Monday, January 26, 2009

5 steps to make PLR earn money online through proper SEO and keyword research.

(photocredit: thisisbossi)
5 steps to move your PLR into an "Earn Money Online" mode.

Here's a few simple steps to move your PLR over into a money-making online product.

Peanut butter is a great example of PLR. People make peanut butter - then they sell the raw (or packaged) product to others, who put their label on it. (And if they do this poorly, lots of people get sick, plus their and all these other brands get damaged.) Anyone can contract with them to package their peanut butter under their label and brand.

PLR (Privately Licensed Rights) material can be easily converted over into ebooks, whether re-written or not. The trick is to get it to sell - since a lot of people have access to the same data.

Most PLR packages don't take the extra step of providing a keyword list - which is essential in order to do any basic SEO so that people can find your product. I've tried simply dropping the whole text into a keyword extractor - and wound up with so much useless wordage and non-sensical keyword phrases that I didn't even bother to run them through my KEI generator (RankTracker).

But there is a logical way to find keywords and prep for your SEO efforts:
  1. Starting with a set of articles or an existing book - generate and scrape the table of contents. (This should give you the important concepts for each chapter - unless it's poorly written - and then you write them yourself, based on content.)
  2. Take these and break them down into logical keyword phrases. Save as text, one per line.
  3. Now run these through Google's KeywordExternalTool with synonyms checked.
  4. Download those two text files and run them through RankChecker to find KEI. Then again, with WordTracker, to find suggestions. (For good measure, run all KW which have over 100 hits through WordTracker again.)
  5. Now you simply filter out (anything less than 20 hits/day or with KEI less than 2.0, plus disrelated ones) and you have a decent list of words associated with your product.
Now, revisit your original material and search for these keywords. Edit the titles to ensure that the keyword shows up there - but is still catchy and interesting.

Only at this point do you revamp the cover and upload it to your ecommerce engine. With the best keywords, you can now start generating content which link back to your product by permalinks.

- - - -

And that might be a new idea. Have word-based permalinks for every product you offer in your ecommerce engine. And link to those products with keyword phrases - not only to your blog posts and interior in your pages. This helps your product listing page to show up in Google on it's own merits along side your blog/squidoo/podcast/youtube content which has the same keyword phrase.

So, there you go --

Good Hunting!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Small business marketing idea - last resort advertizing...

(photocredit: PEEJ0E)
Small Business Marketing Keyword Idea -
how to make your site more profitable for adsense.

Was just fooling around with RankTracker and Google's ExternalKeywordTool and found a very interesting point you can put to use.

Toward the end of the 30-Day Challenge, they suggest that if you are getting traffic, but no viable sales/conversions, you can simply turn the site over to Adsense and start making money at it (and then start over with your niche research - both 30 days older and wiser).

Well, I found an approach to getting advertisers to flock to your site.

Simply use Google's Keyword Tool in reverse. Now I have several times advised staying away from buying PPC because it's not all that efficient a way to get traffic to your site, plus the initial outlay is quite high - you could burn through your budget at an incredible pace. However, if you've created a high traffic site for a niche which doesn't have buyers in it, why not do these guys a service?

On Google's Keyword Tool page, look up your site's keywords and then look to see which ones they are paying the most for. Then simply revamp your page's SEO (title, headers, etc. ) to take advantage of these. Now, you don't want to change anything that is getting you traffic, so you keep in the keywords which they are looking for. But it doesn't mean you can't add in additional keywords which are higher paying.

And of course, you make Adsense ads the key thing on the page, under the title and heading, but before the content. Your text can actually wrap right around the adsense ads (that's to the right of the ad) so you pull attention to that adsense block.

This of course is violating everything I say about how to best serve your clients. But if you aren't getting sales, it's your farewell to that page and maybe that site - if you plan on selling it. People are coming for the content and the adsense is now a form of that content.

But learn your lessons and set up pages which actually convert to sales of your own products or affiliates' or both. Meanwhile, make any scrape of income from PPC Adsense - but my advice still stands: unless you are inordinately endowed with left-brain brilliance - stay away from buying PPC. You can sell adspace all you want, though.

Have fun with this!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Organizing for Success - a Social Media Toolkit Guide

(photo credit: luc legay)
How I organize for Social Media Success - A toolkit (of sorts)

I've been spending most of the last year getting up to speed on Social Media - and figuring out how to market/promote through this.

Practically, all my individual experiments were successful, but I haven't boiled it all down to getting off the launch pad (thank Gawd for part-time day jobs - freelancing).

But I wanted to share some ideas of how to keep it all going when you do hit your stride in this area.

Biggest situation you run into is information overload/overwhelm.

I quickly had to "go dark" on several social media as I could (and did) spend all day going down one rabbithole after the next and accomplishing nothing.

Next situation - after you've regained your focus - is to figure out how to get the data you need to contribute to the valuable conversations you want to be part of. (I've read and written so much on this area, but I don't see a relevant post to clue you to at this point.) Suffice to say that you have to know what your "burning desire" is (per Napoleon Hill) and narrow your focus to that one thing. (See this post on organizing for production.)

First thing you need: Aggregator. I've gone over this point of building an aggregator a few days ago. Set up your Google Alerts, your Yahoo Pipes, your Google Reader - all to get you the data you know you can find.

Another tool I was reminded of today is a nice little program called Niche Browser. It's fr.e.e - so try it out. Drawback - it's based on IE. So make sure you have both a firewall and anti-virus installed (and probably need a spyware blocker). But it puts tons of searches at your fingertips, which is it's real contribution in terms of finding content you can link to or repurpose.

