How to Set Up Google Alerts

March 9, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:


Twitter Marketing For Dummies Author Kyle Lacy

March 9, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:
Kyle Lacy is the co-founder and CEO of Brandswag, a social media and marketing consulting company with offices in Indianapolis and Oklahoma City. Kyle and his team have assisted businesses in the development and implementation of social media campaigns and strategies and has worked with companies such as Ruth Chris Steak House, Interactive Intelligence and Make a Wish Foundation.

Brandswag focuses on helping companies achieve results through their web site, blogging and social media strategies, raising the value of their client’s business in the eyes of the customer. Author of Twitter Marketing for Dummies from Wiley Publishing, Kyle is a recognized leader in creating ideas that infect business and producing intentional campaigns and dialogue that move customers to buy.

Kyle joined us live on the Internet Marketing Radio Show on Wednesday, January 27, 2010.

What Do You Do When You Run Out of Knowledge?

March 8, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

image of a sign saying S-O-T-P

Bloggers have a distinct disadvantage.

When someone hires an expert in — oh, let’s say marketing — that expert can dispense the same information she did for the last client.

And the client before that one. And the one before that.

Not bloggers. Blogging is about breaking down everything you know into bite-sized chunks so that people can learn it all over a period of time. If they look back through the archives, they can often see the entire breadth of your knowledge.

Then one day, your well runs dry.

This is a scary moment for any blogger. It’s not like running out of inspiration or having writer’s block. This is when you’ve said it all. Your blog contains absolutely everything you know.

And let’s be fair — it’s a lot of knowledge. But you simply don’t have anything new to say.

What do you do?

Go get yourself some new knowledge

I’m always amazed by how few people continue to educate themselves on their topic after they’ve become an acknowledged expert in it.

Hey, everyone knows me as the number one guy on naked mole rats! Clearly, I know everything there is to know!

But as an old coach of mine used to say, you’ll never know everything there is to know in your field of expertise, and there’s always something new to learn. People make new discoveries and innovations every day. You have opinions about those innovations. You agree or disagree with them. You try them or manage to take them a step further.

Of course, if you don’t find out what those discoveries and innovations are, you don’t have anything to say about it. No wonder you’re stuck for posts.

Actively pursuing new knowledge about your area of expertise has a side benefit: it provides more value for your clients. You may find the inspiration for a new ebook or web course to help newcomers understand and benefit.

New knowledge could be the next big thing for your business — if you go out and find it.

Doctors are one of the few professions actually required to update their knowledge of their field of expertise continually. If a doctor doesn’t know the latest innovation in surgery, his next patient might die from the lack of that knowledge. That’s a huge incentive for the doctor to always be learning and for the patient — and the medical board — to insist on that continual education.

No one is going to force you to attend conferences or read books or take courses, but you’ll be much more respected as an expert if you continually update your knowledge. Your client’s life may not be on the line, but their business, their financial goals, and their happiness probably is — at least, their happiness with your products and services.

Where can you find new knowledge?

Well, you may not have heard about this gizmo called the internet, but it’s pretty handy for that sort of thing. It seems silly to mention using the internet to upgrade your knowledge on an online blog, but shocking numbers of people don’t use it for this particular purpose — even those who practically live online.

Libraries are an awesome (and free) resource for new knowledge too, and so is your local bookstore. Go pick up some new literature and get someone else’s perspective on what you do.

Magazines and trade journals, of course, are terrific for more recent innovations and information. Find ones that focus on your area of expertise and stay on the lookout for new ideas that sound interesting or innovative. Once an article grabs your attention, go do some independent research on that topic and find new resources to pursue.

Actively pursuing new knowledge won’t just make you a better businessperson — though that’s reason enough right there. It’ll also pretty much guarantee that you’ll never run out of blog topics ever again.

About the Author: For new knowledge that makes you a better businessperson — and that helps you hit the bullseye of success for your freelancing career, check out Men with Pens — or better yet, grab the RSS feed here.

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10 Proven Steps to Snag a Guest Post on an A-List Blog

March 5, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

image of #10 pool ball

Guest posting is the “in” thing. It’s the newest craze. All the kids are doing it!

You’ve heard it time and time again — guest posting is the best way of promoting your work. So why haven’t you become part of the hip crowd yet?

I know why. You’re scared of rejection. You’re not sure if you have the chops.

I can understand these feelings, but don’t get yourself down just yet.
I’m going to show you a surefire, bulletproof, unshakable, watertight, virtually guaranteed (insert as many hyperboles as you see fit) method of putting together a guest post . . . and it getting accepted.

