Gary Vaynerchuk interview

Raj Kotecha of Creative Content Agency interviews Gary Vaynerchuk on how to leverage social media and build a brand. This 30 minute interview is one of the best I’ve watched in quite some time with many gems of wisdom from Gary. He also talks a little about his new new book on social media, Crush It!

Got a 5 year Business Plan? Throw it out says 37Signals

I often write about or quote 37 Signals here, largely due to the respect I have for them as designers/developers and for the way they manage their business.

This week Matt Linderman has written the article “Advice for entrepreneurs: Throw out that five-year plan, build something now, and don’t take any money” where he’s brought together thoughts from 2 articles, in this month’s Best Life magazine, by Greg Gianforte and Mark Cuban respectively:

Gianforte describes how to build a company from sales rather than enlisting professional financiers. The secret is to stop sweating your five-year plan and start moving the product from day one. If your business idea requires more money than you have at hand, then shrink the idea.

“An entrepreneur getting started doesn’t need a $100 million idea,” says Gianforte. “A $1 million idea is enough. The beauty of a $1 million idea is that big companies don’t care about it. Find a niche within a niche.”

… and from Mark Cuban:

Sweat equity is the best equity. “Taking money from someone else kills more start-ups than anything else does. Do everything you can to avoid taking money. If you must, your best prospects are potential customers. You have something they want, so if they invest in you, it can be a win-win situation.”

As always, it’s the comments that the articles at 37 Signals inspire that are really worth reading as they tend to be from people like you and me at various stages of the entrepreneurial game.

Using Social Networks to Create your Business Market

Last month’s Inc. magazine featured clothing company Threadless on the front cover, a company founded by 2 college drop-outs (an interesting trend in itself – so many successful start-ups have college drop-outs at the helm) Jake Nickell and Jeffrey Kalmikoff.

Founded in 2000, Threadless is set to hit $5million is sales this year selling, wait for it, t-shirts! Yep, and they’ve never had a single design that hasn’t  sold out!

So how has Threadless managed to sell out every design? By asking their market what designs they’d buy! Simple!

Using a social network, Threadless runs design competitions and whichever designs are most popular make it onto a t-shirt. The t-shirts are then sold through the same social network to the very people who voted for the designs. This way Threadless supply the market with exactly what they demanded in the first place!

The power of social networking is only now becoming apparent and businesses are beginning to understand just how well ‘word-of-mouth’ marketing, the best and cheapest kind of marketing, works within the semi-porous walls of a social network.

Most think of social networks as the domain of bored teenagers but considering that Facebook, a social network that targets the 25 to 35 demographic, outpaced MySpace, a social network that does target teenagers, in May with the most number of unique visits many will need to re-assess their opinions of the importance of social networking to business.

Retailers can Cash in using Social Networks

With the credit crunch truly making itself felt, retailers should be pulling out all the stops to get eyeballs on their products and making sales.

Gartner research found that UK retailers are missing a trick by not using Social Networking as a marketing tool. With social networks like Facebook, MySpace and Bebo getting so much traffic retailers can advertise and market their products in innovative ways like Amazon US has done through the use of a Facebook application.

Read more about the Gartner report here and more about Amazon’s Social Networking strategy here

Too many Good Business Ideas?

As an entrepreneur, it’s very likely you have many good business ideas but don’t have the focus or even the time to make them all work.
Sometimes it becomes clear, midway through setting up a business based on an idea, that the current idea may not work as well as a business compared to another idea you trashed earlier on.

I personally have an ‘ideas book’ with over 70 business ideas; some seem good, some I know are lousy. However, what do you do to prioritise your list so you don’t waste time on the lousy or mediocre ideas, or those ideas whose time may not yet have come?

