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Avoid Sloppy Emails

In a lot of online business situations, email is the lifeline between you and your customers and suppliers.

You likely don’t have face-to-face contact as an online business owner and you may never converse over the phone.

Since your emails are so important, so critical to your communication with both customers and vendors in the business world, it is very smart to pay particular attention to both the substance and presentation of your emails.  Some business owners could care less about how professional and “proper” their emails appear.

All of us get in the habit of becoming lax in the business “chores” that are commonplace and routine. Email is no different.

If you don’t make a conscious effort to watch what you’re doing, you may open yourself up to critical errors, mistakes, fouled up orders, or at the very least, being grossly misunderstood in your communication.

I liken sloppy and haphazard emailing to serving a bowl of soup to your guest and realizing that there are several nasty looking flies floating around on the surface inside the bowl.  What does that say about the chef?  The server?  And ultimately, the business owner?

All of a sudden, the whole meal becomes a lot less appetizing and your guest will probably go elsewhere to dine.

Certainly mistakes and foul-ups happen regularly in business; but sloppiness and errors that could have been easily fixed ahead of time will tend to brand your business as unprofessional, and uncaring (since you didn’t even check your message before you sent it.)

Who wants to deal with a business that could conceivably be sloppy and nonchalant about its products, customer service, and on-time delivery?  I know we’re only talking about email here . . . however, if customer communication is lax and sloppy, there’s a good chance that prospects might think “I wonder if this business is sloppy and unprofessional in other areas as well?”

Here are the most common mistakes I’ve seen in business email messages that could easily have been avoided, had the sender taken a little extra time to think about and compose the message properly and check it over before sending:

1. The email doesn’t identify the sender. Some businesses will not even open emails they can’t identify. With all the spam and security issues that abound on the Internet today, it’s no wonder that only a fraction of the emails sent ever get opened.

Also, it would be good for your company to decide upon a particular name that you consistently use in the “From” field on all your communications. Your senders will learn to recognize and watch for that name and may even “white list” your company for future communications if you ask them.

2. The subject line needs to be completed, be highly descriptive of the message’s content, and should be interesting. A lot of spammers choose not to use a subject line in hopes of tricking the reader into opening the message out of sheer curiosity – just to see what it’s about. So don’t give your email the appearance of spam – you should do everything you can to make the choice to open the email a safe one for the recipient.

3. The graphics (if HTML email) should load and be displayed quickly. Use small graphics files and web safe colors if possible. Constantly watch to see that you don’t send broken links. Usually problems result when a business fails to review and test an email prior to sending it out.  Try this:  send a copy of your finished email to yourself and review it with a critical eye before you hit the “send” button to broadcast the message to your audience.

4. Have you checked the message to see that it has a logical flow and a precise “call to action” or outcome that is clearly stated? Often the best emails are the ones that are straightforward, simply stated, and tell your customers or vendors exactly the action you are hoping to have them complete.  Wordiness, fluff, boiler-plate, fanciness, and anything else that is non relevant can be omitted.

5. Have you correctly listed your contact information? An important part of the call to action is to provide the details of how you’d like the recipient to make contact or follow up with you. Email addresses are unforgiving – if you make just one little mistake, you will probably not receive the follow-up action or information you’re hoping to get.  Take the time to double check your links.

6. Have you properly formatted the message and proofread it for spelling, grammatical and content errors? Sure, it takes a little extra time to check your work and be sure that it’s presentable. It may even be worth your while to have someone else review your work – a fresh set of eyes will often catch errors that you won’t.

7. Sometimes business emails get lost in the shuffle of corporate bureaucracy. It’s not so much a problem if you’re communicating with another small business, but often you might need to communicate with a large supplier, service provider, or government agency. Make sure you have the proper person and address before you send your email. Forwarded or printed and delivered emails have a curious habit of turning up “missing in action” and you may never know what really happened to your message.

There are other things to watch in your email sending or replying. In most cases, you will be happy with your emails if you make the effort to pay attention to the little details and check your message over prior to hitting the “send” button.

