ShoeMoney Tools Tips For Success Strategy, Teamwork & Site Development If you are going to succeed in the world of Internet marketing, you must be prepared both technically and mentally. Between hiring the right team members and finding the unsaturated niche opportunities, in order to be successful you must learn from your mistakes, continue to make progress, and expand your knowledge of the industry. In this guide, I will give you my tips for success that will hopefully inspire and propel you to a new level of Internet marketing success. (Similar posts titled Tips For Success can also be found on my blog – ShoeMoney.com.) Section 1: What’s Your Strategy? Know Your Goals Knowing your goals is extremely important if you’re looking to have a successful website. When people attend the Elite Retreat (my Internet marketing conference) or when I do consultations (very rarely), the first question I ask people is, “What is your goal for this site?” It always amazes me people how many people have no other goal than to “make money”. Without a real goal for your website, why even begin? For instance, my neighbor is a dentist with his own practice. I recently had his website redesigned for him and I asked him what his goals for the website were. Now my friend pretty much had his site on the Internet simply because he wanted an online presence. (I refer to a site like this as a brochure site.) He never thought any further about what this site could do for him in terms of business. Of course, being an Internet marketer I wanted to take his practice to the next level. So I sat down with my friend and talked about some numbers, such as the price of a new customer versus a returning customer, what products/services have good profits margins, and the target market demographics. (These are all things you should look at, too!) In talking with my neighbor, he revealed something very interesting. Even though his clients range from 8‐75 years old, women 28‐40 years old make almost 80% of all the bookings. BOOM big detail there. Also he dropped another interesting fact ‐ these women almost always are very interested in cosmetic dentistry like teeth whitening services (which have a great profit margin). At the end of our conversation, I had a pretty good idea of what his Internet marketing goals SHOULD be – reach out to women ages 28‐40. How are we are going to achieve that goal? We’ll use pay per click advertising to target women in the Lincoln, Nebraska area and offer them free teeth whitening (a huge value). We will use a special landing page on the site for this so we can track the success (and using Google analytics goal tracking we will see what engines return the best ROI). You too can site down with your team members or clients, talk about the site, use the metrics you already have and determine profitable strategic online goals. Prioritize Profitable Projects As I have discussed before, I have A.D.D. pretty bad. It’s never been clinically diagnosed, but anyone who has spent time around me, spoke with me, or even heard me speak, knows that I have it…whatever ‘it’ is. My wife actually came up with this slogan a long time ago ‐ Prioritize the Profitable Projects. It’s a simple concept but when you apply it to your online strategy, it makes all the difference in the world. At one point on my blog, I published a list of ideas I had thought of but never followed through on. I honestly come up with a new idea everyday. 95% of them are cool or fun ideas… here I will share a few with you: RSS Lotto – I would have a service that provides people with an incentive to read your RSS by offering a random number to be included in the RSS feed that people could check to see if they were a winner. You could have it be the first 100 people to put in the code or just randomize it for prizes. It would be pretty easy to do and I think probably would be a good idea if done correctly. PeopleSpam.us – I created this website over 5 years ago. Basically, I wanted to create a service where people could opt‐in to receive spam (it would post your email in many places spammers comb and also sign you up for free scam services (free iPods, laptops, etc). This may not sound like much of a service now but 5 years ago when I thought of it there was not good baseline blacklisting services. Anyway, I never really did anything with it. Clickshield ‐ I have been offering services to a very few select people to detect click fraud. I registered clickshield.com many years ago and have been using that as my company name for this product. One of our initial tests was with Pepperjamsearch. In the first month we tested it on Yahoo, they got back over 10,000 clicks. While a lot of people have requested our services, unfortunately at this time we have to be very selective and make it worth our time. Things to watch out for to be productive and maintain profitability: Fun factor ‐ I love, love, love having fun… who doesn’t? I really could get lost spending hours on forums and reading blogs (mostly celebrity gossip or TV spoiler blogs) or playing this goddamn desktop tower defense game. But guess what… there’s no money in that. Coolness ‐ I love making an image tracker for MySpace mixed with geotargeting where I can show people how many degrees of separation there are between them and say… Brad Pitt, or whoever. Having some programming ability allows me to do some SUPER COOL, fun stuff but unfortunately – it’s not always profitable. Pride ‐ Lots of people love