Friday, December 21, 2007

Get new course on blogging for fun and profit - for free!

I'm evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they're letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
  • How to turn your blog into money.

I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it's still free.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Viral Marketing: Basic Training Manual

by Michael Crozier

In the past,Viral Marketing and Guerrilla Marketing were used by only small, start-up businesses. Here's why they've now found their way into the marketing mix of Fortune 500 Companies along with guides on how to use them for your business.

Viral marketing is one of the ever emerging variations of guerilla marketing, a promotional strategy first made popular in 1984 by Jay Conrad Levinson in his best-selling book, Guerrilla Marketing.

Guerrilla marketing employs aggressive, non-traditional, low cost promotional activities to produce profits, rather than utilizing costly conventional media such as TV and magazine advertising. Like guerrilla warfare, it relies on timing, creativity, enthusiasm, energy, and of course, swift action.

These strategies and tactics make guerrilla marketing ideally suited for small start-up businesses and entrepreneurial ventures. Today, however, it's also used by mega-marketers, even Fortune 500 Companies, as part of their overall marketing plans.

Viral marketing is simply “word of mouth advertising” for the Internet Age. Although initially considered another guerrilla tool for small businesses, it has evolved to become an effective form of marketing for large companies too.

Like its traditional “word of mouth” counterpart, viral marketing encourages people to voluntarily pass on information about a product, service or company to their social and business contacts.

Conventional word of mouth advertising relies on telephone calls, snail mail, discussions at church socials or random conversations in the grocery store to spread testimonial endorsements. Customers become voluntary brand ambassadors and a free source of publicity. But that's pretty much where the similarity to traditional word of mouth advertising ends.

Viral marketing is designed for today's digital world and its diverse Internet-based social networks. Using today's high-speed technology to communicate with existing online communities, it has the power to reach a potential audience of millions with incredible speed. The effectiveness of viral marketing results from its ability to quickly and cleverly infiltrate these online social networks at little or no cost.

The viral campaign process is simple. A message with a strong, irresistible offer is developed and then passed along through the online community. It spreads the same way a human or computer virus does --- by ongoing contact. Once the message starts spreading, it's propagated and voluntarily passed along from person to person - often in a matter of just days.

One of the keys to success in any “word of mouth advertising” is the ability to identify “opinion leaders” to jump on the bandwagon and spread your message. Traditional “word of mouth” advertising identifies active members of the local community and have extensive “spheres of influence” they interact with frequently. These spheres are groups of social or business contacts that follow the trends the opinion leaders set and try products they endorse or use. Identifying these groups in traditional marketing is a relatively subjective process, time-consuming and a often unreliable process.

Viral marketers, however, can take a more scientific approach. To maximize the impact of their marketing they seek individuals with a high Social Networking Potential or SPN. This Social Networking Potential is an algorithmic representation of the size of a person's social network and their ability to influence it. (For those of us who had trouble with basic Algebra, an algorithm is a series of carefully defined successive steps that need to be completed in order to accomplish a specific task. Algorithms are also the basis of Google's search engine operations.)

A number of different factors enter the SNP equation. They include the number of online community memberships, blogging frequency, web sites visited, content of personal websites, online affiliates, number of articles published, job title, employer, and other relevant data. Once this demographic and lifestyle data is analyzed, a SNP coefficient is calculated and assigned to an individual or social networking group. This rating can then be used to pinpoint people and groups who are prime viral contact points.

Savvy marketers and advertising agencies are also developing their own unique ways of identifying prospects with strong social networks and communicating with them through viral campaigns. There are now also specialized viral marketing consultants and advertising agencies whose clients include Fortune 500 companies. This investment of time and money indicates viral marketing is finding its niche in corporate America.

Many viral marketers simply compile “seeding lists” of high-traffic websites and online communities whose visitors are strong social networkers. A typical example could include sites like,,, , and a wide range of others. There are specific social network sites that appeal to teenagers, college students, twenty-somethings, music groupies, parents, and even corporate executives. More sites like are emerging and developing a more broad based audience appeal. Today, there's an online social network for just about everyone.

