21 Ways to Create a Sales Stampede on the Internet: Book Review

21 Ways to Create a Sales Stampede on the Internet
Recently, I was given a copy of 21 Ways To Create A Sales Stampede On The Internet by Jason “Wally” Waldron and asked to review it. As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to do a lot of reading. Facebook groups for authors tend to be a rich source for free Amazon ebooks. Their creators will advertise them in hopes of getting reviews. Based on my review on a short e-guide on making money online that I got from one such group, Wally contacted me about reviewing his guide for making money online.

Of course, I agreed. A few days later, I received a copy of his workbook-sized paperback in the mail. Wally could have been anywhere in the world, but it turns out he lives just a couple of miles from me. In fact, he drove further to go to the Post Office than if he had hand-delivered the book!

Purpose of 21 Ways to Create a Sales Stampede on the Internet

Wally believes that the key to making money online is to apply the lessons from direct response marketing. The book is divided into 22 chapters (Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup recommends over-delivering in his step #37) covering everything from the idea to the website. It provides a good mix of big picture planning and actionable details.

The idea

Like most books on the topic, Wally insists that the fastest and easiest way to make money is to start with a niche that has competition. Competition means that people are already buying that product. No competition means nobody is buying! He uses the example of the graphical user interface that we all know today. It was originally invented by Xerox who spent a lot of money to develop it but had no users. Apple took it a bit further, but it wasn’t until Apple had already created a market that Microsoft stepped in and delivered it to the masses. Wally insists that we should be Microsoft and not Xerox!

Also, don’t try to under-price the competition. It creates a race to the bottom that you won’t win. Instead, to stand out, you should tweak your offering to be 10% different. Make it 10% better, or 10% more unique.

The list

After spending the first couple chapters on how to pick an idea and how to create the right message, he devotes a chapter to the ever popular email list. Marketers always insist that “the money is in the list.” But after reviewing the statistics he provided, I find myself wondering how that can possibly be.

Using research from the Jupiter Research Group, he states that 88% of all the people who ever sign up for your newsletter will ever receive it. Of those, only 20% will open it. Only 9.5% will click-through to your site and a mere 1.1% will buy anything.

Now, maybe I’m reading this wrong, but it reads to me that those percentages are stacked. That is only 1.1% of the 9.5% of the 20% of the 88%. Doing the math, that means only a little more than .02% of all people who click on the subscriber button will ever buy anything from you. That works out to 1 in 5000. If only 3% of all web visitors sign up for a site’s newsletter, you need to be pulling in nearly 20,000 visitors to make a single sale!

That said, he does provide several tips for getting the most out of your email newsletter. He recommends starting with a subject line that looks like a human wrote it, specifically talking about a problem that your product solves. This will increase the open rate.

Next, tell a story about the problem. Don’t reveal the answer to the problem in the email. Instead, say that the answer is on your website. That will increase the click-through rate.

The website

Nearly half the book is devoted to what you can do with your website to maximize your sales. The big picture, specific details part comes into play here. For example, he reminds us to have a clear call-to-action on all of your pages, depending on the specific purpose of each page. Then he later states that the words “add to cart” have higher sales than “buy now” and that red or blue headlines convert better than other colors. Also, dark print on light background works better than light print on a dark background.

Here’s an interesting fact: a cartoon image of yourself creates more trust and leads to more sales than an actual photo of yourself.

And at the end of the day, test and measure everything. No two sites will have the same stuff the works exactly the same. Start with these tips, and then change one thing at a time to see if it does better or worse. Then change another. And then another.

The funnel

Remember the sales funnel? It’s the idea that you start with free stuff to lure people in, then sell them on low-cost stuff. Then try to up-sell them on the expensive items. 21 Ways to Create a Sales Stampede on the Internet recommends that you flip that model on its head. Instead, try to sell the big-ticket item up front. Those that buy will be your best and most loyal customers and you will give them the lower value stuff for free or a reduced costs to keep them. And those that don’t bite on the big item up front? Give them the traditional funnel.

The blog

30% of the web is new. Every day. That’s right. Nearly a third of all the content available on the internet at any given time was published in the last 24 hours.  That’s why Google places such a big emphasis on frequently updated sites and why every website should have a blog.

Wally recommends repurposing old newsletter content on your blog. Re-write it to make it fresh, but you have half the work done for you already. He goes further to recommend that you spin the content again on article sites for links back to your site.

Also, talk about what is in the news right now, even if you think it doesn’t relate to your niche. He provided an example of a Chinese medical practitioner during the BP Oil Spill that was in the news a couple of years ago. The practitioner wrote a post called “How to Cleanse Yourself from the BP Oil Spill.” While the spill was in the news, he got a nice bump in traffic and several new leads.

Social Media

There is only one point behind using social media: to drive people to your lead capture form. Of course, you don’t do that by being spammy and saying “click here! click here!” Instead, you engage in conversations, talk to potential customers, share solutions to problems.

According to 21 Ways to Create a Sales Stampede on the Internet, the primary social media channel you should be focusing on is YouTube. You should start a channel and optimize it by creating content that leads viewers to click-through to your site, just like with the email newsletter.