The first thing I do is make up a set of criteria to benchmark the idea against. The criteria could include:

  1. Do I have the resources required or do I need to buy it in;
  2. Is this a now, or future, business;
  3. What’s a reasonable time-frame to get from ‘idea’ to ‘business’ and is it possible to find that time;
  4. What are the perceived costs involved in getting the business to launch phase;
  5. Is this a lone-wolf business or will I require partners;
  6. Social and economic factors that may affect the success of my business model now and in 3 years time;
  7. and one of the most important: does this business sound exciting enough to dedicate time and effort in the long run?

Once you have your set of criteria, look at your ideas one by one and make some rough notes for each based on the criteria so you can easily give each one a priority, say 1 to10. Shortlist those with the highest priority and further develop the notes for each of these to see which one comes out looking like a winner.

Now it’s possible to put the other ideas on the shelf and concentrate on the chosen one and develop it further using the usual business development tools like market research, business plans etc.

None of this is rocket science but it’s unbelievable how many ideas are developed into businesses, and usually headed for failure, without any thought to any of the criteria I mention above. I know this from personal experience.

Addicted to Facebook? Make Some Money from it!

UrTurn.com logoAre you a serious facebooker? Spend hours at a time catching up with friends? Wouldn’t it be great it you got paid for doing it?

Well, now you can!

urTurn.com offers a reward scheme where you earn points for posting pictures to Facebook (and MySpace soon too) and writing on friends’ walls. The points can be redeemed for gifts or sold for cash!

Check out how it works here and the urTurn web site also has a FAQ section here

The Auctomatic story

I was recently directed to the BBC article ‘From Oxford to Silicon Valley’ by a friend who had by chance met with the CEO of Auctomatic, and as a budding Internet entrepreneur it’s a very inspiring story.

The story of Auctomatic, by founder Kulveer Taggar, has been serialized on the BBC web site since February 2007 and it makes for interesting reading. Kulveer lays out some sound advice for Internet entrepreneurs all of it based on his, and his company’s, experience.

From Auctomatic’s ‘about‘ page:

The Auctomatic mission is making selling online easy. We think it should be simple to take your stuff and list it on marketplaces like eBay, Amazon and Overstock. But it shouldn’t end there. Auctomatic does more than just let you list your items and manage your sales – it teaches how you can maximize your profits and to increase the success of your business. With Auctomatic you can be running your own successful online business in no time.

Read the BBC series of articles starting here…

and the latest article is here… where Kulveer announces the sale of Auctomatic for ‘many millions of dollars’.

Use Blinkx Ad Hoc to Generate Revenue from Videos on your Web-site or Blog

If you’re a person who takes a lot of video and posts them up on your web-site, blog or social network then Blinkx may be of interest.

Blinkx Ad Hoc is an easy way to display ads on your posted videos and, following the pay-per-click model, any time an ad is clicked you get paid.

It’s easy to set up an account with Blinkx and you could soon be generating revenue from your videos.

From the Blinkx home page…

Make money every time you share a video on your blog, website or social networking profile. Sound good to you? It’s easy to do! Our clever technology matches relevant, in-video text ads to any video. Whenever someone clicks on an ad in your video, you make half the cash!

Check out Blinkx Ad Hoc today

leonjacksonmusic.com – X-Factor Winner Leverages the power of the ‘Instant Digital Download’

Leon Jackson was crowned the winner of the 2007 X-Factor competition last night. Winning a 1 million pound recording contract, his music single, a cover version of the song “When You Believe”, originally recorded by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey for the animated movie “Alladin”, is released on CD on Monday to give it a chance of making it to the Christmas No.1 chart position.

However, the song is already available from the official Leon Jackson website (www.leonjacksonmusic.com) for download. For the first time X-Factor has leveraged the power of the “Instant Download” by taking advantage of the obvious frenzy that surrounds the finals of such competitions. Marketing the website and the available download in the final show ensures that the masses of fans that voted for Leon Jackson can immediately satiate their need for his first single before the single even hits the stands on CD!

The Instant Download is one of the most important advantages the Internet brings to a business, especially a business that deals primarily in digital products, or even physical products that can be digitised in some way, for example e-books are digital versions of books, music and interviews can be digitised into MP3s, etc.