Viral seeding lists aren't direct mail lists or email lists. Contrary to the belief of many mainstream marketers, viral communications are not confrontational or unsolicited. The objective is not to annoy prospects with “pop up boxes”, “ banner ads” or spam.

“Discovery” is what viral marketing is all about. The idea is to get a prospect to voluntarily find or discover and then interact with a communication containing an offer and branded content, and then pass it along to a friend. The communication could be a website, a video, music, a blog, a photo of the day, an advergame or other message. That's why they're “planted” on high traffic, highly targeted websites and portals, in news groups, bulletin boards forums and other online places where the right people will discover them and pass them along.“Flying under the radar” is critical to the success of viral advertising. Viral communications cannot appear to be ads. Members of online communities and web surfers in general have become more sophisticated and have developed “filtering systems” that screens out obvious hype. Viral communications need to be very subtle and carefully disguised and strategically planted so they can be found by the right prospects and passed along. The more subtle, friendly nature of viral advertising is what makes it so effective with individuals or market segments are non-responsive to traditional advertising. Viral marketing in this respect is quite similar to “PR”.

Very often, the offer in viral marketing is “Free”. It could be a free email account, a free web page, a free screensaver or wallpaper, free software, video or music downloads, a free magazine subscription, a free T Shirt or product sample. The big creative challenge is to make the free offer appear to be really free with no strings attached and not just another advertising gimmick.

Viral marketing is far more sophisticated that many traditional marketers or even guerrilla markets give it credit for. And an increasing number of large companies are finding a place in their promotional mix for viral marketing as well.

In order to be effective, viral marketing requires a carefully developed plan. The plan is no different that a traditional marketing plan. A basic plan includes:

Objectives: a clear outline of exactly what you want to accomplish
Strategies: a detailed plan of how you're going to it
Target Audience: the market segments you're trying to reach
Media: What social networks and online communities you're going to use
Creative Strategy- What are the formats, styles, tones and offers of the communications.
Budget - How much you plan to spend annually and how the money is allocated
Tracking and Results Analysis- How you measure the effectiveness of the campaign

One very effective way for any business to use viral marketing is to boost the effectiveness of a TV, print or direct response advertising campaign. It's a simple, low cost and very efficient means of increasing your advertising effectiveness. Viral campaigns can be “seeded” in targeted social network sites and online communities that will “discover” your message quickly and pass it along. The message very often reaches a potential audience of millions virtually overnight. Usually you can see measurable results and a “lift” in your advertising performance in a matter of days.

In presenting the idea of viral marketing to some clients, I've encountered some very strange and humorous misconceptions it. One very conservative client described viral marketing as a “pack of high school kids in garages, techno-geeks in basements and pornography merchants in seedy bedrooms sending out spam that will infect PCs everywhere with deadly computer viruses.” Wow! I never realized viral marketing is destined to bring about the downfall of online civilization as we know it today. Well, thank God I'm a MAC guy and immune to most dreaded viruses. Better abandon your PC right away and get yourself a MAC today!

Viral Marketing has become serious business. Major national advertisers are shifting an increasing percentage of their advertising dollars from TV, radio, print and mail into interactive online media, including viral marketing. Like search engine marketing, pay per click advertising and guerrilla marketing, it's found its niche and is here to stay.

Source: Associated For more articles by Michael Crozier - click here.

Direct Mail: Dinosaur in the Digital Age

by Michael Crozier

Direct Mail has long been a major advertising media for businesses of all sizes. Here I examine how technology and lifestyle changes could spell disaster for junk mail.

Direct mail is a dinosaur in today's digital world. Whether or not it's ready for a place in the New York Museum of Natural History next to T Rex depends on its ability to evolve. We live in the “Age of Digital Darwinism." Businesses, advertising agencies and advertising media need to adapt and evolve in order to survive.

