Other Blogs That I Read

Special report: I thought tonight I would give you a list of other blogs that I read:

I also watch “What’s New On Yahoo” but I’ll spare you that link.  If you have any other blogs that are good to read, feel free to post them as a comment.  Also let me know if any of these links don’t work, I’ll take them off.

Using Technology To Further Your Business Objectives

Technology can be a great tool to assist you in running your buisness or it can be a serious distraction.  We had already talked about having an online sales presentation as a website, and promoting your website on the internet.  I think about promotion as advertising and a website as media, neither are really technology in the scheme of things.  Although a website literally is software that causes your browser to do various things.

As far as technology goes I am taking about the hardware and software you use for various business tasks.  That might include your word processor, spreadsheet, presentation software, financial software, computer, cell phone, pda, and anything else in a similar vein.  There are a lot of cool things to use these days but are they helping or hurting your business?  If you spend three hours per day answering email, this is probably hurting your business because you are not selling or managing your business.

We used technology in many different ways for our business.  We used Quickbooks to manage our sales, customer service, and financials.  We stored customer names, addresses, credit card numbers, and specific issues with the customer as part of their customer record for quick look up.  We used software that I wrote to convert emails that were requests for information to shipping labels.  This saved us having to add customer information to Quickbooks that would get free info and samples but would never order.  This program would also print labels for orders.  Codes were printed above the customer name that would tell us what the customer would order: How many bottles, information and samples, or business information.  The program would also assemble credit card data for our credit card processor so we could just run a bunch in and not have to enter each one.

We put little labels on all of our bottles and samples, which we generated with a label program.  I used spreadsheets to figure out how much product we should order and when so that our orders got filled on time.  We used a postage meter and shipped through the US Post Office.  We advertised we shipped priority mail and used their tyvek envelopes that we could get for free.  We had a black and white laser printer (so passe these days) to print invoices, labels, and anything else we needed to print.

On top of all of these technologies, we also had a telephone system.  At first, we leased time with an off-site service that we could configure to do what we wanted.  Our 800 number went to the automated service and it would direct customers to a scripted voice mail for orders and information, round robin people to us or one of our distributors, or put them into a general voice mail.  We told it our office hours and it would not put a call through to us after business hours.  This was important because we would often get jarred awake in the middle of the night by a telephone call or a fax.

Oh and yes, we did have a fax machine.  We printed order forms that people would fill out and mail in with a check, or fax in with a credit card number.  So our options to order were: mail, fax, scripted voice mail, 800 number, or internet.  All of our options had information about the other options so that customers could choose their methods.

Without all of our technology, we could not have served all of the customers we had or our distributors.  As things were we often stayed up until midnight and beyond getting things out the door.  Our business objective was to avoid hiring employees and we were able to successfully do this with our technologies and with the tireless effort of my wife Chris, who was going constantly with young kids, returning telephone calls, filling orders, and getting the mail to the post office.

Often our technology advances were exercises in solving problems that we had.  Our label print program was developed because we could not keep up with the information requests for instance.  If your business grows enough, you will find ways to use technology to solve problems and further your business objectives.

How To Get 15,000 Hits Per Day To Your Website

To be honest with you, I have no idea how much traffic we got to our e-commerce web site at its peak.  We were just doing a ton of business.  So much so we couldn’t keep up, let alone check our web stats.  At first I wanted to see where people were going on the site, so I did check, but after a while just fulfilling our customer orders and requests was about all we could do beyond taking care of our children and working a full time job.

I expect, though, that we were listed on the web directory with the most traffic at the time: Yahoo.  And, we were the only distributor of our product, which was an exceptionally popular product, on the Yahoo directory.  So the product was searched a ton and we were the only site other than the corporate site available to people who were searching.  So that is the key to getting a ton of traffic to your website: Have the only website for an extremely popular web search.  Good luck with that.

Other than that, traffic to your website will be based on having pages with information people want to find.  Perhaps not the only supplier of the information, and not the most popular search, but generally having information being searched.  The more pages you have with information people want, the more visitors your site will get.  Better yet, have your visitors build pages of information that other visitors will want to view, such as having a forum.  I once ran a directory that was extremely popular because people wanted free listings on it.  Too bad it didn’t generate a whole lot of income.

If you are giving away free samples or products, free web space, free information that people want, or free services that people want, vistors will flock to your site.  You just need to make sure it doesn’t require a whole lot of maintenance to take care of your visitors or you will find yourself very busy.  If you have good software, though, many of these web services can take care of themselves.  You just need to have purchased hosting that can handle the traffic you’ll get.

