Saturday, January 12, 2019

Start an Affiliate Program

If you have a side hustle that you want to turn into a full-time gig, I have a suggestion for you.  Set up a referral or affiliate program. An affiliate program lets your customers sign up and share your services with their friends using a special link. If a friend makes a purchase, the affiliate gets a small commission.

Nervous at the thought of starting your own affiliate program?  Don't be.  It's easier than you think.  And your clients or customers will love the chance to make some money promoting someone or something they believe in.  It's an awesome combination!

If you’d like to start an affiliate or referral program, you may be stuck on how to begin. Here’s what you need to do first…

Check Your Shopping Cart

If you sell digital products or use an online shopping cart to help your clients order your service, then you may already have a few options you can use. Some software companies bundle the affiliate function with your shopping cart. If this is the case for you, set up might be as simple as reaching out to your company and letting them know you’d like to turn this feature on.

However, some software companies may charge extra to add an affiliate function to your site. They may call this feature a “plugin” or “add-on”. If the affiliate fee is affordable and you already like your shopping cart, then don’t feel like you have to switch.

Some online business owners may not have a shopping cart. If that’s your situation, then two good suggestions are
aMember Pro (free affiliate feature included) or WooCommerce (affiliate feature is an add-on available for purchase).

Look for Similar Offers

Once you have the tech taken care of, you’ll want to investigate other digital business owners that are selling similar products or services. Check out their affiliate programs and see how they structure their fees.

Typically, affiliates promoting a digital product want 50% of the purchase price. However, if your affiliates will be promoting your service, then set your commission rate to 10-20% of the purchase price. If you need to, raise the price of your product or service a small amount to cover the cost of your affiliate payouts.

Ask Friends to Promote

When your affiliate program is ready to use, invite a few close friends or supporters to join. Remember that many affiliates love promoting something they believe in and earning cash for that recommendation.

Announce Your Affiliate Program

Next, tell others in your circle about your new affiliate program. Put together a page with information about your referral club. Then post this link to social media—sharing it with your Facebook groups, Instagram followers, and Twitter peeps.

Keep in mind that running an affiliate program is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s OK to let it grow slowly over the course of a few months. As you see it expand, you’ll be inspired to come up with new ways to help your affiliates promote your products or services.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Take a Stand: Be Opinionated!

I have a health and wellness blog. I am passionate about sharing fitness with other busy entrepreneurs. But after several months, I am becoming discouraged. I don't seem to be getting any traction or comments on my blog. I'm not earning much from this site and I didn’t know how to change that.

So, I asked my coach for some advice. She reviewed my website then told me that I'm not opinionated enough on my blog. She said my content was bland.  BLAND!!. She said that I should try creating content that’s opinionated, even if I ruffle a few feathers along the way!

Well we all know that I'm not afraid to stir things up a bit  But I have been playing safe with this blog. My posts have been pretty factual and not too controversial.  And I certainly haven't been sharing much of my personal journey.  Time to make a change!

If you’re like me and your blog is boring and bland, try using these tips to spice it up….

Choose a Touchy Subject

You can start by choosing a touchy subject, but stay focused here. You want a topic that’s related to your business and niche. If you run a pet blog, then sharing your thoughts on the death penalty won’t be helpful. Sure you may generate more clicks than usual but your opinions aren’t likely to resonate with your audience.

However, if you pick a topic related to your blog, your community will be more engaged with your content. For example, a dating and relationships blogger might publish a post on seven reasons women should always pay for the first date.

Promote Respect

As soon as you share a post that’s controversial, expect to see disagreements. Most people will disagree with you publicly in your comments section – although a few people may prefer to contact you through your social media platforms or email.

Not everyone has to agree with you or share your exact viewpoint. But make sure these discussions don’t become destructive. If commenters begin harassing or threatening you (or your community), delete their messages.

Be Prepared

When you’re playing big and posting on topics that are important to you, ones that fire you up, make sure you don’t focus on just your passion. You want to be prepared to back up all of your statements and views with supporting material.

