Saturday, February 28, 2009

How To Boost Launch Sales During A Recession

If you do any marketing online, you'll probably know that product launches can be a fantastic way to drive immediate sales. In a nutshell a launch helps build momentum for the release (or sometimes re-release) of a product. Over the past few years product launches - especially in the Internet Marketing circle - have become more popular since the release of Jeff Walker's Product Launch Formula. Even if you aren't in a position to leverage a network of joint venture partners and/or affiliates, treating a marketing campaign as a launch can have a much larger impact than focusing on a trickle of sales. I want to share with you one very simple technique you can make use of in your next launch which could potentially mean hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands in extra profits.

Before I share this technique, I want to provide you with some additional information so you can be of an appropriate mindset...

Here are just a few of the many reasons that product launches work as well as they do:

  • It allows you to better engage a potential buyer and through the sequence of a series of marketing messages be able to chip away at their potential objections as lot as their interest remains.
  • A strong human need is wanting to feel a part of something. Becoming the excitement associated with a launch day can help fulfill this desire. This is especially true when you have a solid name within a well defined market/niche.
  • There is often scarcity associated with launches - i.e. there are only X number of the product available at this price. Perhaps you may be increasing the price. Maybe you might never offer the product again. The scarcity approach helps drive the urgency.

So let's say you've taken someone through the product launch cycle. You've chipped away at their objections. The price of your product is not an issue. You've done such a great job with marketing, they are completely sold even before your sales page goes up. But on launch day, one small thing stops them from buying. One little thing that even months ago may not have been an issue but with today's economic crisis it is. You miss out on not one sale but potentially 20% or more of what you did generate.

Even if you are one of those optimists that are harping that the economy isn't affecting you - you need to keep in mind that no matter what you are telling potential buyers during your pre-launch, no matter how sold they are, no matter how affordable your product is for them - they just may just not be able to pay today.

Credit card companies are restricting credit limits. With some companies increasing fees, many consumers are cutting back on the number of credit cards they have. Consumers with cash flow problems are turning to using their credit cards more and more for routine purchases. Many consumers are losing credit cards period and being forced to use debit cards in lieu of credit cards (meaning the money has to be in their bank account at the time of ordering).

All of these things add up to a situation where at least some portion of your potential buyers not being able today because of not having access to sufficient funds on a credit/debit card. If you are dealing with higher ticket items - which I'd consider to be $50+ in today's economy - it will likely be more of an issue for you.

Many Internet marketers have borrowed from traditional marketing the idea of offering split payments. For example, with a product costing $1797, they may offer the option of 4 payments of $497 spread 30 days apart. This strategy is especially useful during a recession, but it doesn't deal with the issue that the buyer still needs to pay $497 today. $497 which they may not have access to on a credit card on the day of launch.

There is a simple alternative: offer buyers the ability to submit their credit card information today but they will only be billed/have their product shipped/delivered in 2 weeks time.

From a technical side, if you have your own merchant account, you may want to say $1 will reserve their product. This will allow you ensure that the credit card information provided is valid. If you are using Paypal, you can create the product as a subscription item.

I have a client that has multiple sites in the same niches. (Opening "competitive" sites in the same niche is one of most effective ways of dominating a niche.) He will often launch second tier priced products in the same niche a few weeks apart. Same product with slightly different packaging and marketing geared to the differentiation of that site. He had a full schedule of second tier products to be launched in 2009 and was concerned with how the economy would affect sales. I had suggested he do a side by side comparison in one niche to see whether or not the deferred payment would make sense.

The last week of January he launched a $147 product to one subscriber base in a niche (Market A). He had slightly modified the product for positioning to a more upscale market at $197 to another subscriber base in the same niche (Market B). Traditionally this market was less price resistant. This was launched this past week. All those who received marketing messages for either campaign consisted of people who had either opted-in or made prior purchases from the respective sites.

With the exception of differences in marketing/positioning for Market A and Market B, all of the following held true:

  • The pre-launch sequence was the same
  • The sales page URL was the same
  • The sales page content was the same

All that changed for either group was that the pricing component varied. A cookie was placed on the computer of a visitor upon their first visit. This ensured that the same visitor would see the same offer. Otherwise, two different pricing option sets were equally rotated amongst visitors:

  1. Pay up front or 3 equal installments
  2. Pay up front, 3 equal installments or reserve today for $1 with $147 charged in 14 days

Here were the results for Market A:

  • $147 upfront, 3 payments of $57 or $1 now with $147 due in 14 days.
  • 38,104 subscribers mailed
  • 6,312 subscribers in pre-launch sequence
  • Soft-sell message sent to only those subscribers NOT in pre-launch sequence day of launch - 34,692
  • Total mailed on launch date: 41,004
  • Unique visitors to sales page: 9,819
  • 4901 viewed no deferred option - 192 orders @ $147 and 167 orders @ 3 payments
  • 4911 viewed deferred option - 184 orders @ $147, 171 orders @ 3 payments and 162 orders @ deferred payment
  • 3 deferred payment orders were declined upon processing

Total gross sales with no deferred option: $56,781

Total gross sales with deferred option: $89,830

* Obviously this doesn't take into account charge backs, returns, and potential rebill issues with those opting for the 3 payment option.

