Always Recommend the Right Products

If you have an e-commerce business, the following advice will be very good for the development of your business. Not only makes your company survive, but will greatly expand!

Glen Urban is an MIT professor focused on understanding, building, and maintaining trust on the Web. In his latest book, Don’t Just Relate – Advocate!, Urban makes a valuable claim about being a responsible advisor to your customers:

Advocate Your Customer

Happy male helpline operator with headset consulting a client. Online global tech support 24 7. Operator and customer. Technical support concept. Vector illustration in flat design.

Your company might choose to embrace advocacy by becoming a faithful representative of your customers’ interests. Under this approach, you provide customers and prospects with open, honest, and complete information. You give them advice so they can find the best products, even if those products are not your company’s products?

For many companies, the marketing strategy is staid and straightforward. The bottom-line goal is to align products on the showroom floor to potential customers. For the most part, it’s that simple. If you have products that need to be sold, figure out a way to build intrigue, value, and emotional connections around your brand.

The Selfless and Responsible Company Will Flourish

But what happens when a company is selfless and responsible about the advice it gives? Can a company focused on recommending the right products rather than their own products stay afloat?

According to Urban they can. And they won’t just survive; they will flourish!

With the incorporation of customer-centric values, a company begins

a mutual dialogue that assumes that if you advocate for your customers, those customers will reciprocate with their trust, purchases, and an enduring loyalty?

Mobile Location-Influenced Shopping and Word of Mouth

It is undeniable, at this time that the tendency of the world community is greater for shopping online than shopping directly. Shopping face to face may still be done in traditional markets but maybe soon it will change too. One of the influential figures in online shopping is Jeff Bezos.

I was fortunate enough to attend of a keynote presentation by Jeff Bezos last year. Jeff keynoted Shop.org’s first Multichannel Executive Symposium, co-hosted with McKinsey & Company. As a Shop.org Board member, I was proud that Jeff accepted our invitation to present.

Jeff Bezos : “The Future of Always=Connected Camera Phone Affected Physical Shopping”

FILE – In this Sept. 13, 2018, file photo, Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, speaks at The Economic Club in Washington. Federal prosecutors in New York are planning to meet with Bezos about his allegations that the National Enquirer tried to blackmail him with help from Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File) ORG XMIT: NYR103

As a brief one-minute comment while answering an attendee’s question, Jeff talked about the future of always-connected camera phones. When camera phones offer 3.5-megapixel resolution, he said, the world of physical shopping becomes very interesting. This is because 3.5-megapixel resolution enables you to accurately read a product barcode right off the box.

With an always-on mobile device, you would be able to price compare, read product ratings and reviews, and even get product accessory information from local stores in your nearby area while you are physically shopping in that store. Well, this was like a lightning rod to me, while Jeff casually moved on to the next subject.

Talk about turning the physical shopping environment on its head. I was surprised to read that many camera phones in South Korea already offer 8-megapixel resolution (they also receive live satellite TV and cost $700).

How About Physical Retail World In The U.S?

So, in just a few years, probably 3-4 conservatively, the physical retail world in the U.S. will clash with the online retail world in a fundamentally disruptive way. Some would say that is happening already.

In either case, I believe that customer ratings and reviews become even more important in an environment like this. I also believe that differentiated service, great product, really listening to your customers, collaborating more closely with your suppliers, and word of mouth marketing become even more important in this environment. It is right around the corner.

Blogs and Word of Mouth Transparency

Today’s topic will be very interesting for those of you who are thinking of doing business online or you who like to shop without face to face alias online shopping. How come? Yes, e-commerce is very growing nowadays that is supported by internet speed and unlimited reach. And these benefits are enjoyed by the seller or the buyer.

According to mashable’s Founder and CEO, there are over 70,000 blogs created a day with over 50,000 blog posts per hour. What are the chances that one of your customers is talking about you? High, and becoming higher every day as more jump into the global discussion. What are the chances that one of your customers or prospects will read that post?

