What does military intelligence have in common with marketing intelligence?
Battles are often won or lost because one side gathered more critical and relevant information on the foe than the other and therefore could attack the foe’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities while taking advantage of its own positions of strength and superiority.
I hope you see the parallel that military intelligence has with marketing intelligence.
Many small business owners have the attitude that they could care less what their competitors are doing in the niche or with their businesses. Please, don’t be that guy!
Showing you how to do competition analysis could fill several large volumes or a massive web training site – that’s not my purpose here. What I would like to do is simply ask a few questions to give you pause and hopefully open up your mind a little to the idea that being observant of your profitable and successful competitors could help you immensely in your own business venture.
Realize that “being observant” sometimes requires some digging, spying, and detective work. Thankfully, the Internet has made this detective work much easier than in days past.
1- Do you subscribe to your competitor’s email list, customer mailings, and newsletter?
2- Do you know where your competitor gets his traffic?
3- Do you understand his distribution channels?
4- Do you know the details of his affiliate program, what incentives and rates he gives, what platform(s) he uses, and which affiliates bring in the most sales?
5- Do you know what his sales funnel looks like? Have you ever purchased his product(s) so you can understand his sales process? What vendors does he use for financial transactions, communications, product shipping and delivery, etc?
6- What direct and secondary (indirect) marketing methods, strategies and “mix” does he use? What are has he done in the past that he no longer uses?
7- Does he create his own products, have them outsourced, or does he have accounts with wholesalers? What is good and bad about what he offers? How do his products differ from what I’m selling? How often does he update or launch new products?
8- What is his USP, his brand marketing, his mission statement, his motto, his tagline?
9- What is his customer service like? Is it handled in-house or outsourced? How often does he contact his customers other than when they call him first about an issue?
10- What is his pricing structure and how often does he give discounts or run sales?
11- What would it mean to your business if you began accepting his coupons or matching his prices?
12- What is his financial transaction company and how many ways does he have for a customer to pay for a product?
13- What are his terms of service, guarantee, refund policy, shipping or deliver terms?
14- What are his new directions or plans for the future? Does he share these with his customers and prospects?
15- “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” Believe it or not, it would be smart for you to brainstorm how you might join your top competitor if he is securely established in your niche and you begin to wonder how you’re going to compete. For example, could you become his supplier for quality niche products? Could you handle his marketing if he sees it as a chore or headache? Could you produce and mail his newsletter or take care of his customer service strategy?
There will be times when your own niche business is lagging or headed for the dumpster because the competition is so powerful and so entrenched. Rather than admit total defeat, it may pay you (financially and emotionally) to figure out ways to help a competitor fix problem spots in his own business.
There you have it, a few questions (and there are many more) that might get you strategically thinking about doing some competitor marketing intelligence – kind of like the spying they do in the military!
To your online business success,
Customers vs. Clients – Do You Know the Difference?
I’d like to talk about a way to conduct your solo business online that will bring you all the profits and business that you can handle.
What I’m speaking about has as much to do with your mindset as it does about your strategy or business system of operating.
If you will adopt an “MO” (a method of operating) that includes what I’m going to describe here, your business will automatically be differentiated from your marketplace competitors.
You will have a unique and wholly creative business that your clients will love and clamor for.
What I’m talking about has nothing to do with your chosen business niche, per se.
This model can be implemented in any niche market, with any product or any service.
In addition, anyone can adopt this business mindset as it is totally age, gender, culture, education, and experience independent.
Have you guessed yet what I’m talking about? Yes, the title of this post should have given the secret away.
First, let’s go to my huge Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary and look up the definition of a customer.
Here it is:
cus-tom-er, n. 1. a person who purchases goods or services from another; buyer; patron. 2. a person one has to deal with; a tough customer; a cool customer.
It’s pretty easy to gain customers for your goods and services.
All you have to do is sell something – that’s it!
Once a person buys from you, they are automatically your customer.
Nothing else is needed.
No relationship exists, other than they have given money in exchange for a good they wanted.
Anyone can do this! Most businesses would prefer to have as many customers as they can generate.
It’s a simple and easy business principle.
Really nothing further is expected of customers.
Yes, your customer can buy from you over again if he decides to, but there are no further expectations or contracts to continue your relationship at this point.
Every one of your customers is free to keep purchasing from you or look elsewhere if he/she desires.
There are no strings attached.
Now, let’s focus on clients.