But wait, there’s more! (Here comes the added bonus sales pitch.)

Not only will it get approved on just any two-bit blog in your niche, but on the most highly subscribed top A-list blogs themselves!

OK, let’s begin.

1. Visit your favorite A-list blog and read their guest posting guidelines

They’re at the top of your RSS reader and you read their posts every day, but did you even know there were guidelines for submissions? It might be a good idea to check them out before you do anything else. You never know what type of obscure archaic rules have been handed down by the high and mighty overlords.

Like proper grammar. Spelling. Having a clue. You know . . . really weird stuff.

Whoa! Let’s back up a small step. Do they even accept guest posts? Oh, good. They do. Let’s move on.

2. Study the focus of their content and the target audience of the blog

Your favorite blog covers the movie industry. You write about ice fishing. It’s a perfect fit, right?

Of course not.

Before you put pen to paper (virtually, of course), figure out the type of reader your favorite blog attracts. Generally, successful blogs try to serve content that’s consistent.

How does that blog fulfill their reader’s needs? Focus your guest post idea on what matters to those readers.

Your favorite blog may or may not be in the same niche you are. If not, what specific expertise do you have that fits in and would be useful? Find a way to bridge this gap between the two worlds.

Has there ever been a movie released about ice fishing? Wait . . . actually, it looks like there has been.

3. Skim through the past 2-3 months of posts

No one likes reading about the same exact thing every day (unless you’re a tech blogger). Writing about a subject that has been handled ad nauseum won’t add much value to the readers at the current time.

See what specific topics the blog has been hitting recently. See which areas in which they’ve been lacking the past few weeks. Read some comments and find out what their readers want to know more about.

Mold your idea by focusing on the blog’s immediate needs. You’ll have a much greater chance of hitting a nerve and having your guest post accepted.

4. Write the guest post. Don’t ask. Just do it

I’m serious here. This is the most important step. Take your idea, sit down and write the post. Yes, in full.

Don’t pitch the idea. Don’t ask for permission. Don’t solicit. Just write the best post you can.

It’s a very fast-paced world of short attention spans. A-list bloggers are extremely busy.

The whole process of submitting your idea, exchanging pleasantries, getting correspondence back, creating the post, submitting that, sucking up a bit, receiving feedback, editing a final draft, submitting again, sucking up some more, having it approved, formatting sub headers, adding links, inserting an image, entering a bio, final suck-up, and scheduling the post . . .

It’s really time-consuming.

Eliminate more than half the chain of events by simply writing the post as if it’s getting published as is. The A-list blogger will highly appreciate the fact that you’ve made it easy on him or her. If your content is indeed useful, pertinent and written well, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of it getting green-lit.

You’ve given the blogger all he or she needs to do besides e-mail you back with a resounding “yes!”

What’s the worst case scenario? It’s declined. Pfffft! Your work still has value. Submit the guest post elsewhere or put it on your own blog.

5. Come up with a creative post title that looks appealing and clickable

We all remember some of your last few gems: Stuff I Like, Where I Had Lunch, and Things to Do.

Let’s not repeat those failed post title attempts.

Numbered titles work. Hyperboles work. Questions work. Action words work. Utilize a highly recognized and search-heavy keyword or two if you can.

If you need some inspiration, the best method is to look at the blog’s past post titles, especially those listed as the most popular. Get a sense on how the A-list blogger prefers to title his or her posts and take their lead. Imitation is the best form of flattery, right?

6. Search your favorite blog’s past content and link it to your post

Old blog posts are so . . . yesterday! The world changes quickly, so why would any of your favorite blog’s past 728 posts even be considered relevant today?

You might be right, but all I know is that Google loves ancient history.

I just realized this today . . . all the search results that come up are from the past!

According to many SEOs (yet not others — apparently, the acronym SEO stands for “Seriously, Everyone has an Opinion”), it’s beneficial to link to old posts in new content for search optimization purposes.

More important, it provides proper context to the ideas included and gives readers a sense of back story on a topic. Help them understand the subject in greater depth.

Throwing in some links to the blog’s cornerstone content helps the A-list blogger as well. It saves them time (as discussed in step 4) so they don’t have to miss a second away from the secret ninja meetings conspiring with all of the other A-listers.

7. Add your own short byline to the bottom of the post with a link to your blog

Why bother? A prominent back link from a PR6 site with 100,000+ subscribers probably doesn’t mean much to you, right?

Oh, I forgot. That’s one of the primary reasons you’ve written the guest post in the first place. Silly me!