If your business can digitise its products then giving your customers access to the digital versions from your web site is a critical revenue channel. Once a product is digitised there are practically no further overheads involved and that single digital product can be sold millions of times and through dozens of partner websites.

Can you leverage the power of the Instant Download for your business?

Gadget Show Challenge Demonstrates The Success of Guerilla Marketing Using Blogs and Facebook

Last night’s Gadget Show challenge results clearly demonstrated the strength of running a guerilla marketing campaign on the Internet using blogging and social networking to drive massive traffic.

Every week Suzi Perry and Jason Bradbury reveal the results of a challenge and last night was the culmination of a 3 week long challenge to see who could generate the most Internet traffic to their videos on YouTube using viral marketing.

Suzi Perry decided to go down the route of an on-line game where the players aim for the highest score to get access to a ‘reward’ video and Jason Bradbury had a friend film him doing the ‘caterpillar’ move on the streets of London. Both videos were posted on YouTube and the number of views tracked for 3 weeks, with a final tally made on the program last night.

The results were astounding, with Jason Bradbury’s video getting 10 times more views, with over 2 million, than Suzi Perry’s which weighed in at just over 200,000.

But, in all honesty, it wasn’t the theme of the videos that drove the traffic. Jason Bradbury went on to explain that he’d blogged extensively about his video as well as sharing it with other bloggers to drive traffic. A friend had also set up Facebook group to drive even more traffic by creating a buzz around his funny video.

This clearly demonstrates that a huge budget isn’t required to generate buzz and drive good traffic to a web site. All it takes is some imagination and knowledge of how to leverage existing mediums like blogs and social networks like Facebook to run a successful Internet marketing campaign.

Click here to read more about running a marketing campaign on Facebook for free

View Jason Bradbury’s ‘Extreme Caterpillar Breakdance’ here…

Dragons from Dragons’ Den Invest In hungryhouse.co.uk

Last night’s episode of the BBC programme Dragons’ Den was of particular interest to me as it featured a company called hungryhouse.co.uk, a web site to make ordering takeaway-food easier, which needed investment to expand their operation across the UK.

Having successfully run the Dragons’ Den gauntlet, hungryhouse.co.uk partnered with two of the Dragons, Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan, who agreed to invest £100,000 for a total equity stake of 25%.

The site has partnered with restaurants in various parts of the UK and provides the user with a single point of access by offering restaurant choice by area and the ability to place orders with the selected restaurant via the site. This does away with the drawer full of takeaway menus and means that a user, presumably, will have access to the latest menus.

It’s a great idea, especially considering more than 100 million takeaways are ordered in the UK annually, however what I wanted to stress here is that the investment was required primarily for off-line marketing, to recruit more restaurants to join the site and grow the coverage.
This is a point many ‘web-entrepreneurs’ fail to take into account. Many believe that just having a web site will generate enough interest in the market and lead to revenue generation. Not so. Off-line marketing is still as important as it ever was especially since it’s fairly easy to get a website up and running, meaning competition is ever increasing.

So, when you’re putting together your business plan for a web-business, don’t forget to consider all the marketing channels available to you, off and on-line.

Use Facebook To Run A Free Marketing Campaign

Social networks like Facebook are a marketer’s dream. Social networks, by nature, are viral i.e. they’re built to ‘spread’ ideas, photos, video or anything you can think of to your list of contacts within the site, and they to their list of contacts and so on…

Facebook is second only to MySpace in the number of members it has, however it’s built to be a better viral vehicle for marketing. Whether you’re selling a new product or want to get exposure for a social event, it’s very easy to get ‘eyeballs’ on it using Facebook and what’s more it doesn’t cost anything.

