Friday, September 12, 2008

About Those New Seinfeld & Gates Ads

My boyfriend, CR/LF (NWS), and I are having a running feud about the new Microsoft commercials. He, like many techies, insists they are stupid; I adore them. Every geek has her weird weaknesses & right now you could say that the Microsoft ads are among mine.

Our debate often swirls around the Mac vs. PC commercials. In those commercials, PC is likable ~ but Mac reigns as the uber cool kid. The Mac ads make me feel like I should be pitied like the campaign's PC character. Sure, that Mac guy's nice. We'll be lab partners in science class or maybe share a table at lunch; but I'll never be invited to parties at his house. CR/LF agrees with me on this, but he still doesn't see what I favor in the new Microsoft commercials.

The new commercials with Jerry Seinfeld & Bill Gates amuse me ~ and it's not because some people think the ads are kinky either. I think they are hysterical. I love seeing them in the cheap shoe store ~ and the family in the window is awe-struck not by their celeb status, but by the shoes! (That just kills me!)

It's not just that they are funny ~ it's the way they are funny.

In the Mac ads, Mac is like those bratty rich kids in high school & the posse of posers who did whatever they did to be cool. Then as now I know that no matter how cool I am, no matter how stellar my works are, I'll never be seen by them as their equal in cool. Then it was because my platform's were the knock-off designer shoes; today it's because my platform isn't the designer Mac. And I've never been one to pay more to appear cool or to please others.

As a PC user (on Linux, yet) I might want a Mac... But even if I could afford a Mac, I don't think I could justify the excess price tag to my practical-nerd-self. Who does that sound like? Gates, Seinfeld & that family of window shoppers! We're all bonding! (Branding, that is.)

Unlike the Mac ads, Microsoft celebrates the real geeks, weirdness and all.

Does this ad campaign overcome every Microsoft issue? No. But Microsoft has likability issues. Most people's awareness of Microsoft as 'evil' or 'less than cool' is effectively addressed by these commercials. I'm no longer the uncool person who has a PC by default ~ I have one because I want one. I've decided with my purshase(s). And I am as happy with my PC-self as I am with all my other choices which may seem "less than" to those hipsters.

As a more 'average' user/buyer of computers and software am more likely to be Microsoft's target audience (which means CR/LF's opinion should be of little consequence to Microsoft's campaign) and me and my posse of weird brainiacs am moving closer to the brand because of them.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Adult Marketer, Can You Use Blog Talk Radio?

I was recently interviewed on XBN (NWS), a radio program run by SWOP East, which is powered by Blog Talk Radio. Not only was it fun, prompting me to schedule another interview (perhaps even host a show), but the experience resurrected talk of Sex-Kitten.Net radio.

For a few years we've been discussing starting a radio show, but along with the investment costs (equipment, time and additional marketing efforts), we were skeptical of the feasibility of such a project. While we know that discussion of sexuality is both needed and desired, we worried if the uphill battle of selling the program would result in a watered-down, wet-blanket version of the show & programming we envisioned. The other option, of course, was to run our own Internet radio station ~ which led back to the additional costs of equipment and bandwidth on top of all the other issues. The bottom line was if we had less tech and marketing efforts, it would be worth the old college try; but without that support, it was a bit too much to bite-off. So the the project was shelved, occasionally resurrected when something, like the XBN interview, reignited the spark of passion.

Back in the early days of discussion, our research included the newborn baby And we've investigated, as they've popped up, other options. But none seemed as simple as easy, with the most options, as Blog Talk Radio. All you need is a computer, an Internet connection, and a phone. And yes, kids, Blog Talk Radio is free.

It's free for listeners, and even free for callers if they use VoIP.

The past few years have shown not only Blog Talk Radio's stability in the reliable sense, but a real growth in terms of listener audience and increased options.

Along with the opportunity to increase your connection with readers via audio (listening to live shows, downloading podcasts, and offering additional real-time conversations with your blog &/or website readers), you have the opportunity to recruit new fans via regular users of BlogTalkRadio.

BlogTalkRadio isn't just a technology platform, allowing you to create shows and store them; it's a social network where members can find and hook-up with & befriend other members ~ which includes show hosts as well as other listeners. They also offer a number of widgets, which allows fans to literally help you broadcast your shows by posting your show on their blogs and in their profiles at other social networking sites.

In January of this year, Blog Talk Radio also started a RevShare Program. When you opt in, show hosts can receive 35% of ad sales/sponsors for their shows ~ and if you find a show sponsor who is not currently using Blog Talk Radio, you'll get a 50% share of the ads they place on your shows. (All paid show sponsorship & advertising must be run-through Blog Talk Radio.)

This also means that if you have an adult product, your ad money is welcome at Blog Talk Radio. Starting at $100, you can buy ad space at targeted radio shows where the listening audience is your market audience, willing and ready to buy. You can see more information and find the full rate info here.

There have been a lot of changes at BlogTalkRadio, and with renewed interest I began to investigate if now was the time...

I found the FAQs (both the public list and the additional FA available for registered users) a bit confusing, and being one of those polite marketers, I wanted to see just how welcome adult content would be. So I got in touch with John Sweet, Director of Customer Relations for

Are we adult folks welcome at Blog Talk Radio?

