants selling products that teach you how to make money online. Sheer numbers practically provide proof that talking about social media is the best way to make money with social media. Really?
Somehow, it seems unlikely the global economy of the future will be sustained entirely by products and services that that provide “niche formulas” for connecting remotely.
Some have done it well and continue to use their blogs to reach out and provide valuable material to encourage visitors to consider their up-sell. They’ve been smart about it too – creating a variety of offerings that start at a rate affordable to anyone. Some of the better examples of establishing prominence in a niche and holding this position to produce continuous revenue streams talk constantly with their clients and amend programs to serve their stated needs. Among them (there are many more, but a few standouts are worth mentioning) are:
- Dave Kaminski of Web Video University at www.webvideouniversity.com (if you’re not thinking video for the future of your business blog – think again) who offers a ton of great free short tutorials – usually two minutes or so in length – as the primary tool for building relationships with prospects. His blog includes written content too, but given his video niche, he smartly leads with this tool.
- Yaro Starak of http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com and his partner, Gideon Shalwick with their www.becomeablogger.com initiative have captured the beginning blogger and/or monetizing a membership site niche. Gideon brought video to Yaro’s established reputation as profitable blogger (seeing a trend here?) to create a number of program that involve video tutorials, online password protected members only forums and live calls to personally address participant questions. They also offer ten great introductory videos for free to help get visitors excited about what else they may learn from the paid programs.
- Eben Pagan (who apparently could use some help with SEO – Google seems to point to everyone else using his name for rankings) is focused on personal development to achieve great marketing results. He uses a lot of video (usually him as a talking head – but he’s a decent speaker and does stage the room a bit), both in his blog and his promotional broadcasts. Most of his programs are designed for a higher price-point audience (including online and live), but he gives a lot of value away in his free material to help encourage a sale. He freely shares his personal story of transformation and this helps to make him appealing.
If you’re looking to monetize your blog with a silver bullet niche formula that’s hands-off and impersonal – good luck. All three mentioned above spent a good deal of time researching and interacting with prospects and clients prior to hitting on the right formula for success. All continue to invest considerable time into activities designed to outreach to new prospects with free offerings.
More importantly, their blog is a strategic component of their branding and designed to help support other primary revenue streams. They use their blog to build relationships with a niche they’ve interacted with enough to cater to with language and a message presented in a precise fashion that grabs prospects.
Most importantly, they haven’t limited their appeal to those focused on social media related businesses. While they may have established a niche with their particular online knowledge and focus, the information they provide is applicable to any industry or individual objectives.
If you want to see a tight niche industry blog that’s been able to monetize on the message alone, check out http://fuglyblog.com/. Her snarky comments on the horse industry have attracted a huge international following and a ton of viral buzz that has advertisers lining up to be included. For a work in progress that’s been designed as one component of a branding and push vehicle for product buyers, hop over to www.HorseSenseAndCents.com/blog (and feel free to leave a comment J).
Niche formula is an oxymoron. Shame on those who try to sell them. Get smart as you plan your business blog and get away from the notion that to succeed with a blog you need to be focused on the “social media niche” (how silly sounding is that?). Seek out those that get what niche means and can give you helpful guidance to make your mark. Oh – and have fun. If you’re not passionate about your field and writing topic, it shows. Capturing a niche requires a ton of enthusiasm and energy, so pick one that you can get excited about.
So, I’d head up north to a gal who charged me $15 to make my hand written content legible (I was there on call for translation as she did this – probably should have been a doctor). The college I attended had just opened a new computer center. Some of my peers thought it was great. I was terrified by these machines that didn’t seem to speak my language – or respond to my demands.
Kicking and screaming – I’m in
Once I started my first business, I was forced to become computer literate. And, I learned to delegate. I still wouldn’t consider myself particularly computer savvy, but try to get educated on what I can do and find resource providers to handle the rest.
Programming is something that I’ve always viewed as beyond my capacity, but in setting up my blog, I actually realized that, armed with notepad and a dumbed down step-by-step tutorial (www.becomeablogger.com), I could do it.
Do I want to take this on as my online activities grow? Not really. Goes back to the delegation skills I developed a couple of decades ago – kids seem to view their time these days as a lot less valuable than I do mine.
Maturity fosters growth
What I have developed with maturity, though, is a recognition that shoring up your weaknesses is critical if you’re going to succeed in business. There’s so much more to blogging than writing.
While in the ideal world, I’d learn all the stuff that our youth find second nature, but I’m not yet retired and put more than a full work week into running my businesses as it is. So, I subscribe to a good number of newsletters and blogs that strive to educate what some are now calling the elderly (excuse me – Kennedy was assassinated days before I was born – he was one of our presidents for those now learning new history) and recognize that I can learn from our youth while they begin to implement some strategies that can benefit my business quickly.