What is a client?
Here is Webster’s definition:
cli-ent, n. 1. a person or group that uses the professional advice or services of a lawyer, accountant, advertising agency, architect, etc. 2. a person who is receiving the benefits, services, etc., of a social welfare agency, a government bureau, etc. 3. anyone under the patronage of another; a dependent. 4. a person seeking the protection, guidance or influence of another more prosperous or powerful.
I hope the distinction between customers and clients is becoming abundantly clear.
If you take on clients, there is the expectation (understood by both parties or not) that you are going to develop a relationship with them that will be in their best interest. You are committing to protect, guide and influence them in whatever subject you are teaching.
So what does this distinction mean for the business owner?
Here is my take on it:
I want people who come to my business to see themselves as clients rather than customers.
I want my clients to know that I will do my best to give them advice, counsel, products and services that will be in their best interest – not necessarily mine.
I welcome my clients to open a dialogue with me – to enter into a personal relationship which includes open and frank discussions about the subject of my business.
I welcome their suggestions, ideas, experiences, and especially feedback in the niche.
I will give them my personality, wisdom, and experience as it applies to the subject so they can understand my passion and qualification for being their teacher, coach, and mentor.
I will never purposefully lead them astray and I will always give them the guidance that I feel will best help them become successful in the niche.
Can you understand how the customer/business owner model of small business is so different from the client/mentor (coach) model?
Now I’m not going to get caught up in semantics. You can call clients “customers” if you want.
Some will call them “friends of my business.” Clients could be called “students” or “pupils.”
The important point is, the folks that come to your business for help can be treated like faceless customers who buy and are never seen again . . . OR . . . you can use your effort and influence to treat them as clients – people who are there for tutoring, guidance, and coaching by one who has great influence, power, or experience in the niche.
It doesn’t matter what kind of business you have or what you sell – you can develop the mindset that everyone who walks through your business door will be treated as a valued client.
One more thing . . . if you decide to take on clients, there is an expectation that you can deliver something to them that the general public doesn’t have – specialized knowledge and skill in the niche.
Yes, you can learn this quickly, you can find it in other people that you work with, or you can organize and present the accumulated knowledge of other experts on the subject.
But somehow, you have to be able to give credible guidance and advice to people that rely upon you for direction.
As the owner of a business, you have the choice to go after one time customers or loyal clients.
Certainly, the client/mentor model demands much more from the business owner – that’s why very, very few owners ever accept this role and business model.
But think about the significant advantages of this type of business:
– Wouldn’t this kind of “TLC” really set your business apart from every other competitor in your niche? Truthfully, how many businesses can you think of that are personally concerned with the customer/client?
– Wouldn’t you be able to charge much more for your products and time if you give this type of personalized assistance? By all means.
– Wouldn’t your clients be much more likely to buy your products without a lot of hard selling on your part? Of course they would.
– Wouldn’t it take far fewer clients in order to keep your business humming? Yes, most definitely!
The decision is yours, and yours alone. I would seriously encourage you to step outside the norm and consider this unique and fulfilling business strategy.
To your online business success,
PLR Sales and Uses – Pros and Cons
Like many of my fellow Internet marketers, there was a time when I was very enamored with the thought of owning and operating a large PLR vending business. It seemed like a great way to make money.
Other people did the work of creating products (mostly ebooks, audios, and videos) and all I had to do was gather them up, feature them on a large “catalog” type e-commerce site, and sell them to a hungry crowd of business owners looking for content.
Or so I thought …
I purchased my share of digital resale rights products, licensed to sell products, and private label rights products; and to this day, most sit on my hard drive collecting pixel dust because I never did get around to using them. In addition, a large percentage of these products that I purchased proved to fall way short of the desired level of content quality that I wanted.
There are some notable exceptions, mind you, but that is a discussion for another day.
Still, I love the PLR model of selling digital information. Think about how perfect it is . . .
- You don’t have to create products
- You don’t have to make graphics (typically)
- You don’t have to write a lengthy sales letter (sometimes)
- You don’t have to identify a hungry market (usually)
- Everything is basically done for you … all that’s left is for you to do the selling of the product
- It’s easy to come up with many related products if you want to “bundle” several together
- You can set your own price point and you can claim incredible “total value”
I didn’t really think much about the negatives of this PLR business model … but I learned over time that there are several big ones which are substantial drawbacks to using PLR.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Let me explain …
In case you don’t know, “PLR” stands for Private Label Rights. It is a phrase that has come to be quite popular among Internet marketers.
