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Category: Business

iPhone Ideas, Projects and Developers Wanted

13 March, 2008 (10:06) | Business | By: Nick Dalton

Last week Apple announced the Software Development Kit (SDK) for the iPhone. This has caused a lot of excitement among developers since they can now finally create applications that will run on the iPhone.

How exciting do people think is this? On the day of the launch Apple’s servers were totally bogged down by all the traffic. It took me 7 hours to just download the SDK… Four days after the launch Apple announced that the SDK had already been downloaded 100,000 times.

As the author of 101 iPhone Tips & Tricks, I’m fielding several calls per day from companies that want real iPhone applications developed today. To help developers and projects find each other I have created a new community web site called iPhoneIncubator.com. Here you can post your resume or project for free.

Not just for developers

My new web site is not just for developers. Do you have an idea for an application that you would like to see on your iPhone? Brainstorm with other community members. Maybe a developer will pickup your idea and make it reality.

If you have an idea for a new iPhone product that you want created for you and which you can sell, you can probably find a developer on iPhoneIncubator.com. (Now the site is just launched and iPhone developers are beginning to discover it.) The benefit is that the site is 100% focused on the iPhone, and you don’t have to wade through hundreds of PHP developers like you would on eLance, Rent-a-coder, etc.

If you have a really big idea, the premier Silicon Valley venture capital firm KPCB has put up a $100M (yes, that is one hundred million dollars) to fund iPhone related development.

Check out my site at http://iPhoneIncubator.com

Amazing business opportunity

One Apple’s genius moves with the iPhone is the App Store. This will be the one central location where all iPhone applications will be sold. As an Internet business owner you are always struggling to get traffic to your site to sell your products. Here Apple is serving you 10 million iPhone owners on a silver platter.

Have you drunk the kool-aid? Are you jumping on the iPhone racehorse?

Ken McArthur’s Perpetual Learning Series

30 January, 2008 (09:31) | Business | By: Nick Dalton

Ken’s pre-launch campaign for his upcoming book is gathering steam. He just added 100 hours of audio content that you can access for free at TheImpactFactor.net. The recordings include:

  • Andy Jenkins, Anik Singal and Nathan Anderson on Search Engine Optimization
  • Rosalind Gardner on Affiliate Marketing
  • Brian Voiles on Copywriting
  • Jack Humphrey on Critical Mass Promotion
  • Willie Crawford on Article Marketing
  • Mark Joyner – “What’s Coming Soon… Profits or Disaster?”
  • And about 20 others

There is no such thing as a free product, so don’t spend the next 100 hours of your life listening to all this audio content just because you don’t have to hand over any money for it. Use the just-in-time learning methodology. For example: If you are just about to host your first teleconference then look at the available content and you’ll find a presentation by expert Gary Nuckles. Search for and use the information only when you need it.

You can sign up to The Impact Factor here.

How To Create A Real Internet Business

23 January, 2008 (13:48) | Business, Reviews | By: Nick Dalton

Do you have an Internet business selling information products? The January 2008 edition of the Terry Dean Monthly Mentor Club teaches you how to create a plan to go from selling single information products to creating a real BUSINESS.

Remember: A business is a profitable system that works without you.

To get where you want to go you need a plan. Not a complicated fifty page document that takes months to write. Just a single page business plan that crystallizes your offerings and keeps you on track towards your goals. One of the few business planning books that Terry recommends reading is: The One Page Business Plan by Jim Horan.

Finding your audience

Spending a lot of time and money on creating an information product that nobody wants to buy is very frustrating. Believe me; been there, done that. You need to identify a market where people have a problem, they know they have a problem and they are willing to spend money solving it.

For this I highly recommend Virtually FoolProof Method of Choosing Slam Dunk Markets. It’s only $10. A small price to pay for avoiding going too far down a dead-end path.

Develop your core message

The Internet business marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive. Why should anyone listen to you? Why should they give their hard earned money to you?

Take a closer look at the blogs that you read most often. Does the author have a distinct personality that comes through in the writing? Strong opinions about something? A good background story? You might even call it a brand.

Any “me too” message is not going to get you very far.