Search Engine Influence

With Google, Yahoo, Mashable , and others already providing robust blog search engines, the answer is, again, high and becoming higher. There are several companies that offer blog mining services, such as BuzzMetrics, Cymfony, and Kaava. And these are valuable services for companies, no doubt. If you are skeptical, read the Fortune story of Kryptonite, the bike lock company. This may be one of the most important articles you read all year.

There is no doubt a lot of junk in most blogs. Most are nothing more than online diaries. But the search engines are making it easier to find information about products in blogs. The 40-year old parent may write about their kids 90% of the time, but 10% of the time they may choose to write about products and services they have recently experienced. The search engine takes the right person to that content at the right time (i.e. when they are researching whether or not to buy the product or service).

The Power of Internet Marketing

Research by BizRate shows that 56% of shoppers begin shopping at a branded website. This is intuitively obvious to me – the Internet has gone mass market and the late majority starts shopping at the brands they trust. The trick is to capture those individuals in that moment instead of sending them off with an easy click or two to go searching for reviews. That is where Bazaarvoice comes in.

For all of the glory of the Web, it is a non-tactile shopping environment. Companies like Scene7, RichFX, MyVirtualModel, and others make online shopping more tactile. They are helpful as the eCommerce industry struggles with 2.6% conversion, meaning that 97.4% of those that visit a store online don’t buy within that browsing session. Compare that to the 90% or so that buy when they enter a physical store. Of course, people can browse online stores more easily than driving to physical stores, and their purchase intent is often lower online than offline. This isn’t a bad thing, it just means more product browsing. Nevertheless, at 2.6% conversion, there is a lot of room for conversion improvement.

Customer Rating and Review

The beautiful thing about customer ratings and reviews on your site is that it is on your site. Let me explain:

  1. On your site, customer ratings and reviews are measurable. When a customer writes a review, you know who that customer is and what actions they have taken within that shopping session as well as previous sessions.
  2. On your site, customer ratings and reviews are actionable. Since you know who the customer is, you can decide whether to reach out to them or not. Build your own focus group of high lifetime value and vocal customers for your next relevant product launch. Address negative word of mouth by reaching out to those customers and offering to correct their experience. The voice of the customer is closer to your brand, helping push cultural change inside your company to bring all employees closer to an understanding of your customers’ experience (i.e. to become more customer centric).
  3. On your site, customer ratings and reviews serve a purpose. They give your customers a reason to trust you and come back to your site often as a valuable source of information. They help make online shopping more tactile, which results in higher online conversion. There is nothing more tactile than word of mouth (positive and negative) from other customers that have experienced that poduct or service that you are considering buying.

Outside of your site, customer ratings and reviews have virtually none of these attributes, with the notable exception that companies like Intelliseek, Cymfony, and Kaava have the goal of making them actionable.

I would also argue that customer ratings and reviews on your site are far more actionable in the sense that the online shopper is in a different frame of mind than when they are writing for their blog or on a site where they may or may not have a connection (like Epinions). They will be more thorough with their review in an environment focused on shopping within the brand they know as opposed to stream-of-consciousness within their blog.

As a result of our techniques, the average review we collect has a 350 character count, or 72 words. Compare that to the many reviews you read out there on the Web that say “this product is great” or “this product is terrible” and provide you with no actionable information at all. Those reviews move the needle for no one.

The more descriptive the review and the more it mimics offline word of mouth (which usually occurs face-to-face), the more tactile the online shopping experience becomes. As a result, shoppers and companies benefit.

Top 3 Ways To Make Money Online

If you were to count the ways to make money online, you’d be at a loss. I don’t think four limbs would suffice. Lame jokes aside, there are, seriously, countless ways to make a living – even a fortune – on the Internet. The rules and principles that govern money-making in the real world apply just as much online as they do offline.

Some money-making tactics take money to make money. Of course, the trick is to create an extra dollar or more for every dollar you invest in any money-making activity. And you’d want to squeeze out as many profits as you can out of that dollar you’re going to invest. This is just business common sense.

However, this assumes that you need to begin with money if you hope to make any money. But there are several free ways to make money online as well.

