Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Does the Klout Score Really Have Any Clout?

Oh I had to laugh!  I've wondered for a long time whether a Klout score has any real value.  And I've just read an article, which seems to think it does.

Near the beginning, the author says: "Klout is a simple online influence analysis platform which gauges, pretty accurately, how much influence you have in the online world within your niche field of specialism."  (Note the use of the word 'accurately'.)

So I thought I'd check out a couple of big names in internet marketing and see what their scores were.  Mine is 51, so I would expect them to be in the high 90s.  But instead of that, I found that Derek Gehl has a score of 47 and Armand Morin has a score of 57.

According to Klout, I am only six points behind Armand Morin (multimillionaire, universally respected internet marketing teacher - and probably one of the most successful internet marketers on the planet) when gauged for my influence "in the online world within my niche field" which is, of course, internet marketing.

Now Derek Gehl is perhaps not as well known as Armand Morin but he's certainly a very successful internet marketer and teacher of internet marketing.  So what have I done to earn a place four points AHEAD of him on Klout.

Well, if you look at the Klout website it will tell you that scores are assessed according to the number of:
  • Mentions, likes, comments, subscribers, wall posts, and friends on Facebook
  • Retweets, mentions, list memberships, followers, and replies on Twitter
  • Comments, +1's, and reshares on Google+
  • Connections, recommenders and comments on Linkedin
  • Tips done on foursquare.
  • +K received on Klout
  • Page importance, inlinks to outlinks ratio and number of inlinks on Wikipedia

Now, the Wikipedia references, fair enough.  If you're well known and influential you are likely to have a larger presence on Wikipedia.  But, as for the rest, it's just a measure of how busy you are in social media.  If you don't use it, or use it to a limited extent, like Armand and Derek, then you're not going to achieve a high score even if, like them, you're a world-class teacher.  So can Klout really claim to be an accurate gauge of influence online?  Well, not in the area of internet marketing.  Because, if you're a top marketer and you teach numerous people every year how to do it, you ARE influential online whether you use social media or not.

Perhaps in other fields - gardening or antiques or the theatre, say - the Klout score would be more accurate because the internet is not an integral part of these fields.  But as far as internet marketing goes, I think we need to take the scores with a pinch of salt.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Are We Losing Sight of the Importance of Good Value?

I went to a car boot fair this morning.  It's a large one and a lot of the stallholders are antique dealers who use the fair to sell off their less valuable or smaller pieces.  I was talking to one of the dealers who had some nice vintage glass.  He was bemoaning the fact that the distinctions between local prices and international prices are being blurred by so much being sold on eBay.  It reminded me of the Oscar Wilde quote about the cynic, who is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.  

And that, in turn, got me thinking about the cost of the courses and software and so on that we sell as internet marketers.  I have noticed that there are some marketers who charge the same price for pretty well everything they produce  . . . it's all £197 or £247 or whatever.  (I remember hearing a year or two back that someone had actually done a trial and found that things sold better if the price ended with a seven rather than a nine, say, or a zero.  Go figure!)

And, certainly, I have heard it suggested that, if you're producing a new product, you should look to see what other people are charging for their products and price yours accordingly.  Now, in one way, this is sensible - you don't want to charge £300 if everyone else is charging £50 for a very similar product.  Nor would you want to undersell yourself and charge too little compared with similar items.  But I wonder whether, in all this, we are losing sight of the importance of quality and value.  If our product is genuinely better than everything else available, should we not charge more?  On the other hand, should we not make an effort to be aware of the shortcomings of our products in order to avoid charging more than they're worth?

I believe that some products being sold online are greatly overpriced.  I've written recently about the cost of buying Camtasia compared with the low cost of a subscription to Screencast-o-Matic.  I have no personal experience of Camtasia but certainly some reviewers seem to think it's not worth the £299 price tag.  On the other hand, I think there are some pieces of software that are genuinely worth their high prices.  Adobe Photoshop, for example, retails at around £500 but it can do things that (as far as I'm aware) other photo editing software doesn't.  I have used it myself and, for someone who does a lot of work with photos and graphics, I think it's worth every penny.

Similarly, I have seen internet marketing and other courses which, while useful and informative, are - to my mind - not worth anything like the £297 being charged for them.  I have seen single instructional DVDs that I would happily pay £8 or £10 for but not the £20 to £25 being asked by some sellers.  Conversely, I have bought courses from some people (such as Armand Morin) which, despite being pricey, have been such good value that I've gone back again and again for more.   

And that, surely, is what it should be about - offering good value to our customers so that they return time and time again.  It's all very well learning about the 'funnel' - lure them in with an inexpensive product and then promote increasingly expensive ones over a period of time - but if the first product is rubbish, they're not going to come back, no matter how cheap it was.