Speaking of Browsers - get Firefox and do the bulk of your work there. Here's how I have it set up on one machine - it loads 7 tabs at startup: Gmail, my Lulu storefront, Google Docs, Friendfeed, Google Reader, my Blogger dashboard, Flickr advanced search. Why I use these?
  1. Gmail auto-updates itself, and has better filtering and spam functions than any other free email. More functions than I can get from POP-type email. So this is usually the focused tab when I'm working on the other machines here (I'll tell you about those below.)
  2. - essentially my publishing portal, as I'm an editor. Once my ecommerce site is up and running, I'll probably replace it with that. This gives me the permalinks I can copy/paste when I'm blogging. Sends people to my products as I mention them in passing posts.
  3. Google Docs - for snippets of data I want to keep around, also to accumulate content for repurposing. This has replaced Google Notebooks, which I understand is on hold for new users right now. Docs holds more data than Notebook - but it still won't handle a book-sized file.
  4. FriendFeed - My social media of choice, and a quite useful aggregator. It also has a useful search function to find stuff from your and their friends. This gives you a better idea of the conversations and you can get "Best of Day" to see what the truly popular items are.
  5. Google Reader - my final aggregator. Needs a scheduled daily review to keep up with it - maybe two or three times daily.
  6. Blogger - this would be your main blog. Now Humphreys and some others say you can have several remote blogs. Those you would handle with the ScribeFire plugin for Firefox (which I'm still playing with). It would either replace this tab or become an eighth. I have 18 blogs currently with Blogger, just to separate my lines of thought - and also to do research.
  7. Flickr advanced search - to find Creative Commons pictures for my blogs. I just found that the Niche Browser has a dedicated search function just for this, so I may start using that instead. People like pictures. CC format allows you to use them with attribution.
And then I open other tabs in the browser as I need them.

Administrative setup:

I use a 3-ring binder with daily and weekly to-do's, plus a program these work toward. This is covered in a post on basic organization. 'Nuff said.

Programs to use.
I run on both Windows and Linux platforms, the majority of my programs run on both, but all of the below are at least Windows programs (oh yes, other than mentioned, these are all free downloads):
  • Firefox Browser - cutting edge and great support community. Lots of add-ons to customize it (subject of another post).
  • NoteTab - replaces Notepad. Great search and replace, as well as auto-formating selected text in various ways. Copy text from browser, paste to NoteTab, reformat as needed, copy/paste to other application. Get the earlier release, that last one took out a lot of HTML editing capability (presumably to move it to the Plus version.)
  • OpenOffice suite - handles everything MS Office does and better. Able to output to PDF as a standard function. Spreadsheets, wordprocessor, presentations, everything.
  • Irfanview - does all the graphic tweaking you need for simple stuff.
  • Photoshop (paid program) - does all the advanced stuff. Actually, there's also GIMP, which does everything PS does and more, but I'm resistant to taking up another learning curve right now. Heard there's a Photo-Gimp which makes it look and act like PS - but... when I can make some time. I use PS ver. 7 as it still does everthing I need and nothing I don't (which the CS series seem to be adding).
  • Adobe Acrobat Pro (paid) - allows you to edit stuff within pdf's. You'll probably need to get a password remover for some files you deal with, which are stupidly protected (any PDF program under Linux will extract text with no problem, since it's a Windows-only protection). The reason is not to violate someone's copyright, but to be able to excerpt text under fair use restrictions.
  • RankTracker (paid) - Haven't found a free tool which does what this does. But its cost is low - and there's a free trial to show you everything you can get done with it (just can't save any of your results.) This I'll rave about in another post, but it enables me to find vital keywords without having to get an expensive recurring subscription to WordTracker or others. The only tool I've found which does real KEI calculations for any list of KW you want to check out. And also queries WordTracker for their traffic and Google for their competition to do it.
Hardware setup:
I'm a bit of a kludge in this area. But for good reason. Computers don't really wear out, people just get tired of them. I've got a motley mix of computers, simply because I'm cheap (basically). But hey, in this economy, cheap is good, yes? A note. I run my computers on the RAM I have, and have been able to get. Outside of (bleep) Vista, a computer will run best on as much as you can install on that motherboard. I generally have about 500 mg on my machines (except as noted) and probably should have at least 2 gigs. Again, I'm cheap.
  • Server - vital. Runs on Ubuntu Linux. Also nearly never quits except for a major power outage. Has about 1gig RAM
  • Graphics machine - has my best video cards, two monitors. Photoshop can slow a machine down, so this is separate from
  • Printer Server - which also does my video work - same as above. Keep functions separate. One Windows machine crashes, you can get other work done while it comes back on line. (Linux doesn't crash, it just slows to a crawl until you stop the program which is taking too much memory.) Also two monitors.
  • Windows 98 machine - 96 mg RAM. This runs legacy hardware I still have, and otherwise plays my MP3's in the background as a jukebox.
Count it up - six monitors, four machines. One (legacy) scanner, three printers (two higher-end art types, one lazer printer workhorse).

Do you need this set up? No. Minimal - two. One Linux server with massive hard drive space, the other a two-monitor Windows machine running XP. This should keep you happy. Get a decent scanner that Linux will support, plus a laserprinter (not those enviromentally stupid inkjets).

Other stuff you need:
  • Decent broadband - DSL, satellite, or better.
  • Battery backups to keep your computers running for the minutes power is down - saves your files.
  • Anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall on all your Windows machines. Because Microsoft sucks at security.
I've covered elsewhere the Internet marketing training programs that actually work. 30 Day Challenge is currently the best to get going - and will tell you all the basics about getting started on social media promotion. If you search for ASC's "60 day plan", you'll get an outdated version of what Jack Humphrey tells his people to do. This gives you advanced ideas on how to market through social media. (Main fault: half of marketing is getting conversions to sales - and this is only slightly covered in his stuff.) It's found on one of his unprotected forums - but hey, if you're impressed, then sign up for his monthly subscription plan.

I've boiled this down into simpler steps, and when I've polished and tested it a bit, I'll release it.

People to follow:
And then look up who they follow and you'll be in the heart of the mix. Heflin is the primo expert source for social media and how to market into it. Rubel and Gray are the top aggregators I know of - so what they like is pretty distilled and pure. Cutts keeps you on top of the changes at Google. Brogan is one fine example of how to do social media correctly.