This makes you look smart in the eyes of your community and it shows others that you aren’t going off on a tangent. You want to present your opinion calmly and briefly so you look (and sound) professional.

Cindy followed her coach’s advice. She started adding more of her personality and her opinions into her blog posts. Her website visitors began increasing and she started earning more as she became a thought leader in her niche.
Don’t hold back on your blog or website. You can share an opinion—even one that others disagree with—and still build a thriving community.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Lessons from My Dad

Just back from a much needed vacation at the beach.  It was perfect.  Off-season so no people to share my beach with!  And our condo was just yards away from the ocean.

Hubby and I spent a lot of time walking the beach and talking.  And on one of those walks during  one of those conversations, we started talking about my dad.  My dad suffered from Alzheimer's in the last years of his life and so lived with us for 8 years.  I will always be eternally grateful that he was able to spend his days at home with his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids instead of in a home.  I am thankful that Dearl and I were by his side at the end.  Not everyone has that.

My dad taught me a lot about life and business.  Of course, I didn't realize it at the time.  I guess we don't always appreciate our parents until we are older and wiser.  But it wasn't easy to appreciate him. 

You see, he had "issues."  Or at least that's what I called them back then.  He was what was termed back then as "slow".  So growing up in a town where most of the dads I knew were business owners or doctors or teachers made it difficult for me to admit that my dad was a janitor.  How embarrassing!

He also couldn't drive.  His vision was so poor he couldn't pass the eye exam for his license.  So he walked back and forth to work every day no matter the weather or time of day.  Again....embarrassing.  Seeing your dad walking in the rain or snow when everyone else's dads drove nice cars.  And it was made even worse by the fact that he always wore some ratty old coat.

Often at night he would stop at the local tavern on the way home for a beer or two.  (Not much entertainment in the town I grew up in so the local taverns were the hangout places!).  Bullying is not a new phenomenon.  And it doesn't only happen to kids.  Often he was the butt of many jokes and pranks by others there.  How humiliating!  And what made it even worse was he didn't seem to mind.  He thought these people were his friends!

Yes, I grew up totally embarrassed and ashamed to be his daughter.  Because I only bothered to see him through the eyes of those around us.

Fortunately I had the opportunity to see him with clearer vision later...and that's when I realized all that he had taught me.

My dad worked every day.  It didn't matter if it was snowing, raining, 100 degrees in the shade, 2 in the morning or 2 in the afternoon.  He walked to work EVERY DAY.  Because he had to provide for his family as best he could no matter what.  Which is also why he wore that ratty old coat.  He made sure my sisters and I had good coats.  And then what was left went to my mom.  He taught me that family comes first and that nothing is more important than taking care of the ones you love.  Which is why he came to live with us and how I first started my quest to work from home.  Without that lesson I might have just put him in a home when my mom died and never embarked on my current path.

My dad wrote poetry.  Beautiful poetry.  He wrote poems commemorating every important event of his time.  One of my prize possessions is a collection of letters written to him  by the people he sent these poems to.  Presidents.  Kings.  Astronauts.  Political figures.  Showbiz people (as he called them).  He taught me that everyone has a gift to give.  Which has helped me grow an amazing team of people I might otherwise have dismissed. 

Although he wrote many poems, he was never recognized locally for his work which always bothered him a little.  But he kept writing and one day it happened.  He was so proud when he asked me to come home for a visit and to wear my uniform because they were dedicating a monument to veteran's in our local park and on the monument was a poem he had written.  At last, he was being acknowledged in his own town.  He taught me to keep reaching for your dreams no matter what and to never ever give up.  A valuable lesson to remember during all those times when nothing was working and I was not sure where my next dollar would come from and I just wanted to quit.

I already mentioned how he never got angry with the guys who would tease him or play jokes on him at the tavern.  He always said they were just fooling around and didn't mean any harm.  He taught me to always look for the best in people.  Which has helped me build wonderful friendships with people I might have otherwise avoided.