To your online business success,

Steve Browne

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What to Do if Folks Just Don’t Respond

One of the most frustrating aspects of web business is trying to figure out problems to customer response rates on your web site. Why are my customers getting lost online? Why are they not responding to my ads? Why are my offers being ignored?

The challenge of this puzzle is figuring out what parts of the web site need to be fixed.

Is it the offer itself? Are my navigation signals unclear? Is my offering price too high? Is my offer language boring or uninspiring? Is there a problem with my ordering system?

You see, it seems that there are an endless number of little variables that could be hindering sales at the web site. Often, trying to figure out where the roadblocks are is a difficult and frustrating exercise.

If you are not getting the kind of customer web site response you think you should have, there are a number of starting points that you should consider in order to get to the root of the problem.

  • First, know your web site. Be aware of the traffic patterns of your online visitors. You can track where the clicks on your site are happening. You may find that your navigation is confusing – a real problem. Confused visitors are frustrated visitors who are not in the mood to buy anything. If your customer is confused about your web site, she might believe that your products will be confusing as well.
  • Lead your customer by the hand into taking the action that you want. Tell them or show them where you want them to go next. The “call to action” is one of the most important parts of your visitor ordering system. There should be no doubt about the progression of your intended path through the sale.
  • Make buying easy. If you have a long sales page, strategically place “buy now” buttons throughout the text. Sometimes the customer is ready to buy early on, sometimes mid-way through the offer, and often, not until the very end. Most of your clicks to purchase will come from the first and last opportunity, but your intermediate buttons will also get clicks. The point is, you want the customer to be able to pull the trigger when he is ready, regardless of where he is on the sales page. If he has to wait until the very end of the dialogue, there is a good chance the sale may be lost.
  • Be dramatic and bold with your buttons. Don’t leave any doubt as to how to respond to your offer or your direction to a resource or link. Don’t hide these jumping off points in ordinary text or tiny graphics. Leave no doubt about where the prospect needs to click to get somewhere.
  • Many web businesses don’t take the opportunity to follow up on a customer action with an email. Whether it’s a “thank you” email for subscribing to a mailing list or a “this is what to do next” follow up to a download, you need to take every opportunity to maintain and enhance your contact with the customer or prospect. So many businesses fail in this regard. Customers will notice your concern if you always follow up on their actions. This practice alone will set you apart from 95% of the competition. Yes, it’s a little more work to do this, but the results will be more than worth the extra effort.
  • Remember to offer options. Maybe your customers aren’t buying because they would like to try something out before committing to high price tag. Can you give them a two-week trial offer as an alternative to the full price offer? Can you give them a price point that’s significantly less than the regular price for a “lite” version? Sure, you want to try to get full price for a sale – but getting something is always preferable to getting nothing. And if the customer is pleased with his initial purchase, it will be that much easier getting her to come back to order the full version and even more!
  • Always test, test, test. It is really surprising what a little testing will do. Sometimes simply changing a color, a button placement, a new headline, or a little added text will mean a 100% increase in a response rate. It’s true! The only way you’re going to know what little tweaks will help your conversion is to test one thing against another and track results. Of course you know that there is a proper and a wrong way to test variables. That lesson is for another day . . . but just remember . . . testing and tracking will often turn money losing offers into money winning offers. Likewise, good results can be tweaked into becoming outstanding results.
  • Don’t be afraid to up-sell or cross-sell once a customer has pulled the trigger. Don’t be shy about taking advantage of the immediate time following a web site sale. To simply tell the customer “thank you” and leave him on a dead end page is to lose the opportunity to make additional money. The best strategy is to offer a very related product, a longer term, a deluxe version of what was just purchased, a greater supply of the product, a customer discount to an affiliated service, or membership in a “club” or user group.
  • One good way to jump into the customer’s shoes is to actually ask the customer for feedback on varying aspects of his web or buying experience. Ask if she has questions about a product or service. Ask if the price was the reason a prospect didn’t buy. Ask if any of your instructions were unclear or hard to understand. Feedback on why a prospect didn’t buy is invaluable because the chances are very high that other folks are feeling the same way.
  • Have a path to follow for those that say “no.” In other words, if a prospect is not ready to pull the trigger with your call to action on this visit, you should have an alternative path for him to get something else from you. Don’t let the customer leave empty-handed. Surely there is some kind of value that you can give the non-buyers for stopping by your shop. It could be a free download of “tips” in your niche, it could be a trial offer of a product, or it might simply be direction to a related resource. Whatever you decide, make sure the customer feels that her visit was worth the time and effort. You want the prospect to have a reason to come by again.
  • The internet is a great place to scan, but often a lousy place to read long copy. Given the choice, most people would rather read a physical book than sit at the computer screen and scroll through an online book. Think about it – when you come to a computer screen with lots of text, what do you do? Don’t you tend to do a quick scan to see if there are headings or bullet points or underlined text so that you can get the jist of what’s going on without having to suffer through reading everything? Most folks are that way, by far! I’m suggesting you cater your delivery of information to the style of the reader. Offer summaries, headings, bullet lists, shortened text, etc.
  • Here’s my last point for this installment: keep everything simple and brief. Don’t force the customer to do too much. Remember “easy,” “short,” “simple,” “summary,” “brief,” etc. When you ask for information, keep it to a minimum. When you give directions, make it simple. When you ask for a sale, make it happen in one click. When you want a question answered, give one to three options and ask which they would prefer. Remember what we said earlier: when a customer is confused or frustrated, he is not in a buying mood.