Yes. And you'll see when you fill out the information for hosting a show that there are several options ~ there's both a "Mature" and an "Adults Only".

What are the standards?

It's self-regulating; but basically "Mature" would be an "R" or "NC-17" and "Adults Only" would be for more risque talk ~ but again, we're still not talking X-rated or pornographic talk. The rule of thumb here is the entertainment aspect: discussion about sex is OK, but reading an erotic story is not. In other words, you can move the listeners to actions such as "buy this book", "attend this conference", or "show up at the rally"; but if you're trying to move them into ah, well, lifting their hand for some other self-entertainment purpose, then that's a no-no.

John was clear to also tell me what would happen if someone were to complain or contact BlogTalkRadio regarding a show's content. You won't get the boot instantly. He'll review the show and if there's a concern, he'll contact the show's host to discuss what can be done to make corrections to avoid potential problems in the future. So you have some breathing room; self-regulation is not a trick question, setting you up to fail.

One thing you must know about adult shows is that they will not be visible to the average visitor to This does not mean your show is buried. Registered users may opt to see & search for listings in the mature & adult only shows simply by correctly setting permissions in their profile. Just toggle "Disabled" in the safe search setting, located in the "My Options" section of your "Settings" page.

And, registered user or not, any links directly to your show's page will be seen and heard. So, like any good marketer would do, when you link to your show from your website &/or blog (or fans do), folks will properly arrive there; no fancy settings or permissions needed.

Other info you may want clarified:

Show Length:

Show length is listed as up to 60 minutes, but it is now up to 120 minutes ~ plus you can have up to one additional hour in which the show is being taped for the archives, but is not streaming live. So if your guest has created quite a crowd of questioners, you, the guest and callers may still continue the show. New listeners arriving at the page will not hear it, but anyone playing back the archived show will hear it all, up to 180 minutes.

Remember, you need not have a show or shows that long; you may select show length to be as little as 15 minutes. But once the stated length of the show ends, you have up to 60 additional minutes of recording time. Which brings up the matter of what happens post show, if/when you and your guest are doing wrap-up chatter. It is being recorded and you should let the guest know that it is still being taped &/or edit this out of the recording so it is not included in the show's archive.

Newbie Restrictions

When you are a new host of a show on Blog Talk Radio, you are limited to three shows per month, and you may not have a show during prime time hours (without special permission ~ more on that in a bit).

It doesn't sound like a lot to an eager new radio personality, but John assures me it's not such a problem. As your show increases in popularity (number of live listeners and number of downloaded archived shows), a magical algorithm calculates your worthiness of more shows. In other words, by the time you've got a few under your belt, you'll be ready for more. (And if not, well, then increase your marketing efforts.)

Radio, is a lot like blogging. It takes time to build your blog, your audience and pacing is a huge part of it. (How many times have we seen a new blogger post like crazy, with dozens of posts a day or a week, only to find they've abandoned the blog a few weeks later... Having a low start limit prevents enthusiastic burnout rates.)

Prime Time Slots

Prime time slots, as defined by Blog Talk Radio, are 7:00 PM EST to 12:00 AM EST, Monday through Friday.

The issue of limiting prime time show spots is obviously based on the desirability of such time slots. As these are the most popular hours for listening, BlogTalk Radio naturally wants to play fair with them, and overall limits them to one prime time slot per week. Newbies have to pay their dues, build an audience, to earn that time. Again, John says that it's not too difficult to get in. And in fact, we adult folks may have an inside track...

It only makes sense that adult programming would be more popular in the evening, as adults can't listen to such shows at work or while the kiddies are awake and about. So if you have an "Adults Only" or "Mature" show, contact John ( and ask him to help give you the clearance to schedule during prime time.

Fine Print

Registering at requires a user agreement. This user agreement indicates that you do not own the copyright to your show.

This means that you may not sell rights to your show, but Blog Talk Radio may.

It's a scary thing for a content creator to contemplate... I asked John about that, and it's pretty simple. They have the right to sell your shows or excerpts of your shows. You don't get paid, but you should get your name out there.

So, for a hypothetical example, if NPR wants seven minutes of an interview on your show, they need to negotiate that with Blog Talk Radio. You don't get a cut; but you will be mentioned. John agrees that not mentioning the specific show and host would be a disservice to both the host/creator and the listener. (Plus, John said Blog Talk Radio would want to talk that up themselves as well.) But if you want to retain rights and control of your radio show or podcast, then this isn't an option for you.

Other Blot Talk Radio Options

As I mentioned, Blog Talk Radio has grown quite a bit in the past few years. They are continually increasing options and features. One of the most intriguing to me was BlogTalkRadio stations.

Station are a means by which you can broadcast multiple shows & further brand yourself. Prior to stations, if you wanted multiple shows, you had to create multiple user ids. While that allows you the option of more than one show, it doesn't allow for them all to be under the same umbrella. The rates for stations are a tidy sum, starting at $5,000 a month. I'm not one of those marketers who says you can't put a price on branding (Because if you can't, well, what's the point? It's a business after all.), but I wouldn't readily dismiss such a fee.

Along with tech assistance, show producers (help with calls etc.), you have to consider the practical matter of Internet hosting. There's both the software to run the shows, streaming of live shows (including chat & callers), and the storing of archived shows. That's a lot of data, a lot of bandwidth. Also, to off-set the cost of a station, you are able to keep 100% of ad & sponsorship payments you gather. And, as a station owner, you do own the copyright to your shows.