Subscribe to them on FriendFeed and just follow for awhile. Maybe make a separate folder which just has them in it - to see a pure social phenomenon in action.

As you mess around and tinker with your own social media, you'll find others - and make many fine friends. But if you did nothing but start with the above, you'd be on a good start.

- - - -

OK, there you go.

There is a lot more for me to say about how to get started. But frankly, with all this study, I've not had a lot of time to get started myself. I now know all the how-to I care to swallow and digest. It's really time for me to put it all to the test and start paying back for all the great advice I've been able to find.

This post is a beginning of that long route.

Hope it's been of use.

Let me know if you think it could be improved, or if you have additional data about it.

Cheers - and Good Hunting!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

5 ways to find a decent Internet Marketing Trainer: Community is your best indicator of stuff that works

(photocredit: ItsaFineDay)
5 Secret ways to finding Internet Marketing Training that works.

Summation: Community

This is the bottom line to all the research I've been at for all these years.

I looked over several ways people trained themselves up on making money online. There's a lot to it, but only three ways I've found so far are routinely held as working.

  1. 30 Day Challenge (free)
  2. SiteBuildIt (monthly fees)
  3. Internet Marketing Center (much more expensive)

(Now I've got affiliate links for the last two, but they aren't included here - this is just free info for you to check out. Maybe I'm crazy, but just hear me out...)

The reason I can tell these sites work is because people are talking positively about them. Far more than run them down.

Here's a hint: Want to find out the low-down and dirty about something? Type in "(insert company name) scam" and you'll quickly find out if they are rip-offs.

But what you won't find are the many and real thank you letters and posts from people who they have helped. Go to these sites (and the more higher priced, the more you get the sales treatment) and check them out. You'll probably see some cherry-picked testimonials, but you'll also find forums and blogs where people honestly are thanking them for all their hard work and continuing effort on this line.

I mention these three because those are the only ones I've found to date with very high ratings by their own community.

That last phrase says it all - by their own community. If a company is a success, they've built a loyal following. Loyal. Like MACs, not Microsoft or IBM. Like Ubuntu and Linux distro's in general. This is the real point of marketing - building up a client base which doesn't quit, even after they've bought all you have to offer.

I've told you earlier (on a related blog if not this one so much) about setting myself up for a scam through Internet Income Solutions, BidFuel, and Bright Builders. These guys are all scammers. Not the people who work for them at lower levels - the ones I've talked to seem to be good, hardworking people. But the founders are scammers. Because they simply don't deliver.

What you won't find connected to any of these companies is a real, honest, active forum and community. Their customers don't stick with them for any reason. Because they don't deliver.

Those three companies above are based on simply overpricing Internet training to people who don't know better and then piling on monthly hosting fees and other nonsense to pull some more money from them. On top of that, they then sell their names as many times as possible to other scam-artists.

Actually, if you do get through their training, you can learn a lot. But people like me (who really should have known better - and do now) don't get anything out of it, because we've already been active for years in this industry and have a pretty good idea of how to make things happen.

What they don't tell you at the outset is that only about 3-5% of the people who sign up for their training make any decent money at it - much less recoup their investment. So the company makes their money by selling a whole lot of packages, under-delivering, and moving on. The bottom line is that they aren't set up to really help you make a decent living at this and don't really care if you do or not. They are only in it for the money. And this is why it is a rip-off.

I mentioned the underlings aren't that way. True. Nice folks. But they are limited in what they can offer and do. Bright Builders, for instance, really only gives you 4 hours of training on a line of 15 minutes once a week, every other week. They've since merged with a newcomer, Thrive Learning Institute (already noted as a scam - with more incidents being added regularly) - who now gives you two sessions of 30 minutes each week for four weeks. Adds up to the same. Pay your $6,000 and get very expensive lessons at stuff you can learn on your own for free. If you know what you're doing, you can get them to cut out the extra expenses, as you can do all of this with much cheaper hosting - but if you really know what you are doing, you don't sign up with them to begin with...

Anyway - they don't have a community for one simple reason: corporately, they don't care.


Their corporation is there to make as much money as they can as fast as they can, and they see some suckers born on the Internet every minute. The guys they suck in don't know their way around the Internet and so click on one of these free training (for 15 days, and then they charge you $39.95 monthly thereafter - thanks, BidFuel).

Moral of the story:
  1. Never give your credit card data online (or over the phone) unless you've thoroughly checked out the company and all of their fine print. Same for your phone number.
  2. Always send your sign-up email address requests to a free email address you can throw away.
  3. Find out if that company has a real community before you pay anything, or agree to anything. Investigate that community and read their posts and comments. Thoroughly.
  4. Look them up on various scam boards (like to see if they come up - and then compare these to their community comments to see if they are just sour grapes.
(Now, don't buy everything you see in a forum. Compare the data. Thrive was started up early last year, but was registered under an existing LLC which had been operating for years prior. One forum I visited was being actively shilled by some people who raved about their service with Thrive - only problem was that they said they had been getting service for years, when the company was only a few months old. I know - I've talked to people at Thrive and they each separately told me about the growth its had for only being a few months old.)

There you have it - and I hope you have incredible success in whatever you try.

PS. Why don't I link to Bright Builders, Internet Income Solutions, Thrive Learning Institute, or BidFuel? Because they aren't worth it. They don't get their traffic by using search engines or the marketing lessons they teach - because they depend on hooking up with telemarketing companies and their scammy salespeople.

PPS. Probably we should set up a support group community for Bright Builder survivors - for now, just head over to 30 Day Challenge's FriendFeed room - they'll help you out for nothing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

2 Reasons Affiliate and Bum Marketers fail

The 2 Reasons Affiliate and Bum Marketers Fail are simple:

1. Lack of focus
2. No Long-term orientation

Taking the first, where affiliate marketers fail is that they don't keep to one approach. They are constantly seeking and finding very lucrative, but narrow/shallow approaches. The products they offer are mostly of the same ilk - get rich quick, or these 30-page ebooks for $15 which are just one-off products.