The first step would be to set up a Facebook group for your specific product or service and invite all your contacts to join. When your contacts do join, the feed on their friends’ pages will be updated with that fact and will likely lead to a lot of them at the very least visiting the group page to check out if there’s anything of interest for them. “After all if a friend of mine joined a group it’s more than likely it’ll be of interest to me too” is the concept we’re going for here (you want to be sure to have some compelling copy on the group page to make sure your message is getting across to your ideal market to entice people to join). This will carry on for a while and pretty soon the group will have hundreds of members. And by ‘pretty soon’ I mean within weeks.

Whilst this is going on you want to be sure to have a website, preferably with a descriptive domain name that users can relate to the Facebook group, where members can find more details of your product(s) or services or whatever it is you’re marketing. Why? Because the site is under your control; you’re not limited in what information to host on the site or in what manner. Also, having a website allows you to capture the email addresses of your visitors so you can start marketing to them directly.

Drive the members of the group to the website (it could also be a special page you set up on an existing website created just for members of the Facebook group) using teaser information like articles or special offers/discounts. This will lead to more people joining the group so they can take advantage of the special discounts thereby continuing the viral campaign for you.

That’s it! Using this simple method you’ll be driving traffic to your web site in no time.

Here are a few links to help you set something like this up:

  1. Hosting and domain name for your site (if you don’t currently have one) – DreamHost
  2. A Cynergise article on using descriptive domain names to drive more traffic to your site from Facebook and elsewhere
  3. A brilliant email management tool to help you capture and manage your email list for direct marketing

If you’re setting up your Facebook marketing campaign and web site and need some advice don’t hesitate to contact us – we’ll be happy to help.

When is the Best Time to Kick Off your Email Marketing Campaign?

What is the best day of the week to kick off your email marketing campaign?

Historically, marketing or sales emails that land in your customer’s (or potential customer’s) email inbox on a Thursday morning are shown to have the best conversions.

The thinking behind this is that most office workers, who have regular access to email, start to ‘dial’ down from Thursday morning onward. Thursday is the almost the beginning of the weekend; we’re past the middle of the week and the weekend now looms, getting closer and closer!

Psychologically, this means that our minds are getting set for more fun activity and less actual work. This in turn means longer time spent on the computer doing non-work stuff like reading friends’ emails or checking out the latest on Facebook.

But can we narrow it down even further? A recent survey/study done by a news organisation states that it’s exactly at 3:27PM on a Thursday afternoon that we really begin to switch off from our work. So, could we get better results if marketing/sales emails are timed to land in email in-boxes late on a Thursday afternoon? We’ll try it out and let you know!

Contextual Advertising on your Web Site using Google AdSense

Although there are a number of contextual advertising schemes out there Google AdSense remains our favourite, primarily due to the ease of setup and implementation.

But first, what is contextual advertising? As the term suggests, this is advertising, or ad placement, based on the content of the site that the ads will appear on.

For example, at cynergise.com we write articles on Internet marketing so most of the ads that appear on our site are related to Internet marketing. However, there is more to it than that; Last week Sol wrote an article about how blog owners can strengthen relationships with their readers using certain blog-comment plugins for WordPress. Some of the ads that displayed for this article had to do with relationship-building and how to find the perfect life-partner! Not quite what we had in mind! However this was quickly remedied by adding filters to our AdSense account blocking out those advertisers.
To get a better idea of what contextual advertising is, take a look at the Google AdSense ads in the middle and right-hand columns of this site – you may need to scroll down the page a little to see them – you’ll probably see ads on AdSense, Google AdWords and other Pay-Per-Click schemes. Look at some of our other articles and the ad will change to reflect the content. If your site is about sports, it’s likely the ads displayed will be related to sports in some form or another.

So, how do you get started with Google AdSense? As with all things Big-G, it’s free to sign up and after a brief evaluation period of your primary web-site your account will be activated. There are, of course, terms and conditions that your web site has to follow and as long as you play by the rules your web site will be serving up relevant ads to your web-site visitors in no time.