Develop your product base

Have you already developed your first information product? Congratulations! That’s a great start, and it puts you ahead of 99% of the wannabes. But one product is not an Internet business.

Here are the four different types products and price-levels that Terry recommends every information business should have:

  1. Entry Products
  2. Bread-And-Butter Income
  3. High Ticket Items
  4. Continuity Income

Analyze high-profile marketers

The newsletter finished with an analysis of four well known Internet businesses, breaking down their brands, products and offerings into the categories described above.

  • Dan Kennedy
  • Ron Legrand
  • Jimmy Brown
  • Stephen Snyder

The verdict

As usual Terry delivers great, actionable content. The key here is action. Information without action is worthless. If you take action and answer all 17 questions in the newsletter, you will be well on your way to creating a real Internet business.

This month’s newsletter felt a little scattered. The information is there, but I had to read it a couple of times to put it together and create my own action plan.

Instant gratification

Typically monthly newsletters like this are only delivered as a physical product. Starting this month Terry is experimenting with digital delivery in addition to mailing you the newsletter. When you sign up now, you get the instant gratification of being able to download the January newsletter immediately. But back issues will still not be available. So if you want the information on how to create a real Internet BUSINESS, then you need to go to www.MonthlyMentorClub.com now.

Have You Ever Wondered How SPAM Emails Can Be Profitable?

21 January, 2008 (09:13) | Business | By: Nick Dalton

If you ever go through your email SPAM folder, I’m sure you have wondered who would click on the links in such an email, let alone purchase anything. But there are people online from all walks of life, so maybe one in a million would. But still, how could that be a viable business that fuels the never ending flood of SPAM emails?

As an Internet business owner you’re probably used to the reputable email services run by companies like Aweber and Get Response, to name just two. They are very strict on their double opt-in requirements to lock out any spammers thinking about using their services. Their initial fees when you have a small list is a very reasonable $20 per month (approximately). But if you want to send emails to one million recipients were talking over $1,000 per month.

Now if you have a legitimate mailing list of one million people, then you have yourself quite an Internet business, and $1,000 per month to communicate with them is probably pocket change. But if you’re a spammer with a click through rate of one in a million, then these economics will definitely not work.

Where there is a business need and money to be made, there are sure to be companies willing to provide the needed services. The global market of the Internet almost guarantees it. Enter the botnet business model.

A botnet is a network of thousands, in some cases hundreds of thousands, of compromised computers. These machines have at some point in time been infected by a small program because the user clicked on a link in an email or visited a web site in the wrong neighborhood. When a computer has been compromised this way there are no visible signs of it. Gone are the days when virus writer wanted publicity or bragging rights for displaying silly messages on as many computers as possible, or caused them to erase their hard drives, or just grind processing to a halt. Now these infections keep a very low visible profile.

Once in a while the infected computers “call home” for instructions. A popular, and profitable, task for these computers is to send out SPAM emails on behalf of a paying customer. Previously it was not that difficult to trace SPAM emails back to the server sending them. ISP:s would then block all emails coming from that server IP address. With emails coming from a botnet, there could be a hundred thousand different computers sending ten emails each. This is impossible to block by IP address.

According to this article on Dark Reading a price war has broken out between competing botnets. And the going rate is $100 to send out one million SPAM emails. At this price level all it really does take is one sucker in a million to keep the “business” profitable.

With SPAM services on sale, prepare your email inbox for new avalanches of SPAM emails in the coming weeks. Gmail has one of the better SPAM filters in the free webmail category. For non-webmail accounts you can use the SpamArrest service.

Note: As an Internet business entrepreneur I’m always interested in learning more about other business models. Learning more about the business described in this post does not mean that I endorse marketing through SPAM emails, nor do I encourage you to join this “dark side” of the Internet.

Pay-Per-Play – If It Sounds Too Good…

9 January, 2008 (10:32) | Business | By: Nick Dalton

Pay-Per-Play is a service from NetAudioAds that will play a 5 second advertisement sound clip to every person who lands on your web page. Since it’s an ad you get paid each time it’s played. And since the web page visitor doesn’t have to click on anything you have essentially a 100% conversion rate. This sounds like a dream come true for Internet business entrepreneurs who have seen their AdSense checks shrink.