The idea is simple. Someone else (not you) creates a digital product, for example, an ebook. The product could also be a video, an audio recording, a set of images, or just about anything else that is delivered digitally online.
The creator then sells that product for whatever he chooses, not once, but over and over again to PLR buyers. The purchaser gets a “license” to turn that product into his/her own (private label) product(s) and sell or use it however he chooses.
The buyer of the product is sold a “non-exclusive right” to basically do whatever he wants with the product. He can sell it “as is”, modify it, split it up into parts, add his own name as the author, change the title, add his own affiliate links, pretty much do whatever he wants with the original product. Usually the creator will spell out the license rights in a separate document that is sent to the buyer along with the “source” copy the product itself.
Resale or resell rights (people use these terms interchangeably) is a similar concept except that you can’t usually change or modify the product – you agree to sell it “as is.” Everything remains in the “label” of the product creator. Thus PLR is a more flexible solution – you can make it your own private label (some call it “white label”) and differentiate the product from everyone else’s version.
It is a novel idea and one that appeals to a lot of folks simply because it gives them something to sell without having to go through the effort and time of creating the product themselves.
Product creators do well (usually) with a top quality product. Imagine creating an ebook over the course of a week’s time, then selling the license to use it (PLR) to 250 buyers.
If the product sells for $19, that gives the creator a nice payday of $4,750 (less expenses of course).
Some smart marketers have learned that they don’t even need to do the labor of writing the ebook themselves since it can be outsourced to a ghost writer for a few hundred dollars.
So, why didn’t I follow through with implementing this business model?
I learned (over time) that there are some major disadvantages to PLR products:
- Once sold, you can’t control the distribution or sales price of the product – which means it typically gets devalued almost immediately. Why? Because everyone selling the same product tries to undercut all the other sellers in order to make a sale. What you sold for $19, you will now see selling online for $17, or $15, $11.95, $9.97, $5.97, $2 or even being given away without cost. The point is, you have no control of the future value of your creation. Often a PLR seller will state in the product license something to the effect that “In order to maintain the value of your purchase, please do not sell this product for less than $14.95.” That’s what the creator hopes … but in reality … he can not police or force the issue once the product has been sent to a purchaser.
- Almost no one modifies the product. Most PLR sellers are only interested in adding the product to their ebook line-up as quickly as possible. Very few, in my experience, like to rework PLR ebooks or other products (even though that’s really what they are meant for and it’s the best way to make money with them.)
- Digital products have a typically short shelf life. That is something I learned quickly online. New products are surfacing all the time and PLR creations don’t seem to have a very long life in most niches. That means you must get them “live” and selling fast as they will be flooding the market very soon. There are some exceptions of course when the PLR creator purposefully designs the product to be “evergreen” (timeless) and it has not been sold extensively. Some PLR creators will only release a limited number of copies of a product in order to keep the value high. Others sell PLR with a high price tag which can also have the effect of limiting the number of copies of the product in the marketplace. If you join the mailing list of someone specializing in creating PLR products you will probably notice that the creator releases one product after another after another in order to keep the cash flowing in.
- Everyone is competing selling the same thing. Remember, very few sellers will modify a PLR work – not even to change the title and add a new e-cover. Since there are so many competing sellers, the price drops and drops and drops. Soon you will see folks giving the PLR product away freely (or as a bonus for another product.)
- Finally (and this is the biggest disadvantage I have seen with PLR creations), the majority of the PLR products I have seen are poorly researched, hastily written, and without unique and cutting edge information! Sure, there are some great products coming out every once in a while, but for the most part, the industry is full of re-hashed, copied, or already available material. I have seen PLR products that are nothing more than a compilation of other PLR products – PLR from PLR! Is that what you want from a PLR product?
It’s typical that a buyer will not get to read the copy of the product until after making a purchase … so you can’t determine before hand what is good and what is useless dribble. Sometimes a seller will reveal the table of contents or a single chapter as an example of the work. What I have learned to do is to keep track of the PLR creators that produce top quality work – usually they will produce that same quality again and again.
It is a lucrative business to create products, devise a motivating sales pitch, maybe add a bonus report or two, and a copy of the license, then sell the PLR rights very quickly without further commitment for follow-up, customer service, etc. Some PLR creators have a number of affiliates on board who are waiting to promote whatever the creator releases. Then it’s on to the next PLR product.