As A Freelancer

Perhaps the easiest, fastest, and most straightforward way to begin making money online is to offer your services to other webmasters, online business owners, and internet marketers. If you have a particularly strong skill set – such as writing, designing webpages, copy writing, producing videos, editing audios, creating graphics, etc. – then you can find people who will be more than happy to pay for your services.

You can go to the freelancing networks that would charge you to bid on projects (such as Guru, eLance, or ScriptLance), but you can save your money. You’ll probably be better off going to specific webmaster forums and advertising your services in your signature file. To get started, you could even offer to do your first projects dirt cheap or for free to get a couple of references.

One important tip to take note of if you choose to take this path is that when you are starting on your virgin projects, even if you get very little (or no) money (at all), make sure you get the testimonials of your clients. Store your clients’ rave reviews so that this can serve as your portfolio of customer satisfaction and would give social proof that your work is of a high standard of quality.

Endorsing Other People’s Products For A Commission As An Affiliate

There are dozens of affiliate networks you can sign up with to become an affiliate for potentially thousands upon thousands of products sold online; it’s almost as if the Internet is conspiring to make you rich.

Clickbank is a popular choice and probably one of the easiest to sign up with. Your earnings are paid out by cheque twice a month, provided you have fulfilled some criteria (no worries, you don’t have to jump through hoops of fire to get your first payday). PayDotCom is ideal if you prefer to be paid via PayPal instead of waiting for the bank to clear your commission cheques (it could take weeks, especially if you live outside America). Both Clickbank and PayDotCom also offer affiliates the opportunity to earn some passive income from the monthly recurring billing products they list in their marketplaces.

If you’re looking to broaden your product line beyond merely selling information products, Commission Junction is the No. 1 network to be signed up with. Not only can you sign up with programs that pay you for referring sales, but you can also make some quick bucks out of the numerous CPA (Cost Per Action) programs available. CPA means you don’t need to make people buy products for you to get paid. All you need to do is to persuade people to sign up for some free offers, subscribe to a newsletter, or download software for free in order for you to earn a commission.

There are two sub-paths you can take within the affiliate marketing path – the Anonymous route, and what I call the “Oprah Winfrey” route.

For the Anonymous option, you can employ any number of tactics to promote your affiliate products – pay per clicks, article marketing, search engine optimization, email marketing, etc. This route may be able to allow you to make money faster if you do the tactics right but may not last in the long term unless you consistently maintain your marketing momentum. Taking this option allows you to explore as many niche markets as you want.

The “Oprah Winfrey” option involves building an authoritative reputation amongst your target market, branding yourself, and building trust with your potential customers. This obviously takes time to build but pays off handsomely in the long run. Taking this option might prove difficult for you if you wish to explore different niches as general affiliates who market with authority usually focus on products that serve only one target market.

Create Your Own Product

Create your own masterpiece and sell it to the world. Most people would say that it is the hardest amongst the three ways, but I beg to differ. I made my first dollar online (US$17.00 to be exact, back in those days when US$1.00 equaled $1.70 in Singaporean dollars and Paypal was not that popular amongst internet marketers) selling my own information product.

Where there is a demand, there is money to be made. P T Barnum reportedly said there’s a customer born every minute, but how do you know what these customers want to buy? The secret to untold wealth and riches selling your own products online (even offline) is to know exactly what your potential customers are going through in terms of pain, frustration, problems, challenges, etc.

What is the one thing that is hindering them from achieving their goals? What is the stumbling block that they are encountering? How can you simplify their lives?

Before you go on to create products that would solve these people’s problems and sell a million copies, you must be able to answer the above questions and more. In brief, creating great products simply means being able to solve people’s problems quickly and easily.

Of course, there are many types of products you can sell online, just as there are many solutions to anyone’s problem. But let me simplify it for you further and categorize the kinds of products you can create into 2 :

  • Teaching people how to fish
  • Giving them the fish

Most information products would fall into the 1st category. Information products can be of many kinds as well – ebooks, audios, videos, tutorials, even live seminars and workshops. Depending upon the amount and value of the content you put into these information products, you can charge anywhere from dirt cheap to exorbitant prices for your information products.

