Saturday, 30 June 2012

Why We Need Multiple Mentors

I have a friend who's an antique dealer.  She buys a lot of her stock at auction, but she also spends time every week going round antique fairs and exploring other people's shops.  And sometimes she finds some amazing bargains.  When she first told me about some of the things she'd bought from other dealers - and about the profits she'd made - I was astonished.  How come, I asked, that the people she'd bought from had priced the items at so much less than they were worth?  Simple, she replied - antiques is an enormous area and nobody can know everything about it.

It's the same, these days, with internet marketing.  Time was that you could buy one person's course on how to make money online and it would be much the same as everybody else's course.  It would teach the fundamentals - how to write a sales page, how to create a product, and how to drive traffic to your website by exchanging links with similar sites.  Then there came a point when not only was it getting much harder to exchange links but the links themselves no longer had the SEO value that they once had.  So along came the courses on article marketing and press releases.  And how to use Google adwords and other pay-per-click advertising.  Then backlinking became the thing to do - until recently when Google started to crack down on what it called 'unnatural linking' (see my post of April 7th).  And, of course, in recent times we've had the development of bookmarking and blogging and social networking - and while there are a lot of gurus out there who know a huge amount about how to make money online, I don't believe that any of them knows it all.  And they freely admit that they don't go to each others' seminars just because they're good friends . . . they go to learn from each other.

Now, if you've been reading my blog, you'll know that I'm an enormous fan of Armand Morin.  His products range from the amazingly comprehensive Internet Marketing Explained down to his free Internet Marketing Newsletter.  And I have learned stuff from him that I've never heard mentioned anywhere else.  But there are gaps - I don't think he yet has a course on how to use Twitter, Pinterest and other forms of social networking.  And it's possible that he may never produce one because it's not an area that he uses very much himself.  However, there are other people who are experts in the field, such as Melanie Duncan, whose 'Power of Pinning' course is based on her own successes using Pinterest, and Mili Ponce who has been called 'the Queen of Twitter'.

But it's not just to fill in the gaps that we need a multiplicity of mentors.  Sometimes they don't get it right.   For example, Armand Morin's FAST (Facebook Ad Secret Training) course works.  I've tried it and I have no doubt whatsoever that he is teaching here the best way to use Facebook advertising.  But recently I heard another guru talking about how to use Facebook ads.  And several of the things that he recommended were things that Armand had said NOT to do (and had explained why).   I'm sure that, if I had followed the suggestions of the second guru, it would not have been disastrous but I'm equally sure that I would not have got the excellent results I achieved from following FAST.  So it's not that they get it wrong, exactly, just that they don't get it right.  And the only way we can know this is by listening to several people on the same subject.

This is where 'bootcamps' can be so valuable.  I remember with great pleasure a couple that I went to that were organised by Andrew Reynolds, where we heard some twenty or so speakers over the course of three days.  And for each person in the audience there were some speakers who were outstanding, and some who were less so.  For me, the stars were Armand Morin and Derek Gehl and Simon Coulson - and I've since learned a great deal from all three of them.  So I remain very grateful to Andrew Reynolds for giving me the opportunity to listen to so many gurus and to be able to pick out those whose teaching spoke to me personally.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Seller Beware!

I was thinking yesterday about the various things I've done online and was remembering one particular incident that happened some years back.  I'd been selling a few things on eBay - mainly books and ephemera that I'd found in local auctions - nothing major.  However, at one auction I had bought a diary written by a British colonel during the first world war.  It was in with a few paperbacks, some postcards and a couple of hardbacks and I bought the whole lot quite cheaply.  I kept the diary for a while because I thought it was so interesting but then a little research led me to believe that it might do well on eBay.

I listed it with, as I remember, a reserve of £100.  Very quickly the price rose above the reserve.  It then continued to climb until it was at £500 . . . £600 . . . £700 . . . £800 . . . £900 . . . by this time I was speechless with excitement.

The final bid was just over £1000.  I was ecstatic . . . that is, until an email arrived from eBay to say that the final bid had been fraudulent . . . the person whose account it was had denied making the bid and the sale had been cancelled.  Now if something like this happened in a 'real' auction, the item would be offered to the underbidder.  But I didn't know who the underbidder was.

I emailed eBay and asked them to put me in touch with him . . . which they refused to do, saying that they no longer had any record of the sale.  However, they magnanimously said, that they wouldn't charge me for the original listing and I was welcome to list the item again!  By this time I was speechless with rage.

In the end, amazingly, it all worked out.  When I did my original research on the diary, I'd come across a couple of websites that were concerned with the Colonel's regiment.  So when I listed the diary on eBay, I'd emailed the website owners to tell them about it.  Now one of them emailed me to say that a militaria collector had contacted him to ask whether, by any chance, he knew who had been selling the diary on eBay, as he had been the underbidder.  He had discovered that the auction had been disallowed but, with all records deleted, had no way of getting in touch with me.

I contacted the underbidder and sold the diary to him at his final bid less what I'd have had to pay eBay in fees, so it worked out well for both of us.  I don't think I've sold anything on eBay since then.  But it has made me aware of how much we are at the mercy of other people when we use some of these large websites.  And I wonder whether, nowadays, there are so many rules and regulations designed to protect the buyer (no bad thing) that the welfare of the seller is somewhat disregarded.

Monday, 18 June 2012

All in a Twitter about Direct Messages?

