Thursday, October 25, 2007

An Online Millionaire Plan: The bottom line of a website – and how to make one

The bottom line of a website – and how to make one
Here's my tips and strategy of building web sites:

1) Don't reinvent the wheel

2) Offer real solutions to real problems

3) Create and sell only what you can physically deliver.

A website, according to what I've studied, is simply a set of sales pages - held together by an index, which is linked on each page. The graphics are minimal and shared between the pages. And yes, there are tons of people who make money building huge websites – money we don’t have and don’t need to get started.

There was and is a theory that you build huge content-rich sites which bring tons of traffic to your site. These you monetize through selling advertising – but depend on how many “eyeballs” you continue to attract.

However, the most effective monetization occurs when you have a very simple page and invest the bulk of your time and efforts to driving traffic to one or a few pages.

You want to leverage a minimal investment into a maximal return.

The design:

Each page has it's own domain name (probably a subdomain.domain.com name) so it can be linked directly and cheaply.

Each sales page has a "thank you for ordering" page.

Sales is either through Clickbank or through Lulu.com (where I sell my books and yes, it’s free).

Each (every single) page has opt-in newsletters AND ecourses.

Means all pages are static, so they are VERY search engine friendly. And they have associate links, which then link to the key sites and blogs your core business requires.

And realize that your ThankYou page becomes another sales page, linking to other squeeze pages or sales pages you have.

Don’t forget your error pages – each of these can sell products and capture email addresses.


Why paid advertising simply doesn’t work

"Increasingly, people are skeptical of what they read or see in advertisements. I often tell clients that advertising has a built-in ‘discount factor.’ People are deluged with promotional information, and they are beginning to distrust it. People are more likely to make decisions based on what they hear directly from other people: friends, experts, or even sales-people. These days, more decisions are made at the sales counter than in the living-room armchair. Advertising, therefore, should be one of the last parts of a marketing strategy, not the first." —Regis McKenna, The Regis Touch (Addison-Wesley, 1985)

Simply put: The best way to succeed in business is to run such a wonderful operation that your loyal and satisfied customers will brag about your goods and services far and wide, referring new customers to you. Instead of spending a small fortune on advertising, it’s far better to spend the same money improving your business and caring for customers you already have.

Add to this is that you provide the best information about your product over the Internet, in addition to any local directories and participation in your local Chamber of Commerce and any other local business clubs.

Now, isn’t that just advertising? No. Promotion is a broad category, advertising is a tiny (and overpriced) niche in that category. Promotion works, if done right. A smile and a handshake can be the best promotion you can have – unless you are a politician.

What do I mean by “works”. Simply – produces more than statistical average. Any type, ANY type of promotion will produce 2-4% response. The cheaper the means of promotion, the more you can do. Effective promotion (like article marketing) will produce 10% or more response. By response, I mean purchases.

In this book, I’m working to get you the data where you can start cheaply and effectively on the road to making your own millions. That is why I don’t recommend advertising. You spend your money and you take your chances – but you can simply lose a lot of money right off the bat with nothing to show for it, due to the hidden pitfalls in most advertising setups.

Your product and your sales is based on your reputation. In brick-and-mortar businesses, their prosperity depends on rapid and effective service to their customers – which is what their reputation is built from.

If you do all of your business over the Internet, then your reputation is based on your delivery - plus paying attention to forums where your product and name come up. A few quick words here - and staying in the conversation - will win believers, especially when you are honest about the flaws your product is known to contain or exhibit.

This gives a reason why article marketing is so effective – the authors have built their reputation up with consistent and repeated useful articles which get read by many, many people. They build a relationship with their readers, who then trust them with their email address and buy from them.

In their very able book, “Marketing Without Advertising”, Phillips and Rasberry make the argument that businesses are better off investing in the quality of their services and delivery rather than paid-for advertising:

“• Advertising is simply not cost-effective. Claims that it produces even marginal financial returns are usually fallacious.

“• Customers lured by ads tend to be disloyal. In other words, advertising does not provide a solid customer base for future business.

“• Dependence on advertising makes a business more vulnerable to changes in volatile consumer taste and thus more likely to fail.

“• Because a significant percentage of advertising is deceptive, advertisers are increasingly seen by the public (both consciously and unconsciously) as dishonest and manipulative. Businesses that advertise heavily are often suspected of offering poor quality goods and services.”