John mentioned a few other new features that Blog Talk Radio will be launching soon ~ but I've agreed to be mum until he gives me permission to mention them. So keep an eye out here ~ or I'll poke your eye out there. :p

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Beware Branding Marks

The New Deal: Band as Brand:
Though [Paramore's] success is in large part due to smart pop songwriting and a fashion-forward frontwoman, music executives and talent managers also cite Paramore as a promising example of a rising new model for developing talent, one in which artists share not just revenue from their album sales but concert, merchandise and other earnings with their label in exchange for more comprehensive career support.

If the concept takes hold, it will alter not only the way music companies make money but the way new talent is groomed, and perhaps even the kind of acts that are offered contracts in the first place.

Commonly known as “multiple rights” or “360” deals, the new pacts emerged in an early iteration with the deal that Robbie Williams, the British pop singer signed with EMI in 2002. They are now used by all the major record labels and even a few independents.
While I post this as a bit of marketing news, I also can't help but wonder what this really means for the word 'artist'. Music is an industry, a business, and certainly celeb status helps push product (both their own product, music, and the products of others), I wonder what this means for those of us who want music. Real music, not 'a brand'.

It wasn't that long ago that 'world music' had appeal for some of these very reasons ~ we wanted music for music's sake, not some commercialized glut.

Admittedly, the panache of posh persons has always been a regular in the marketing and making of damn near anything and everything; but this open move towards acts signing these 360 deals seems to be counter-productive to the current age of transparency... Now we the consumers know what companies, acts and performers are the least artistic. For it's not about the music, getting it out there, but some sort of success measuring stick which must include marketability beyond the main product. In other words, bands are not to be signed unless they are great cash-cows ~ selling more than CDs to music lovers, but shoes, shampoo and heaven knows what else.

In the case of established artists, like Madonna, this is not so shocking. But what of the new artists? Who won't be signed because they either have no track record of being able to push other (non-musical) products at us or are viewed as not being able to reach such commercial status. Shouldn't recording artists be judged solely for their ability to sell records?

In an age of cynical consumers, such transparency could bite the hand that pretends to feed. I know when I see its be-jeweled fingers pushing, I'll certainly be suspicious.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Carnival of the Capitalists: July 16, 2007

I'm hosting Carnival of The Capitalists this week. Of the 34 submissions, these were my selections.


John Ingrisano asks Will An HSA Solve your Health Insurance Problem? And gives his thoughts on his experience. A must read for anyone without health insurance or investigating options.

Thank you for calling Playmobil, please set your clock back 20 years is one experience we can all relate to in some way or another. Do more than pray you don't do this to your customers ~ plan to avoid this mess.

Today's Women In Business reminds us that you can in fact use blog comments can build your personal brand. However, in Despite the PR pundits, there's not much to learn from the Whole Foods fiasco, Steven Silvers reminds us that you can in fact damage your personal brand with posts as well:
The entire business world is shaking its head about Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who was exposed for an eight-year run of posting anonymous comments to Internet investing bulletin boards touting his company's stock and flaming his competition.
Because We All Should Know More:

Ecobrowser: Are your inflation expectations well-anchored?

Atlantic Canada's Small Business Blog: How would you get back from Mars?

Sox First: Six organizational pathologies

Charles H. Green: Leadership and Folk Wisdom

Basic Accounting Blog: Decide Your Success With Bookkeeping Outsourcing

Interviews and Book Reviews:

Wayne Hurlbert reviews Instant Income by Janet Switzer.

Jim Stroup reviews The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb.

Scott Allen interviews John Assaraf and Murray Smith.

Starting Out:

Don't Buy A Franchise with your Ego:
Some people chose a franchise because of their ego, and what The Joness will think. They buy a franchise because it sounds exciting or cool. They buy a franchise hoping to impress their neighbors or friends. Because of this, they look up franchises on the Internet and either include or reject them based on the cool factor. As a result, many overlook excellent opportunities of sold money-making opportunities, sometimes with a much better return on investment than famous brands.
Ditto on job titles, job descriptions, and daily activities. So many of us are seduced by what others think of what we do.

Related to this post is Is Freelancing Foolish? Perhaps it seems more glamorous, but is it more profitable? Are you suited for it? Remember...
Going to a freelance career is no different that starting your own business.
Personal Favorites:

I get asked about starting online stores a lot, so The Beef Jerky Blog's How to Start an Online Store is one of my favorite selections. Most notable is point 4:
Most people will do a search for "wholesaleing" or "Dropshipping," this is the 100% wrong way to search for your product of choice. In most cases you will come across a ton of MFA sites, competitors, Paid list company sites, and a ton of just random site that will waste your time.
Queer talk about corporate money discusses the success of the 2006 Gay Games. Corporate funds may be disliked, but to many their buy-in gives the stamp of legitimacy. While reaction to corporate sponsorship and commercialism may be mixed within the community, the sponsorship clearly marks further acceptance of a "queer market" by corporate America.

Jack Yoest's Management Training Tip #1, Office Politics won me for this bit:
The manager cannot simply demand or bark out an order for the support.