One tip he uses is to create a sales video by putting your sales page on a series of slides in PowerPoint and reading it aloud.

What strategies have you use for increasing your sales?

 

We Got Outta Debt: Book Review

As an ebook professional, I was one of the first (two or three hundred) people to join Pat Flynn’s Facebook group detailing his progress in writing his first book for the Kindle. Aside from many others like me, hundreds of aspiring and already self-published authors to joined to get tips on the process and publicize their work. Amazon’s KDP Select has become a popular platform and allows “free” days where the ebook can be purchased at no cost.

I’ve been taking advantage of that recently to read dozens of short guides on a variety of topics. My last book review, on a book about Pinterest, was one such find. More recently, I downloaded We Got Outta Debt: A True Debt Free Journey by blogger JP Foley. At 6500 words, it was a short read and I was able to finish it in under an hour.

JP’s blog is about his debt struggles and his journey to freedom in debt. It took is family of 5 just three years to pay off nearly $70,000 worth of debt. JP obviously makes more money than I do, but that is still an inspiring story.

The advice in the book is pretty basic and will come to no surprise to any established PF reader. But  the first chapter contains a gem that most people will gloss over. What is the number one secret to paying off debt? It has nothing to do with income or budgets. The secret is simple: you have to want it.

You should be here because you want to be here. You know you have a problem an d want some help, some guidance and some motivation. But you have to want to be here.

Let me say that again, “YOU have to WANT to be here!”

This is what Dave Ramsey means when he talks about gazelle intensity. You have to have the focus of a gazelle running for its life from a lion. Anything else and you are going to stumble and fall and get eaten by the lions (or debt collectors),

This is no different from weight-loss or overcoming addiction. At the end of the day, if the reason for wanting to become debt free doesn’t start with you, if it’s not the core of your soul, you are setting yourself up for failure. You may start to pay it off at first, but will slide back into your old ways of spending beyond your means. JP admits to having gotten into debt and paying it off twice before managing to rack up more money than I have personally earned in my life.

To start paying off that debt, Foley recommends the Dave Ramsey method of debt snowball. For those unfamiliar with the term, it is the idea of paying the minimums on everything except for the smallest debt. Put everything you can into paying that one off. When it is gone, take all of the money and apply it to the next smallest debt. As you pay off debts, you have more money to apply to the other debts.The effect is similar to rolling a snowball in the snow to make it larger and larger.

Expenses

The method Foley recommends starts with taking an inventory of your spending. Some people don’t even know how much they are shelling out every month! He talks about non-discretionary and discretionary spending which is a fancy way of saying “needs vs wants.”

From there, you can determine what you can cut out. Cable is nice, but if you are really serious about getting out of debt, it is $600 or more that you can go without each year until the debt is gone. Personally that is a little extreme for me. I enjoy watching tv in my down time. When I was working 12 hour days, I usually wanted nothing more than to veg out in front of the tv for a while when I got home.

He also recommends automating payments to avoid late fees. Personally, I see late fees to be a symptom of poor organization (or not having enough money to pay it on time). On the white board in our office, I have a big list of every bill I have, from our $42 internet bill to our $425 lot rent. They are ordered by date due and that date is listed next to the name, as well as the amount due. As each date comes up, we pay the bill and check it off the list. At the end of the month, all of those checks get erased and we start over.

That said, there can be financial benefits besides avoiding late fees. The deposit for our electric service becomes refundable and refunded after a year of automatic payments. If we don’t set up automatic payments, we never get our $200 back.  Many debt collectors will also offer a discount on the interest rate for setting up automatic payments. It may only be a quarter of a percent, but for my student loan that still works out to almost $70 per year!

Savings & Income

Next he talks about setting up an emergency fund. Again, this advice is taken pretty much straight from Total Money Makeover. Having a spare $1000 sitting around means that you have cash on hand if something unexpected happens and you don’t have to take on more debt to cover it. Trust me, I know how hard it is to get out of debt, and how discouraging it is, when you have to add to your debt pile when you are trying to shrink it. Of course, what Ramsey and Foley don’t consider is when your insurance leaves you on the hook for more money than your emergency fund!

If you have to dip into your emergency fund, pay it back with the extra money that normally goes into debt payments. If you don’t refill that fund after draining it, the next emergency is going to hurt!

Foley uses the analogy of digging out of debt repeatedly, and expands on that thread in his chapter on income. He states:

By increasing the size of your shovel, you’ll be able to move more of that pile out of your life.

He provides a couple specific ideas to try for a part-time job. Two recommendations he makes are retail jobs and in-home child care. Before talking any side gigs, check licensing requirements for your area. I believe that NJ now requires everyone providing child care to be licensed.

Unfortunately, he tends to gloss over this a bit. “Almost anyone can come up with a temporary side job.” It’s not always as easy as that. In this college town, the students take nearly all of the part-time jobs. And when they are gone, the population shrinks by a third and so doe the demand on stores and the number of employees they need. The sweet spot for finding a part-time job in this town in the beginning of August when stores are ramping up in anticipating of tens of thousands of shoppers arriving but the workforce hasn’t made its annual expansion yet.