But this lucrative business has led to a lot of outsourcing of authorship to people who don’t even have command of the English language and certainly aren’t experts in the niche they are writing about. It usually shows in their writing.
Let me ask you … who is going to review the content in these PLR books – both in terms of the grammar and language, but also for sound and usable advice in the niche? Who is going to assure that only quality niche content is published? No one. Compounding the problem is the fact that even though a PLR creator advertises the product as “top quality” it is a very subjective thing – judging the quality of a written work with regard for both grammar and content – and in my experience (I was an English minor in college) many folks really don’t have a good sense of what is quality writing and content and what is not!
I believe that most PLR buyers and Internet marketers that take action with their purchase immediately try to market their PLR products without even reading the content first before they offer it to others for sale. Remember, speed to the marketplace is often an important selling advantage.
So, junk content flies under the radar while sellers and their affiliates push this garbage on to their customers without a clue about how good or bad the content may be.
Here are my “take-aways” if you want to get into the PLR game:
- Only buy top quality PLR products if you possibly can. It comes with experience and knowing who the best PLR creators are at any given time and in specific markets.
- Look for “evergreen” products – those whose information will stay current for a long time to come.
- It’s best if the number of licenses available is controlled and small. If you’re 1 of 25 – 50 others that can sell a product, that would be great. Since many buyers won’t do anything serious with their product, you may actually be competing against only 10 or fewer other sellers.
- Don’t delay in getting your product to market – being the first to offer it is sometimes a real advantage.
- By all means, modify the product, especially the title, chapter headings, introduction and summary, and cover graphic so that it looks unique and no one will be competing with your branding of it. It’s a good idea to modify the chapter order (if it doesn’t hurt the “flow” of the book), the transitions from section to section, and add at least some original content. Add your own graphics and formatting style if you can.
- Think of a way to target your product to a specific crowd, a subset of the overall market. If, for instance, you have a product about how to get traffic to a web site, put a twist on the product and make it specific to a subset of the larger universe … like how to get traffic to a real estate agent’s site. You will lose all or most of your competition that way, those in the target audience will feel that the product was designed specifically for “me,” and you will then be able to easily “repurpose” the material for other specific market audiences as well.
- Combine a number of similar or related PLR products into a bundle or into a larger composite product. All the original products will lose their identity and you will come away with a more comprehensive and valuable “bang for the buck” single offering.
I will tell you that there are a few marketers that make a very good living selling PLR products. But there is a much greater pool of sellers that can’t figure out why their PLR site doesn’t do a good business. Often, the best PLR sellers have a subscriber list of PLR buyers just waiting for the next product release.
If you stick to the suggestions I have given you, and try to avoid the disadvantages we spoke of, you may be able to make a nice living with PLR – either as a creator, a PLR marketer, or both. Some product creators make good money selling their own creation for awhile then they release it later to the marketers and business owners as a licensed PLR “white label” product that can be sold by a niche business.
If the idea of PLR or content licensing appeals to you in your business, be sure to keep in mind that you are in control and it is up to you to understand and maintain the quality and type of content that your business releases! Junk products will brand your business in a very negative light!
To your online business success!
Marketing Design Mistakes to Avoid
Many of us design our own marketing materials, ads, e-covers, articles, sales pages, etc . . . because we can’t justify the expense of using a custom graphic designer. It’s not that we really want to be DIY (do-it-yourself) designers – we just don’t have a choice given our marketing budgets.
I’m an Internet marketer, business owner, web designer, product creator, writer – sort of a solo IM “jack of all trades” like many of you. But I have spent a fair amount of time studying graphic design because I want to. I like the subject matter. I like to think I have a fairly good graphic sense and an eye for proper design.
Maybe that’s why I cringe, gasp, and choke at so many of the DIY designs that I see online marketers using to sell their products and establish their brands. Just as bad are designs that have no graphic direction or visual appeal at all.
Good graphic design makes a difference in the “sale-ability” of your products and services. Most people, while not designers themselves, have a sense for “nice looking” presentations of ads and products. Often, DIY design is notable because it stands out as amateurish, confusing, hard to look at, and just plain butt ugly!
I’d like to suggest twelve (12) very common design mistakes that I see marketers making regularly that are easily avoided or fixed and that will make any presentation, ad, web site, sales letter, logo, or ebook a much more pleasing, visually enticing and a more professional product representing your business and brand! Products that are professional looking reduce the risk of a bad purchase in the mind of the prospect.