The manager must sell.
Honorary Mention:

Blog Carnivals: An Inexpensive Way to Promote Your Business Website gets a nod because it reminds you all to participate and to sign up to host a future edition of CoTC. *wink*

Next week's host is Small Business Essentials.

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Courting Your Customers

Gongol hosts this week's Carnival of the Capitalists. Naturally, the Top 10 Ways To Trash A Brand caught my eye...

Especially these points on money:
2. Constantly cutting the advertising budget. Very easy to do. And it doesn't mean that the advertising budget shouldn't be monitored and adjusted. But if it's routinely done, especially with the rationale of saving money without considering the costs, it might hurt the brand.

6. Relying on customer loyalty cards to create customer loyalty.
Don't. Loyalty cards don't create loyal customers. What you get instead are promiscuous customers. Why? Because loyalty cards offer incentives and discounts that attract customers who want a "deal". The best loyalty cards are the ones that offer benefits and value-added services that will only be enjoyed by the most profitable customers.

7. Spending more on price promotions than advertising.
Price promotions should be a part of any complete marketing program, but they can't replace traditional brand-building activities. Price promotions can be a dangerous game. Consumers attracted to your brand by a price promotion are just as likely to be lured away by a competitor's price promotion. What happens next week when the promotion is over and consumers are surprised to find that their beloved item now costs more? The "deal" doesn't seem like such a deal any more. As a result, you might be left with a bunch of people who feel ripped off. The trick is to find consumers who love your brand, ones who don't need be enticed to buy with promotions.
For those that worry that they have no/cannot afford Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, maybe you just don't need it:
10. Installing a CRM system and expecting that will do the trick. CRM aims to give businesses the means to provide preferred customers with "value propositions" that competitors can't match. From the consulting industry's point of view, there's the beauty of the system - it means more lucre for every management consultant in town flogging similar techniques to companies and their competitors. But the problem is that these systems are often installed without thinking of how the organization can use them to attract customers, and what internal behaviors the organization needs to change. Relationships cut both ways. The company might want a relationship with a high-spending customer; but is the customer looking for that sort of relationship? Subject an uninterested customer to new product offerings and telemarketing programs and things can get ugly. Even uglier when they get a letter from their bank telling them their credit card limit can be extended by $10,000 and another telling them their mortgage payments are still in arrears. A big part of the problem is that executives do not understood what they are implementing. They often just let software vendors dictate the terms of customer management or try to fit the strategy around the expensive technology. And what you have instead is a blunt instrument that stalks, rather than woos the customer.
And, perhaps my favorite:
4. Assuming you know what targeted customers value. A variation on the previous problem. So you know who your most profitable customers. But that's only half the story. Do you know what they value? What are the five most important attributes that see them coming back or referring other customers to you? Without the answers, all you have is a pile of data without insight.
Really, if you knew your customer, your CRM system wouldn't be a "blunt instrument that stalks, rather than woos the customer"; you wouldn't train customers to be price monkeys and sales hounds; rather you would court them as you both are.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

What's Your Frequency, Kenneth?

According to eMarketer and the Atlas Institute, two-thirds of consumers bought a product (or took another responsive action) were reached by ads across multiple portal sites before converting:
The study, conducted in the first quarter of 2007, found that US consumers were more likely to convert after viewing ads on multiple Web sites, suggesting that conversions should be attributed to a full set of impressions and/or clicks, rather than just the single one that preceded the conversion.
Nine in 10 consumers who converted were reached by placements other than the last ad seen. Also, 86.1% of ads which led to a responsive action were seen on multiple placements.

This reminded me of one of the early 'facts' of the Internet. It was said, back in the day, that a person needed to visit your site six times in order to make a purchase. (This is where the repeat visitor stat came in ~ it was vital information!) Part of the reasoning for the behavior was said to be the need to be familiar and comfortable enough with the website. Would the website be there tomorrow? After 'finding themselves there' six times, they felt more assured of the site/company's stability. Also after 'finding themselves there' six times, the consumer knows they really do want what they are offering.

Seeing ads six or more times, across six or more sites, etc would be similar. Point at it once; I'm not so sure about it (the product) or you (the company). Point at it several times; and I might be interested... And while a person who sees your ad on one site while reading an article may not have the money to buy or the time to even click right then and there, another ad at another place is a reminder later.

I didn't read/buy the whole study report and so have no idea if they have a suggested magical number, let alone if it was six, but the number part is irrelevant, really. It's not six, or 3.4, or whatever number you've heard. If you don't believe me, believe Dr. Roger Wimmer. And this isn't really earth-shattering news to most of us. We know that ad frequency and repetition is important, even if the number isn't universal. Yes, Virginia (and Kenneth), frequency is important, even on the Internet:
Results from the analyses suggest that frequency can be a powerful determinant of advertising effectiveness. Specifically, it is found that the frequency effects were significant on ad recall, attitude toward brand, and trial intention.
From Penn State's Media Effects Research Laboratory (2002).

What is most usable from all of this is to note that frequency is important. Ads seen more often and across more sites translates to more memorable ads. So while your click-through and conversion rates may not seem very great, you should consider the whole campaign's effectiveness in light of it's frequency. And you need to plan with frequency in mind. Even with a small or non-existent ad budget it is possible to increase frequency.