You can always just have the A-list blogger write the byline. They have tons of time to check out your site and figure out the best way to describe what you do. Maybe they’ll even get your name right.

Or you could play it safe. Write a short sentence or two that simply describes your blog and who you are. Nothing outrageous or over hyped. Unless you’re Johnny B. Truant.

Shamelessly self-promoting yourself is fine, but making it out that your blog “ToTaLLy roXorZ 4 LiFe!” is overdoing it just a bit. Remember, it’s going to be perceived by the reader as the A-list blogger’s voice — so if you can’t imagine him or her saying it, then you’ve gone too far.

8. Submit your guest post via the preferred method of contact

Using the A-list blogger’s geotagged location and delivering the post via bike messenger as they’re walking back from lunch — that’s just a bit too forceful downright creepy.

There’s no need to try and surprise the blogger in your creativity in getting the post to them.

This is where the guest posting guidelines come in handy. It’s very likely they’ll tell you exactly where to submit the post. When in doubt, the contact form on the blog itself is always the best bet.

Include nothing extraneous to the actual guest post content, other than a very short introduction showing your intentions.

Remember step 4? Of course you do. Don’t take the A-lister’s time for granted by droning on for 17 paragraphs about yourself, your blog, your thought process, your broken childhood, your aversion to baked beans, or your last trip to the Andes when you survived 72 days in the frigid cold by feeding off the dead bodies of your fellow Uruguayan rugby teammates.

Sucking up, on the other hand, is okay. Trust me.

9. Find a friend with a connection

If you’ve been a good little blogger, you’ve been using social media platforms to connect with peers in your niche. Although you desperately try to get attention by retweeting every single post of the bigger fish, it’s better to aim for someone lower down in the food chain.

B and C-listers love helping out the “small fries” because it makes them feel like an A-lister!

Skim through the target blog’s last few months of guest posts and see if there are any familiar names as authors — ones who you have developed a relationship with online. Well, now it’s time to call in a marker.

Don’t be shy, but don’t be pushy either. Tell them you’ve submitted a guest post to the blog. Simply ask them if they wouldn’t mind giving the blogger a quick “heads up” about it. There’s no need whatsoever for a glowing endorsement.

Popular bloggers are pitched post ideas all the time — a majority from people who are complete strangers (many they’d like to keep that way). Your goal is to just have your name recognized and stand out a little from the pack. That’s all.

10a. Bask in your glory

If you were able to pull off the first 9 steps, congratulations! You’re one of the few people who actually implement what they read. Of course, the A-list blog will probably publish your guest post on a “filler” low-traffic day. C’mon, you’re a blogger — you always need something to complain about!

10b. Live to fight another day

The A-list blogger still passed on your guest post? Don’t worry, you can always pitch it somewhere else or put it on your own blog.

First though, you must write an inflammatory post that knocks the A-lister off his or her fancy pedestal. They obviously don’t appreciate their community if they’re unwilling to accept your undisputed brilliance.

[Editor’s note: You guys do know he’s kidding, right?]

While you’re at it, send me a really nasty e-mail bemoaning my advice. As a concession, I’ll put up your work on my blog. I’m sure my visitors would love to read your guest post titled: “7 Things I Like To Do When Ice Fishing For Dead Bodies In The Andes”

About the Author: Jordan Cooper is a 13-year professional stand-up comedian who showcases his sarcastic humor with videos and written rants about blogging, social media & marketing at Not A Pro Blog.

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How to Give Yourself a First-Class Online Business Education

March 4, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

image of keyboard keys saying Learn and Lead

When I first had the insane brilliant idea to start a business and get out of the alleged safety of the corporate world, I started by reading everything I could find.

I wish I could remember where the thread started for me. It might have been Dan Kennedy, it might have been Michael Port, it could very well have been the Personal MBA.

Each good resource led to three more. At some point, I found Copyblogger and Problogger and Seth Godin.

Hundreds of books and thousands of dollars in information products later, I’ve given myself an education. Was it expensive? Sure was.

But no more expensive than anyone’s education. Even an education that’s completely free is expensive in time and effort.

And just like a college senior ought to be able to get more out of a class than his freshman counterpart, I’ve gotten very good at efficiently extracting the information I need, leaving aside what I don’t, and avoiding the information that’s just not worth my time.

(Because yes, I still study compulsively, all the time. There’s always more to learn.)

Most of us who run online businesses get an education pretty similar to mine. We get some free stuff from our favorite blogs, we might pay for some information in a home study course or an ebook, and we cobble together a lot from pure observation.