They also tell the statistics that most of American businesses don’t use or don’t even see the use of Advertising. Mostly because they are small business owners, the single entrepreneur up against the world.

Neither do they have the money for advertising, they also know that they get there customers from repeat business – built through quality production and service. And good customers send them more customers.

Customers gotten from ads aren’t loyal and are their own headaches to turn into such. Phillips and Rasberry mention this:

Perhaps the worst aspect of traditional advertising, one apparent to anyone who runs a retail store, is that customers who respond primarily to media ads don’t usually return. The same truth has been discovered by magazines and publishing companies that rely heavily on junk mail solicitations to sell their wares. The fact is that customers recruited through scattergun advertising techniques such as TV spots, newspaper ads, direct mail, contests, unsolicited telephone sales and Internet freebies rarely come back.

As I’m gearing this for you to be able to start up on the cheap, with what you can scrape and save out of your household budget – and telling you to start a business instead of getting a second time-sucking, wage-slave job – I’m telling you to leave paid advertising strictly alone. Don’t even put it on your plate at this point.


How Marketing Fails

In the “ClueTrain Manifesto”, Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger expose the story of how corporate marketing is becoming unraveled at the sleeves by the Internet. An excerpt below tells how this is happening:

“The first markets were markets. Not bulls, bears, or invisible hands. Not battlefields, targets, or arenas. Not demographics, eyeballs, or seats. Most of all, not consumers. The first markets were filled with people, not abstractions or statistical aggregates; they were the places where supply met demand with a firm handshake. Buyers and sellers looked each other in the eye, met, and connected. The first markets were places for exchange, where people came to buy what others had to sell -- and to talk.

“The first markets were filled with talk. Some of it was about goods and products. Some of it was news, opinion, and gossip. Little of it mattered to everyone; all of it engaged someone. There were often conversations about the work of hands: "Feel this knife. See how it fits your palm." "The cotton in this shirt, where did it come from?" "Taste this apple. We won’t have them next week. If you like it you should take some today." Some of these conversations ended in a sale, but don’t let that fool you. The sale was merely the exclamation mark at the end of the sentence.

“Market leaders were men and women whose hands were worn by the work they did. Their work was their life, and their brands were the names they were known by: Miller, Weaver, Hunter, Skinner, Farmer, Brewer, Fisher, Shoemaker, Smith.

“For thousands of years, we knew exactly what markets were: conversations between people who sought out others who shared the same interests. Buyers had as much to say as sellers. They spoke directly to each other without the filter of media, the artifice of positioning statements, the arrogance of advertising, or the shading of public relations.

“These were the kinds of conversations people have been having since they started to talk. Social. Based on intersecting interests. Open to many resolutions. Essentially unpredictable. Spoken from the center of the self. "Markets were conversations" doesn’t mean "markets were noisy." It means markets were places where people met to see and talk about each other’s work.

“Conversation is a profound act of humanity. So once were markets.

“The advent of the Industrial Age did more than just enable industry to produce products much more efficiently. Management’s approach to production and its workers was quickly echoed in its approach to the market and its customers. The economies of scale they were gaining in the factory demanded economies of scale in the market. By the time it was over we had forgotten the one true meaning of the market, and replaced it with industrial substitutes.

“In The Third Wave, Alvin Toffler wrote that the rise of industry drove an "invisible wedge" between production and consumption, a fact Friedrich Engels had noticed over one hundred years earlier. As production was ramped up to unheard-of rates, the clay pot of craftwork was broken into shards of repetitive tasks that maximized efficiency by minimizing difference: interchangeable workers creating interchangeable products.

“In the market, consumption also needed to be ramped up -- not just to absorb the increased production of goods, but also to promote people’s willingness to buy the one-size-fits-all products that rolled off mass-production lines. And management wasted little time noticing the parallels in efficiencies they could achieve all along the production-consumption chain. If products and workers were interchangeable, then interchangeable consumers began to look pretty good too.

“The goal was simple. Customers had to be convinced to desire the same thing, the same Model-T in any color, so long as it’s black. And if workers could be better organized through the repetitive nature of their tasks, so customers were more easily defined by the collective nature of their tastes. Just as management developed a new organizational model to enhance economies of scale in production, it developed the techniques of mass marketing to do the same for consumption.