Many big name marketers have been promoting Pay-Per-Play for their pending launch on February 1st. Pay-Per-Play has a three tier affiliate program, which is the reason why marketers with big lists are encouraging you to sign up under their affiliate id. Since it’s free to sign up it’s an “easy sell”.

I’m sure that Pay-Per-Play has seen an explosive growth in the number of web sites who have signed up to their service. If the promoters would have done their due diligence they would have learned that this is not the first time this company has built an affiliate network, and last time they left many affiliates unhappy and without money.

Money for nothing

Money every time my page is loaded… I can hear the script kiddies’ minds working themselves into a frenzy. A small little script that loads my web pages every second would net me $xxx per day…

Pay-Per-Play would have to build in some serious fraud protection into their system. But that’s certainly possible. You don’t hear about a lot of fraud anymore related to banner advertising.

Banner ads anyone?

Pay-Per-Play is a novel idea, but it’s not all that different from banner advertising. Let’s continue this comparison with banner ads. I see some definite downsides for Pay-Per-Play:

  • The audio ad is played once and then it’s gone. A banner ad is visible on the page, attracting your attention until you go to another page.
  • You cannot click on an audio ad to get more information.
  • If you don’t have your speakers turned on you will not hear the audio ad. I’m guessing that a lot more people have their sound turned off while surfing the web at work, than there are people who have installed banner ad blockers.

If you were an advertiser would you pay the same amount of money for an Pay-Per-Play audio ad as you would for a banner ad? Especially since there is no established system to audit Pay-Per-Play ads. I would say they have to be sold at a substantial discount compared to banner ads. I believe that a reasonable rate for banner ads is $3 CPM. (That’s $3 per thousand impressions.)

If Pay-Per-Play can charge 1/10th of that and they pay you 25%, that means you get less than $1 per ten thousand page views. That’s a far cry from the $0.01-0.03 per play that the sales page predicts. Better rev up those scripts a couple of notches…

More missing details

PayPerPlay is less than a month away from their launch, but they haven’t released any details on:

  • Who their “major search engine” partner is.
  • Any advertisers who have signed up.
  • Any rate information.

How many red flags do you need?

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2008 Predictions

1 January, 2008 (16:42) | Business | By: Nick Dalton

The Steady Decline of Web Sites

Companies spend billions of dollars on creating elaborate web sites promoting their company. Web site visitors and customers rarely care about your company. They want the information they’re looking for quickly. Blogs, RSS, gadgets and widgets, video and mobile browsers all make the web site more and more irrelevant.

The challenge for 2008 for you as an Internet business owner is to get in front of your customers through all these different channels and to provide a holistic customer experience across these fragmented interactions.

Video Saturation and the Raise of Brands

2007 was the year of the video and now there are more videos online than anyone can watch in a lifetime. How do you know what to watch when you’re tired of just “YouTube channel surfing”? How do you determine if a video is worth watching based on just a 1-5 star rating? 2008 will see the emergence of video brands that produce, compile or recommend videos for specific audiences.

Increased Use of CRM Systems

Are you inundated by poorly targeted marketing messages? Do you get multiple copies of the same message? In an increasingly noisy world, marketers who target their messages for specific segments of their lists will have an advantage. For example: prospects, customers and former customers should rarely receive the same emails. Top marketers like Rich Schefren and Perry Marshall have already implemented CRM. Many more will follow in 2008.

Increase in WordPress Security Exploits

In 2007 we saw several high profile security exploits where criminals used compromised WordPress blogs to add links to their own drug peddling web sites. Since WordPress is the worlds most popular blogging platform it is a very attractive target for exploiting any security holes. And there is a direct financial incentive for taking over thousands of blogs for the purpose of gaining high PR links or using the servers for other criminal activity like denial of service attacks or sending spam emails.