Today I’m going to talk about what I’ve learned, so if you’re a little earlier on the path you can avoid some blind alleys.

It’s always about the fundamentals

Maybe you’ve heard of the Pareto Principle. (It’s also called the 80/20 rule.) It’s the observation that, in an amazing variety of circumstances, 80% of the output comes from 20% of the input.

Which means that 20% of your customers provide 80% of your revenue. 20% of the time you spend behind your computer provides 80% of your best work. And 20% of that great meal you had last night provided 80% of the pleasure. (It was the chocolate mousse cake, wasn’t it?)

Because of the Pareto Principle, there’s always a “20%” you should be spending your time on. And in just about every discipline, it’s known as the fundamentals.

Most people race through the fundamentals so they can get to what they consider the fun stuff — the esoteric, “advanced” weird material that no one knows.

Do you think the fundamentals in your topic are kind of boring? In that case, how do you feel about mastery?

The fact is, real masters of any endeavor get scary good at the fundamentals. Read the biography of any massively successful person you admire, from Michael Jordan to Warren Buffett, and you’ll discover someone who got freakishly good at what the wannabe hot shots look down on as “the boring basics.”

Understand Pareto’s 20% in your field, and work on it over and over again.

Then work on it some more.

Inspiration is great, but execution pays the bills

There’s one guy in particular whose stuff I find wonderfully inspiring.

I always feel energized after reading his paper newsletter or listening to his CDs. I’ve got a renewed sense of enthusiasm for my profession, I’m filled with hope and energy, I’m ready for anything.

And all that is fine. The problem is, it lasts about 20 minutes.

Enjoy the inspiration, but don’t stop there. Instead, use the energy from all that inspiration and translate just one idea into an action (it can be incredibly small) you’re going to take to move your business forward.

Then take that action. Really take it, don’t just intend to.

Which leads to:

Just one thing

If the book, membership site, ebook, or home study program you’ve got is any good, you’ll probably have more to act on than you can actually get done this week, this month, or possibly this year.

It may be helpful to remember a piece of advice given by David Allen. You can’t do a whole project. You can only do your next action on that project.

Whether or not you’re a devotee of Allen’s productivity cult Getting Things Done (I am), the idea of the “next action” is critical if you want to move forward on anything complex.

Writing a rough first draft for your email autoresponder is a next action. Spending 20 minutes brainstorming ideas for cornerstone content (and putting them someplace you can find them again) is a next action.

“Learn how to start an online business” is not.

Don’t neglect little things because you’re looking for big results. Big things are made up of the execution of many, many little things.

Education for its own sake can be inspirational and fun (and I would have happily stayed a college undergraduate forever if that had been an option). But if you have practical goals beyond learning, remember to keep those goals front and center.

Revisit the most valuable stuff

Human beings are a novelty-seeking monkey. We’re so attracted to what’s new and different.

But keep an eye out for those rare resources that are worth visiting again and again.

When I had a commute, I used to listen to the same marketing CDs over and over again. They burned a neural pathway in my brain. The information became second nature, as automatic as changing the channel when Leno comes on.

Reread the classics in your field. For me, it’s Robert Cialdini’s Influence, Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing, Eugene Schwartz’s Breakthrough Advertising, and a handful of decidedly old-school books on copywriting.

When you can get unabridged audio versions, pick them up in addition to the print versions, and listen to them when driving or on the train.

In the digital realm, I keep going back to Gary Bencivenga’s Marketing Bullets, our own Teaching Sells (I was a student before I ever dreamed of being a partner), and Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula.

I’m not looking for radical new insights. I’m looking for one small thing I can add to what I’m doing now.

Be ready to get bigger than you thought you would

When I started out with all of this self education, all I wanted to do was to convince people to hire me for copywriting gigs. I was good at that and I liked it, and I was itching to get out of that corporate job.

But by the time I figured out how to market my freelance writing, I realized that copywriting was a small subset of what I really enjoyed doing, and I wanted a bigger picture.

So if you’re going to expand your thinking, build new skills, take on a new mindset, and start making new neural (and social, and financial) connections, you may find your life shooting off in an amazing new direction that you never really thought was possible.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Ready for some high-quality free information? We’ve got you covered. Check out our newsletter, Internet Marketing for Smart People. It’s a crash course on the fundamentals that will let you build a better online business.

About the Author: Sonia Simone is Senior Editor of Copyblogger and a co-founder of Inside the Third Tribe.