My dad taught me that there were always those less fortunate than we were and to give what we could freely and without expectation of reward or acknowledgement.  If you don't know why that is an important lesson, Google Ray Higdon and Wealth Wednesday.  Sorry Ray, but my dad beat you to it!

My sister and I look quite a bit alike despite the 10 year difference in our ages.  And sometimes, the Alzheimer's would cause him to confuse us.  This was always entertaining because for some reason he could always remember my husband, Dearl but didn't always recognize her husband, Mark.  So there were many times when he was visiting her that he would do everything from shutting the door in Mark's face to trying to take his seat in the car of at the table.  Because you see, Mark didn't belong there.  When he had me mixed up with my sister, then he expected to see Dearl and when he didn't he knew that something wasn't right.  And like a good dad, he was going to protect "me" from this strange man who was trying to get in our house or our car.  This is more a lesson for my kids than for me.  No matter how old you are, you will always be my kids and I will always try to protect you.  So deal with it!  But he also taught me to laugh at my own foibles.  Because he would eventually remember Mark and then we would all have a good laugh at the lengths he would go to keep Mark away.  And my dad laughed hardest of all.  Today, I think my ability to laugh at myself is one of my greatest gifts.

It wasn't all laughs though.  Alzheimer's is an ugly disease that robs a person of everything that makes them who they are.  And on some level, no matter how far the disease has progressed, I think they know it.  And it scares them.  I remember one time in particular when I had to go out of town and there was no one to stay with him.  I had to place him in care for a weekend.  (I lied and told the facility we were checking them out to see if he liked it there).  His parting words to me were, "You won't forget me, will you?"  He taught me that sometimes we are all afraid and it's okay.  And I know that sometimes it pained him to have to ask for help with things like remembering if he took his pills, or preparing something to eat or helping him find his glasses.  But he knew he needed the help and so he asked.  He taught me that we don't have to do this alone and that it's okay to ask for help.

My dad taught me to dance a polka and a czardas, to make halupki and pierogi, and to speak Slovak (a little).  He gave me my love of music and dance and theater and food and languages.  All good things for a girl who would spend 20 years in the Navy as a Russian linguist.  But even more important was the reminder of where we came from and the realization that I come from a long line of strong, determined men and women and some of their blood flows in my veins. 

And he taught me my faith.  Which has sometimes been the only thing that kept me going when life was dark.

My dad lived with me for the last 8 years of his life.  He gave me the gift of building the relationship with him I didn't have growing up.  He gave me the opportunity to see him with his grandchildren who always adored him.  And to watch him pass on his gifts to his great-grandkids.  He died loved and respected by everyone who met him here, with his family by his side.   

So this is for you dad.  As I said to Dearl that day on the beach, I might not be where I am right now if weren't for the lessons you taught me.  I know this is long overdue.  But you also taught me something else.  It is never too late to say "Thank you."  I love you.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Use Instagram & Pinterest to Kickstart Your List

Social networks are a great way to drive traffic back to your website and start building your mailing list. Two of the best sources of apps for doing this are Instagram and Pinterest. Both sites focus on images and videos to send people to your website. Here’s what you need to know to harness these social media tools…

Create a Landing Page

When you have a freebie or gift that you give subscribers, make a separate page on your website for it. This page should be a landing page template. Many WordPress themes come with this template.

If you aren’t using WordPress or you want another landing page option, you can try using a service like
LeadPages or Optimize Press. Or use a tool like SoloBuildIt to build your website, since these have landing page templates. Both websites will allow you to create landing pages and will guide you through the process so it’s simple and easy.

Link to Your Landing Page

Both Instagram and Pinterest allow you to place a link in your bio area. Some online business owners link to their home page. While this may drive traffic back to their website, doing this make it harder to grow your mailing list.

When you send your followers to a landing page, they’re more likely to sign up for your free offer. That’s because they don’t have as many choices that could potentially distract your visitors.