Use the web to find ideal providers
Of course, the web has its benefits for even the neophytes by providing easy access to providers all over world. My blog designer is in Sweden. I’m launching an equine book series this year with chapters from professionals across the globe (did encounter one for the first book who did not have access to e-mail and was surprisingly frustrated by having to snail mail edited versions of his content to England). I’m building relationships with equine professionals who I would never have met without the benefit of social media.
Social media can still be a challenge
Granted, I’m struggling to figure out how to make Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, SEO and every day’s new development on the maximizing online exposure front work, but I’m open to new ideas, willing to try them and implementing what I can grasp. Interestingly, some of the most knowledgeable and helpful resources have been mature adults. So, I realize this isn’t just a kid’s arena, but also recognize what’s second nature to them will take me a good deal of time to learn.
Leave your ego behind and get help
If you’re dismissing online media because you find it overwhelming, this might not be good for business. Those who are willing to learn to and test what’s out there and make informed decisions about what works and what doesn’t for their company will likely thrive.
If you’re having trouble getting your arms around all the new developments, consider delegating. Providers abound at a reasonable rate and most are happy to coach you through the process to work themselves out of a job.
Curiously, that’s a premise I founded my marketing firm on over twenty years ago. At the time, there were virtually no companies willing to work with small businesses, let alone teach them the skills to carry on. Now, we’re seeing a barrage of providers offering work product with a free education in the mix.
It’s funny how circular the world can be. Embrace the opportunities to expand your reach and knowledge. It can be a lot of fun if you’re willing to throw down your guard and open your mind. Plus, there’s that revenue thing.
There seems to be a dichotomy in the blogosphere – and an entrenchment of camps based on the conviction some have that age matters. It troubles me to see a crew of young vocalists asserting that geezers are now anyone over the age of thirty and the relics who have passed into the forties and beyond are such technology neophytes they think AOL is cutting-edge.
As one who would probably be considered breakthrough to have discarded my Smith Corona (I haven’t – look it up, kids), I’m not so sure those claiming to be the only ones able to embrace technology are quite as open-minded as they think. In fact, I’ve found that the so-called mature adults are actually open to learn about the technologies their younger counterparts embrace and seek out their input for wisdom – not so much always the case in reverse. Of course, it’s a small group stirring the pot, but it is disappointing to see the apparent buy-in on these messages from their peers.
What business are you in?
If you’re selling rude T-shirts or retailing “39 Clues”, it might make sense to make your message appeal to only a young age group with verbiage that excludes others, but for most, alienating a huge buying sector isn’t smart marketing. Baby Boomers represent the largest population segment in the US and they are prolific buyers. Of course, the same holds true for our youth, but I don’t see too many older business owners attacking this audience, although some certainly are not very effective at appealing to their needs. Still, if you’re blogging for business, while controversy is a proven effective approach, eliminating a vast number of potential buyers with a caustic message may not be the smartest move if your intent is to thrive long-term.
Granted, the majority of successful and wealthy bloggers are young, but I haven’t seen any of the celebrated achievers lambasting any audience segment – the savvy operators embrace them all with information, offerings and language that is inviting to even the most novice (or oldest) visitor. My guess is a good deal of the revenue comes from those others are now labelling as passé. They’re kind to all and demonstrate the character to ensure their name is celebrated and passed along.
Blogging for business
If you’re going to start a blog intended to bolster your business, it makes sense to spend some time thinking about your audience, appropriate content and long-term objectives. Be careful about posting caustic messages that may come back to bite you. Alan Singer did a recent blog post on what he termed Workforce Darwinism (http://thefuturebuzz.com/2010/01/30/workforce-darwinism/). He indicated that 70% of HR professionals in the US rejected a job candidate due to their online reputation. He goes on to note that 63% of consumers get this, but less than half consider their reputation when they post online. You can surmise his conclusions (or read them at the link above).
Of course, while the studies pertain to those in the job market (and a good number of former small business owners are joining these ranks) this applies to businesses too – and it amazes me to see that some who are trying to earn their living from selling online information seem gleeful about attacking what might have been their biggest potential market.
Gray cells can come in handy
While some of us may not practice a constant daily exercise routine that fortifies our thumbs and require a discovery process to get up to speed on what is considered second-nature by today’s youth, there is beauty in wisdom and experience. I relished reading Agatha Christie novels as kid and found Hercule Poirot a fascinating character. You’re never too old to make a blog work for your business. Of course, communications skills are only a part of the mix – use the resources out there to understand how technology enhancements can help you spread the word (I’m still working on this one).