The failure here is to keep looking for new things instead of really building up around a central, valuable theme.

This leads us to the second point. Affiliate marketers fail - or just continue struggling to succeed (same difference) as they don't consistently provide incredible value in a given niche. The knuckleheads I've dealt with along this line consistently bring me new products through my email portal, all of which are glowingly represented as being a "new way to make money!" or tell with lengthy lists of testimonials about how this new ebook or product will... But the products are all over the place - hair products, diet products, forex manuals, you name it.

What these marketers fail to do is to develop a line of products which services a single, narrow niche completely. The worst of the lot are the people selling marketing products to marketers. Because they are simply feeding this addictive, attention deficit problem. Most all of these new marketing approaches are the same, just tacked on and glossed up with new terminology.

Real successful marketers find a problem area they have a solution for and then sell variations and expansions of that system to those same customers and gradually expand that narrow niche slightly wider - or pick up a related niche and bring their old clients over to this new one.

This is having and building a "sales funnel" of a consistent line of goods. Any accomplished sales organization does this. These are called "department stores". And you can do the same online as in the brick and mortars.

But the Internet also allows people to shallowly sell a wide variety of products and not have to build any base to actually get recurring customers.

And this route ensures that you are constantly looking for new stuff to sell and ways to sell it. And you are also always looking for new customers and clients.

The solution:

Build a base. Means you can actually drop all these various products into a blog or an ecommerce engine (and now you can host blogs inside ecommerce engines - they are built on the same code, basically).

That blog or ecommerce site then has all the data a person would need about a given product - and they could find, by category or search, what they were actually looking for. And then would come back to find other stuff they were needing.

The affiliate salesperson, would then keep looking for bargains and drop them into this base. Sure, they keep building stand-alone sales pages and mini-webs, but these then point to the ecommerce base or blog page where that person could then contact the affiliate sales line.

Essentially, they need an online catalog of all the various items they are selling. And when they send out emails, it's "look what I just found for you!" "Come see my site to see what the latest is!" It's not "here's what I dug up that you can buy now."

That's where I simply opt out of that person's mail list.

But people who do have some great content - really helpful stuff - I keep coming back to them, their blog, their ecommerce site. Because they've done the research so I know that what they offer is good stuff, or at least is amusing.

Solution Steps:
  1. Know what you really like to do and how you like to help people.
  2. Find stuff that will help people and offer it to them in return for something they want to give you. (Like a decent price, or an email address that works.)
  3. Set up a base so that people can find out more about you and your products on their own.
  4. Promote that base along with any product you are offering.
  5. Keep building onto that base with every new product you find.
  6. Streamline what you are doing and dropping old products that no longer sell, or drive customers away.
  7. Turn long-term clients into working as affiliate sales people for you.

Luck and Good Hunting!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Building a keyword feed aggregator - and keeping on track.

Short note: How to keep up with your niche keywords by using aggregators.

The reason you want aggregators is so you can keep on top of the conversations going about your niche. That niche is defined by the keywords you are tracking.

There are several ways to get aggregators going. An aggregator isn't just one program, like a feed reader (although it could be). More than likely, you have several widgets going out and collecting feeds for you and filtering them to just get what you really want.

The all-time champ at this is Steve Rubel, who is so far out there as far as repurposing programs to really perform - well, it's a bit intimidating, if not scary. Last I checked, he's using GMail to handle all his data needs - and he tracks over 600 feeds every day...

Simpler than that, three (or four) decent tools to get the data you want:
  1. Yahoo Pipes - a graphical tool which can search through websites to get you data based on available RSS feeds. And you can add filters to only grab certain data based on keywords from those available items.
  2. Google Alerts - you can set up Google to search for data and then send it to a reader as a feed. Their comprehensive search can search for data that isn't even in RSS feeds.
  3. FriendFeed imaginary friends - you can set up imaginary friends in Friendfeed to simply subscribe to various RSS feeds, and then bring them up as a live stream in Friendfeed. (FriendFeed also has the capacity to aggregate feed items across multiple social platforms from friends of friends, so this is a nice way to acquire even more interesting data.)
  4. Twitter Search - these searches have RSS feeds, so can be brought into a news reader
Best news reader - probably Google Reader, since you can also share your finds there - and then export these as your shared folder for others to find for you. Louis Gray uses the concept of subscribing to other like-minded people's shared items feeds in order to pre-digest his data and use human filters to do so.

But just using mechanical systems, you can aggregate useful data streams if you simply pipe, filter, and then re-pipe the data.

First, you already now what keywords you want to target. Set up Google Alerts for these and create feeds from them - or have them emailed to an auto-posting blog (like Blogger) so they now have an RSS feed. Also collect up feeds from a Twitter Search for each of these keywords.

Next, set up one or several FriendFeed imaginary friends to receive this data. Put these into a special folder there. Each of these folders have their own RSS feed.

Third, set up a Yahoo pipe to gather that feed (those feeds) and filter them to what you more closely need. That will then give you an aggregated, filtered feed.

Finally, send that feed to Google Reader (or iGoogle) so you can simply digest it. Assign folders for type of data - however you want to organise it. (Note: Google Reader is the end of the line, since it doesn't itself provide another RSS feed. You can manually export OPML, but that's not a live set - probably only useful to set up a parallel feed digester/aggregator - or if you want a record before you strip it out and start over.)

The idea is to set up several flows of data, which are then more narrowly filtered to give you just the data you need for those keyword areas you are interested in.

With these data snippets coming in, you can then check out the links and blog or converse on this topic as you want - as well as being able to then post knowledgeably about that subject as it comes up on the web.

Of course, this is incredibly unlimited. Where you set up several discreet flows of information like this, you can track and handle several different niches at the same time - you'll then only be limited by your ability to output sensible data, summations, conclusions. But your posts will also all give your sources, so you have then an intense ability to contribute to the community.

And this gives new meaning to any blogs you have which are simply short utility posts.