We were lucky and good, and had a business that made us money and that we could support.  If you work hard enough at promoting your site, you will also get lucky.  You just need to keep working at it for long enough.

Affliate Programs Versus Multi-Level Marketing

Affiliate programs on the internet are typically links into a website that give you, the referrer, credit when somebody uses your link or when a sale is made after your link is clicked.  Typically, affiliate program effectiveness for you is a function of the amount of traffic you have on your website, how closely the affiliate is related to your subject matter on your website, and how visible the link or banner is on your website.  So generally, it is you advertising for another website and you get paid for how much business you generate for them.

Affiliate programs that pay based on sales pay a varying degree of commissions, I have seen anywhere from 4% to 75%.  You can actually measure how effective the program is for you based on the number of clicks the advertisement gets or the dollars in commissions you receive from having the advertisement on your website.  Dollars is a better measurement but clicks might be easier to measure in the beginning as you are building traffic.

A multi-level marketing company or upline can similarly use affiliate programs to recruit or sell products, or both.  Commissions on multi-level marketing for sales vary depending on many factors, but I have seen companies pay as much as 50% on direct sales with a decent amount of sales volume.  In addition, you can also earn commissions from other distributors that you bring into the business, and those they bring into the business, and so forth.  Some companies have unlimited depth and pay commissions based on overall volume.  Others have break-away programs that pay on so many levels after the distributors below you break away.  Ultimately, though, you can make commissions, perhaps small commissions, on each and every single sale within your downline network of distributors.

So the question really is: Is it better to use an affiliate program or a multi-level market program to generate income from your website?  I will give you this answer: Sales from your website will be generated by how closely the product matches the information provided.  If you sell household products on a business website, you will probably not see much sales.  However, if you sell a business opportunity on a business website, you may sign distributors.  Will those distributors buy or sell the products?  I believe so, but I do not have personal proof of this at this time.

On the other hand, if you have an ecommerce website that sells the product that also recruits new distributors, this tends to be very successful as long as you can generate sales.  Selling via ecommerce is retailing, and this usually means having the right product at the right price with the right services.  Not everything will sell via ecommerce, but things that will not sell ecommerce probably would also not make good multi-level marketing products.

Some MLM companies have special rules for operating on the internet so make sure you know what these are before you get started.  Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Affiliate Programs and Funky Links

How do I feel about a web site that is provided to you, such as affiliate program sites, sites with funky links, and subsites such as bob.aa.com or aa.com/bob? I have to warn you that people do tend to want to visit the main site – i.e. if they encounter a funky link or a subsite, they want to enter the main website name into their browser. This means that the website owner gets the sale or the benefit of your link. Having said that, they can work for you under the right conditions.

For instance, the image on the left is for a link into Amazon.com for the book “The Greatest Networker in the World” by John Milton Fogg.  This is a wonderful book about building relationships and images with others as you build your MLM business.  You can buy the book with this link and I get a small commission.  I wonder, though, will people buy using the link or go search Amazon.com for the book?  It’s just as easy to do either… I mean there is no real reason to buy from me.  I don’t offer a discount or a guarantee so what is the reason to buy?  Having said that, I find the ads and links to be somewhat successful.

I use the Google Adsense advertisements throughout my blog and I also find them to be successful.  However, I personally would not include them if they interfered with the website in any way.  They seem to blend in nice and people do click on them.

I have also seen websites built by MLM companies or MLM uplines that provide a “free website” to a distributor which uses what I will call a “funky link” like affiliate.asp?rc=1234, which tells the website which affiliate is linking so the new distributor or sale can go to them.  Again, this can work but beware that people will visit the main site.  If the main site contains a prompt for the code (i.e. 1234 above) and nothing else, it is probably not a bad thing.  If instead the prospect can sign up under your upline… not so good.

I continue to experiment with advertising here on my blog but I don’t really make money off of any of them at this time, so I am just trying to see what looks nice, is not too distracting, and is effective with visitors to this site.  I really like chitika because they only advertise to people who visit my site from a search engine and not to regular visitors.  You can find out more information at http://chitika.com/publishers.php?refid=shrinkme.

What I absolutely do not advise is to join more than one multi-level marketing company at one time.  In this case, you really need to put all of your eggs in one basket.

Please let me know if you have any questions by commenting on this article.

Linking To Your New Website

Your website is your sales presentation and much more, but you must advertise to get visitors, warm leads, and or prospects to your website (i.e sales presentation). The way you do this for a website is to have advertisements that link into your website. Advertisements can be long winded or a little blurb that quickly describes what your website is. Sometimes your advertisement is actually built from your website. This is the case when a search engine indexes your web pages.