“So the customers who once looked you in the eye while hefting your wares in the market were transformed into consumers. In the words of industry analyst Jerry Michalski, a consumer was no more than "a gullet whose only purpose in life is to gulp products and crap cash." Power swung so decisively to the supply side that "market" became a verb: something you do to customers.

“In the twentieth century, the rise of mass communications media enhanced industry’s ability to address even larger markets with no loss of shoe leather, and mass marketing truly came into its own. With larger markets came larger rewards, and larger rewards had to be protected. More bureaucracy, more hierarchy, and more command and control meant the customer who looked you in the eye was promptly escorted out of the building by security.

“The product of mass marketing was the message, delivered in as many forms as there were media and in as many guises as there were marketers to invent them. Delivered locally, shipped globally, repeated inescapably, the business of marketing devoted itself to delivering the message. Unfortunately, the customer never wanted to take delivery.

“During the Industrial Age, the movement of materials from production to consumption -- from flax to linen and from ore to musket -- was a long and complicated process. Potentially vast markets had potentially vast distribution needs. The development of new transportation systems eased the burden, and global systems flourished. Even huge distances could be spanned so that products could be delivered efficiently. Inexorably, business began to understand itself through a peculiar new metaphor: Business is shipping. In this shipping metaphor -- still the heart and soul of business-as-usual -- producers package content and move it through a channel, addressed for delivery down a distribution system.

“The metaphor was effectively applied not just to the movement of physical goods, but also quickly applied to the packaging and delivery of marketing content. It’s no surprise that business came to think of marketing as simply the delivery of a different type of content to consumers. It was efficient to manage, one size could fit many, and the distribution channel -- the new world of broadcast media -- was more than ready to deliver. The symmetry was perfect. The production side of business ships interchangeable products and the marketing side ships interchangeable messages, both to the same market, the bigger and more homogeneous, the better.

“One problem: there is no demand for messages. The customer doesn’t want to hear from business, thank you very much. The message that gets broadcast to you, me, and the rest of the earth’s population has nothing to do with me in particular. It’s worse than noise. It’s an interruption. It’s the Anti-Conversation.

“That’s the awful truth about marketing. It broadcasts messages to people who don’t want to listen. Every advertisement, press release, publicity stunt, and giveaway engineered by a Marketing department is colored by the fact that it’s going to a public that doesn’t ask to hear it.

“Marketers felt this truth in their bones, and learned to cloak their messages, to disguise them as entertainment, to repackage the content as regularly as business learned to vary this year’s product line. Today, we all know and have come to expect this. We are even disappointed if it’s not well done. Commercials disguise themselves as one-act plays, press releases play the part of important stories, and advertising masquerades as education. Marketing became an elaborate game between business and the consumer, but the outcome remained fixed. As sophisticated as marketing became, it has never overcome the ability of people to smell the BS behind all the marketing perfume.

“It is not hard to understand, then, that "business is shipping" at times felt more like "business is war," another pervasive metaphor. We launch marketing campaigns based on strategies that target markets; we bombard people with messages in order to penetrate markets (and the sexual overtones here shouldn’t be dismissed either). Business-as-usual is in a constant state of war with the market, with the Marketing department manning the front lines.

“Consider the distance we’ve come. Markets once were places where producers and customers met face-to-face and engaged in conversations based on shared interests. Now business-as-usual is engaged in a grinding war of attrition with its markets.

“No wonder marketing fails.”

This is why people distrust ads today. They’ve become savvy customers again – they’ve kicked off the traces of consumerism and become themselves.

And so the rise of “Permission Marketing” as Seth Godin named it. For our use, it means asking them for their email so you can send them offers.

Those offers are – surprise – soft sell, not the latest “Madison Avenue” psychobabble subliminal poltergeist theory for motivating people to buy.

People are expecting to be marketed personally – to them in their niche, not them as a mass of robot-thinkers. Corporations not only don’t get this, they can’t implement it. So it’s you and I on the small stage who have the duty – and the profits.

And that is how we make our fortunes, great and smaller.

Not through massive advertising or stupidly executed spam – but through precisely targeted and personally requested emails.


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