I have to admit, I was shocked when I saw the numbers myself. I had expected that it would boost overall sales by enough of a percentage to make it worthwhile. But I had also expected that some buyers that would have opted for the 3 payment option would have gone for the deferred option as well. That didn't happen. My client and I both thought this was an anomaly. Sometimes randomizing simply doesn't work. However, when the same thing was done with Market B - keep in mind here that it is targeting a group where buyers are known to be less sensitive to price than Market A was - the outcome was almost identical. (A slightly higher percentage of buyers in Market B opted for payment in full.) Since the launch for Market B was only done a matter of days ago, we won't know whether or not declined payments will be an issue.

My client is sold enough on this concept that for any tangible products he will be selling for the next several months using the launch method, he will be offering a deferred payment option without split testing it further.

Can this strategy work for you? First, something like this will only work when using a launch method or special promotional effort. There is really not much point in using it for ongoing market efforts. Second, I think this would work best when tangible products are involved. For ebooks, membership sites, e-training, etc, converting this method would amount to a free or $1 trial. Trial offers do work well, but my own experience has been that you get a lot of freebie seekers - i.e. people who will sign up with the intention of cancelling before they are billed - and people that will go through what they can and then cancel. This method works fine when content is "dripped" but if all information is provided upfront, you are likely to see overall revenue lowered.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Auto DM's Killed The Twitter Star - Or Did It?

In case you don't use Twitter or are newer to Twitter lingo, auto DM's refers to automatic Direct Messages. Direct messages are one-to-one communications between 2 Twitter users. You cannot send a Direct Message to another user unless they are following you. There are a few services that allow you to have direct messages sent to new followers automatically. Marketers think auto DM's are great but many Twitter users see this as the Twitter equivalent to spam. In fact, many spammers will create Twitter accounts for the express purpose of getting followbacks so that these auto DM's can be sent to users. Note: don't get any wild ideas about doing this - Twitter is pretty quick to close down such accounts.

If you are an active user on Twitter, you may have noticed that several Twitter users with decent size followings have bulk unfollowed just about everyone and are selectively refollowing people. Each one has given different reasons as to why they are doing it but many have attributed the glut of auto DM's as being at least part of the reason. I don't know what the numbers are across Twitter but I've seen myself that somewhere between 1 in 3 to 1 in 5 new Twitter followers use auto DM's. If these numbers hold true for most high profile Twitter users - basically that means getting 20 to 35 or so DM's for every 100 new followers. If you are getting 100's or 1000's of new followers a day this can add up.

The thing is - auto DM's really don't need to be an issue for anyone. A couple weeks ago, I was really getting fed up with them myself. I have enough trouble dealing with tens of thousands of emails per day, nevermind getting 2-300 auto DM's on some days. I did some homework, did 2 simple things and now my DM inbox is virtually free of auto DM's. Yours can be too.

Here's what I did:

  1. Socialtoo allows you to automatically block any auto DM's being sent from their service. Just create an account and on your preferences page, you can choose to have auto DM's blocked. Bonus tip: I get really annoying with people who follow then will unfollow as soon as I've followed back. To save myself some grief, I use Socialtoo's autofollow feature, will filter new follow emails until I can manually check new followers and also use Socialtoo to block my account from automatically following those that will unfollow upon follow.

  2. Tweetlater is another service that sends out auto DM's. If you follow this link it will give you simple instructions on how to stop auto DM's from being sent to your Twitter account.

I get anywhere from 100 to 600 new followers a day. I used to sometimes get up to a couple hundred auto DM's in a day. Now I get maybe 10-20 unpersonalized DM's a day from new followers. I don't know about you, but I think that is a rather significant difference.

One of the nice things about Twitter is that it is up to each of us as individuals to decide how we want to use it. This goes to what we tweet, how often we tweet and of course, our our decisions as to who we wish to follow back. Some of us choose to follow everyone back that follows us, some of us choose to follow more selectively, some will follow based on our own needs rather than who is/isn't following us. I personally have a hard time buying the reason that someone has chosen to unfollow everyone based on DM's alone. You can deal with auto DM's as I've suggested above. You can choose to ignore DM's entirely & provide people with other ways of contacting you.

I've made some fantastic business and personal contacts through Twitter that I may not have otherwise. For the most part, the best contacts have been kicked off with DM's rather than simply tweeting public exchanges. Some of the better business contacts have been with people that don't tweet themselves and who follow others very selectively. It's really difficult for us to know in advance the true value of any individual and how they may enrich our lives in some way or how we may enrich the lives of others.

Update on 03/01/09 - Socialtoo has now removed the auto DM functionality from it's service entirely. Unfortunately I've now started to see auto DM's come in from elsewhere. Spammers are quick to find new methods.

Will I Meet You In Vegas?

My apologies for a third post on PPC Classroom. If PPC/affiliate marketing is of no interest to you, then just scroll down - lots of other things below.