Another route is to do the auto-blog routine above, have that blog in turn email your gmail account, which you filter and archive instead of clogging your inbox. Then, you can run searches on data you've accumulated. But that is a different flow than staying on top of new items. Great for making your "63 ways to..." lists, though.

OK, hope you got some interesting insight out of this - at least it's something you can try.

The reason I wrote this was that as soon as I set up an aggregator, it got swamped with a lot of data that I had to personally filter. Today, I saw Yahoo Pipes for the first time (heard about it later, but sometimes you have to get hit over the head with it) and saw a way I could get these various feeds thinned down to just what I actually wanted.

I'll be setting these up for myself sometime over the next couple of weeks and tell you what I find. Except for Yahoo pipes, I've worked with all the rest. And got swamped with having too much unfiltered data. Now that I've seen what that is capable of, I should be able to rework what I have and then get a cleaner data flow so I can blog more prolifically. (Like that was a problem to begin with?)

Luck to us all.
- - - -

Update - before posting this, I checked out my Google Reader. Sure enough it was filled with inconsistent data. Stuff I thought I'd like to subscribe to at the time, but actually have little use for. Doesn't improve my ability to live on this planet. Doesn't make it easier for me to earn money. Has little to do with my core interests.

So the filtered approach above should then bring me only feeds which I consider vital to begin with - based on the keywords I've been looking for. Oh, that I could find what I've been recently searching ... but Google keeps this locked up somewhere.

Filter your data - and streamline your goals. Spend less time getting the answers and new data you actually need.

We'll see how this goes. Perhaps serendipity might have to be included (a RAND function or something?!?)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What consumers really want - not what media and politicians think...

(photo credit: nzgabriel)
(A work in progress...)
Where are we going and how?
Consumers Herd, Politicians and Media Only Follow...

Some interesting data converge:
  • Bell Curve says that 80% of any group are simply consumers, not market leaders or leaders at all. They buy what everyone else is buying. And this Bell Curve describes everything we do - everything. Call it the Pareto Principle, or the Long Tail - it's the same deal.
  • Media feeds this bulk group with uniform tabloid-style "journalism". Most of their reporting is death, dying, destruction, and the latest celebrity gossip. Academic ideals on a "journalist's code" are really just ways to sell their classes and courses, not produce real change. (There is no such thing as a "public's right to know" - it's only a justification for feeding their sensationalism addictions.)
  • Political parties have both become more split and diverse. There is a growing "center" which is neither Donkey or Elephant, but will vote split-ticket with abandon. Consider all those in California who voted in Obama and out (for the 2nd time) gay marriage.
So the people who thought they actually "controlled" these herds of consumers are finding that they really are just following the herd themselves.

And as the Internet becomes more used and widespread, that herd is becoming more "niche-fied" - meaning that people are able to find and stay within the niches they want and feel comfortable with. So the world has become more and more "long-tail". And there are fewer 1950's style "big head" type masses. So customers have more and more choice - because it's now possible. Meaning that there is no Model T in every color - black. Ford had to succumb to demand for different colored cars - but his Model A became one of his biggest hits when he did so. Beginning of the Long Tail.

The simplicities of the Bell Curve/Long Tail:
  • Business is always working to find what people need and make these into what they want.
  • People need basics, necessities. People what what makes them feel good.
  • Fads are wants which don't line up with needs. Trends are wants which align to needs. Blips are trends which aren't efficiently linked/associated with needs. Movements are wants and needs closely aligned. Evolution is a series of movements.
  • Generally, all cultures trend toward improved survival. (An overall observation is that as cultures improve their peoples' quality of living, birth rates decline and environmental care increases - as does investment in other "humanities".)
  • To date, the most effective way of improving quality of living globally is to let free-market commerce continue - as this brings higher-paying jobs to low-wage areas, as well as humanitarian concepts such as "human rights". The least effective methods of social reform has been by any government agency or dictator or King.
  • And what is all this but letting people chose their own way-of-life niches?
  • As communication improves, choice improves - and responsibility increases as a person will now hear about their bad choice from their neighbors. That is how environmentalism works with commercial interests to improve things.
Example: If the enviros' ideas cause the cost of doing business to raise, business will increase the cost of their product - when that product cost gets too high, people will quit buying it. Too many products with too high cost - and the business moves out of that area = net loss of living quality, unless that product was really more a want than a need. A business that can tell people that their higher costs are due to meeting environmental issues, will cause either acceptance of their higher prices, a lessening of the pressure by the enviros (and so reducing prices) - or the business still can't make a profit and shuts down.

Example: Taxes. California found out that when it raises taxes on the rich - they move out of state and take their businesses with them. Net result: fewer million/billion-aires living in state and lower tax revenue. Factually, this is happening on both coasts - the heavy population areas try to soak the rich to pay for public services. However, the smart rich are much quicker than governments and reorganize their businesses so that they no longer fall under than new rule, either before the rule goes into effect or quickly after.

Example: Tax breaks. California also used to have a credit for installing solar panels. I knew some friends who started and kept a business going of just building and installing solar panels in California. Made a mint. When the tax credit dropped, they dissolved their business. Went somewhere else and did other things.

Example: Subsidies/Welfare. For decades, there were payments to low income families which had fatherless children - single moms. Result was an increase in numbers of single mothers with lots of kids. The system could be gained so that they didn't have to get jobs, just keep having kids. A change in this system got the majority of these people into at least part-time job under threat of no welfare payments at all. And the numbers of teen pregnancies dropped for awhile, as well as causing an increase in marriages staying together. Freakonomics? - Yes, and no.

Example: Want to get rid of gang activity? Clean up the neighborhood and paint out all graffiti. New York drastically dropped it's crime rate by cleaning up the graffiti off its subway cars, and also cracking down on people avoiding tolls to those subways. (See Gladwell's "Tipping Point.")Enforced the rule of law - which exists to protect quality of life interests, really nothing else. Laws are changed when they are percieved to decrease some population segments' quality of living.