This includes all media, such as radio, print etc. While one doesn't expect a person to pull over to the side of the road and flip-open their cell to 'order now' just from hearing an ad spot on the radio, these ads do increase recall so it's entirely possible that when they return home they'll just type in your URL or Google your company or product name. Or click & buy from the very next ad for your product they see ~ just because you've now hit their own personal magic number.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

11 Ways You'll Know You're Getting Somewhere

Aside from watching the number of your site visitors climb higher, these are a few of the ways you can mark your blog's success and your own authority.

(Unnumbered because this isn't necessarily an 'in order' thing.)

* Folks linking to your for your content. Not just social bookmarks, but other bloggers writing about you and/or your posts. (Not all will be positive, but do take advantage of these opportunities and participate in the conversations!)

* Folks asking for link swaps. I'm referring to real people asking you, not spam or form letters, and to real blogs or sites, not directories. (Not to beat a dead horse, but please do evaluate them all.)

* Being nominated for awards. (Winning awards!)

* Being asked questions, for advice, or otherwise mentoring another.

* Companies asking about your ad rates. (Note: As a general rule, I recommend bloggers do not worry about having an advertising program or making a "click here for my advertising rates" to a advertising FAQ or email contact until and unless they've been asked directly by a potential advertiser or two.)

* Authors and companies asking for reviews. I'm speaking of real reviews here, where they send you the product and you use it and honestly review it.

* Quotes of your reviews used in other places to promote the product.

* Inquires or solicitations for paid posts or sponsored posts. (More, much more, on this later.)

* Being published at other sites or in other publications.

* Requests for you to preview products prior to release. (Your name and site printed on book jackets and product packaging!)

* Being interviewed or quoted in other publications or media.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Social Media Marketing Reading

Some required reading regarding social networks ~ keep in mind, if you have an adult site or blog, your content may not be welcome (and you'd likely be missing your target audience anyway).

Of How to Leverage Web 2.0 & Social Media Sites to Market Your Brand & Control Your Message, I have to say their comments about MySpace, Yahoo! 360 & Technorati accurately reflect my experiences and so I'm taking what they have to say about the others to heart.

In How Many Friends Does Your Book Have? there is a more hopeful or promising picture of MySpace ~ for authors anyway. I can't deny the stories told, but my experiences are more in line with what SEOmoz has to say (above).

Over at Spin Thicket (one of my addictions), they have a whole category dedicated to what they call Social Disease Media. Funny, sad-but-true, and just the facts, this section is good reading for those interested in Web 2.0/Social Networking.

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Thursday, February 8, 2007

Working With Affiliate Programs: Conversion Rates

Gracie answers questions regarding making money with affiliate programs.

Most folks ask the basic question, "How can I make more money from affiliate programs?" The answers are based in several key areas: traffic, audience, encouragement & authenticity. Before we get into those answers, we need to be clear on some basic information first.

One of the most confusing things about affiliate programs is the phrase "conversion rate". Most affiliates do not fully comprehend what this is.

Conversion rates are based on clicks that result in action such as buying a product, signing up for a newsletter or becoming as a member etc. Typically presented in percentages, these rates are determined by the number of sales over the number of clicks sent.

As an affiliate, you are not talking about the number of clicks to that site from yours, but the number of sales you made at that site. In other words, what is the percentage of people you sent via that "Join Now" link who actually joined?

Part of the confusion comes from the fact that many business articles discuss the conversion rates of retailers not affiliates. This article, for example, says that Amazon's conversion rate is 12.8%. Saying that 12.8% of the people at make a purchase is much different than saying that Amazon Associates have a 12.8% conversion rate. That would be an incredible affiliate conversion rate ~ incredible because I don't know of a single affiliate program which can say such a thing credibly. It would be an amazing claim, and likely made up.

The reason that many retailer conversion rates are much higher than affiliate conversion rates is due to branding and site popularity. Plenty of people type in '' in their web browser (or have it bookmarked). These people likely have already decided to make a purchase, or at least are looking to see if a specific work is available. A person at your blog or website who clicks the link to a book or whatnot at Amazon may be mildly curious or politely looking at what you point to, but isn't necessarily interested in buying anything at the moment. Since the traffic you send is likely less interested in making a purchase than the determined person who goes directly to Amazon, you'll have a smaller conversion rate than retailer conversion rates.

These retail rates can be used to evaluate affiliate programs, if one assumes they are honestly reporting them. Sometimes conversion rates, retail or otherwise, are just plain not available. They are part of the vast hidden numbers which lie in the dark inner chambers of webmasters, site owners and other gatekeepers of knowledge.

Internet Retailer has info on affiliate conversion numbers (from 2005) which is clearly mainstream numbers. In reading and talking with adult webmasters, I believe that the average conversion rates for adult affiliate programs fall between .025% to 2% ~ the latter called 'ridiculously high' by some. Don't take my numbers as gospel because, again, the info is heavily guarded and those who have shared their numbers with me did so privately so I won't name names ~ but be it sex toy sales, membership joins, phone sex calls, or video downloads, the numbers for affiliate sales are slim. This doesn't mean you can't make money, it just means you need to rethink your expectations ~ and use this knowledge.

With conversion rates for affiliates relatively low you'll need to pay attention to your traffic ~ even if the conversion rate stays the same increasing eyeballs increases the number of sales. But more than that, you'll need to think about where to place affiliate ads/links, how to make the most of them, and what you can do to be an authority so that your recommendations are trusted.