Software, tools, systems, and services fall into the 2nd category. Here, you go beyond teaching people how to do whatever it is that they want to learn to accomplish and actually go do it for them. In this category, you can charge either a recurring monthly fee or a handsome one-time amount for the tool or service you’re offering that is going to solve their problems for them.

Exchanging Value

You have to understand that business is about making money – yes – but beyond that, it is about exchanging value. Ideally, for every $1 a person gives you, you give him $1 worth of value in return (be it via information, a service or a tool). But this is not a zero-sum game because the value you create and exchange for money is something intangible and cannot really be absolutely quantified in dollars.

Ironically, it is when you give just a little more than what you are paid for, that is when you start to make even more money than if you were to just trade a dollar for a dollar’s worth of value.

3 Deadly Mistakes Freelancers Often Make

Freelancing is a great way for anyone to work independently or make some extra money and for employers to hire talent at an affordable price and in a flexible way. However, freelancing isn’t a hobby; it is a full-time job in which you cannot succeed unless you abide by a certain set of rules.

Using freelancing marketplaces like freelancer.com, elance.com or odesk.com is a first step in making your freelancing work more professional and will be very helpful in getting your projects. However, even when using such platforms, I have seen many freelancers struggle to get projects by making some major mistakes.

This article is about three deadly mistakes freelancers often make that could easily be avoided.

Not looking pro

It is all about perception not reality! You could be the best designer, the best coder, the best SEO… if your customers cannot see that in a way or another, for them you just are not.

There are many ways to convey a positive image. Some past showcase work and positive feedback (portfolio, testimonials…), others spend a lot of time writing compelling proposals… However, many fail when it comes to producing enterprise-grade invoices in particular and admin papers in general.

YES, INVOICES! I have seen many freelancers unable to provide a decent invoice and others that couldn’t tell me how much they charged for the last project we worked on together!

The solution is simple, use tools! There are so many free and paid tools out there that can help you look more professional and make your job easier. Just imagine you are at one of your customers’ office and he asks you if he can have an invoice in order to pay you. With a cloud-based invoicing system, all you need is a computer with Internet access, and you’re done, give him the invoice and cash in the check!

Here are my favourite invoicing/billing tools:

INVOICERA, The popular one

Invoicera is probably the most widely used. It has always been reliable and handy. If you want to make online invoicing a straightforward and uncomplicated process, this is one of the best tools out there; they even have a free plan.

MAVENLINK, The comprehensive tool,

If you are ready to pay for a pro tool and get some support, this is your most comprehensive choice. Mavenlink lets you collaborate, share files, invoice, track time, and make or receive payment in a custom-branded project management solution.

HARVEST, The easy one

HARVEST is extremely easy to use and can simplify your timesheets with time tracking and fast online invoicing.

Not charging enough

Price is a major parameter in a project manager’s choice, but the quality is also a primary concern. As humans, we have been educated into thinking that quality and price are related, and that’s not always untrue.

In fact, for many people, the price is an indicator of how good your work will be. So being too aggressive on your prices and making sacrifices might have a negative effect on how good you are perceived to be.

In conclusion, my advice is to try and strike a balance between:

  • The cost of the job (time and resources)
  • The price the employer can pay (budget)
  • The price the employer things he has to pay for a good quality work

Over-trusting your employers

Trust is part of life, and many employers need to see you trust them, and they can trust you before they can give you the project.

So you have to inspire trust and manage the customer interactions very carefully. Some people will quickly try and take you to a feeling driven relation because that’s how they do it. In fact, as a freelancer, you will certainly have to work with people from different countries, regions, cultures…

This is why I would strongly advise you to use tools like escrow to make sure you get paid and if not, can file a complaint or a dispute.

As you might already know, most freelancing platforms offer such services, but that doesn’t mean you should entirely rely on them and not filter out your partners carefully.