It's going to be an uphill battle to survive. Direct mail has a lot working against it.

First and foremost is cost. Of all the media available to advertisers, direct mail has the highest cost per thousand customers reached. When the “CPM” or “cost per thousand of direct mail is compared with television, radio, print, outdoor or online media, it is clearly the highest, and has been for many years. Even with advances made in digital printing and attempts the postal service has made at automating their operations, direct mail remains an inefficient way to get an advertising message across.

Creating and producing a direct mail campaign is also a very time consuming and cumbersome venture involving many people and processes. This only adds to its inefficiency.

There's a lot involved in executing a direct mail campaign. A “short list” of production steps includes mailing list selection and cleaning … printing … inserting letters, brochures and other contents into the envelope … addressing … getting post office approval for 3rd class bulk mailings and complying with other requirements for rate discounts … transporting … mailing … processing undeliverable mail and fulfillment.

Unless you're a small retailer doing a small preprinted post card mailing, it can take weeks or even months to get a direct mail message into the hands of the target audience. In today's electronic world, time is a precious commodity and speed is essential to many marketers..

Another thing direct mail has going against its survival is it's “junk mail” image. Direct mail is “mother spam”. Unsolicited 3rd class bulk mailings have been plaguing America for generations. Even with “do not mail lists” and other attempts to regulate direct mail advertisers, it seems almost impossible to keep “junk mail” from clogging up people's mail boxes.

The majority of direct mail is poorly designed and produced. Some of it is created that way intentionally. In their quest to be “hard-hitting” and “offer-driven, direct marketers have come up with formats resembling telegrams, invoices, bank checks with envelopes announcing “Free Money”, “Your Check Is Enclosed” or “Important News About Your Mortgage”. They do this for one reason - it appeals to the basic human greed factor, and experience shows it works.

Finally, direct mail is not very “environmentally friendly”. Even with advances in recycling technology and other conservation efforts by the paper industry direct mail, so its green opponents claim. “kills a lot of trees”. To make matters worse, most residential direct mail goes directly into the trash, unopened and un-recycled.

If most people agree direct mail is expensive, time consuming, annoying, low class and wasteful, how come it's still being used? There are several good reasons.

Direct mail has traditionally been the best way to finely target your audience both geographically and demographically. The “Zip+4” code at the end of your mailing address tells not only where you live, it also gives a good indication of how much you earn. Your name also appears on commercial mailing lists compiled on the basis of your magazine subscriptions, stores you shop at, vacations and other personal criteria. When merged and analyzed together they provide a more finely defined target audience that radio or television ever could.

Supporters of direct mail have long claimed it was the only way to deliver such a finely targeted audience. For many years, they were correct. Technology today, however, is changing all that. With cable and satellite TV that pass through boxes in almost every home, cellular phone technology and, of course, the internet, advertisers can now use TV, print and internet ads to target their messages even more finely than with direct mail. Strike One.

Another reason direct mail has survived is because of its ability to personalize the message directly to the recipient. Laser printing and addressing technologies developed in the 1960s and 1970s made it possible to address you by name not only on the envelope, but inside the mailing in the letter and brochure as well. Once again direct mail supporters claimed it was the only media that could deliver this degree of personalization. Once again for a while, it was true. Now the same technology that makes other media more finely targeted, makes them more personalized too. Strike Two.

Historically, direct mail has always been an important means of communication between people. But today with email and cell phones, direct mail is becoming less and less of a “preferred” means of personal and business communications worldwide. Email is instantaneous and it's free!

A growing number of people choose to receive invoices, bank and credit card statements, advance notice of preferred customer sales, pay bills and receive payments, all electronically by email. People are sending fewer and fewer greeting cards by mail, and sending free “e cards” instead, so much so that the major greeting card companies are being forced to get into the e card business. Strike Three?

It's purely a case of what I call “Digital Age Darwinism”. Today any business, or advertising and communication medium like direct mail, needs to evolve and adapt in order to survive.