Next week's newsletter will be all about authority and authenticity, so if you haven't yet subscribed please do so.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Location, Location, Location

A reader emailed the following question:

You wrote, "There is no lucky bar stool granting you certain powers of seduction. Likewise, there isn't some magical corner to blog on." But isn't it true that MySpace has much more traffic built in?

Another asked: Isn't it true that a blog with its own domain name has more respect than a blog at Blogger or Myspace?

Let me deal with the second question first.

While it's true that staking out your own location with your own domain name makes you look more like a high class call girl than a street corner whore with user.more public domain, this is not necessarily true for bloggers. Many high-profile bloggers began at public sites before switching to their own domain name, with some never making that domain name leap. Look at big movies which have movie title dot Sony or MySpace slash TV show. If you do business transactions, however, you may be seen as schmaltzy if you don't purchase a domain name. It's not all about branding but includes practical business matters. You'll need one for secure server certificates; security and bandwidth issues require paid membership sites to register their own names as well. If you are not doing direct business dealings with your site, and most bloggers are not making direct sales, you can skip the domain name purchase and blog for free.

Now, as the first question alludes, not all free blogging is equal.

I'm sure most of you are aware that with most free hosting and free blogging sites there are limits on the types of content which may be published. Adult content is definitely one of them. And with adult content there are often problems with bandwidth and site traffic. I'm not going to get into all these possibilities; I'll leave that for those who discuss in great detail site hosting. But looking at some of the top places for free blogging, there are differences.

MySpace, as mentioned here, and other sites like them allows for free blogging with a built in community and social networking capacity. The large MySpace membership population means more exposure ~ at least in theory. I seriously have my doubts about how this huge membership translates into being stumbled up or otherwise 'discovered' as my stats do not indicate staggering numbers from this location. In fact, it appears to me that with all the folks trying to get to some pointless number of friends to prove their importance or otherwise inflate their egos, there is actually little reading of blogs which means marketing outside of MySpace to get (targeted) folks to MySpace is in fact extremely necessary.

While I am making personal comments on MySpace blogging, let me also state that their standard template leaves much to be desired, and tweaking it via free templates (all of which have "Made By" and other mandatory links with them) isn't as easy as one would like. It's not just an aesthetic thing regarding my personal tastes (or bemoaning my lack of technical abilities), their templates limit the ability to monkey with your sidebars to create links, post blogrolls etc. Outlawing javacripts means you are limited in functions such as stat tracking as well. XPeeps, which is an adult social networking site like MySpace but catering to the adult industry, also has a blog with similar limitations except that you are free from worry about adult content. But I digress.

Blogger (Blogspot) offers built in traffic with it's top header (it includes a random 'next blog' feature) and being part of the Google empire, you know it's going to be spidered efficiently and often if you are posting regularly. It has the latest gadgets for tags/labeling, is neatly tied to ping Technorati (the tags work with Technorati well also), has a built-in means to upload images and other gizmos. Blogger also allows you to use it's software or publishing mechanism on your own site (as a blog 'page' on your main site) or other non-blogger hosting, which alleviates the problems with them booting you for adult content. (Hence my use of blogger here.)

Other sites, such as LiveJournal, allow for making/joining groups which also has built in traffic and means to be found other than your own posts and marketing efforts. Some of these offer more options for personalizing your blog, sidebar etc., or will with the paid upgrades.

In other words, your mileage may vary.

While one offers one neat gizmo, it may be lacking in another area. You'll need to check these out, make comparisons, and otherwise make choices for yourself, of course. And no matter which you choose you're going to have to make efforts to market your blog.

If you want a blog to merely be the more personal side of corporate you, to make the most of RSS and pull readers, to allow for frequent updates or updates outside of your password protected areas etc, you may want to consider not an independent blog but a blog 'page' on your main site. This is the only way you won't need to do separate marketing for your blog; it merely co-exists with your site ~ on your site. If you choose and independent blog, you will need to market it.

I know some of you are moaning that you started your blog to market your website, call service, books or whatever business you have ~ isn't the blog the marketing tool? Why would you need to market it? Why on earth would anyone start a blog to market one thing only to have to market the blog itself?

Well that, Virginia, is why you need to decide if (and when) a blog is right for you and what you need it to do.

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Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The Selling of Sex

We have all heard that sex sells, but let's look at the selling of sex... if it were legal...

First of all, as any person in marketing or advertising will tell you, you must know your target market. Which is, basically, a stereotype based on sophisticated research. Sure, you can spend tons of dollars on researching the actual demographics (and if this were legal, it would be!), but for the sake of simplicity here, let's break it down into some simple 'types' of consumers.

You have these basic types of consumers:

Group #1: Those who believe in getting things at bargain prices.

Group #2: Those who need to be sold on facts.

Group #3: Those who are sold on emotions.

Group #4: Those who believe that price is no object, and even if it were, they are worthy of every luxury.

Group #5: Those who have to follow the latest trends.

If sex could be sold legally in the US, this is how I see things...

Marketing to group #1, the price driven consumer, is of course all built on the lowest fees. Like Wal-Mart, the sex workers would be the low-price-leaders, making it up in volume. What the provider &/or place lacks in charm & ambiance, he or she would make up for in convenience & price.