After you’ve signed up and your account activated, you’ll be able to sign into your account, set-up how you’d like Google to pay you (although this can be deferred to a later date) and start setting up your ad campaigns. Everything is very well documented and it’ll only take a few minutes using the wizard to set up the colour and dimensions of the ads so they fit in with your web site. The AdSense wizard then presents you with a block of code which you insert into your web page at the location you’d like the ads to appear.

And that’s it – once the relevant ads begin to appear your web site visitors will hopefully be clicking through to other related and relevant sites.

So how do you, the web site owner, generate revenue? Google AdSense is a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising scheme which means that you as the publisher of the ads gets paid every time an ad on your site is clicked on. The revenue generated varies from click to click as advertisers ‘bid’ on certain keywords and a sliding scale is used depending on the maximum bid per keyword.

I’ll be writing more about this and on how to implement Google AdSense code in your web pages in new articles in the near future.

To keep up-to-date be sure to sign up for our FREE Internet Marketing tips newsletter using the sign up form on the right.

How Barack Obama raised over $50million for his Presidential campaign using the Internet

So far this year, Barack Obama, the Democrat hopeful for the United States presidency, has raised over $50 million for his campaign, a lot of it using the Internet.

How? Well, firstly he launched his own social network, at MyBarackObama.com where his supporters can sign up to plan events, meet up and, importantly, donate to his campaign chest. Taking low denomination donations of around $5 and up, he has ensured that any and all of his supporters can contribute. This has allowed the Barack Obama campaign to raise more money to date this year than any other presidential candidate for next year’s election.

Secondly, Obama has a very active presence on all the ‘happening’ social networks: Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, as well as his own web site at BarackObama.com with a very smart email-capture form on the home page. The site itself is clean and very informative.

On Facebook, he has 139,481 friends/supporters as well as a Obama Campaign application. The Facebook application description reads

The Obama application puts the most recent campaign video and news on your profile and in front of your friends. It also enables you to easily communicate with your friends in early primary states where support for Barack is especially important.

Facebook, a network both Sol and I will be writing a bit about in future articles, is the most popular social network today and Obama’s campaign manager clearly knows how to leverage it.

Search for Barack Obama on YouTube and you’ll get a list of various videos posted by his campaign as well as by supporters.

His MySpace page is one of the cleanest I’ve found on MySpace – most pages are so congested with all sorts of flashing stuff that MySpace is something I very rarely visit these days. It has a good amount of information on the man himself along with photographs, video and a blog.

So what does all this mean? Obama’s tapped, successfully, into the ‘now’ generation. He’s reaching the grassroots at their computers, where more and more people are spending their free time, quickly out-pacing the TV.

Nothing gets information out faster than the Internet and evidently it’s not too bad at getting money in quickly either!

Using Descriptive Domain Names To Drive Relevant Traffic To Your Web Site

For a while now Internet marketers have known that using descriptive domain names increases traffic. What am I talking about?

Consider this domain: http://www.freechickenandcoke.com/ This domain name pretty much says it all, “free chicken and coke”.This is a promotion being run in the US by Chick-fil-A, a fast food restaurant, in conjunction with Coca Cola where the user can register to be sent a coupon for a free chicken meal and a Coke.

The advantage of using a domain like this is that users need only take one look and will know whether it’s of any interest to them or not. They don’t need to visit a web site with a vague domain name to figure out if it holds anything of interest. Essentially, having a descriptive domain removes a step for the user and the goal of any well managed web site is to get relevant information to the interested user in the quickest way possible.

This is especially true for web promotions, like the one above by Chick-fil-A. The aim is to drive traffic to the promotion as quickly as possible, and at that only relevant traffic e.g. a vegetarian who drinks fresh juice is unlikely to bother with this promotion.

Using a descriptive domain also makes it easier to conduct a viral campaign, as a catchy domain name is far more likely to be passed around amongst friends than a vague one. The very fact that the domain name is descriptive nullifies the need to explain the promotion, which will make it speed along faster.

Can your business improve by running a web promotion and what descriptive domain could you use?