to attack me and even people who call themselves my friends to my face will cut my throat if they thought it would get them 10 more hits to their website. Sometimes I try to make an appearance and correct the facts on a blog or forum post but then never return. You have to realize there are people that are so envious of your success that they pray for your downfall. You see this in people like the Rich Jerk, one of the most genius masterminds I have ever seen. But guess what – doing damage control or trying to tell people the real story to every person can be a waste of time. Let your work speak for itself. My Blog ‐ Another big time/money sink for me is my blog. Yes it brings in over $10k a month in revenue, but it takes at least 1 hour a day for me to maintain. I try to do it over lunch or at night on my own time. And while I think most people would think 10k a month is a lot of money for someone just doing a blog, you have to remember one of the key reasons people read this blog is because I have demonstrated through other companies that I know how to build successful companies and websites. (And not because I am a particularly good blogger.) If this was a normal company in corporate America and the CEO was spending 20% of his time on a blog that was accounting for a very, very small percentage of overall profit ‐ I think that CEO should and would be fired. How much do your side projects increase your bottom line? Prioritize your profitable projects and keep your eye on the prize. Shit Or Get Off The Pot Paralysis by analysis ‐ you see it every day. People sit and wonder about what they could be doing. They get all excited about owning their own website and making it happen. I get emails every day from people asking me what I think of their great idea. For the people I do respond to, I am very honest with them, telling them exactly why I think it will either fail or succeed. I am ALWAYS stunned when they respond with ,“Well I emailed x and x and x about it and they really liked it.” Wow! Okay then – what are you waiting for? I always respond back saying, “Then do it already!” Some people may think that I come off as a complete jerk, but I’m just being honest. If you have this revolutionary idea of something that has never been done before, then do it! I personally know people that have million dollar ideas but have been sitting on a business plan for over 2 years! I mean…seriously… When you sit on the pot a few things will happen to you: 1) If you email enough people about your idea, someone will ultimately take your idea and run with it. You will be pissed when they do. 2) You wait so long that technology has passed you by and your service is no longer needed. 3) Someone else with a similar idea will beat you to market. Take for instance my mobile dating site that I started 4 years ago. I created this site even before ring tones. Basically I wanted to make a site where people could date over SMS texting. One problem, once I got it working I lost interest in the project and sat on it. I never thought there would be much interest. Now, four years later all of these companies are popping up with mobile dating services. You can’t fear failure. It really frustrates me when you tell someone they have great idea and they need to move on it. Then they sit there and come up with excuses as to why it won’t work. When I was working on my first ring tone community website so many people told me it was a waste of time… including my wife. But I really thought allowing users to create, upload and share there ringtones with the world was a cool idea. I had no idea how it would make money back then but I just wanted to make a cool service people could use. Now those sites have made more money than I ever dreamed possible. Not only that, but they have also opened up many doors into other markets. And now while ringtones are dying off more every day we were able to leverage the relationships we made in that market to make some of our other corporations thrive. What’s the moral of the story? I have ALWAYS learned more from my failures than from my successes. In fact, many times I think that early success is the worst thing that can ever happen to you because you settle for it and you take it for granted. You want to be an Internet millionaire? Get busy and start trying stuff today. It doesn’t matter where you start. Expect failure and learn from it. Get after it! Don’t Waste Idle Time I always like to pre‐plan my “idle” time… like waiting at the doctor’s office or being stuck on an airplane. In fact, these are some of the best moments in the world to just relax and focus. I rarely read blogs that have more than 1‐2 paragraphs online, but if it’s something I am really interested in I will print it out and put it in the “take to the bathroom pile”. I also print out a lot of eBooks and read them in the bathroom. I REALLY look forward to the 3‐4 hour flights I have mainly because they are the one place where nobody can call or email me. Time is money, so pre‐plan your downtime, too! Make Progress Everyday Everyday I wake up and purposely force myself make progress on something. It doesn’t really matter how big or small the level of accomplishment ….. just make progress. I talk about being action oriented and this is a great example. I get a lot of questions about how we manage so many things. Really the secret is we don’t look at it like its tons of things. It’s all for one bigger effort with many tasks to be