I signed up myself for PPC Classroom. I was really pleasantly surprised to see that you get immediate access online to the contents of the DVD plus a ton of bonuses and tools. Basically you can get started right away. The only cost for the program is the shipping & handling.

As I mentioned in a previous post, when you sign up, you will also get a free ticket to their Vegas event at the end of May. I love Vegas, so it's a good excuse to go there.

Let me know if you'll be attending!

Orders for PPC Classroom have been moving pretty swiftly. I'm not sure when they will be shutting it down so if you've been on the fence or want to know more, I suggest taking a serious look at it now.

P.S. We're experimenting on our side with different simple sites - one we just put online coincidentally is a Vegas Guide. No aff/CPA stuff there yet.

Monday, February 23, 2009

What is PPC Classroom about?

After my last blog post, I had a few people who had read it and pointed out I didn't explain what PPC Classroom was. One even asked what PPC meant. My bad. I should have explained more.

What PPC Is

If you go to Google, Yahoo, MSN or virtually every search engine, you will see ads returned when you perform a search. Advertisers create ads and place bids on various search terms at an individual search engine. The bids are what the advertiser is willing to pay per click. PPC = pay per click.

What Affiliate Marketing Is

Affiliate marketing is where a business rewards an individual or company for sending them traffic, leads or actual buying customers. These individuals and companies are called affiliates. The business providing the reward are called merchants. Affiliates get this result by sending visitors from their website, blog, newsletter etc to a merchant's website. Many affiliates also engage in arbitrage.

What Arbitrage Is

Arbitrage is when you find gaps in pricing and take advantage of it. It's basically buying at a low amount and selling at a higher amount.

What PPC Arbitrage Is

PPC arbitrage is when an individual or company looks for affiliate opportunities where greater commissions can be earned than the cost of utilizing PPC advertising.

What PPC Classroom Is

Now that we have the basics out of the way for those of you newer to affiliate marketing & PPC, I'll give a brief rundown on what PPC Classroom is.

PPC Classroom launches Tuesday, February 24 at noon Eastern US time. When you sign up, there is a small shipping & handling fee, otherwise it is free. You receive 3 things:

1. A DVD containing an interview that goes over the program & the full 9 module program. Topics covered include:

  • How to pick a winning affiliate offer to promote
  • How to conduct keyword research
  • How to construct effective PPC campaigns
  • How to monitor and optimize PPC campaigns

Once again, although the information is geared to those using affiliate programs, much of it can also be useful for any type of PPC advertising.

2. A set of landing page templates to use for your offers.

3. A free ticket to the PPC Classroom live event taking part in Las Vegas May 28th-30th.

There is a catch, albeit a tiny one: you will be enrolled in their monthly program which gives you access to a PPC mastermind, an advanced module each month, monthly webinar and some other things to help continue your learning. You can cancel at any time - even right after ordering the free program.

Hope this helps!

PPC Classroom

It seems that every time a new program is launched in the world of Internet marketing, I'll get a bevvy of emails from clients, associates and friends asking for my take on it. The latest questions surround the (re) launch of PPC Classroom.

Anik Singal and Amit Mehta are the guys behind it. I haven't had personal dealings with Amit, but I've known Anik from a distance and really believe he is not only a class act but have seen firsthand he is driven by the idea of helping others.

I know several people that signed up with
PPC Classroom v.1. They, and their results, fall into various categories as can be expected. One of these people signed up because she was interested in learning more effective PPC strategies. She is not an affiliate marketer but has her own line of products and several sites. She also has an affiliate program of her own and wanted to be able to give better advice to her affiliates who use PPC for promotion. She has been very happy with the results and the knowledge she gained. I know a couple of people who promote CPA offers rather than traditional affiliate deals. Again, they were happy with the results. A couple of others I checked back with said they had no results but they hadn't actually either gone through the materials never mind followed the advice. Granted this is a rather small sampling but Anik & Amit have many, many people who have come forward with assorted testimonials of their success. I've yet to see or hear of anyone that actually followed the program who didn't see results. It's like anything else though, if you don't take action, you won't see results.

Anik & Amit have released 2 very interesting things - both of which are entirely free. The first is a report that gives the 5 fatal flaws most people make with PPC/affiliate marketing. If you do any kind of PPC advertising, I recommend reading it. Just one part of it - about how you select keywords - can have a huge impact on your results if you make this mind shift.

The other thing they have made available is a recording of a webinar they did. I did not personally attend/view it. However, my business partner did. He took notes and shared them with me. The webinar gives a really good overview of using PPC advertising in affiliate marketing. For many people, the webinar on its own may provide enough information to get started. One part of it deals with how to adjust your bids on ads - and that alone can be the difference between the success (or failure) with PPC advertising.

The basic part of the program will be made available for free. There will be an upsell to an going monthly membership program (that is reasonably priced as compared to similar programs). In my opinion, it's a no brainer. At least check out the 2 free things I mentioned above and then you can make your own decisions from there when
PPC Classroom launches.