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Calling for link spam reports

March 3, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

Google has been working on some new algorithms and tools to tackle linkspam and we’d like to ask for linkspam reports from you. If you’d like to tell us about web sites that appear to be using spammy links (e.g. paid links that pass PageRank, blog spammers, guestbook spammers, etc.), here’s how to send us more info. Go to

and tell us about the site that appears to be employing link spam. Be sure to include the word “linkspam” (all one word, all lower-case) in the textarea (the last field in the form).

If that’s too hard to remember, you can also use the shortcut

which will pre-populate the text area field to say “linkspam” in it. Note: to use these forms, you must sign in with a Google account. We’re moving away from using the anonymous spam report form.

Thanks in advance for any data you’d like to send our way!

Start an embedded YouTube video at a certain timestamp

March 3, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

In a previous post I covered how to link to a specific timestamp in a YouTube video. The short version looks like this:

The “#t=31m08s” takes you to 31 minutes and 8 seconds in a video. I just found out that you can also start embedded videos at a certain timestamp.

To do it on an embedded video, use the “start” parameter. Note that start takes seconds as a parameter, not minutes and seconds. For example, to start an embedded video 31 minutes and 8 seconds into a video, 31*60+8 = 1868 seconds, so you would use this code:

<object width="640" height="385"><param name="movie" value=""></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" width="640" height="385"></embed></object>

and it would look like this:

That’s all there is to it. :)

Give and Grow Rich: The Power of Focused Generosity

March 3, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

image of boy giving flowers

There are two kinds of people on the Internet: the greedy and the generous.

The greedy want you to pay for everything. Every link is an affiliate link. Every recommendation has a profit motive. The really good content is locked away until you fork over some money.

The generous want to give you everything free.

It never occurs to them that their time or expertise has value. They’re kind, selfless, giving, and (too often) dirt poor.

But there’s a third kind of person on the Internet. And yes, they belong to the Third Tribe you’ve been reading about.

This person understands that you can’t be greedy and build a following. But you also can’t just throw all your treasure to the wind. This is the person who understands the power of focused generosity.

To help understand this and get a little perspective, let’s look at how this works in the real (non blogging) world. It’s an idea that has been used by savvy marketers forever. Here are just two examples.

Example 1

The first act of generosity happened one December. I had recently ordered holiday gifts from Amazon. A package arrived in the mail from them, with a letter inside signed by Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder and CEO:

Dear Friend,

With the holidays approaching, I wanted to thank you for making this year such an exciting time for We really couldn’t have done it without you.

As a small token of our appreciation, we’d like you to have our special coffee tumbler (I’m particularly fond of this year’s quotes). May you use it in good health.

Thank you again for all your support, and best wishes for a holiday season filled with family, friends, and happiness!

I don’t drink coffee very often, but this little thank you struck me as particularly effective. You’ll notice that nowhere is there a solicitation for more business, but I felt so good about Amazon, I wanted to immediately log on and order a book . . . or anything.

Example 2

The second act of generosity came in the form of unexpected customer service from Current, a printer online that specializes in bank checks.

For some time I had been struggling with an ancient, plastic checkbook cover which was slowly deteriorating from hard use and age. (My wife is responsible for most of the “hard use,” but that’s another subject.)

It was a small thing, but I didn’t know how to go about getting a new one. So I wrote a note to Current explaining my problem.

To my surprise, a brand new checkbook cover arrived a few weeks later with this note, signed by the customer service manager:

Dear Check Buyer,

Thank you for your recent inquiry about Current Check Products. Enclosed are the materials you requested.

Current offers a full line of check products including checkbook covers, address labels and stampers. We also have a complete line of business checks — 3-on-a-page, laser/ink jet, continuous checks, and more. Call us for information.

If you have any questions or would like to place your order by phone, please call us TOLL FREE at 1-800-204-2244, Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Mountain Time.

Once again, thank you for your interest in Current Check Products. We look forward to serving you in the future!

Cool! I had expected them to send me a web address or catalog so I could order a new checkbook cover. The fact that they just sent me one — placing my problem above their profits — impressed me greatly.

The note was clearly written for general inquiries. That suggests that sending my checkbook cover wasn’t part of their corporate policy, but instead a judgment call, a pure act of generosity for a loyal customer. A personal letter would have been a smart addition, but the gesture on its own works pretty well.

The power of focused generosity

You might shrug off these two small acts of generosity. But there’s something important going on here. And it’s related to the principle of reciprocity. Someone does something for you. Then you feel obligated to do something in return.