done. Some of the jobs suck, some are fun, some are just a lot of work but they all need to be done. So completing these jobs is key to making the whole thing work. So make progress everyday at whatever you want to do. You will find before long you have finished the task that once looked impossible. Section 2: Who’s On Your Team? Do Everything Yourself – If You Can There are a lot of things that I have hired people to do and I get so frustrated because they are not good enough… why? Because I envisioned things to be done a certain way and when that way is not exactly how I want ‐ I am SUPER PISSED. Like for instance when I used to own cellnn (cellular news network) I would update it once a day with the latest information and articles in cellular news. Then it was clear that I just did not have time for it, so I hired many different people to do it from my sister to friends from forums. While they tried, I always thought that it was never good enough because it was not EXACTLY how I wanted it done. Eventually the site died and I gave up on it… why? Not only did I move on to other projects, but also I realized it was unfair for other people to read my mind and even have the same level of industry knowledge that I had (I lived a breathed the mobile industry). I also learned another lesson – don’t hire people just because you know them and they need a job. If I could have done this over I would have gone to howardforums.com and found the moderator with the most posts in every category and offered him the job… why? Obviously he has more contacts and knowledge than I do and if Howard Chui trusts him enough to be a moderator then that would be enough of a resume for me to give him a chance. Lesson learned. The hardest part is sucking it up and just realizing that while you want to do 90,000 things, you can only manage a few without going crazy. (ADD side note ‐ Keeping few employees and working out of your home makes for UNREAL profit margins.) As an Internet entrepreneur, I’m sure you’re a lot like me. You probably have a vision for your projects and viewpoints on how things should be done – marketing, programming, graphic design. In the end, however, you must realize the tasks you can complete yourself and understand when to let others take control. Don’t forget to have realistic expectations for these people, too. Know Your Faults Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Most people try to leave their weaknesses in a closet. I think your weaknesses are as important as your strengths in that as long as you communicate them to the rest of your co‐workers they can help you in those areas, and likewise the reverse will happen. My weaknesses would be the following: Pride ‐ I am very proud of the work that we do and I get overly upset at times when I see people unfairly cast a light on the projects we have worked our ass off on. Years ago, this was probably my worst weakness, but by being more public I have learned to let it go. At some point, you will need to pick and choose whose opinions you care about. The biggest thing about not being able to get past your pride is you never learn from your mistakes. At one time I was so bad that when someone would critique my work my immediate response would be to become defensive and attack back, instead of actually looking at what the person said. Now I realize that I should have thanked them for their feedback. (I actually try to do this now.) Temper ‐ At times, even my closest friends have called me volatile mentally. By realizing this about myself, I have gotten much better at controlling my temper – have two kids probably helps, too! Self Discipline – This is definitely my greatest weakness. I have a really hard time motivating myself to do things that I do not want to do. In return, I try to give myself a reward system. I often say things to myself like, “Okay, after I finish this list of work then I will write cool code that will make me no money but will be fun as crap.” Patience – Eek! This is another tough one. I want stuff when I want it and most often times, I want it yesterday. In the end, I think it’s important to recognize your weaknesses and not be afraid of them. We are who we are – but by recognizing these weaknesses and sharing them with your team, you can try to make improvements one day at a time and balance one another. You’re Only As Good As Your Team As I just mentioned, I am an extremely impatient person. I think most people would say that I set unrealistic goals and deadlines. It is always interesting when friends work for me or with me in a partnership because I go from being the calm, cool‐headed, easygoing guy to the insane, unreasonable guy who can’t think about anything else but the task at hand. Needless to say, a lot of good friends have been lost when they became business partners. I now, however, have a great team of employees that I just trust. That’s really the best way I can say it; I trust they will put give 200% effort. I trust they will not rest until the job is complete. I trust them with all financial issues. I trust that they will give me honest blunt opinions and not be afraid to speak their minds. The best part is I never have to give this trust a second thought. It’s just there. Your goal should be to build the same rapport with your team. Trust that you’ll hire the right people. Trust that they can do the job. And trust that honesty and hard work will make your team and company stronger. Hire People For Jobs