red-leaf-1In a recent blog post titled Be the Red Leaf, John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing discusses the importance of defining, understanding, and communicating your unique value in order to stand out from the crowd. Being different is not being louder or having more ads. It’s about truly knowing what your product or service means to your potential customers. Jantsch listed three types of research every entrepreneur must do to uncover this customer-eye view of value: Continue reading

blog-viewer-statsRecently I had a conversation with a friend who has a small consultancy. Over the years we have had a number of thoughtful, helpful conversations and we tend to feed off each other’s futuristic tendencies. During the conversation I was encouraging more product development to capture his methodologies and to use as promotional tools.

The conversation turned to resource constraints — time, effort, money, etc. – and the need to spend some portion of time on futuristic efforts as well. He estimated that he needs to spend 5%-10% of his time on long-term futures thinking and planning. I think that’s realistic – 100-200 hours per year. I asked if he was spending an equal amount of time on product development. His answer was that he spent about 200 hours this year on developing new seminar materials, and 300-500 hours on his blog.

I was surprised by this, as the ratio seemed upside down to me. So I asked another question, “Do you track leads/sales generated from the blog?” His response, paraphrased, was that he only tracks it loosely, but it helps. Continue reading

postage-stampOne of the mistakes that many new internet marketers make is forgetting that the internet is just one, and often not the most effective, channel for reaching customers. Good ol’ direct mail – yes, the USPS snail mail – is still a very viable and effective channel to reach customers and prospects that may not live on the internet. The challenge is that many of us don’t have an easy way of using Direct Mail, and we don’t have time to research all the available options.

Here are two resources you can use to simplify and automate your direct mail communications: Continue reading

I just got back from beautiful Saddle Brook, NJ where I attended Fred Gleeck’s Info Products seminar. Two days packed with very informative, and very helpful, presentations by some down-to-earth marketers and experts. Hype level was very low, and quality was gratifyingly high.

When you spend as much time studying internet marketing as I do you start to get really burned out on the hype and BS. It’s refreshing to hear real people talk about actual businesses and how they’re using legitimate marketing techniques to grow them. Continue reading

NO_iconThe internet is awash with get-rich-quick schemes, scams, and outrageous claims about making money. Almost all of it untrue in one way or another. We sometimes think this is a phenomena limited to the internet. But it’s much the same as advertising was at the turn of the last century, when outrageous claims filled the pages of newspapers. The internet is just the latest incarnation.

We are now in the second generation of internet advertising and if one thing has become clear, it is that internet marketing works. This was not clear in the first generation, where billions of dollars were squandered in attempts at selling dollar bills for 95¢ and other poorly thought out schemes. The lack of testing and fundamental misunderstanding of trying to do image advertising in the first-generation led to the great bubble and burst of 2000. Today we are seeing much smarter, much better strategies put to use by large and small companies alike. Continue reading

I just read about the new book, Solving America’s Health Care Crisis by Dan Perrin and Pat Rooney, in the Downsize DC newsletter. Downsize DC is an organization with principles of downsizing government and personal responsibility that I support. So I went to Amazon to check out the reader reviews. The book is new – released May 2 – so there aren’t a lot, but all eight of them are 5-star ratings.

I’ll be checking this out. Health care in the US clearly needs an overhaul, and Euro-style social medicine is equally clearly not a useful answer. Government never, ever, runs anything like health care (or education, welfare, or anything else) effectively, instead creating an ever-growing bureaucracy that produces less and less for more and more dollars. Hopefully Perrin and Rooney and provided a roadmap to a system that gets people the health care they need with the proper incentives to keep costs under control.

I know when I’m beat. I know how to cut my losses and get out. There’s a lot to be said for perseverance, but even more for not throwing good money after bad. What am I talking about? My outsourcing attempts with My God, what a disaster.

After 2 1/2 months I had exactly one – that’s 1 – single success with GetFriday. Every other task I assigned was a miserable failure. Even after getting a replacement PA who was, supposedly, experienced in web search and basic web skills I could not get even marginally relevant results when I asked for search data on specific topics.

Worse, when it became clear to me that this wasn’t going to work out it took nearly an act of Congress to get them to cancel my account. The entire affair was a disaster.

What I learned is simple – if this is the best the Eur-Asian nations can offer then we are in no danger of being overrun by a low-wage workforce. They demonstrated a lack of understanding, competence, response, and adaptability that was hard to comprehend.

I went so far as to start running my task descriptions by two of my colleagues to try and ensure I was being both clear and reasonable in my requests. The results I got were still stunningly inept.

In fairness, most of my colleagues asked the very basic question, “Well, what did you expect?” I don’t know, maybe something a little above abject incompetence? How about someone with enough self awareness to recognize when they did not understand a task and ask for clarification until they did?

If you read my experience with BellSouth tech support from 2006 you’ll see my GetFriday experience is neither my first encounter with such incompetence, nor is it any real surprise. I suspect the cultural and language barriers between a third-world workforce and US-based expectations are just too great to overcome. Or maybe it is something else. I do not know.

What I do know is that from now on I will stick with North American (and possibly European) sources for anything I want done. Given my experiences I do not think there is any non-repetitive task requiring foresight, intuition, or judgment that can be effectively outsourced to a third-world workforce. It may well be that if you can 100% script an activity, and spend enough time to get the workforce to actually read the script, and have enough patience for them to practice and fail repeatedly until they get it right, that you might eventually have some success.

But as a small business my tasks are not repetitive. At least not now. And they do require thinking – which entails all those things mentioned above. The third-world is simply not the place to get these things done.