It might or might not translate immediately into a purchase. Instead, it could be tweeting your content, recommending your email newsletter, linking to one of your blog posts, or otherwise getting the word out about what you have to offer.

Researchers — and yes there is an entire field of study dedicated to such matters — have referred to this idea of doing for others and getting something back in return as a “web of indebtedness,” a form of social interaction that is “central to the human experience, responsible for the division of labor, all forms of commerce, and how society is organized into interdependent units.”

In other words, being generous is a very big deal indeed. It’s the ultimate in guerrilla marketing. Much more than simply being nice, it’s a central, essential, and incredibly potent way to do business.

You might say that there is a “payback” urge hardwired into our brains. And it’s very difficult to resist. Remember the last time a friend insisted on paying for lunch? (No? Maybe you need new friends.) When it happens you immediately swear you’ll pay for the next one, don’t you?

Which is why you should spend more time thinking about how you can be generous on your blog or other online ventures, and a little less time thinking about how to bludgeon people to death with requests to buy, buy, buy.

Those who get the most tend to be those who give the most, while also keeping a few desirable items that they aren’t afraid to sell.

Making generosity work for you

Okay, so how does this work as a business strategy online? Here are a few pointers.

Offer something free. It can be an ebook, a blog tool, a product sample, a subscription to a genuinely terrific newsletter, or any form of valuable information. It can be anything really, as long as it’s free and relates to your core product or service.

One newsletter I subscribe to used to barrage me with products to buy. I was just about to unsubscribe when suddenly the publisher started being generous, sending occasional emails with valuable information and tips with no hard sales pitch. That made the other more product-focused emails a lot easier to swallow, and I remain a loyal subscriber to this day.

Give something beneficial. Of course you have reasons for being generous, but don’t make people feel manipulated. Do something for the recipient’s benefit. No conditions. No self-serving verbiage.

Allow the “payback,” if and when it happens, to come naturally.

Not only does this make you more likable, it can actually change the way you think about people. They stop being “marks” or even “prospects,” and start being real people you honestly care about. And that will come through in your content.

Give something of value. What you give should have real value for the person on the receiving end. If you run a blog on financial planning and want to “upsell” your readers to a paid online seminar, don’t just give them a self-serving “tease” that piles on the sales patter . Offer an informative sample of the course with solid value even for those who don’t sign up.

Put a personal face on your gift. Take off the corporate suit and tie. Don’t have the gift coming from your “business.” It should come from you personally. It is much easier to feel indebted to a person than to a faceless, formal company. And people are more likely to be loyal to you as a person than to your business empire.

Nice guys finish first

Here’s another classic example from the offline world, and this one may be revealing my age.

Ever heard of Amway? Years ago, some bright business person got the idea to have distributors go door-to-door and give homeowners a package stuffed with cleaners, deodorizers, and other product samples.

They called this package the “BUG.” The distributor would leave a BUG with a homeowner for up to three days with no cost or obligation. They only asked that the homeowner try out the products.

Later, the distributor would come back to pick up the BUG and, of course, to ask for orders. By this time, having used the products for free for so long, the homeowner felt obligated to buy something from this generous distributor who seemed almost naive in his trust and generosity.

Just how successful was this nice guy approach? As one Amway distributor put it, the response was “Unbelievable! We’ve never seen such excitement. Product is moving at an unbelievable rate . . . .”

The point is that you should consider what people really care about. Instead of always asking yourself, “How can I squeeze more money from people?” occasionally ask yourself, “How can I help people?” In most cases, focused generosity ends up being more profitable in the long run.

About the Author: Dean Rieck is one of America’s top freelance copywriters and publisher of Pro Copy Tips, a blog that provides copywriting tips for smart copywriters.

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Final Lessons Learned from One of the World?s Highest-Paid Copywriters

March 2, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

image of cash coming out of a laptop

This is the final installment of a three-part series on how to translate advice from marketing guru Dan Kennedy to a new online environment.

One of the smartest things any online marketer can do is to study the “old school” guys who wrote direct mail, magazine ads, and other artifacts of advertising history.

Why? Because it took a tremendous understanding of the psychology of persuasion to make those tactics work.

When you pair shiny new communication technology with tried-and-true methods to persuade and sell, you hugely increase your odds of success.

So let’s continue exploring what old-school guru Dan Kennedy can teach us about 21st-century marketing. This week we’ll cover lessons 11 through 14 from Kennedy’s book The Ultimate Marketing Plan.

I can’t promise these tips will make cash start spewing out of your laptop. But they do represent a lot of sound business thinking.

