Money on the Internet

One of the things I have not done enough of, or maybe not set up a consistent system is using affiliate links.

What are affiliate links?

There are a great number of businesses that operate on the internet.  One of the ways that they get their business is to pay people what is called an affiliate commission.  It is not very much different than when a sales person sells a car, a vacuum cleaner, a magazine subscription – part of that purchase price goes to the sales persons.  Businesses on the internet do the same.

Various businesses that have affiliate programs are Ebay, Amazon, SportCheck, AVG, Dell and many more.

And it is not hard to become an affiliate for these businesses, often it is only a matter of filling out a simple form.

There are also websites that allow you to register and become affiliates of a great many businesses – Commission Junction is one of these.

It all sounds easy – but the hard part is getting people to buy things from your links.  It does not happen very easily.

Effectively Engaging using Online Discussion

I see many people attempting to use various social media to build their business.  They are trying to find new leads and start to build a relationship with people.  Another key objective is to build up your authority in your industry or niche.

This has been going on long before Social Media was THE buzz word.  I have been taking part in forums, chats, even online bulletin boards for over 20 years.  The Facebook Wall is simply the latest iteration of communication on the internet.

What is really wanted in any discussion area is two-way communication.  You want people sharing ideas, discussing topics.

What you do not want is to be broadcasting – simply sending out your message in a one directional format and not allowing for or encouraging feedback.

One very popular technique is to simply posting a helpful article for others to reads. While this may be a nice gesture, it does not encourage the engagement you are looking for.

An example of simply posting a helpful article:

Tips to increase your success at your next trade show.
This Business Week article contains excellent tips to make your time spent at a trade show a success.

Yes it is self-evident what the post is about and who it is for.  But what kind of discussion will result from this.

What is needed is two things to encourage discussion – personalization and query.  Additionally what can really aid in the engagement is specificity.

Therefore your introduction to this article could include the following:

I have been involved in trade shows for years both as a visitor and buyer, and as an exhibitor and although I found them very enjoyable and somewhat successful, I am not sure if I received the results that I should have.  What do you think defines or determines success in when you are an exhibitor at a trade show?

This is now much more open to discussion, in fact makes one curious as to the value of trade shows and what success looks like.

It is personalized by stating you have been involved – in two multiple ways – you have experience.

It queries twice, once indirectly about the results received, and second directly about what success looks like.

It is specific – asking for ‘what defines success at trade shows’ vs. just a generic ‘what do you think of trade shows’.

Work on properly engaging your online colleagues and it will make your efforts much more fruitful.

Determining Content in your B2B Website

There are two key things related to how to set up the content on a B2B website. First what is the buyer behaviour of your prospects and second, how does your website fit into your company’s sales process.

Let’s go over the various ways that a B2B company could use their website in their sales process.

Is your website being used to generate new leads for your business – in that case you need attention getting headlines and engaging content.  You also need to up your SEO as well as have a landing page strategy (possibly using PPC) as well as a way to gather contact information or some other way to turn those leads/web visitors into real prospects for your business.

In this case your primary objective is to turn that website visitor into a real lead by gathering some type of contact information and any auxiallary information you can about them.  You want to keep their options limited so as not to confuse them or have them get busy doing other things on your site and not get their contact information.

If on the other hand the primary purpose of your website is to reinforce your sales message – often after a prospect is contacted by a salesperson in some other fashion (networking, phone calls, direct mail, etc) then you need to build trust on your site as well as have clear navigation system so that those leads – once arrive at your site (often directly typing it in from a business card, or link from a follow up email) will be able to find the information they need to move forward in your sales process.

In this case the depth of information is critical so that they can really understand you and your company.  Having links to white papers, having good content with graphs, charts, diagrams, etc will all help to give the prospect that information they need.  Testimonials throughout also help to build trust.

A third option for your site may be to support existing customer and to encourage additional sales – either up-selling or cross-selling.  This is very similar to the second option, except with a higher importance attached to explanations of using existing products, optimizing the use of those products, and answering support inquiries.

With this third option your content needs to talk more about using your products than the advantages of using the products.  Whitepapers would discuss how to be more efficient in their systems (including how they use your product) vs. looking at the pros and cons of your product.  It is related to point of view.  As well your support links, buttons, support chat boxes, etc need to be prominently displayed throughout your site.

So how does buyer behaviour factor into this equation?

You need to understand how your buyer makes the decision to purchase your product and then how they end up using your product, and what are their key concerns along the way. This will determine how your company sets up your sales process, and thus how your website should be integrated into that sales process.

Social Media Styles

Social media is not Black and White and all forms and styles can work.

Everyone has their own style, and you have to find yours – one that works for you and your business.

Also – remember that good marketing needs to grab peoples attention.  But in Social Media – people often frown on the direct forward approach – so you need to balance the two.social media

A term I like is Passive Marketing.  This article describes how to ‘‘market passively‘ in point number two.  It has some other good points as well.

But what it does not do is talk about developing a personal style.

You see, people resist open aggressive sales tactics on social media for the most part.  But they do not mind if it is done in a unique way, as part of an authentic style.  If you are authentic, come across as real person building a business, caring about your customers – you can push the envelope on what you can do in promoting your business.

Many people think that social media should not be used to ‘Push’ ads out to people.  Rather you should offer advice, gifts, etc as a way to help your prospects.  And in that process you build relationships and from their you get clients.

This strategy works – but at some point you need to make an offer – give people a way to buy your stuff. This can be the tricky part, and if not done in the same ‘tone or style’ as your relationship building – can leave your audience annoyed.

Another part of every unique style online is the volume – you always have to be aware of how much exposure people are getting.  Especially as you are using different social media tools.  Some people will only see your message once, while others may see it many times – possibly overload.  Even within a social media platform you can at times inadvertently overload certain people by posting in groups, commenting on friends, and your own posts.  The people that are in those groups, have the same friends will see everything and may get overloaded.  Facebook’s new Edgerank can compound this type of occurrence.

Website Tracking

There are an increasing amount of tools for tracking your efforts online.
This is both a blessing and a curse.  More tools means more variety and opportunity for finding the right tool, but a curse trying to sort through them to find the ones that work for you.

Tracking needs to start with your website – your home base for all your online marketing.

For that – I fully recommend Google Analytics. It is what majority of webmasters use.

Another good and cheap tracking solution that I also use is Statcounter.

And for real time tracking I have just begun working with Get Clicky.

Social Media tracking is more complicated.  You can do some tracking of your social media efforts with Google Analytics. Another method is to track your links through various link shortening services like bitly and goo.gl.

For a list of various tools on tracking and website analytics go to  http://www.zedbiz.com/new/website-tracking.htm