I hope you’ll remember some of these suggestions so that solving the non-response puzzle will be easier and faster for you than ever before. Often, you will find what the problem is sooner than later and you won’t have to scrap your whole project idea or offer because it’s not converting.

To you online business success,

Steve Browne


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Get Your Content Shared – 10 “How To” Clues for Your Business

Think of the Internet as the single greatest vehicle ever that a business owner has to send his content to the public.  Pre-Internet, the options available were the media (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc), books, letters, direct mail and word of mouth.  How many small business solo operators use these same platforms today?  Some use a few . . .

If you agree that the Internet is the greatest content vehicle, surely social media must be today’s preferred ride!  Social media platforms enable any content to be shared easily, quickly, and almost effortlessly without cost or commitment to the creator, the middle man (sharer), or the end user.  Not only that, but the sharer can be seen as a valuable friend, a niche expert, and in some cases, even a consumer resource worth paying for!

I believe a business owner (or a freelancer he employs) can prepare content in such a way that it is most “shareable” (if that is a word) and an enticing entry point to his online business.  Good content creators have a knack for producing shareable content without thinking about it too much; others of us have to be more deliberate in our content structure and style so that our readers will want to pass along our content.

Here are ten (10) easy-to-decipher clues that should help your business create better shared content.  I call them “clues” because these ideas are just that – they are clues that you will have to interpret or fit into your own content process to make them effective for your particular business niche and situation.

1- One piece of content – one purpose.  Each piece of content should have a singular purpose, a planned mission, a reason for being.  Don’t get greedy and try to stuff too much into one blog post, article, suggestion, or idea.  Keep a narrow but deep pattern to each content piece.  Answer one question.  Solve one problem.  Tell one story.  Give one piece of advice. But . . . don’t be afraid to go deep into the details of that one subject.  If your purpose is to solve a perplexing niche problem, you may not be effective if you just gloss over the details – the step-by-step guidance that people often want.

2- Focus on niche specifics. This clue goes hand-in-hand with the previous idea about your content having just one purpose. In most cases, people don’t share general or obvious content. Why would they? People like to share specific niche tips, insights, solutions, secrets, and stories that might not be found anywhere else. People share original ideas; often things they are hearing for the first time. So focus any content you want shared on things in your niche, your products, your business, or your advice on original thoughts you have – on things unique or particular to your own business. Differentiate your business brand from your competitors and prove your worth in the type of content you offer.

3- Make sharing easy.  This goes without saying, but many content creators do nothing to ease the work or time it takes to share their content. Most social media platforms offer bloggers, web developers, and businesses tools and buttons that make sharing a breeze. Make good use of the tools and technology available and encourage sharing at your web site. Some businesses even provide incentives or rewards for the sharers like individual recognition for “serial” sharers, “count” dials for the number of shares by a member, discounts on products for top sharers, or access to restricted content.