(Incidentally, the links to the book are Amazon affiliate links, which means if you buy it, I’ll be able to buy a pack of gum! Put any of this advice into action and you should get quite a lot more out of the deal.)

11. Create a short-term sales surge

One of the factors that plagues most small businesses, especially when they’re starting out, is a shortage of cash.

Creating quick “sales surges” is one of Kennedy’s specialties, and he has a lot of suggestions for how to do that. (For more ideas, I can strongly recommend picking up his book.)

Essentially, though, all the variations come down to one basic strategy:

  1. Make a great offer.
  2. Limit it in time, number of copies you’ll sell, or both.
  3. Make sure you come up with a good story or reason for the promotion.

Kennedy, as you can imagine, gives some rather old-school ideas like red tag sales or “My accountant thinks I’m crazy!”

He also likes to pluck interesting themes out of current events. For example, at a recent conference he invited loyal customers to bring old copies of his products in a “Cash for Clunkers” promotion.

Kennedy’s creativity is mostly involved in coming up with a reason for his promotions. But if selling information is part of what you do, you can also create a brand-new product for your “cash surge.” It doesn’t have to be extensive (it’s annoying how often we’re short on both cash and time). In fact, you can offer something that you develop over the weekend.

These “surges” can help any business, small or large, get through the lean times and amplify earnings during the best. And not only do short-term surges bring in cash, they also build your list of customers, strengthening your business for the long haul.

12. Take Advantage of New Marketing Technologies

As you might imagine, readers of Copyblogger are well ahead of the curve here. If any of these are missing from your current communication mix, you can very profitably add them to make your business stronger.

Audio, Video and Webinars: Record a meeting, training or presentation and post it to the web where you can repeatedly benefit.

Autoresponders: With a great autoresponder series, you can write copy which is delivered in a sequence, regardless of when a prospect signs up. This will enable you to automate your marketing and free up time to refine other aspects of your business. And they’re great for creating rapport and trust with your customers.

The next hot communication technology. Kennedy is a notorious technophobe; he doesn’t personally use email or the web at all.

But like many smart businesspeople, he’s willing to make money with new technology even though he personally dislikes it. In fact, Sonia seemed to have experienced a warm reception when she recently spoke at one of his conferences.

As long as a marketing tactic is ethical, be willing to consider it even if you aren’t personally a fan. If you hate Facebook but that’s where your customers are, you may want to suck it up.

13. Avoid employee sabotage

For those who use VAs or other employees (whether they’re on a contract or a regular payroll), there are some special areas to watch out for.

Employees are a reflection of both you and your business. Whether they are ringing up sales or answering email, they are ambassadors for your policies, and for how you feel about your customers.

In my first business, there were times when I would leave my shop on an errand only to come back to a rather unpleasant surprise.

“You said WHAT?”

“To who?!?!”

Delegating is a great thing (and usually necessary if you want your business to grow). But you must be the captain of your own marketing ship, as well as the navigator and the crew.

Even the most valuable employees are still just that — employees. And no one will ever care as much about your business as you do.

This is one reason the Partnering Profits model makes so much sense in the online world. Small businesses are easier and easier to create. It makes perfect sense to partner with people to run them with you, sharing the workload and the profit.

14. Hiring and firing experts

Learn from the best, but take everything with a grain of salt.

I’ve bought and absorbed numerous info products over the last year. Some were good, some were great, and a few were barely better than lousy.

Nevertheless, even the worst has taught me something.

You won’t learn it all in a day or a download, nor should you expect to. Someone asked an awesome question in Sonia’s Remarkable Marketing Blueprint forum the other day. They wondered, “What’s the point in having memberships in different sites, like Lateral Action, Third Tribe Marketing, and the Blueprint?”

I’m a member of all three, so I’m happy to share my thoughts on that.

There isn’t a single download that holds all the answers. Like life, we pick up a bit here and a bit there, all of it blending to make us who we are. We experience things differently at different times. True success is a slow and steady climb, rung by rung.

When you involve yourself with quality people who are putting out quality information, you get a better ladder. You still have to do the climbing yourself..

There is no guru or authority who can give you all the answers.

Not Dan Kennedy, not Brian Clark, not Sean Platt.

That said, you want to make sure you’re taking advice from someone who’s walked the walk.

In Cameron Crowe’s much-quoted movie “Say Anything“, there’s a scene where the hero, Lloyd Dobler, is standing at the gas station listening to a handful of lonely men handing out relationship advice. To which Lloyd says:

If you guys know so much about women, how come you’re here at, like, the Gas ‘n’ Sip on a Saturday night, completely alone drinking beers with no women anywhere?