Source: Associated For more articles by Michael Crozier - click here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Web 2.0 Evolution & Your Marketing Methods

Copyright © 2007 Dan Lok

Almost 10 years ago, futurist author John Naisbitt wrote about the social effects of the internet in his book, High-Tech/High-Touch. Here's an excerpt from a synopsis that described the author's observations...

"... on the effects of technology in reshaping society, the book brings together a mountain of evidence implicating technology in relentlessly accelerating our lives and stirring profound yearnings for a more emotionally satisfying existence."

It's simple... the more hi-tech we are, the more we crave for human interaction.

And we've responded to an ever-increasing sense of isolation with the help of the web and multimedia technology. There are web-based video sites like YouTube. Social networking sites such as Digg, Flickr, Wikis, MySpace and Facebook, etc. And perpetual ways to keep in contact with IM, video messaging, and texting via cell phones.

The web has grown up. And the term, Web 2.0, reflects it in important ways. For online businesses, it means giving people increased interaction and more control over their content. A curious and new twist on a time-tested marketing term, give people what they want.

Web 2.0 exemplifies the evolution of the internet. But in a way it's a return to earlier roots by being the information sharing resource it was in the beginning when Al Gore invented it! But with the Web 2.0 twist.

And what does it mean for online businesses? It amplifies the power of the best form of advertising for any business!

Word-of-mouth advertising. Brand building. And getting your business message out to be heard!

The nature of Web 2.0 is viral and contagious. Go to Digg or and you'll find out what I mean. As a marketer in this environment, it's crucial for you to understand the importance of viral marketing and managing your various marketing messages. And it's important to creating maximum buzz around your products.

But you need to develop a smart strategy.

The best way to take advantage of this new technology is to understand what each has to offer in your marketing plan. Then develop a clear understanding of your business goals and most desired outcome. And no. It's not as simple as 'making a boatload of cash!'

It's really no different than having a tool box. Each tool has its own specific purpose and reason for being. For example... if you want to know how customers feel about a particular topic, you can create a blog to get that kind of information. You can do interviews using either video or podcast and make them available.

Audio is very powerful and diverse. You can increase website conversions, regardless of your most desired response, simply by putting an audio button with a short message on it.

The only limits to what can be done are what you can imagine...

Approach the Web 2.0 evolution with the same strategies used with the more traditional ways of marketing. An integrated approach will serve you well. And the same marketing principles apply. We're just driving a new vehicle!

Succeeding at online marketing means paying attention and evolving. Businesses that refuse to learn and grow will soon disappear.

About The Author:
A former college dropout, Dan "The Man" Lok transformed himself from a grocery bagger in a local supermarket to an internet multi-millionaire. Discover how you can maximize your website profits in minimum time. For a limited time, you can test- drive Dan's Insiders Club for 30-days Risk-Free and get $1,165 dollars worth of bonus gifts. Rush over to:

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Monday, December 3, 2007

QuickBooks 2008 - Many Exciting Changes Added

by Jennifer A. Thieme

Intuit recently announced some exciting changes to its new QuickBooks 2008 line of software products.

Improvements for QuickBooks Premier Accountant 2008

Some of the most exciting changes happened in the Premier Accountant 2008 version. Here are some of the new features added for that version.

1. Now Backwards Compatible. Perhaps the most exciting new feature added is the ability of Premier Accountant 2008 to be backwards compatible with many 2007 versions of QuickBooks without upgrading them to 2008. Some exceptions are: QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions, QuickBooks: Simple Start, QuickBooks: Pro for Mac, QuickBooks: Online Edition. Payroll transactions cannot be adjusted.

According to Intuit, 2008 Premier Accountant is only backwards compatible when an Accountant's Transfer file is created (.qbx) from a 2007 version of QuickBooks. Intuit gave no indication that regular backup files (.qbb) or portable files (.qbm) created with QuickBooks 2007 are backwards compatible with 2008.