4- Professionalism and design are important.  Plain text, especially if it is crammed together and difficult to read, is a turn-off for most viewers. Content with lots of errors (spelling, grammar, style) is a turn-off. Hard to read typefaces, narrow margins, and a lack of white space within the content are to be avoided. How the content is wrapped and presented makes a difference – sometimes a big difference.

Think of this clue like this: imagine a beautiful layer cake with fancy chocolate swirl frosting, colorful garnishes, and mouth watering visual appeal.  Now, also imagine a greasy-handed mechanic grabbing a big handful of the cake and slapping it down on a rusty old oil pan he grabs from the trash bin for a plate.  All of sudden, the delicious cake (content) is not quite so tantalizing and inviting; in fact, it may turn your stomach to even think about consuming it.  Sure, this example is a stretch; but I want to drive home the point that great content deserves to be aesthetically pleasing or it may not result in any shares at all – even if the content is valuable!

5- Shared content is interesting content.  People don’t share things that are boring, dull, humdrum, tedious, bland, routine, uninspiring, apathetic, and plain. They share things that they believe their family, friends, and other like-minded souls will find interesting, valuable, helpful, cool, fun and/or worth chatting about. People share content to engage others, to keep relationships fresh, and to start conversations that can lead to engagement and dialogue about other subjects and personal interests.

6- Content that entertains gets shared.  Sharers like to be heroes. They like to make others feel good, laugh, be happy, smile at their share, and they like to be the one that makes the entertainment accessible to their followers. Research has shown that articles that excite, elicit laughter, inspire, or create awe in the consumer are much more likely to go viral than those that merely inform or give the facts. Why? Entertainment triggers an emotional response, an excited reaction, and subsequently, a desire to include others in the “fun” or wonder.

7- Valuable content is “worth sharing.”  A focus group was asked if they individually assessed or judged the value and usefulness of content to the recipient prior to deciding whether or not it was worthy of sharing.  94% of that group indicated that indeed, content value was an important consideration in their content sharing.  Most people are generous and caring, at least with those that are in their social media “friends” circle.  They want to be helpful and giving to those they engage.

8- Cause driven content.  Most everyone has a cause, a crusade, a banner to follow, a team to cheer on, a cross to bear, or a purpose or belief that they want to be known for.  Sometimes our causes define us.  People share content to show who they are, what they stand for, what they like and dislike, things that (in the sharer’s mind) are right or wrong, and what issues they care about.  Cause driven content can be a very polarizing format. Don’t worry that it may upset some, when at the same time, it endears others. Just as with entertainment, cause driven content triggers emotional response and is a likely candidate to be shared repeatedly and by those that are sympathetic and sometimes by those that are hostile to the cause.

9- Sharers want approval and validation.  Why do the social media platforms encourage “friending”, “likes,” and “shares”? Research and testing has shown that humans want the approval and acceptance of their peers.  In studies like “The Power of Likes”* researchers found that people were more apt (32%) to “like” or up-vote a pre-liked post or comment.  If something is already popular within a social group, chances are very good it will be also be popular with newcomers to that group. Can you create or position content that will resonate with your immediate audience? If so, it will likely also be shared by their social circles of like-minded friends and followers.

10- Branded content encourages repeat sharers.  Small business owners shouldn’t have to be reminded to create a unique brand and attach it to every piece of content that leaves the business. People that share brand content often return and share more of that same brand’s content over other alternatives. If the sharer sees the value and consistency of content created by a business, chances are good that he/she will return again to share more of that same helpful, or entertaining, or cause-driven content. The value of a group of consistent “serial sharers” to a business can’t be overstated. Create a valuable and trusted brand known for outstanding content and the chances that your content will be shared (partially because of your brand) increases substantially.

Sometimes, being able to work more than one of these ideas into a piece of content will give you some bonus impact with potential sharers. But I would caution every content creator and say that it is not necessary – don’t get carried away with trying to incorporate multiple suggestions given here into one piece of content. Remember Clue #1 – One piece of content – one purpose.