Not Jobs For People A mistake I made early on was looking around at friends/family/people and seeing those who needed a job, hiring them, then trying to get them to fit in somewhere in the company. This always ends in disaster. This probably sounds so obvious, but it’s something I still struggle with. It’s kind of like when your neighbor kid comes over and asks if there is anything he can do for cash. You have him mow your grass. Then you go outside and have to mow it again because he did the worst job ever. Now if you would have just called a lawn service because your yard needed mowing then they probably would have done a great job. I also understand sometimes its cool just to give the neighbor kid some money cause.. well.. you want to help him. Just recognize that in business, although this charity feels good to you (and only for a limited time), it pisses off everyone else on the team. Before you hire anyone you should ask yourself, “Am I hiring this person because I need them or because I want to help them?” So hire people for jobs you have – don’t create jobs for people you want to hire. Hiring Someone As I just mentioned, I don’t recommend hiring friends just because they are friends. Or creating a job for someone you really like. Instead, here are my recommendations on developing your team. Tap Local Resources – We have found great people to help us on various projects through local resources such as the University of Nebraska and even craigslist. Local print ads in newspapers work decent as well. In the ads, I usually provide a phone number, have candidates leave messages on the machine, go through the messages one day, take down contact info, and start the interview process. When I hired dillsmack, I had just promised myself that I was never going to hire another out of state contractor. So many people had flaked on me in the past that it seemed the situation just wasn’t working. But he told me, “Just give me a shot and let’s see how it goes.” He was confident in his skills and was willing to sacrifice money for a few jobs here and there for a shot at something bigger. So I took him up on his offer – paying him $10 an hour. In his first week alone he proved himself, accomplishing more than I had in the past 5 months paying others $80 to $120 an hour. I don’t really pay people based on what they do so much has how they do it. For instance, someone I can count on and trust is worth a ton… period because if I cant do that then that means not only did I waste money on them, but now I have to do the job myself or find someone else. What a mess! Have Them Prove Their Worth ‐ When I hire someone I pay them a very low wage in the beginning. If they are willing to do the work and show me how valuable they are they will VERY QUICKLY raise up through the ranks. I am not a big company where we have caps on how much more a person can earn than previous years. (Like when I worked for a bank you could only get a 5% raise + inflation. It made me wonder what the hell the point of this job was.) How To Fire Someone In my life I have had the following jobs in order: Happy Joes Pizza – fired Eagles Grocery Store – fired Target ‐ walked out after 2 days Best Buy ‐ car audio – fired Montgomery wards ‐ Left for Sears Sears ‐ Washers & dryers ‐ Left for Internet Express Internet Express ‐ Quit to go to college Internet Revealed – fired Neo Computers – fired First National Bank – fired Wells Fargo Financial – fired Commercial Federal Bank – fired Started my own company! Firings happen whether you’re the employee and your boss fires you or you quit and you’re firing your job. My first piece of advice when it comes time to let someone go is always try to be very broad. This is a moment that will stick out in the person’s mind forever. It will also impact the way they remember you. Often times the employee will want you to name a specific reason or example as to why they are being fired. Instinctively you will want to answer this question because it appears to provide you with an “out” to the situation. Naming a specific incident, however, is the worst thing you could do. The fired person will always remember that one incident you named as the reason they were fired and they will always chalk up their failure at the position to that one incident. They will also come up with reasons in their mind why that one incident is bullshit and they should not have been fired. Instead, when firing someone focus on the fact that they were simply not a good fit for the job and that you believe they will be much happier doing something else. Do not get suckered into a debate over a specific incident. Stay strong. In fact, this approach really applies to anything in life. When parting ways with others, don’t make it about a specific incident. Because really it’s probably not about a specific incident but rather a series of incidents which indicates you must part ways with the individual. As a person who has been fired many times, I can tell you that the few times the person firing me has used this approach, I’ve actually stepped back, looked at myself and understood where they were coming from. I always knew in my mind there were 9,000 reasons I could have been fired and being I did not get one specific answer from them I had to consider all the times I did not meet expectations and see how I could better myself. With me, I really can only work for myself and I can only work with people who can manage them self. I do not like to be “managed” and I certainly don’t like to “manage others”. Section 3: Ready For Launch? 