Example: Rise of home schooling due to failures of government-sponsored schools. Spelling Bee and Geography Bee winners are now routinely home-schooled students. Private colleges and universities are turning out a higher percentage of successes (jobs on graduating, lack of corporate criminals) because they have input from the people they service - and who pay their salaries directly. This is called accountability.

Example: Ex-urban dwellers tend to vote center-right. (Ex-urban: people who have been able to move from urban central areas. Frequently move to suburbs, but also are moving to smaller towns and rural areas.) It was thought they voted more Republican, but this isn't necessarily true - they vote with their pocketbook. Democrats picked up more House seats by getting fiscally-responsible (conservative) candidates to run - because Republicans were spending as bad or worse than the Democrats before them. Obama really only pulled ahead of McCain when the stock market tanked and housing bubble burst. But now that he is saying he wants to increase the national debt - even before he is in office - that support is evaporating. Remember the pocketbook.

Key datum: Politicians and News Media only follow the herd.

So what do media and politicians do - and what do they think they do? Practically, they follow the wants and needs (in that order) of the bulk of their publics. What they think they do is lead.

When politicians and news gets too far off center, they lose support. How are elections won? By appealing to the center. In primaries, the centers of the respective parties run to the extremes - but candidates have to be centrist to get enough support to get the final tally in their favor.

When news media consistently moves away from common sense, they lose viewers and readership. And low ratings cause their advertising support to move as well. Because commerce follows the pocketbook.

What of the Internet? This is a growing trend (along with ecommerce) because it's ability to quickly match want with need. Faster than ever before.

And because people search for their wants/needs, businesses that are online quickly find out how to get products that people are looking for and then produce them and deliver them in a manner which is quick, economical (remember the pocketbook), and sensible (remember "common" sense).

So our current online economy continues to expand while the slower brick-and-mortar businesses continue to decline. (And politics find they need to publish more stuff on line, while news agencies simply are going out of business - like record companies, they can't hold onto their apparent monopolies any more.) However, the hybrids, such as Wal-Mart, where you can order individual products online and have them delivered to a local store are tending to survive much better. And anything you can deliver online (like movies) will increase your bottom line - and not just because it costs less to produce and deliver - it fits wants and needs together for instant gratification. Ebooks are also booming - as Amazon can tell you.

Who actually does lead the herd?

Farmers and ranchers can tell you - it's the boss cow. But that boss cow can change, depending on what that herd wants and needs. If you have sweet-feed in your bucket, certain cows will get their first. If there are thirsty cows, others will take the lead. Best grass - there are a few individuals who have a particular "nose" for better grazing, and will be on the edge of that herd constantly looking for it.

For our consumer herds, they have their influencers and their evangelists. These are people who are actively seeking solutions to life-problems. And when the find them, they tell the people around them about it - and because they are trusted, their immediate circle will try it. If that product works out to be useful and sensible, they will tell others around them. As long as that feedback continues to be more positive than negative, the adoption continues.

(The funniest stuff I see currently is these sites which say they are keeping track of "trends" on the Internet - what they post as trends are simply fads. The products are non-sensical, only apply to really narrow niches, and never turn out to really amount to any economic sense on the long run.)

Madison Avenue is really behind on this, since they've been mostly mis-trained into thinking they are "market leaders", when all they've ever been able to do it to find where people are already going and then tell them what they already expect to hear. They've only ever just worked effectively to augment existing word-of-mouth. Nothing more.

One recent story I heard was where Pepsi was starting it's new look and so delivered a series of cans of their products, all about 40 minutes apart. Probably a fine marketing gimmick for someone working in a metroplex high-rise. It backfired only when this one carrier had to sit outside one "influencer's" house and bring him in one package after another, precisely on schedule. He lived on what seemingly was the edge of rural/suburban nowhere - and there weren't any other deliveries that guy could do and still make it back to deliver the next package. Needless to say, the product wasn't well-reviewed by the recipient. More like, the company gave itself a black eye.

But if you wanted to predict really sensible solutions, you'd have best-sellers all over the place.

Let's take Detroit. Needs a solution, not a bail-out. Situation is that unions and bureaucratic Washington have driven their costs up beyond what is competitive in a declining market. And they weren't able to shift from safe, comfortable SUV's and trucks over to economical small cars almost instantly. The market changed rapidly with the price of oil skyrocketing. They quickly found themselves selling neither what people needed or wanted.

What have people traditionally loved to do with their cars? Customize them. Which car was probably the all-time most customized vehicle? The Volkswagen Beetle. They even used to be imported from Mexico until only a few years ago.

Do any of these current automakers have a similar product they could revive like that? Ford had the Model A. There's your idea: bring back a version of the Model A with it's simple structure and build it in such a way that you could disassemble and rebuild any part of it. Put it on a straight frame - or make the body and bottom able to be separated (like older cars with a separate frame, or the Volkswagen with it's bolt-on body - not this locked-in uni-body nonsense). Set it up so it fits a wide variety of engine mounts. Sell a very simple, stripped down (but safe) version of it - no electronic anything. Buyers of that car can have anything they want (customize it), while you give them what they need - affordable transportation. And it fits a wide variety of niches, because it reflects the attitudes (and pocketbook) of its owner.

Detroit could sell tricked-out versions of this car, right next to a single-color stripped-down version. And even sell add-on's - factory installed, or shipped to your garage so you can do it yourself. Imagine - custom-equipped cars, built with your name on it. There's a European car which is being built with colored panels - so you can have any color you want, and can even change the color yourself for different occasions. That point was why convertibles have always been popular.

This is exactly why iPhones are the rage - and will continue to be, as an extension of the cel-phone. Wants (entertainment, social connection) and needs (ready, portable communication) combined. And they are customizable - mostly on the inside, but that's what is wanted - carry everything around with you that you could possibly want as far as digital goods. And access to stuff you could have (if you can afford to pay for it.)

When you connect this up with my other approach to Economics - that it's not just Supply and Demand, but also Service and Information - you then see a broader application, and a way to build a profitable business around any product.