If you’re looking to leverage creative, cost-effective solutions for your small business success, call Fulcrum Communications at (585) 554-4612 or e-mail FulcrumCom at aol dot com. Nanette’s honing her blogging skills in the equine industry (a much more forgiving audience than marketers) at www.HorseSenseAndCents.com/blog. Of course, she learned a long time ago to delegate, and the design and plug-in enhancements are waiting on another, so it’s content only for now.
I imagine if my horses could manage a keyboard and were connected to the Internet, they’d have a lot to say about how dumb some people are when it comes to communications. In the herd, horses learn who to embrace and who to avoid and they follow the one who is courageous, caring, kind and fair in how they treat others.
Horses follow caring leaders
Relationship building is a purported hallmark the Web 2.0 movement and smart small business owners (most who got this long before the internet came to be) are incorporating the tools and technology afforded by this claimed new marketing think to bolster their businesses. The savvy ones are listening to the herd of customers and prospects they’ve already lead, providing understanding and responsive solutions to their concerns and selecting what works based on feedback from their trusting and supportive clan.
They’re not wasting energy on what doesn’t work given welcome and forthcoming feedback from a respectful fan base. Of course, this has tremendous applications for equine professionals (and their approach to online communications is probably more telling than they would like on how they handle their human and horse students).
Ever feel like some people who are celebrating Web 2.0 as their sandbox and turf come at you with teeth bared and heels flying with their unrelenting “embrace me and my offerings” barrage of messages and never consider what might be comfortable for you? They may get an initial sale, but early buyers tend to lament their decision and warn others of the danger.
Do you sell, or get buy-in?
Usually there’s another mare in the herd who commands respect through fear (or in human terms, selfishness). She gets her pick of the hay pile, is first out of the gate and chases others away from water until she has her fill, but no one will follow her. They avoid her. Some commanding the Web 2.0 moniker as their platform for selling, using it a justified excuse to be in-your-face, fail to recognize their methods result in retreat. Sure, they might get a few early followers, but ultimately, the herd sways the lemmings away from the cliff.
Human or horse – herds tend to behave the same
I learned a lot about horses (and humans) when I fenced in 26 acres last year. Initially, I divided the herds for compatibility, but as time passed, horses were sold, and winter bore down, I culled out the broodmares (a requisite to weaning foals), and combined the rest. An interesting thing happened. I was most concerned about a client’s horse that had shown extreme aggressive behavior with the boys. I was worried about him hurting the babies with his dominant tendencies. He tried, and was immediately lambasted by a three-year-old filly (who’s the leader of the herd now) and banished for his actions. He is not permitted to eat with any of the other horses anymore and must wait until all others are settled with their feed before he gets his.
We do have another mare in the herd. She’s hostile, bossy and avoided. She gives her message in an obnoxious way and gets what she thinks she wants – but isn’t respected, just avoided.
So, how does this apply to social media (and combating some of the economic challenges small businesses and the horse industry is facing right now)? If you’re there for others and show you care, they’ll follow you. Those who feel they can bully buyers with manipulative and self-centered approaches may get their way at first, but won’t likely gain a following.
Think about how you operate with people who are just getting to know you over the seemingly impersonal venue of the internet. Are you putting yourself out there as a leader willing to be on the line to help others gain security and traction, or are you operating with a selfish approach to making your needs heard without regard to how others may feel?
Horse or human, it’s not rocket science, but does seem to be an elusive insight for some. The buzz around the new Web 2.0 is no different than what successful small business owners have always known about being smart in building relationships and gaining traction with centers-of-influence. Give and you get exponentially. Do nothing but take, or defend your turf, and your gains will be fleeting. Do you want to be avoided or embraced? It’s your choice, but don’t blame the herd if they choose to dismiss you.
Nanette Levin owns, Fulcrum Communications, a marketing firm that leverages creative and cost-effective solutions for small businesses. She’s launching The Horse Sense and Cents™ book series this year with “Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners” currently available for pre-pub review. Visit www.HorseSenseAndCents.com for more information and a link to her equine blog. Entrepreneurial titles (and the associated website and blog support) are scheduled for release later in 2010.
It may be changing the scorecard for some, but for any savvy small business marketer, the concepts being introduced as “new” have been a way of doing business for decades. There will always be those who stampede toward the lottery promises and complain about their bankroll. Others just really get it.
As I hear the death knoll being chanted for marketing as we know it, I recall the same predilections in prognostications for paper (no need for hard copy documents with electronic files the rage, designers (remember when desktop publishing was introduced?), radio (with the advent of TV), network TV (cable), phone land lines (cellular technology), books (promised kiosks yet to be erected) and even grocery stores (when you can order on-line). I don’t buy it.
Keep old principles in mind when embracing the new
Sure, technology provides opportunities that may not have been available in the same fashion as in years past, but the idea of relationship and network building (and I’m not talking about cheesy so-called networking profit-centers for the provider) has been around for a lot longer than I have.