I have a suspicion that a lot of people on Twitter don't bother to look at their direct messages (those private messages that you can send to anyone who is following you)  because a lot of them are simply of the 'thank you for following' variety.  But there are also two other types of direct message that frequently appear.

The first of these is the message which tells you that the sender "uses TrueTwit validation service" and asks you to click on a link to validate.  When you do so, it brings you to a page with a 'captcha' phrase that you have to type in, and you are then thanked for validating.  If you investigate further, you will find that TrueTwit  has been designed to help distinguish real people from robots, avoid Twitter spam and save time managing your followers.  So I've been religiously clicking on any validation links that I'm sent in order to assure the person who I've recently followed that I am, indeed, a real person.

I've been assuming that TrueTwit acts as a screening process and that, if I didn't validate, I would automatically lose the chance of being followed by the person concerned.  But I've now been told that if I don't respond to  a validation request, I can still keep following that person and they can still follow me.  So am I wasting my time typing in those 'captcha' phrases?  Possibly the only way to find out is to stop responding for a while and see whether the rate at which I get more followers decreases.

I don't personally know anyone who uses TrueTwit.  So if you use it and have found it helpful (or, conversely, have found it of little use) please tell me about it in the comment box.

I said earlier that there are two types of direct message that keep recurring.  The second of these, which also contains a clickable link, is of the "this user is saying horrible things about you..." variety.  They occur so often that I doubt whether many people are taken in by them.  On the other hand, there is a temptation to click, just to see what the link leads to.  Is this some strange way of selling something . . . and, if so, what?  

However, according to Ian Hardacre, the links in these direct messages - and also those with variations on the "This made me laugh so hard when i saw this about you" variety are all virus-related.  His interesting blog post contains a long list of such messages all of which, he says, are indications that the account from which the message purports to come has probably been hacked and that its owner needs to change his or her password.

And this, of course, leads on to two possible courses of action.  Should we send a message to everyone from whom we receive one of these messages, suggesting that they change their password?  Well, perhaps.  It could be time consuming but might bring us a few followers, grateful for the information.  

And, secondly, should we also check our own Twitter accounts to make sure that they've not been hacked?  This, I would say, is a no-brainer.  It's easy to do if we have more than one account because we can send a direct message from one to the other.  Otherwise, we could ask a friend to check on a direct message we send to them.  It shouldn't take more than a minute or two and it could prevent the direct messages that we really want to get through to our followers from being hijacked.

Finally, of course, this is a reminder to change our passwords regularly.  Yes, it's a bore but with hackers and viruses getting more sophisticated by the minute, it seems a sensible thing to do.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Now We Can All Write Brilliant Sales Letters!

For anyone who's ever struggled to write a sales letter (or been horrified at what professional copywriters charge) Armand Morin's new WP Salesletter will seem like a godsend.  Because not only does this amazing plug-in make writing a letter easy but it comes with built in, ready-written ideas for headlines, introductions, closing statements and so on which you can modify according to your needs.  And, of course, since all these ideas are crafted by experts, your chances of good conversion rates are very high.

As regular readers of this blog will know, I'm an enormous fan of Armand Morin but, even so, watching the video he's made about WP Salesletter, my jaw dropped in amazement at its simplicity and its power.  And, as Armand points out, because it's a plug-in rather than a theme, you don't have to change the whole look of your website in order to write a sales letter.

At only $77 for a multi site licence with lifetime updates, I think this is amazing value, particularly when you compare it with what you might have to pay a professional copywriter for a single letter.  

Sunday, 3 June 2012

How Easy is it to Design Your Own Website?

I was in the offices of a local charity the other day and heard the CEO swearing at his computer.  This, I have to say, is not an uncommon occurrence.  He and computers seem to rub each other up the wrong way!  However, setting aside his mistrust of technology, he had recently been to a course on how to use WordPress to create a website.  The charity's website was long overdue for an overhaul and it seemed more sensible to spend the money on the course than on paying someone to design a new site.

Unfortunately, once back from the course, the CEO couldn't remember all the ins and outs of WordPress.  Things weren't appearing in the way that he wanted and, when I left the office, he was deep in pages and pages of notes, trying to find out what he'd done wrong.  I had been unable to offer any helpful suggestions, since I've never used WordPress.  I've looked at it once or twice but, to be honest, Blogger seems so much simpler for blogging and, for website design, I use SiteSpinner

I can't remember how I first discovered SiteSpinner . . . it was some six or seven years ago.  I used it to build my very first website and I've been using it ever since.  I suppose one of the things that attracted me to it in the first place was the price.  It was a fraction of the cost of DreamWeaver which was the software that, at the time, everyone seemed to be talking about.  And it seemed a lot simpler to use.

As time has gone one and I've built websites to replace those that have gone before, I've always found that SiteSpinner has met my needs.  I have been able to build sites from scratch, without having to worry about customising templates (which I rather think the charity's CEO was trying to do) and that suits me.  As a review on CNET says, SiteSpinner is "aimed at beginners, but with a variety of tools that will help them learn as they work. Its wide range of options is even capable of teaching professionals a few tricks."

So, since this blog is about what works and what doesn't, I definitely want to include SiteSpinner  in the "what works" category.  And if you're just about to embark on your first website, I'd recommend it.  I only wish I'd told the charity CEO about it before he went on his WordPress course!