Not in any particular order . . .
1. Don’t explicitly copy others – especially those in your same niche. “Joe’s selling stuff in my niche and he’s doing well so I think I’ll copy what he’s doing.” No, no, no, don’t do it. You should be building your own brand and positioning your products and marketing in your own unique way. You can’t differentiate yourself from others if you copy them. Study the competition, yes, then do things differently. Your goal is to stand out but not stick out. Make sense?
2. Don’t use low quality raster graphics and low resolution images or photography. We’ve all seen web sites and ebook covers with pixelated graphics that resulted from small images being enlarged beyond 100%. Instead, use vector graphics where possible, especially in branding materials like logos that need to look good at both very small and very large resolution.
3. Speaking of logos, don’t display yours so large that it becomes the focal point of anything – web page, squeeze page, report or book title page, sales page, you name it. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the smaller your logo is, the more established your brand will appear. People care about what you’re selling – not so much about who sells it. You need vector graphics to make a small little logo look great.
4. I see it all the time – marketers using their logo in body copy and even headlines. Don’t make that mistake – it’s so telling that this is a DIY job. Professional designers don’t do it. If you need to refer to your company or brand in your copy, write out the name of your business in text.
5. Don’t try to be cool by adding every font possible into your marketing materials. I was looking at a report cover this morning and it displayed six different fonts. What’s the point? Good graphic designers don’t do that! Limit the number of fonts used in any design piece to three – and actually two is probably better in most cases. If you want some variety or distinction in your type, use “italic” or “bold” or different font sizes (of the same typeface) or even different weights (narrow, medium, heavy, etc) of the same font.
6. Don’t try to reduce or conserve the number of pages with design. White space is important – it’s pleasing to the eye – it’s your friend. If you don’t want a bloated ebook, cut down on your text to just what is necessary and dump the fluff. Narrow margins, tiny font sizes, and cramped line spacing all contribute to poor design. If anything, err on the side of too much white space. “Open and comfortable” beats out “confined and cramped” every day of the week!
7. Have a design purpose with the colors you choose. Here’s a good read for all you design DIYers. Color: Messages and Meanings by Leatrice Eiseman. Colors can create moods, emotions and certain feelings in the consumer. Colors can follow trends. Your brand is impacted for good or not by the colors you choose to use. Colors can be rich, sentimental, earthy, zesty, restful, assertive, mysterious, complex, intimate, provocative, invigorating, exotic, etc. . . Even though you may think you are not affected by color – design experts know better.
8. Don’t bore the consumer with long paragraph after paragraph of straight text. I’ve witnessed some sales letters that, if they were copied and pasted into a word processor, would be longer than the product they were trying to sell! Break up your text with spaces, blank lines, bullet points, numbered lists, graphic images, etc. Unless it’s a gripping story, long text is tiring and it becomes monotonous very quickly.
9. Watch out for redundancy. Saying the same word, phrase, cliche, technical term, company name, even product name over and over and over again is to be avoided. Aren’t there enough words in the English language that you can use a few different ones in your presentation?
10. Stop using animated GIFs, spinning wheels, flashing gizmos, and whirligigs on your web site. As cool as you thought those distractions were in the 1990s, they aren’t seen as being anything but a nuisance today. DIYers sometimes have a hard time letting bad design habits go.
11. Most consumers don’t care about product details; they want to see the benefits that a product, service, or training will give them. Yes, this is a common principle that marketers should know and live by; however, I see this advice being trampled all the time. Design your copy, your headline (sometimes), your bullet points, and your call to action around the benefits to the buyer. WIIFM (“what’s in it for me”) is what they’re after!
12. Most DIY designers don’t establish consistent brands. They either don’t have a brand at all (a tagline is not a brand) or they are “all over the place” in how they portray their brand from product to product and promotion to promotion. Design consistency will help you to establish your brand. Tastefully using consistent colors, typefaces, formats, a tag line, logo and other elements in your marketing will help to establish and solidify your brand. People in the niche will recognize your consistency and will be able to spot your brand’s marketing materials quickly and easily. Customers buy from people they know and trust.
There are a lot more abuses to marketing design than what I’ve mentioned. Evaluate your own marketing designs using these simple design principles as a starting point. Incorporating just these twelve ideas will go a long way toward helping your brand stand out and not stick out!
To your online business success,
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