The workers would be available at all hours, on a first-come (arrival, not that sort of cum) first-served basis. They would spend little time on fan-fare, chat or other things that would take time. The center itself would have easily wiped surfaces, no carpeting, and plenty of those 'no slip' features on the floors, in shower stalls etc.

This would be all about getting in done fast, efficiently & as cleanly as possible, making it easy for all parties to get back to their busy day. Most likely service centers would be located on or near busy sections of town, in strip malls (again, no puns!), etc. Many would offer the 'all you can eat' lunch specials.

I suspect, to add a bit of 'personalization' there would be a greeter near the entrance, who, wearing a blue vest with the company slogan (like 'Soft bottoms at Rock bottom prices') on the back, would hand folks a condom when the entered.

Group #2, those who are sold by the facts on the figures, are looking for a bit more... Not that convenience & price aren't an issue, but they need to be sold.

Brochures & resumes would be handy for these service providers. Each service provider would have their own brochure. In it they would need to outline his or her stats (measurements, photo, health certification etc.), experience, training, offer a reference or two, and perhaps a list of comparisons ~ you know, like why service company A is better than service company B.

Service center issues like health certification & safely rankings would likely be of large importance. So would a highly 'sterile' environment. A list of benefits, such as 'the only agency in town that has a get-off-guarantee.' or some such. You'd better be able to back it up (I swear, I am trying to avoid the puns) as these folks will claim the guarantees.

Group #3, the emotional consumer, would likely also be moved my brochures, however the content would be vastly different.

These would be heavy on the photos of smiling providers & customers, loaded with testimonials, and pictures of puppies (in innocent repose!) wouldn't hurt either. (No images of babies here please!)

Service centers would have to pay more attention to the surroundings. Overstuffed furnishings, lots of plants, carpeting would probably be a good idea. Providers would be best off having those 'counselor' abilities. Centers would likely be theme oriented, with limited menus (think Chi-Chi's), in order to best meet customer moods & not fear shocking them with 'variations.' (You would still have emotional branding for fetishes etc, but then no vanilla things should be about to 'shock' them into loss of their emotional fantasy either.)

These folks want more of the 'whole experience' and will be less worried about prices, as long as they are moved.

Group #4, the luxury lovers, would seem the easiest to please, but not really. As the fees increase, so do the demands.

Requiring more than a sexual act, these folks want plush surroundings, fantasy suits, designer names, membership cards (allowing them unrestricted access ~ unless it is a bondage thing ), and centres (yes, spelled in the more 'exotic' European form!) would be best to offer beverages & food, as well as valet parking.

The receptionist positions would be key: all clients must be recognized & addressed by their names, their preferences remembered. Workers would have no pagers or back-to-back appointments (sorry!). Service providers must make each client feel that they are the only one, never in a rush for the next one.

Providers must also offer other charms, including conversational ability, and might have to be highly specialized. Workers would likely have a ratings system, with certain workers only available to certain types of membership holders.

I think it likely that most centres would offer more than hourly rates, offering the options for week long, 5-star hotel/spa stays, and of course, the traveling companion.

Ideally, these clubs wouldn't advertise, nor would they be in the Yellow Pages. Just the matchbook covers, members' only monikered key rings, and tasteful, sleek gold condom cases would speak of the hidden, 'invite only' clubs.

I also foresee, that these service providers will have entourages. At the least, burly, dark-suited associates with those ear pieces & holsters...

Group #5, the fad followers, need to constantly told what is new.

Sex not being such a new thing, workers would spice services up with new trendy fare & lots of celebrity names. These customers have to be the first on their blocks to do it: "Hey, Bob, how's it goin'? Oh, me? I just got back from doing it 'Cruise style'."

A business created for name-dropping pants-droppers.

These service centers would offer huge gift shoppes, offering collectible merchandise that could be displayed & shown off to friends. Licensing would be a large part of this, allowing for those in towns without such centers the option of looking the part. Centers would also have restaurants, with glass windows for plenty of visibility. (Look at me! I am at 'Hard-Cock Cafe' ~ Aren't I smart!)

A few very successful service centers might emerge, offering adult theme parks worthy of vacation destinations. Here, the t-shirts 'I rode Gracie Mountains' sell well (Dolly-wood might be the first to change over...)

But many of these centers, not being able to constantly evoke 'new' would fold, and become yesterday's news. (And those now tacky t-shirts tossed out ~ Only to be sold for big bucks on eBay decades later.)

Ahhh, America would sell the shit out of sex.

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Mini-Book Reviews

If I were teaching a class on Internet marketing, these books would be required reading:

* Selling on the Net: The Complete Guide by Herschell Gordon Lewis & Robert D. Lewis, was one of the first serious books I had ever read about selling on the net. It hasn't been updated recently, but since it is not a technology driven book, I don't think it is dated at all. One of the best books providing an overview of how the Internet is viewed, how people react to it, and why ecommerce, selling services & marketing will work online. This is a great basic overview, and even if you have been online for awhile, you will benefit from reading it. Has many illustrations of websites that do & don't 'work' and profiles of companies, so you get real examples.