Nobody will know about your website until you start getting links to your website from other sites. Typically the way this is done is by telling the other website about your site, or submitting your site. You can submit your site to directories and search engines. And there are a ton of them! I would start with Google and Bing, then do a search for search engines and directories from Google for more places to submit your site for free.

Another possibility is to exchange links with other similar websites. You would typically contact the other site by email and ask if they would like to exchange links with you. Then you put a link to them on your site and they put a link to you on theirs. Many web owners will gladly exchange links but others may not reply, but keep trying.

If you have a blog, there are a ton of RSS search engines and other ways to promote your blog. Do a search for “How do I promote my blog” for more ideas. Many websites provide this kind of information to you. Additionally, you may want to post thoughtful comments on other blogs in response to their articles. Most comment forms include your name and website name so people can see what your site looks like. You might also try this with non-blog websites, I’m sure you would get a few visitors.

There are places on the internet where you can submit classified advertisements that include a link to your website. Many are free. I am not sure how effective advertising this way is, but you might get a visitor or two. One last way to advertise your website for free is social networking sites. I have talked about these before but they do often allow you to link directly to your site. Up and coming social networking sites such as twitter.com are often very effective.

There are tons of other ways to advertise links to your site, just do a search for “How do I promote my website”. Many will submit your site for cost, but you really want to try to promote your website for free. Stick to free. I say this because some of the best ways to advertise your website on the internet are free. If you can, I would measure the most effective ways to advertise for free, which website statistics often provide.

Ultimately we are more concerned with sales than visitors, so the more targeted your visitors are the better. In other words, when your advertisement is presented to your demographic and they visit, they are most likely to buy.

The way that I promote my website is to spend a little time each day on promotion activities. Set aside an hour or two, research, and post requests for links. It is not hard work and it will produce results in the long run. I often switch from method to method, for instance today I will post responses to blogs and tomorrow I will submit my site to directories.

For those of us doing multi-level marketing, you can assume that the same concepts are generally true of recruiting.

Free Ways To Have A Web Presence

There are many ways to have a “web site” on the internet. Tons of companies do have web sites with their own name and it does create a positive image for a company to have their own web site name. But if you are starting with no money and want a web presence, you do have options. My current favorite is blogger.com which allows you to write and post blog entries. It also allows you to set up your blog any way you want to, so effectively it is a web site. It is free to start a blog and they give you a name like bigfishmlm.blogger.com.

You can also use the social networking sites such as MySpace.com, Facebook.com, and Twitter.com. All three are free to join and allow you to post a ton about yourself and your business, then connect up with your customers. You can promote your social site if you like although I don’t think you get a very nice web name. There may be options available to have a better web name so make sure you look through all of the options.

You can look through a google search for free web space and probably find many more options.

As I had said before, one of the functions of a web site or web presence is to give your sales presentation. Getting visitors, leads, or prospects to look at your sales presentation requires you to promote or advertise your web presence. In my next posting, I will talk about some of the ways to get links to your web presence for free.

How To Write A Website That Sells

So you want to write your own website? I would suggest a good web page designer and a lot of practice before moving on to a hosted web site with your own URL. What is a URL? It is a website name like SplashPlan.net. But I digress. The technical aspects of your web site are important, but there are many sources for this information. What I want to talk about is the general design of a web site to sell a product, an opportunity, and to support your customers and your distributors’ needs on your website.

The basic design of your website should have a menu of links near the upper-left-hand corner of the page, either along the left side or along the top. The menu will be jumps to various places on your website, major categories. Your home page should begin selling the product, opportunity, or both. The presentations on the website should be kept at a high level with links to more detail should the visitor want to see it. Under the individual page’s presentation should be three links, with the most logical next step first, one where the user will request more information by mail, and one where they can place an order.

Graphics should be kept to a minimum to speed up each page load. Links can be text rather than graphic links. Pictures should be relevant and not frivolous. For instance, a product picture is a good idea but pictures just to support the idea being discussed are not really needed. People use the internet for the information and not the pictures. The text, though, should be well presented and readable. At the bottom of each page I usually include a copyright notice and webmaster email address.

Contact information, frequently asked questions (FAQ), and other information can be presented in major categories. Information to include should be anything that supports the business and its functions, such as providing information that somebody might call to ask. Information about the company’s founders or history should only be included if relevant to supporting the business’s functions.