2. Bank Reconciliations Added. Another exciting feature is the ability to complete a bank reconciliation in the Accountant Transfer File. Previously, accountant's could not send a completed bank reconciliation back to the client, but now they can.

3. Merge Accounts Added. QuickBooks Premier Accountant 2008 can now merge accounts when using an Accountant's Transfer File for a client. Again, this feature is missing in previous versions of Premier Accountant.

4. Secure Server Now Available for Secure File Transfers. Intuit now has a secure server called "Intuit's Accountant Direct Secure Server." QuickBooks 2008 users can upload their Accountant's Transfer files to this server. Their accountants can download the Accountant's Transfer file from this server to work in. According to Intuit, this service "increases security and eliminates emailing and multiple file issues."

Improvements for Entire Line of QuickBooks 2008

Premier Accountant 2008 was not the only version to undergo many additions. The entire line of QuickBooks 2008 products has many important changes:

Simple Start now supports payroll
Linux now supported for Enterprise Solutions
Free version of Simple Start now has no list restrictions
Improved Excel import
Improved Outlook integration

Intuit announced many other changes besides these, and also announced that QuickBooks 2008 has begun shipping since October 1, 2007.

Final Thoughts

QuickBooks 2008 appears to be the largest step forward Intuit has made in a long time. If you've been waiting to upgrade your QuickBooks file, it sounds like 2008 is the way to go.

About the Author: Jennifer A. Thieme develops QuickBooks solutions for business-savvy entrepreneurs. She's a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor who brings unique insight, clear instructions, and over ten years experience to all her QuickBooks clients. If you need advanced help with QuickBooks, visit and contact Jennifer today


Copywriting Secret #6: LVC Formula

Copyright © 2007 Scott Bywater

One of the most powerful offers you can use in your advertising is the word Free.

But, you may well ask, how can I make a profit giving my products and services away without charging for them?

Which is the exact reason why you need to understand the "LVC Formula" which stands for the "Lifetime Value of a Client"!

Here's how it works. Let's imagine for a moment you own a beauty salon. Now if you get a new customer, they may pay you $80 for their first treatment.

But how much is this $80 client really worth?

After all, most clients will continue to buy off you for many years to come.

For instance, let's imagine your average client returns for a beauty treatment 8 times a year, and remains a client for 2 years.

$80 (price of consultation) x 8 (purchases a year) x 2 (number of years)

Now if you have a calculator handy, you'll work out the value of this client as $1280.00.

And if your profit margin is 40% this calculates to a $512 profit per client.

Now, let's imagine we sent a letter to all the nearby businesses offering women a free manicure valued at $30.00 (I'm not a beauty therapist, so please forgive me if all these figures are way out).

And imagine the manicure costs you $7 in products and 30 minutes of your time (which if you're not busy, you'd just be sitting on your butt anyway!)

So, effectively the $7 investment could have just made you $512 in profit.

And how easy is it to give away a free manicure?

Or for other industries.

A free car service

A free dancing lesson

A free consultation

A free ice cream

A free report of some sort

The secret lies in giving away something which has a high perceived value, but actually costs you very little to produce.

Why does it work so well?

Using the word Free in your advertising STOPS inertia. You see, people are happy with their current hairdresser, or their mechanic.

But when they get an opportunity to trial a product or service for FREE - there's something irresistible and risk-free about it, isn't there?

A word of warning though. Make sure you offer the best possible service, otherwise people will not come back, and you'll get a bad name very quickly.

And of course, where possible, make sure you collect a database, and measure your results.

What could you offer for FREE? Write down a few ideas now, and start implementing this stuff.

It could have an almost overnight effect on your sales.

About The Author:
Scott Bywater is well known for getting results as a professional copywriter. And also the author of Cash-Flow Advertising. To get a free subscription to his "Copywriting Selling Secrets" newsletter where you'll discover the truth about why most ads and sales letters don't work (And how to make yours different) scamper over to his web site at

Make Your Words Sell! -
The art and science of using words to sell successfully on the Net.