Luck to us all.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Basics - Organize to get your own job done

(photo credit: ifindkarma)
How and why you have to organize to get anything done.

Suddenly hit me when I was all sour about the stuff I had to get done compared to what I wanted to get done.

It wasn't some mystic/spiritual attitude adjustment I needed to do, but rather simply following my own advice.

For many years, within that corporation I was part of for so long, I was very (VERY) good at consulting and counseling. But the key thing I kept dealing with in other peoples' lives was their lack of organizing. And that corporation had some definite instructions about how to organise, and as an internal consultant, I had narrowed down those instructions to just a few issues. And applied them myself to my own overloaded/undermanned scene so that I lived a fairly comfortable existence (within their pretty bizarre corporate structure).

The problem is that I threw out everything I had been following when I left that corporate structure, figuring that if and when I needed some data that was actually vital, I'd simply be able to pull it back up again and start applying it. Meanwhile, I was going to go out on my own and see what the rest of the world (did I mention this was a corporate cult?) had to say about how to get things done.

All these books I'd been studying and serendipitously discovering - they all kept saying the same things:
  • Concentrate on your goal
  • Discover your own purpose
  • Develop a "burning desire" and devote all your energies toward that end.
  • Plan your work, work your plan.
And as I meandered around, I saw that the more I didn't apply those few datums, the more I kept having to do something else for someone else. Unhappiness continued to surface.

Looking back to times where I was getting things done, showed that (regardless of the corporate mess I had gotten myself into) - there were times when I was actually getting things done and making some progresss, at least toward their goals if not my own.

The conflict between their goals and mine finally reached a peak and I left.

Now I just had my own goals to discover, sharpen, and achieve.

At this particular point (today), I find that I now know all I actually have to know to make a success online (which is the cheapest and most recession-proof of getting things accomplished.

So why aren't I rich already?

Because I'm not following my own advice.

Here's the advice I use to set out for others:
  1. Figure out what you actually should be doing, producing, or presenting.
  2. Figure out what your ideal scene or situation should be.
  3. Work your production sequence out backwards from your final product to where you start. Include all the sub-products you need to create along the lines.
  4. List all the hats/jobs that need to be done to get your production actually done.
  5. Work out a schedule in sequence so you can get these all done. This will be daily/weekly/monthly - as not all jobs have to be done every day or every week.
  6. Write a plan for yourself to get this organization in.
Now, here's the basic policy we used to use in that corporation - which really has quite a reputation for getting things done (even if what they were doing was a bit "tetched" at times):
  1. Evaluate your scene based on the ideal you want to achieve. Find the key point that, if handled, keeps you from achieving that ideal scene.
  2. Write a program which will move you from where you are to where you want to be - within the existing resources you now have.
  3. Now, write a weekly To-Do list which starts getting that program done - includes everything you really need to get done this week.
  4. Every day, write a daily To-Do list which gets that weekly list done.
  5. At the end of the week, review your progress, as well as production metrics, to see if you are getting closer or further away from that ideal scene. Also look to see what steps on your To-Do from the week before actually got done - which means what steps of that program got done.
  6. Write a new weekly To-Do for the new week, which has steps to correct anything which moved you into the wrong direction and actually gets your programmed production done.
  7. When that program is done, or close to done, evaluate your current scene against the ideal you want to achieve and find what key steps you need to take to move you forward again.
  8. Then, start writing you weekly and daily To-Do's again to get this done.
Organization by folders
As well, there was a physical organization that went along with it.

They had corporate administrators which oversaw production. And they reviewed and handled production for several different areas and had to keep things straight. So they used folders for each area they had to handle. I used a version of this personally.

In that folder:
  1. Inside left cover: current evaluation write-up with program on top. Stapled in or under a binder-clip.
  2. Weekly To-Do on top of that, under a paperclip.
  3. Right inside cover: Daily To-Do's. A copy of the metrics were kept just below the DTDs - this was on graph paper, ran on usually a quarterly basis (at least 12 weeks) and was updated by hand. A new daily To-Do was made out every day and put on top of the old one (usually paper-clipped together by the week.)
  4. At end of week, these were collected and stapled together with the Weekly To-Do on top.
  5. Analysis of last week's progress was in a short paragraph at the top of the next week's To-Do.
  6. Program was updated with all the steps marked off as done.
  7. New weekly To-Do was then slipped under the paperclip on the inside cover and the first daily To-Do was written and placed on top of everything else on the right side.
Using a clipboard for mobile organization
Now, I used to keep all this on a clipboard if I had to move around a production line - and then clean out that clipboard weekly and filed it in that folder. This is so you can track several different production areas.

On the clipboard:
  • Bottom - program with current steps you're working on on top.
  • Next up - the weekly To-Do
  • Next - A grid for the week of all the key metrics you were tracking. These were set up so that you set production goals for the week on every metric and then broke them down into what needed to be accomplished that day. For five days, if you had a 200 widget goal, you'd have 40 widgets being produced each day. And you kept this marked every day, finding out from that area what they had accomplished the day before. So you knew if something was not on quota and could concentrate on figuring out how to debug that area. I also marked in last week's production by days, so I could see if I was ahead or behind in what I needed to produce.
  • Above that, your daily To-Do with the steps you needed to take to get that production and accomplish that program.
Daily, I'd write that day's To-Do against the metrics and the weekly To-Do. Then follow that daily To-Do. Best was to write it out first thing in the am.

At the end of the week, the clipboard was cleaned out, a new metric-grid printed off and filled in with the week-before's production and quotas for this coming week. New Weekly To-Do, new daily To-Do.