Of course, once the customer is a recurring one, you might want to be more flexible to speed things up and help make working together easier.

Optimizing for Conversion, Ignoring Consumption

We have worked with many demand or lead generation companies over the past 10 years. Most of the time when they come to us, they ask us to help them increase the number of people they convert into a free trial, a free download, or to create an account.

Conversion Isn’t an Event, it’s a Process

We always like to focus first on increasing the number of leads towards the top of the sales funnel. However, without the next step, consumption, the companies don’t necessarily achieve their better but usually unstated goal of increased revenue.

This is the same fuzzy focus that has companies intent on getting more clicks to their PPC ads just so they can show the increased traffic numbers without focusing on converting that visitor into a lead or sale. To tell you the truth it is not as hard to get visitors to take the uncommitted step, as it is getting them to actually use and consume the product.

When you optimize for customer experience you really need to take the whole scenario from awareness (clicking your ad) through conversion and ultimately to consumption (and ideally to evangelism) into account.

An Example of Trying to Create Consumption

Yesterday I received this email from TimeBridge. I set up an account when I received an invitation from a friend at another company to setup a meeting. You know how challenging it is to coordinate a meeting amongst several people using email, etc. Well I responded to his request and I really enjoyed the experience (partially because it was seamless using my Mac and Entourage) so I decided to setup an account. I even told several people about it. But I was never converted enough to incorporate it into my work flow.

I must have setup countless meetings since then all without the use of TimeBridge. What do you think went wrong? I converted, did a little worth of mouth for them but never consumed the product. Somehow the persuasive momentum was lost.

This is one way to try to initiate consumption. Use emails to try and prod engagement, add a bit of bribery (such as a contest for a $10 Starbucks card) and see how it works. We’ve seen several other really good examples over the years, what is the best method you have ever seen?

Attraction, Conversion, Consumption: Why You Need To Separate the Trio!

Go to a pond where you can visibly see a lot of fish. Take a stone and throw it in the water. Notice what the fish do? Yes, they race towards the stone in anticipation of a feeding frenzy?

Of course, you know what happens next.

The fish figure out you’re just teasing, and with disappointed guppy faces, they swim away. Um… if you continue to throw stones, they’ll keep coming back, till they work out it’s useless to humour you any more.

7 Signs Your PPC Campaigns Needs Optimization

Are you getting the most from your pay per click (PPC) campaigns? How would you know? Are you as efficient at getting clicks and converting visitors as you would be carrying water with a leaky bucket? Let me give you 7 signs to tell that you are not optimizing your PPC spend:

1. You use the set it and forget it strategy to PPC. If you setup your PPC campaigns months ago and haven’t adjusted a thing in it, I can practically guarantee you have room to improve it. The seasons change, traffic flow and traffic quality change, even Google’s Quality score changes.

Don’t Overlook These Common Cart Mistakes

I’ve seen a few big shopping cart no-nos lately, so I just want to alert Grok readers to them–they’re pretty easy to avoid:

The Homepage Dump: You add an item to your cart and are thrown into the checkout process. You’ve got another item on your shopping list, so you click the little link that says “Continue Shopping.” You’re dumped on the homepage. This is especially bad when you’ve done a lot of searching and results-filtering, and now it’s all gone. It really does feel like you’ve just been dumped! I can’t think of any good reason why the homepage is the proper place to land a visitor to continue shopping.

Bridging the Psychic Pain Gap

When people are confident of their next paycheck, they have a predisposition to buy most of their “because I want it” items that are within financial reach (and maybe even just out of reach as well – hence the credit card). That’s because their psychic pain threshold for buying is just above their actual expendable income level.

Here’s how to visualize it: there are usually, say, 5-7 “extra-budgetary” purchases a person might have in mind for the next two months or so: nicer sunglasses, or an expensive wireless mouse, or shoes or some type of clothing, etc. And most of those things will actually get purchased within a rolling 2-3 month time frame, without the buyer feeling that any of them represent a considered purchase – even if the sunglasses or shoes might be in or above the $150 range.