3 Things To Think About Before Launching A Website Often I talk about being action oriented, making progress, and getting things down. Now before I launch a website, I always tell myself it really HAS to contain these 3 items or I will keep it on the back burner until I can find a way to implement each one of these aspects. I will use AuctionAds (the eBay advertising platform that Dave and I developed) as an example. Service Does your product/website offer a service people will use? I always do “offline research” asking friends/family if they would use a service like this. I also ask them how they would use a service and how it would improve their life. Many times people will just tell you they would use it just cause they want to make you feel good. With AuctionAds we really saw there was a need to make accessing the eBay affiliate program easier. Between the easy to use code and geotargeting for 15 different countries we offer a service that nobody else does. Viral Having a viral component is very important in my opinion. The item has to have a viral component so it can spread itself. Again take AucitonAds as an example… We spent a bit on advertising at first but over 80% of new signups come from seeing the ad placed on websites. Not from our banners. AuctionAds got over 200 new users every day and we spent nothing on advertising. Money Obviously there has to be a business model to make money from the product. With AuctionAds the plan was to pass on 100% of the revenue for the first 6 months so we can reach the highest tier then take a small percentage while still being able to give the best payout to our publishers. Anyway, these are things I think about before starting stuff. I have a few sites like rafflebag.com, which have the service and money part down but lack the viral component so they have not launched. Focus On Functionality This tip is simple. Build in all the functionality of your website/application before you start doing cool GUI/AJAX and all kinds of other features. If you launch a site and half your users can’t use it cause they prefer Firefox, then not only can they not use your stuff but it’s likely they will not come back and try it again. When Microsoft Adcenter launched, unless you were using Microsoft Explorer you were screwed. Now not only did that not allow anyone with Firefox but it also canned everyone who uses Linux or Mac OSX which is a pretty big margin. I don’t want to pick on Adcenter but it’s just the first example I could think of off the top of my head. The point is that you need to focus on functionality and usability. When you nail this, then go for some icing in the user interface if you think it’s needed. CherryTap and PlentyofFish are sites that started off very simple looking but have awesome functionality. Go After Low Hanging Fruit Often when people just launch a new product, they want to get the word out as fast as possible and most of the time that means dropping a big budget. There are many ways of getting the word out about your new product that involves no money at all. So what is the low hanging fruit? Web Forum Signatures And Other Links ‐ I have talked before about the power of DigitalPoint signatures and blog headers. Out of the 800k unique visitors shoemoney.com received a month ‐ over 30% come from forums. If you’re not using your signature link in forums to link to your site you’re wasting space. Also a lot of times you can purchase signatures for as little as $20 a month. You can also use forum signatures to promote your affiliates. For instance, if you always post in the AzoogleAds forum, why not have an Azoogleads signup link in your signature? Or any of the other affiliate companies? It’s amazing looking at the AuctionAds affiliates and how many have provided literally hundreds of referrals and make a nice passive income simply because they put their refer link in the signature. Bloggers – ShoeMoney Tools has a great resource for you to reach out to other bloggers, especially WordPress users. Check out the Related Blog Posts Tool for more info!!! Friends ‐ You know that whole 6 degrees of separation thing theory? Well ping your friends and tell them you’re launching a new thing and could use all the press you can get. The key to this one is having a press kit easily available so that if they do reach someone they have an easy way to find out a bunch about what you’re doing. Local media ‐ Ping all the local media outlets and let them know you’re launching a new website. I think you will find most of them receptive and you never know where it could lead. It could start local and maybe their flagship station would like to do a story on something similar and uses you for commentary…. The sky is the limit when it comes to finding ways to get the word out about your site and product online… FOR FREE. Use The ShoeMoney Tools Of course, use the ShoeMoney Tools to have online success. Read all of the documentation for PPC Tools so you can build great PPC traffic for your new online venture. You can also use the SEO tools to optimize your site so it begins ranking for the markets you wish to penetrate. I hope you have enjoyed by tips for success, a couple pieces of information that will hopefully prepare you for the world of Internet marketing. If you have any questions about this guide or any of the ShoeMoney Tools – feel free to contact us right away.