Use 3-ring binders for an individual online freelancer
Now - to apply this to your own daily scene, and to adapt it for the individual freelancer - we would make some changes.
  1. Keep everything in a 3-ring binder, punching holes in your papers to keep everything in.
  2. Inside left - your program, with weekly To-Do on top of that.
  3. Inside right - daily To-Do. Grid of your metrics below that - week to week for online business.
  4. Assemble your daily To-Do's with your Weekly To-Do and put these all in sequence, maybe clipped together by each week for the last few weeks - whatever works and doesn't get in your way. You need to be able to quickly see what you'd done in earlier weeks for your analysis.
But where you get other data, like nifty print-outs of stuff online - or production notes - or brainstorming -- put these into the back of that binder (behind a divider) or into a separate binder. Date these, but organize by type and use - so you can find what you need again. Use post-it's as tabs is one idea, particularly colored ones. With two binders, one is straight, hard-core production. The other is bright ideas and stuff to do to improve your scene. This latter one will be used when you write your new program.

Writing Programs
Essentially, you are doing weekly and quarterly production analyses. You'll also do fuller analysis when your program finishes. Your To-Do's are mini and micro versions of your program, designed for that time period immediately ahead of you. The program should be designed to last about 3 months, but can last as long as it takes.

Now, this doesn't mean you can't update your analysis and program as needed - particularly if it looks like a program is bugged and will need special handling to get it back on the rails.

If you aren't doing a major re-write, just a debug - then simply put this debug program on top of the other program and orient your To-Do's toward getting this debug program done first and then get back to your original program. Retire the debug program behind the original program when it's complete.

Once a program is fully complete - or replaced by a new program, retire the program with all it's To-Do's into a records binder. And when that records binder gets too full, empty it into a labeled file folder and put that into a file cabinet or banker's box so you can refer to it if you ever need to again. (And keep these for five years or so, then chuck. Five years is an eon in Internet time.) You'll have something like four folders a year (one for each quarter), and something less than 100 sheets in that folder. So one banker's box should hold all your archives.

And this is also why you keep your bright ideas separate. Those stay in binders and go on to your shelves if you find yourself too full and not referring to them much. These give a different way to anaylyze what you've been doing.

Advantages of Weekly and Daily To-Do's
Really, this allows you to concentrate on just what immediate targets you should be taking.

The program can get overwhelming when you try to get a grip on everything you want to get done over the next few months.

Get inspired once a quarter or so, and write that long-term plan to make your goals.

Then only focus on what you can realistically get done that week, while taking the steps needed to set other actions in motion which will be needed later.

Like cooking a meal. Not everything is best clunked into the microwave. And you also have to clean dishes on a daily basis. Food preps and shopping are also steps you need to take - but these are best done when the prices are lowest and it is most convenient for you. So you might set a stew or roast going in the Crock-Pot before you head out the door, but taking a sandwich and fruit and a thermos of tea with you for lunch. (Breakfast was something simple, like oatmeal with milk and fruit.) Then, when you get home, you dish out some stew with vegetables and some sliced bread with butter and jam. Pour yourself some fresh milk. While you have all the day's dishes in the dishwasher, you put the rest of the stew into small containers in the fridge or freezer so you can warm them up again on a later day. Put the dishes away before you go to bed so everything is set for the next morning.

From the above, you can see what steps you have on a Daily To-Do in order to feed yourself. Of course, you don't write these out - but that example shows you how something could be organized for immediate and future actions.

How to start this
You probably already have some piles of paper sitting around. Some are partial programs, some notes, some inspired ramblings.

  1. Simply gather all of these up, punch holes in them, and put them into a binder - behind a divider. Fresh start.
  2. Write a comprehensive program in sequence of what you need and want to achieve.
  3. Print that program off and put it under a binder clip in the front left of that binder.
  4. Write a To-Do for the next week (even if you only have a few days left) and clip that in front of that program.
  5. Write a To-Do list of targets to get done today and hole punch it - put it in the rings on top of everything on the right. Note what metrics you need to achieve - or that you need to figure out some metrics that will help you track your goals as a target for the week.
  6. Start getting that daily To-Do done.
  7. Tomorrow, you'll check off your weekly To-Do and then write another Daily To-Do, hole-punch it, and put it on yesterday's To-Do - then work that one for the day.
If you don't have a binder and 3-hole punch, put it on a clipboard. No clipboard? Find a paperclip and a stiff piece of cardboard. And then when you can, get to the store and buy your needed supplies. Make a list of them and then note down what day you should do your shopping. Then work that list.

Know your goal. Plan for that goal and then work your plan. Break down your actions and track them daily and weekly. Review your goals progress quarterly. Keep track of your metrics to see how you are or aren't achieving your goals.

Use binders and files to keep yourself organized and focused.

And if you have people working for you, see if they can't profit from the system you work out.

There's a lot more to organizing than this - but the principle is the same: break larger areas down into smaller ones so you can concentrate on just those smaller parts.

Luck with this!

Friday, January 2, 2009

3 Recent Lessons in small business web design

Just a few things I've learned from recent small business web design:
  1. Don't promise the world - look before you leap.
    I just moved a site from a set of static pages over to a wordpress CMS/blog - and boy did this take some work. But now the guy can do all his own pages again, and can also blog - which he's doing with abandon, even while I fix up links and do back-end work. It just turned out to be a much bigger job than I expected. So I have to go into overdrive to catch up on some other things.

  2. In all things - follow your heart.
    Through this, I found that what irritates you and doesn't give you some joy at the same time - these things don't need to be worked on. Either quit doing them, or outsource them. What you like to do will change as you evolve - and we are always constantly evolving. This is known as learning. But don't learn stuff you hate - only spend time learning something that helps you get happier, the actual definition of purpose.

  3. Always keep the value in mind.
    In a business, you need to work out the monetary equivalent. Reason for this is that people will see the value your work and so contribute to it. Anything given away for free isn't valued (usually), unless it is of incredible worth - and then they will work to somehow give something in return. Extra work should result in a bonus - especially if you don't ask for it (but do tell the person all the work you are doing so they know). The bottom line is that you have to always work at increasing your own value, in everything you do and everything your company produces.
I could cover references from Earl Nightingale, Napoleon Hill, and many others as to why these 3 lessons are important. And, as I get more work off my plate, I'll get into this and start getting these references out to you. But for now, I'm glad to have found them for myself.