This, of course, is one of the problems with affiliate marketing.  We have to promote the product at the prescribed price and, if we want to be sure that it's worth the money, we have to buy it first and spend time reading it or watching it.  So although producing our own products can be hard work and time-consuming, it does give us much more control.  In the past I've sold my own products and I've sold other people's and, shortly, I'm hoping to launch a website where I can offer a range of quality products at  reasonable prices.  Value is everything in this business.  And, as Armand Morin - one of the most successful internet marketers ever - always teaches, give them more than they've paid for and they'll buy from you again and again.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Holiday, Car Boot Fairs and Selling on eBay

We're just back from a holiday in Devon and I've got a lot of catching up to do!  I had intended doing a little work while we were away and had taken laptop and dongle.  However, when it came to it, I couldn't get a signal at the place where we were staying.  So one day I took the laptop out with me and sat on the top of Dartmoor doing some work, surrounded by beautiful moorland and sheep.  Which was glorious.  But eventually the battery got low and I decided I'd rather get on with the holiday and . . . well, you get the picture.  I recharged the laptop but, for the rest of the holiday, it stayed in a cupboard.  Hence the catching up.

One of the things I love to do (not just on holiday) is go to car boot fairs.  I'm never sure if this is a purely British institution so, in case it is, I'll explain that a car boot fair is exactly what it sounds like.  It's an open space (field, car park or whatever) where people congregate to sell stuff out of their car boots (trunks).  Usually they pile their bits and pieces onto folding tables or onto groundsheets and you get an amazing mixture of stuff . . . antiques, kids' toys, second hand clothes, books, cds and dvds, electrical equipment, jewellery, bric-a-brac . . . you name it, you can probably find something.  I've not been to many fairs this year because the weather's been so bad - loads of wet Sundays - but, even so, I've had some good finds ranging from some limited edition teddy bears to an out-of-print and very sought-after tarot deck . . . and all for just a few pounds.

So when we go away, I like to know where the local boot fairs are and, for that, I buy a magazine called, appropriately enough, Car Boot & Fairs Calendar.  The reason I'm mentioning it is because, in the July/August edition there was an interesting little article.  It reported that on eBay US (and likely to be introduced on eBay worldwide) there is now a demand that all "top rated sellers" offer a one working day handling time for postage - something that, as the writer pointed out, is just not a sustainable option.  "Weather, transport, strikes.  Power failures, illness . . . however many miles round trip to the post office to mail just one low value sale in time . . . differences in public holidays from country to country."   And, asks the writer, if you're selling to a different time zone, which working day is the start point?

Finally he notes that, for parcels over 2kg going overseas from the UK it's cheapest to use FedEx or DHL but both of these usually need two days' notice for collection so if you're sending somehing that weighs 2.65 kg, you might have to charge the customer an extra £40 for postage, just to keep within the new rules.

As he says, it hasn't been thought through properly.  But my feeling is that it may not last very long.  I remember another rule that was brought in a couple of years back which certainly hadn't been thought through properly.   It was decided that anyone selling books on eBay had to offer them postage free as their standard rate.  The "thinking" (for want of a better word!) behind this was that people buy books on impulse and if they don't have to pay for postage they're more likely to buy.  (Really?  I've never been aware that paying postage puts people off from buying on Amazon.)  It was at this point that I stopped selling books on eBay.  Because the only options were either to distort the price of the book by including the postage cost, or else to lose money.  A hefty paperback may cost two or three pounds to post, so you can't start the bidding at 99p.  Similarly a set of hardback books may cost twenty or thirty pounds to post, particularly if you need to include insurance.  So the whole thing was ridiculous.  I think a lot of booksellers must have agreed with me and stopped using eBay to sell because, when I looked recently, I noticed that all the books on sale are quoting postage costs once more.  At least eBay seems to learn from its mistakes . . . well, some of them!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Bringing Online Marketing to Offline Businesses

I don't know about you, but I find it quite annoying when I want to look up a local business and find that it doesn't have a website.  There are, of course, plenty of directories which list businesses and give your their contact details.  But I want to know more than that.  I want to know their opening hours and I want to know whether they're offering the particular goods or services that I want.  And I find it surprising that there are still a lot of businesses that don't have an internet presence.

Armand Morin has started a campaign to bring offline businesses into the online world with his
Marketer CMS software and Instant Cash Flow.  It's an interesting concept.  Armand has created a piece of software which enables you to create a website just by 'filling in the blanks'.  It's a WordPress theme and, for anyone used to using WordPress, it should be a piece of cake.

Now I've never used WordPress - it's always seemed a bit complicated to me.  I've stuck with SiteSpinner to create my websites and Blogger for my blogs.   But I've just been watching some of Armand's videos on how to use Marketer CMS and I reckon I could do it, even with my limited knowledge. 

So what's so special about it?  Well, it's been created with small businesses in mind, giving them a way to promote themselves to customers who, ultimately, will be coming into their shops to buy.  It's not designed to showcase their wares but, rather, to allow the customer to get to know what the business offers and, most important, to make contact easily. 

The Instant Cash Flow course enables anyone who can use Marketer CMS to become a web-designer for local business, helping to build a company's online presence, through the well-thought out design of the site and a useful SEO plugin.  It is, for want of a better phrase, a 'business in a box' - buy the course and then market the websites to businesses near you.  It's a clever idea for anyone who's at home with WordPress and who is a good salesman.  At $1,997 it's not cheap.  But for someone with the skills to make a go of it, it could be a real money-spinner as well as offering a valuable service to the local community.