Having said all of this, most of this represents my own personal preferences. Today most people have high speed internet; however, there are some people that still have dial up, as incredible as this sounds. Including graphics, videos, or other media that takes a while to download may or may not be an issue for your customers. It is important to know who your customers are to make this determination. For instance, we learned that many people shopped our web site over lunch at work, that they typically paid well, and that they were suspicious of paying with their credit card on the web site (in a lot of cases). We gathered a lot of information about our customers and made our overall marketing plan support our customers’ needs.

I am a technology professional by trade, but when it comes to creating a web site, I am an artist first, a salesman second, and a techie third. I pour over my website making little changes here and there on a daily basis. I test all the links over and over again. I create test orders to make sure everything is working. I read and reread my web pages over and over again to make sure there are no spelling errors and that I am getting across the meaning I intend. I get feedback directly from customers by telephone about their experiences. I test with several different browsers to make sure the web site looks and acts right with each one.

After our e-commerce site was in its final condition, I rewrote the pages in perl (a computer language) so I could do various things that maybe someday we’ll talk about.

I don’t think I would ever expect a business person to do the kinds of things I did. Still, writing a web site is easy; making it effective as a sales and business support tool is the hard part.

Sales Presentations and Web Sites

We have learned a lot of things thus far so I just wanted to review at a high level. In MLM, you can sell or you can sponsor. You can do either or both by networking or advertising with the objective to get warm leads and give them a sales presentation. You can advertise for free or for cost, off line or on line. We learned that a sales presentation could be a one step or a two step process, with the final step using mostly company or company approved materials. We also learned that in sponsoring or recruiting, you mostly sell yourself and your ability to help your prospect become successful, avoiding references to your upline or company until necessary. We also learned that image is important and we build image by being professional and not by spending lavishly. Your advertising can be used for image building by telling the viewer what they should think of your company, but mainly advertising is used to gather leads.

Your sales presentation can be given in person, by video, or with printed materials but at the point you mention the MLM company or it’s products, you need to use company approved materials. I wouldn’t be too worried about writing a cover letter with key points for joining but the company usually has very good materials and you won’t get in trouble with them for using their materials. If you build your own presentation, you must work with your upline or company to make sure your materials are not going to cause you a problem.

A website can be your sales presentation to your prospect but again you must check with your upline or company about the requirements for selling or sponsoring online. Your website can do everything from beginning to end without your presence, which is great if you have prospects who want to do everything themselves. I would also allow some offline options, i.e. sending your prospect printed materials.

A website can also do so much more than deliver a sales presentation. You can use it in many ways to relieve you of telephone duties. Mainly you learn why a customer or prospect calls, then try to provide the information they need on your website. It doesn’t prevent all telephone calls but prevents some.

When you are starting out, it is important not to spend tons of money on things, but you can develop your own website with free tools that are available. It is definitely not so important to develop a site that you must spend hundreds of dollars. In fact, your upline may actually have a prospecting web site that you can use to provide information to your prospects.

Advertising on the Internet

When you think of advertising on the internet, you may think of a web site. In my opinion a web site is not advertising but is your full sales presentation. You can build a website but that does not get you prospects. You must advertise your web site in order to get visitors, which could be prospects if they came to the website via a marketing message. Visitors may also be many other things such as spies or accidental tourists.

So you have built your web site but have no visitors, hence no prospects. What can you do to get prospects? Yet again you must advertise, somehow, to get prospects. Advertising for a web site can be done offline but this article is about advertising on the internet. Online advertising can be done in a variety of ways, some free and some for cost. Free advertising might be done by submitting your website to a search engine, posting a link to a free-for-all links site, or posting a classified advertisement. It can also be done via a social networking site like Twitter, Myspace, or Facebook.

Pay advertising can be done through various website. When you pay for advertising you should be guaranteed to get visitors to your site. Google has adwords which will post your advertisement in various places and charge you only when somebody clicks on your link.

One thing I had mentioned before is that you can advertise on the internet without having a web site. For instance, you can place a classified advertisement that has a prospect call you on the telephone for further information.

There is advertising galore available on the internet and you can do a google search to find more information or examples. If you want free advertising, search for free advertising. Regardless of how you advertise, your objective is to get prospects so you can give your presentation to them, whether on your web site, over the phone, in the mail, or in person. Not everyone will become a customer or distributor so we are seeking a constant inflow of prospects.

Advertising is a way that we can clone ourselves and not personally give a marketing message to each potential prospect. In other words, our objective with advertising, free or otherwise, is to save ourselves time. If it costs us more time to advertise than if we contacted people personally, we are doing the wrong thing.

I will post information soon about building a web site.

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