Continued Flood of Aspiring Internet Businesses

More and more people are lured by the Internet lifestyle and making money online. However as the competition increases the barrier to entry also increases. What used to pass as a $7 ebook will soon be difficult to give away for free. In terms of success stories Internet businesses will look more like the established book market: a few very well known authors always produce blockbusters, below that there is a large number of authors who make a living, and then there’s the majority of authors who sell less than 100 books. And that doesn’t even include the authors who never even get published.

There will be significant opportunities for those who can guide all these new aspiring Internet entrepreneurs up the path towards making a living online. There will also be opportunities for companies acting like traditional publishers. Who have the production and promotion machine ready to go and all the major JV partners lined up for new products.

Offshore Turning the Tables

In the past years most successful Internet businesses have outsourced many tasks to providers in countries with lower wages. In the next years these countries will have the greatest growth in Internet availability and Internet businesses. It doesn’t take much entrepreneurial spirit to realize the financial benefits of doing the work for your own Internet business, instead of working as an outsourcer for low wages.

Imagine the competition from tens of thousands of new Internet businesses emerging from these countries where they have significant (multiple orders of magnitude!) cost advantages over you. Welcome to 2008!

Other Interesting 2008 Predictions

Tracking and Losing Affiliate Cookies

10 December, 2007 (11:08) | Business | By: Nick Dalton

Online affiliate marketing is a billion dollar industry and its foundation for tracking commissions is built upon very fragile browser cookies. This topic has been examined in deep detail by Benjamin Edelman and discussed on many blogs and forums over the years. Recently ShoeMoney had an interesting blog post where he suggests that cookie tracking may be replaced by server side tracking. Here are my thoughts on the topic.

Lets start with a simple case where you manage your own web site that sells a product and you also manage your own affiliate program. An affiliate’s link to your sales page may look like this:
www.business.com/index.php?affId=123

The server side code on the sales page grabs the affiliate id from the URL and adds it as a parameter to the buy link so that the information is transferred to the payment processor. After the customer has completed the purchase the customer is sent back to your thank you page. In order for your system to correctly record the affiliate sale the payment processor needs to post the affiliate id back to your thank you page. Since many payment processors don’t support passing arbitrary parameters through the payment process, this is not really an option.

The easy way around this problem is to store the affiliate id as a server session variable on your site. When the customer comes back to the thank you page the code just looks up the affiliate id in session. Of course to use a session, the server needs to set a session id cookie in the customer’s browser. And we’re back at square one.

So getting rid of cookies entirely in the affiliate process is very difficult.

To continue the discussion, let’s assume that we accept session cookies set by the merchant’s web site (also known as first party cookies). These cookies are also a lot less likely to be targeted by overzealous anti-spyware programs, than cookies set by the major affiliate networks.

The next complication is that your web site has many pages between the affiliate landing page and the checkout page. The affiliate id needs to be kept throughout this process. Again the server session comes to the rescue. The affiliate id is grabbed from the URL on the landing page and is immediately stored in session. On the thank you page the id is retrieved from session, just like in the previous example.

Next let’s introduce an affiliate network like CJ. The affiliate’s link will then look something like this:
www.aff.net/click?merchantId=42&productId=12&affId=123

The affiliate network registers this click in their database and forward the customer to your sales page with the affiliate id:
www.business.com/index.php?affId=123

The process is then the same as in the previous examples. With the difference that on the thank you page you need to communicate the products sold along with the affiliate id back to the affiliate network. This can be done with an invisible iframe or image, or with JavaScript. The affiliate network receives this information and stores it in their database and later matches it up with the previous click data.

Another issue is tracking affiliate commissions across visits (a.k.a. return days). Say a customer clicks on an affiliate link but does not purchase anything on the first visit. A few days later the customer returns to the merchant’s site (without clicking on an affiliate link) and then makes a purchase. Most affiliate programs pay out affiliate commissions for this purchase. Persistent cookies work well for tracking an affiliate id across visits for cases like this. Of course the cookies are not of much use if they are deleted by software on the customer’s computer. If the persistent cookies are issued by the merchant’s web site they are less likely to be deleted. However this would require more work on the part of the merchant.

In the future I believe that CRM systems will play a larger role on many e-commerce sites. You will be given an incentive to enter your name and email address (”squeeze page”) and that information is stored in a database along with the affiliate id that you arrived with. As long as you use the same email address when you make a purchase the original affiliate can always be credited.