Good question.

I would strongly recommend Dan Kennedy’s Ultimate Marketing Plan as a powerful resource that should be in any copywriter’s toolbox. He’s “walked the walk” and advised thousands of traditional businesses. And with a little creativity, his advice works just as well in the new online environment.

Obviously, the book contains more information than I could squeeze into a few thousand words. But I hope the “Cliff’s Notes” version has been useful!

Read the other posts in this series

About the Author: Sean Platt writes direct response copy, as well as helping authors write, publish and promote their book. Follow him on Twitter.

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The Critical Mistake that Keeps Bloggers Broke

March 1, 2010

(My Original Blog Post:

image of target

How I used a blog to attract thousands of subscribers my first week.

Why I make six figures and you don’t.

How I quit my day job and now I work all day in my robe and slippers while my wife brings me lattes.

Ever seen headlines like these before? Find them at least a little compelling?

Like every good headline, they exist to attract attention and convince you to keep reading. They’re trying to get you thinking about how to use a tool like blogging to make lots of cash.

But there’s something in those big promises that misses the mark.

Now that I have some experience under my belt as a blogger making an online income, I’d like to talk about the missing ingredient of those pitches.

It’s not about your blog

Lance Armstrong has a great book out called It’s Not about the Bike.

In his case it’s about one of his testicles. To be more specific, the one he no longer has.

The book is about how his bike became a vehicle in a bigger race than the Tour de France or his Nike deal, how his bike is a metaphor for life.

Lance and his tragic disease wouldn’t be famous without his bike. And as an online entrepreneur, you won’t be famous, either, without your blog.

That said, it’s still not about the blog. Not at all. The day you realize that fact is the day you’ll turn an essential corner toward reaching your goal of making a living online.

So what is it about, if not the blog?

It’s about your business.

Your blog and your business are different, yet related, things. The former is a sub-set of the latter. The difference is sometimes subtle, but it’s a critical one.

Your blog is a strategy, a branding and marketing vehicle, a means toward an end.

Your business is the money-making model. A product or service for sale.

Your blog isn’t for sale. It may be of service, but it’s a service you’re giving away for free.

Which means, if giving out free content is all you’re doing, or if your blogging has become the core deliverable of what you believe to be a business, your strategy is upside-down.

There’s nothing magic about a blog

When I started out, blogging not only seemed like a good idea — especially with all the voices that suggested you could get rich doing it — it was also incredibly rewarding right out of the gate.

Not monetarily. It was rewarding because of how it felt.

Connecting with people. Helping them. Sucking up all that nice feedback. Participating in a community, being part of a meaningful dialogue.

Those are, and should remain, part of the reasons you blog.

But if they aren’t your real objective, your end game — if making a living is an element you want to add to that mix — it’s time to take stock. Because it’s so easy to get lost in all that community stuff, the warm and fuzzy elbow rubbing, the sense of doing something helpful and worthwhile.

Which doesn’t pay you a dime until you actually sell something.

There will come a day when it hits you

You’ve been getting up in the middle of the night to perfect a post that will go out via Feedburner at dawn. You’ve sweated the syntax of your opening line and polished those nouns and verbs until you found yourself dreaming of your old high school English teacher.

You really care. You’ve become your blog. Just possibly, at the expense of your business plan.

It hit me recently in a post from David Risley, who is one of those “pro bloggers” who, if you don’t read him closely enough, or if you only hear what you want to hear, could lead you to believe that blogging will be the source of your new income, and sometime soon.

But on this day I did read closely, and what I saw there rocked my blogging world.

David, in essence, said this: blogs don’t make money. Businesses make money.

(You’ve seen that message here on Copyblogger as well.)

Your blog is the face of your business, the voice of your brand, the bait that attracts a following.

And yes, you give away as much as you can with it, selflessly and abundantly.

But until you have a product or service to sell, and until the blog connects to that enterprise in a way that actually begins to generate actual revenue in addition to pumping up your online reputation and ego, your blog is nothing other than you expelling positive energy into the universe.

Or, to put it another way, just so much hot air.

Looking for a free online resource that will teach you to think like a businessperson, not just another struggling blogger? Check out Internet Marketing for Smart People, the Copyblogger email newsletter.

About the Author: Larry Brooks is the creator of, an instructional resource for novelists and screenwriters. His book, The Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling, will be published by Writers Digest Books in early 2011.

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