He also recommends downsizing your stuff. You can sell books, DVDs, and even furniture through Craigslist, eBay, and Amazon. This isn’t a sustainable way to make money, but every little bit helps.

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Pinterest for Business: Book Review

I recently picked up a copy of a new Pinterest ebook on Amazon while it was on sale for free. It’s been a while since I did a book review, so I thought I would review this one. Pinterest For Business: Why Does My Business Need to Use Pinterest was broken down into 9 chapters with the primary purpose of answering the question in the subtitle.

One thing I can say about this book, if you already know you should be using Pinterest for your business and are looking for advice on how to implement it, this probably isn’t the book for you, although Chapter 8 — Pinterest and Your Marketing Campaigns does touch on that topic a little.

The book does a pretty good job of explaining what the heck Pinterest is (a virtual collection of Pinboards… basically Flickr where you can share other people’s images) and, more importantly the reasons why businesses should have a presence there.

Pinterest is currently the fastest growing social media site out there, with 12 million users signing up while the site was still in beta. It receives over 11 million weekly visits of highly active users.According to the book,the average Pinterest user spends up to 100 minutes on the site.

Chapter 5 mentions the potential for “going viral,” the idea that your work will grow well beyond yourself. Excellent examples of things going viral include that house with the Christmas lights that flashed in time to the TSO song, “Christmas Eve in Sarajevo” or the Korean music video “Gangnam Style” by PSY (I still have that song stuck in my head!)

Not quite viral, but when I first signed up for Pinterest a couple weeks ago to “pin” images of the food I’ve cooked for If You Can Read, You Can Cook, I was surprised to learn that some of them already were on the site! This was also before I added Pinterest to my social sharing plugin on that site, so whoever pinned those images was very interested in sharing them!

As I mentioned earlier, the book doesn’t give that much detail on how to use Pinterest for your business, but it does give some tips. For instance, I learned from this book that you can affix prices to images. Take a picture of your product, Pin it, and slap a price on it and people can actually discover your products through Pinterest and go to your site to buy them!

English: Red Pinterest logo

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It also discusses some strategies for using Pinterest for inbound marketing and it’s place in your sales funnel. It also recommended using infographics to convey textual information.

If you are on the fence about Pinterest, then this book may give you the information you need to take the plunge. If you are looking for more concrete tips on how to get the most out of using the site, then you’ll probably want to keep looking.

Book Review: The $100 Startup

$100 Startup
A few weeks ago, I won an Untemplater giveaway of Chris Guillebeau’s new book, The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future. I just finished reading it a couple days ago, but almost as soon as I started the book, I knew I had to review it.

What is the $100 Startup About?

I’ve read a number of business and entrepreneur-related books but this one struck my as different. For one, it is the second book I’ve read to use the term microbusiness. A microbusiness is a small business, usually run by a solo-preneur or a couple, either on the side, or meant to be a full-time income without really intending to grow beyond the needs of the founder. The other microbusiness book I’ve read, if you are wondering, is Microbusiness Independence by homesteader Anna Hess.

So the premise of Guillebeau’s book is that the microbusiness is the future of entrepreneuialism and that you can get started quickly and easily with limited startup funds. In effect, you can get started for as little (or less, really) as $100.

Reality Check

One of the other big things that I liked about The $100 Startup, specifically, was the fact that he realized that even though location independence and travel are important to him, they aren’t important or even desirable to others. He also devotes a good page to a much needed reality check for the literature of entrepreneurship. He uses the phrase “if you build it, they might come.” He points out that for every success in ebook publishing, several will fail to sell any copies beyond what supportive friends and family buy.

Specifics

Finally, there is the third and most important thing that I liked about The $100 Startup. That is, the specifics. At 260 pages, he spends a lot of time being inspirational and motivational, with anecdotes of others who have been successful. But he devotes nearly as much space to naming the things you need to do (and the things you probably shouldn’t) to be successful.

Some of these are rather plebeian (but still important to remember and execute) like asking people for help. Others are more specific and detailed, like his worksheets Instant Consulting Business, 1 Page Business Plan, and 1 Page Promotion Plan. There is even a worksheet dedicated just to ebook publishing, which is a particularly low-cost way of earning money. But the biggie is his 39-step Product Launch Checklist. That checklist is probably worth the cost of the book by itself. (That said, these worksheets and checklists are available for free on the book’s website: http://100startup.com/#resources)

The 39-Step Product Launch Checklist breaks down all the things you should do to prepare for the launch of a product. Step 37 asks “how can you overdeliver and surprise your customers with this product?” A perfect example of this is the fact that there are actually 40 steps in the checklist.

I liken this to a conversation between Scotty and La Forge in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Relics.

Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: Yeah, well, I told the Captain I’d have this analysis done in an hour.
Scotty: How long will it really take?
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: An hour!
Scotty: Oh, you didn’t tell him how long it would *really* take, did ya?
Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge: Well, of course I did.
Scotty: Oh, laddie. You’ve got a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker.
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