* Net Words: Creating High-Impact Online Copy by Nick Usborne is a treasure! Copyright, 2002. Usborne uses his marketing knowledge & experience to detail just what works in writing on the Internet. He covers everything you need to know on how to make your website work - that means how to get viewers to stay. If you site is not interesting to viewers, from a text & content point of view, they will click in & just easy quickly, click out. But, if your site is well written, they will stay, maybe even long enough to buy! If they don't buy, they will certainly remember you, be likely to use your 'tell-a-friend', bookmark your site, subscribe etc. In fact, what he tells you works for newsletters & zines too. You all know how much I believe in site content folks, so if this guy excites me this much, it must be fabulous! Not to sound like a Ginsu salesman, 'but wait, there's more!' Usborne also covers how to write the text that is your product/service description, or in the biz lingo, 'your sales copy.' So if you want to learn more ways to increase viewer interest & sales, then grab the book.

* A New Brand World: 8 Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the 21st Century by Scott Bedbury. Copyright 2002. (I linked to the softcover to give you the cheapest option, however if you prefer, the hardcover is still available.) Some of you may be wondering what 'branding' is... Branding is the ability to make a company be more than just a company. It moves past the idea of selling a product through marketing, but into creating an entire concept around your company. Examples of branding are Nike (Just Do It is the slogan, but we 'feel' that empowering 'I can achieve it' rush), and Coke A Cola (I mean come on, folks buy & collect *anything* that says Coke!). Who is Bedbury to talk about branding? Hehehe, glad you asked! This is the guy who took Nike from just another athletic shoe company, and created the Nike dynasty. Not only that, his next gig was Starbucks! So, this man knows what he is talking about. I kid you not.

This book is a bit more intense to read, not because he is a bad writer, or technical; it is very easily understood. However, he is talking about much larger companies, with larger budgets (even though he discusses how young these companies were, let's face it, they could hire someone full time, and give him a staff of his own!). So the trick then becomes how to take the examples he states & turn them into something folks like us can use. He provides plenty of details as to why he took certain steps, what the strategy was, which helps greatly. You can see what he is talking about. But it still requires some 'bending' and fine-tuning for us. I *do* recommend the book highly. I think Bedbury is the kind of man who's head you want to get inside! If you are struggling to find a way to make your company & its philosophy stand out, then you have to read it.

© GlamKitty, who moderates the Working With The Web newsletter.

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Use of Color in Design

If I have to visit one more adult site with a black cave-like color scheme, I'll scream.

Don't get me wrong, there are some sites where the use of black is a good thing, a welcomed thing, but in general, too many sites think 'black equals dark & private' when in reality it can feel like 'dark, dreary, & disgusting.' (I like to feel a bit dirty, sure ~ but in the naughty way, not some 'trapped in a coffin with mud pouring in through the cracks' way.)

Unless you have a goth, BDSM, or a site that deals with power, death, or other related issue, maybe too much black is saying the wrong thing about your website ~ or it just makes your site look like all the other sites out there.

So, what colors are you using in your website? What are they saying to your visitors?

Colors can have both a direct & indirect impact on usability (a visitor's response to your web site), and color can play a huge role in your branding efforts (marketing & design work).

Colors are often categorized as temperatures or seasons, which can give you a rather good idea of possible responses:

Cool Colors (calming) Blue, Green, Turquoise, Silver

Warm Colors (exciting) Red, Pink, Yellow, Gold, Orange

Mixed Cool/Warm Colors Purple, Lavender, Green, Turquoise

Neutral Colors (unifying) Brown, Beige, Ivory, Gray, Black, White

There are some excellent resources to help you more with color definitions, but generally you can use good ol' common sense to help guide you ~ providing you are part of your target market. If you are not, then some research is probably a good idea.

Some folks think that the use of color is not important in web design, but there is far too much study, documentation, and my own personal experience with the use of & response to color for me to dismiss it.

In fact, many companies study the impact & affects of colors to determine more than just their logos.

For example, did you know that orange is used by many fast food restaurants for a reason?

Orange is a color that encourages folk to move out faster, thereby freeing tables for more customers, as well as (one hopes!) makes the employees work faster. So Hardee's used the orange inside, and then took it to another level by using the orange to brand the company.

In order to update their look, Hardee's has since changed to red with their yellow star logo. Red & yellow are still 'active' colors, and red is known to increase appetites, so perhaps they wanted to change their focus from 'fast' to 'eat more.' I don't know for certain, but I bet it has to do with the entire fast food industry changing the focus from 'fast' (which is now a given) to the increasing trend to make us order more ('Super size' it, baby!).

Need another example? Think of your latest lingerie purchse. Be it for yourself, or your gal-pal, didn't you consider color? A white gown is virginal, a red one is racy. A pink teddy is sweet, and a black one is slutty. Your website colors convey that too.

And color is more than the 'mood,' it dictates action too. Think of the colors you use for your call to action: is your 'subscribe button' the right color to not only get noticed, but make them want to act now?

Of course, you also have to view the overall design of the website when you use colors. Do your website colors compliment each other? Do you have so many that the visitor is actually frustrated?

This is the kind of stuff companies spend time evalutating. Coca Cola red, Tide orange, and John Deer Green, these colors are as powerful as the corporate logos. Just as shapes & symbols brand a company &/or products, colors do the same.

If corporate America spends time & money addressing the importance & use of color, can you afford not to?

More reading:

* The use of colour
* The Psychology of Color in Messages

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