*Source: “‘Like’ This Article Online? Your Friends Will Probably Approve, Too, Scientists Say”, Kenneth Chang in

Feel free to tell us about other shared content clues you have used in your business.

To your online business success,

Steve Browne

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Ten Ideas for PLR Content in Your Business

You can save time and money if you use PLR (private label rights) content to create products and to market your business.  To that end, here are 10 different ideas for turning your PLR content into cash.

Mind you, I can think of others ways to capitalize on PLR content and I will write about those in the future.  I hope you’ll at least consider how quality content that you don’t create yourself might be an asset in your niche business.  Never sacrifice quality in your attempt to save time in producing content as it will be noticed by your customers and it will, over time, make your business less distinguishable from your other niche competitors.

In most marketplaces, the average business content is mediocre (at best).  Yes, there are businesses that stand out in their field … and often they do that by producing high quality, original, relevant and compelling content that is found nowhere else.

So if you decide to use PLR material, make sure it is at least equal to the content standard that your business distributes daily.

1. Rewrite it

No matter what you’re using the content for, change it so that you don’t have competition and so that your content is, in deed, unique to your business.  At a minimum, change the title, the introduction, headings (or chapters) and the conclusion if you are working with articles and reports.  You may also want to delete irrelevant content and add in your own examples, stories and tips to truly make the content your own.

2. Publish it in a different format

Most people that use PLR text content leave it in the form of text (as that’s how it’s typically purchased).  You can virtually guarantee that you’ll have a unique product if you put it in a different format, such as converting text to an audio book or even a video.  Text articles on a particular subject can be combined to create nice larger reports or ebooks.

3. Turn it into a physical book

Another way to make money with your PLR content is by turning it into a physical book.  Just use a self-publishing company like, CreateSpace, or other similar services.

4. Use as a subscription incentive

You can compile a pack of PLR articles or just rewrite a PLR report or ebook.  You might even turn it into a video or audio book.  Then finish by adding your affiliate links to the product (or links to your own products) and give the former PLR content away for free to your subscribers and site visitors.

5. Use it as a bonus for your paid products

In addition to giving the content away to prospects, you can give it away to your paying customers as well. Just use your PLR content as a bonus – you might even offer it as an unadvertised bonus or as a loyalty reward for your best customers.

6. Stock a membership site with re-worked PLR

You can stock your membership site with modified PLR content.  Or, break the content up into six months worth of weekly lessons and run a fixed-term membership site.  The ways PLR can be employed in your business are many and the more creative you can be about how to use it … the better!

7. Put it on CD and sell it on eBay or similar web sites

You can use your PLR content as a lead-generator on eBay.  Simply add your product links or affiliate links to the content, burn it onto a CD or DVD and auction it off or sell it (even as a loss) in order to generate business leads.

8. Use it as content for your autoresponder series

You can create an evergreen, “set it and forget it” newsletter using PLR content.  Just chop it up into weekly lessons and load it into your autoresponder.  To “bribe” people to subscribe to your newsletter, you may consider throwing in another PLR report as a bonus.

9. Create blog posts from PLR content

You can rewrite PLR articles or break down reports and books to create blog posts.  Just insert your product or affiliate links and let these posts make money for you on autopilot.

10. Combine multiple sources to create a new paid product or upsell product

As previously mentioned, you should rewrite your PLR content to make it your own unique content.  Another way to make it unique is to combine multiple PLR products together as long as they are relevant to one another.  For example, you can compile a set of related articles. Or you can take a chapter from multiple PLR ebooks to create an entirely new product.  The ways to employ PLR into your own marketing and product selection are numerous and limited only by your imagination.

Obviously, you can use this new product in any way you like, including offering it as a bonus, turning it into a subscription incentive, or adding it to a membership site.  You can also offer it as a standalone paid product, or even as an upsell to another paid product.

In summary . . . you now have lots of practical and easy ways to turn PLR content into cash in your niche.  The next step is yours – take action!  The sooner you use these ideas, the sooner you get to enjoy the added traffic, subscribers and cash!

To your online business success,

Steve Browne

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