I’m not a big proponent of rushing to embrace every technology platform that surfaces.
Facebook seems to be a total waste of time for my business, but the jury is still out there as some have indicated I need to create fan pages and groups (I’m still sceptical). I’ll try it for a couple more months, but won’t spend considerable time here.
Many are singing the praises of Twitter. Frankly, I find it hard to keep up with the signal-to-noise ratio. Plus, even though I’m a fan of concise writing, 140 characters really isn’t my style.
LinkedIn, however, has been a great resource for me. So, I’ll continue to spend probably more time than I should participating in groups there and making connections with people who add value to the lives of others through their shared knowledge and participation.
The more we change, the more things seem the same
What is this really all about, though? The initial claims were that online social networking, Web 2.0 and all the other related tools now breaking through had enabled new marketing realms that allowed you to connect directly with your prospects and customers.
I say that we’ve always been able to do this. Some have chosen not to. Smart business owners have always understood that talking to your prospects and customers in a receptive and responsive fashion, and keeping in touch, created big opportunities.
Now some of the “online marketers” are pushing products that allow you to automate the process – it’s just too hard to keep track of all the stuff created to keep us in touch with our audience. Stop wasting unnecessary time sending personalized messages, supplying feeds to the various (and extremely different) communities where you have a presence and create a barrage of auto replies (it’s personalized because you have a script that inserts a name) to give those 27 (or 27000 – must be the more the merrier) impressions once indicated necessary for a sale.
So much for the relationship building and responsive dialog features boasted as “new and different” by the bleeding edge crowd.
Will it last?
The more I watch this “movement,” the more I see a crash on the horizon for the silver bullet crowd. People who get it are smart in how they use the technology to enhance their following and net worth by serving others – and staying personal. When you look at most of the winners, they’re not seeking a quick and easy way around connecting directly with their audience.
In fact, they’ve done the opposite. They’ve created communities and have made themselves available in a big way. They’re building relationships, literally, one at a time. They gain huge credibility by being available, responsive, real and flexible.
Yet, the latest barrage of advice, products, offerings and focus seems to be on easy management tools that relieve the business owner (or administrator) of the burden of direct contact.
Stand on the shoulders of giants
So, yes, I think Web 2.0 as the opportunists are trying to define it, is definitely moving away from good traditional marketing precepts.
I now unsubscribe from anyone who sends me a letter filled with red and yellow ink. I ignore those who send every message in the same language out to all their Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, LinkedIn groups and other social media channels. I get annoyed by the auto-responder messages that barrage my e-mail accounts with e-mail pitches the minute I give them my contact information. I also get cranky about those who create a platform, but don’t bother to check into the comments for a month or more. And the latest rage seems to be affiliate programs. Ten pitches in an hour to the same program from so many minions doesn’t cause me to run to their offering. It turns me off.
If you want to make Web 2.0 (or whatever you want to call it) really work for you, I suggest getting back to basics. Limit your time to what you can handle and what works for you. Be ready to respond almost immediately (or at least within 24 hours) to those you attract. Demonstrate your interest by responding to feedback.
But don’t let this “new” tool rob you of critical time from your business operation and objectives. Build relationships with people you’ve learned to respect and trust – and keep them. Use these tools to find, meet, engage and help centers-of-influence. Don’t spend too much time participating in venues that may be entertaining, but don’t serve your business well.
It’s the economy, stupid
Smart small business owners tend to weather the storms. Many who already get how to make their business about others don’t need Web 2.0 preachers to tell them how to do business successfully. They listen to their prospects, customers and colleagues and implement what they need to make others feel great about doing business with them. Online connections are critical, but the mix depends on the owner and the audience.
Small businesses that are struggling and blaming it on the economy haven’t made their offerings invaluable. No amount of Web 2.0 is likely to fix this until they change their mindset.
Sadly, I’ve signed off of almost all groups indicating a sales or marketing focus. These so-called pros so don’t get it. The savvy small business owner got relationship building a long time ago. Smart ones are picking and choosing how to use the web to improve what they offer – not fix it.
Those who get the importance of one-on-one communications and responsive reactions will thrive. Those who don’t will chase the next promise, complain and blame. Which crowd would you like to join?
Nanette Levin started marketing firm, Fulcrum Communication (leveraging creative and cost-effective opportunities for small businesses) in 1989. She’s also responsible for a book publishing initiative with two tight niches in the equine and entrepreneurial arena. The Horse Sense and Cents™ series is being launched this year. Visitwww.HorseSenseAndCents.com for more information and a link to her equine blog. Entrepreneurial titles (and the associated website and blog support) are scheduled for release in 2010.