All this extra processing and keeping track of the affiliate id on the merchants web site is probably more work than most merchants can or are willing to do. After all, merchants outsource their affiliate programs to avoid work. Another disturbing fact is that the merchants don’t have any financial incentive to improve affiliate tracking since more lost affiliate cookies result in less affiliate commissions to pay out. From the affiliate networks perspective they want to make it as easy as possible for merchants to sign up to their network, and they want to be compatible with as many technologies as possible. Therefore they offer to do all the tracking using their cookies.

In summary I believe that affiliate tracking can be vastly improved using server side technology, but the parties who are in a position to do something about it do not have any incentive to do so.

What do you think? Is this really a technology problem? Are there any scenarios that cannot be accurately tracked with the techniques described above?

The Art of Follow-up, Follow-through and Digging Wells

29 October, 2007 (23:38) | Business, Life | By: Nick Dalton

A week ago I attended the jvAlert Live conference in Long Beach. Typically you return from a conference with a head full of ideas and a pocket full of business cards. If you leave it at that, you have just wasted a lot of time and money on the conference.

My goal was to follow-up with every person I met at the conference within a week. This seems like a simple, and courteous, thing to do. But I’ve been amazed at how few people even take that simple action. In the past week I’ve received a total of 3 emails from other conference attendees. Two of them were from speakers – they obviously know the importance of follow-up. One email was a form email that literally began: “It was a pleasure meeting with you at [Event Name] in [City and State].” But maybe I’m just not a very interesting guy to keep in touch with…

One of the main benefits of attending a live event is to make personal connections that can lead to future joint venture deals. Even though the name of the conference is jvAlert you need approach new potential JV partners with tact. Here are some suggestions.

Learn something about your potential JV partner

Each evening when I get back to my hotel room I always write down notes about the people I’ve met during the day. It can be things like when their birthday is, or a shared interest that we discovered during our conversation. Mention some of this personal information when you contact the person again.

You should also sign up to any mailing list and blog RSS feed that the potential JV partner has. Read regularly to learn what topics are common, how often third party products are promoted, etc.

If you are really serious you can purchase a product, or join a coaching program if there is one. Becoming a customer will give you an instant relationship.

Offer to do something for your potential JV partner

Ask if the person has a product that you can promote to your list. If you have a very small list a better option might be to write a review of the product on your blog.

If you’re good at writing offer to write a guest blog entry for their blog. Make sure that you write on a topic that fits the blog.

Harvey Mackay has written a book called Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty. The premise is that you should become valuable to your network of contacts before you need to request something from them. Some people call this The Law of Reciprocity. It’s the same basic premise: if you do something nice for somebody without asking for anything in return, they will feel compelled to reciprocate the favor.

Do something unusual

Everybody in this business gets an avalanche of emails every day. Be different. Send a postcard or a handwritten note instead of an email.

If you want to send out a lot of cards you may want to use a system like SendOutCards.

21 More Tips

Darren Rowse at ProBlogger has a great post today called How to Pitch to Bloggers – 21 Tips. Most of the tips apply equally well when you’re approaching a potential JV partner. Highly recommended reading.

Follow-up

Even though you had a great meeting with somebody at the conference it is very likely that you’re not at the top of their priority list when they get back to the daily grind of running their business and catching up on all the tasks that stacked up while they were spending a few days at the event.

Send an email as soon as you get home thanking the person for a great meeting, include some information to refresh their memory of who you are, and a recap of your conversation.

In the daily deluge of emails it’s very likely that your first email will be put in the “I’ll get back to that later” pile. Send a friendly reminder. Be polite, but persistent.

If you show that you are persistent and that you follow-up, you demonstrate that you will do the same in a future joint venture deal.

Follow-through

When you say that you’re going to do something, make sure that you follow-through and do it. Your failure to do so will create a long lasting impression. Consistent follow-through will put you ahead of 98% of your competitors. JV partners will come back wanting to do more deals with you because they know they can count on your actions.

What have you done to follow-up on the latest conference that you attended?