Make an Opt-In Board

Once you have your landing page up, it’s time to add it to your Pinterest profile. Start by making a custom board for your opt-in gift. Then create 10-15 images that show off your freebie so other users will clickthrough and sign up.

Creating these additional images doesn’t have to be hard. Just think about how you can display some of the content from your gift. For example, Keri wanted to send traffic back to her opt-in, which was a 7-day keto-friendly eating plan.

She created 10 meal images. Then she pinned each image to her board named “Keto Start: 7 Day Meal Plan”. Every image was linked to her landing page. This brought her a flood of visitors that were interested in joining her list so they could access the menu.

Link Your Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are videos that are under 60 seconds. Not only are they wildly popular, they’re great for sending traffic to a website. However, there are a couple of hurdles you may run into.

While any user can create an Instagram story, you can’t make it link to a website of your choosing unless you meet two requirements. First, you need a business account (they’re free and it’s easy to upgrade to one) and second, you need 10,000+ followers.

If you’re just starting out, getting 10K followers isn’t that easy. So, when you create a story in Instagram, tag yourself. Then when users click on your Instagram story, they’ll be taken to your profile. From there, they can click the link in your bio. It’s not the most elegant solution but it gets the job done.

Using Pinterest and Instagram can be a fun way to drive traffic. Make sure you study what techniques are getting you the most engagement so you can duplicate your success again later.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Guest Blog on Popular Websites

When you first start out online, it can be hard to get any traction. You know you have a great message and you know who your ideal audience is, so why is it so hard to get their attention?

In order to begin growing your list and attracting customers, you need a large platform to send traffic to your website. You can borrow someone else’s platform (and their traffic) by guest posting on a popular website. Here’s how to do just that….

Find Popular Blogs

The first thing you’ll want to do is create a list of popular blogs. You can find these sites by using a search engine. Look for your niche and the word ‘guest post’ or ‘guest contributor’. For example, your search might look like this: “natural skin care + guest post” or “skin care + guest contributor” (without quotations).

Once you find a few websites, look at the blogger’s platform. How many subscribers do they have? How many followers on Instagram and Twitter? What about their Facebook page or group?

Ideally, you’re looking for bloggers that have 10K-100K in followers and fans. You can reach out to bloggers with millions of followers but it can be much harder to get their attention since they typically receive hundreds of guest posts.

Read the Posts

After you’ve found a few bloggers that look like they might be a good fit for you, start reading their posts. You want to read the past 2-3 months of content. This ensures that you don’t pitch an idea that they’ve recently covered.

As you read, look for gaps that the blogger may have forgotten to cover. For example, Keri found a keto blog that would be a great fit for her audience. As she read posts on the site, she quickly discovered that the blogger hadn’t talked about how to handle the holidays without abandoning the keto diet.

Engage in the Community

The next step you want to take is to interact with the blog’s readers. You can do this by commenting on posts, participating in Twitter discussions, and joining in Facebook groups or commenting on Facebook Live videos.

Spend a couple of weeks on this task. Take your time to really get to know the community. Keep in mind that many of these people may very well become your subscribers in the future.

Follow the Guidelines

Many bloggers have submission guidelines on their sites. They explain what the blogger expects and gives you inside information that can be useful. For example, some bloggers prefer to only receive a “pitch” or short idea from you rather than a long blog post you’ve already written. Knowing this saves you time and effort.

Reach Out to the Blogger

Once you’ve read the guidelines, it’s time to contact the blogger behind the scenes. The best way to do this is usually by email. However, some bloggers may prefer you fill out their contact form. When in doubt, use the method that the blogger asked for.

In your message, let the blogger know that you are a regular reader. If the blogger prefers a pitch, let her know what your idea is and give a brief outline of your post. If the blogger prefers to receive the full post, send it in the body of your email. This makes it less likely to be flagged as spam since you haven’t added an attachment.

Guest blogging is a simple way to grow your mailing list. But it’s not an instant process. It takes time to find good blogs and build a rapport with the communities behind them.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Using Video to Grow Your List

My friend Keri has started her very first list. But she wants to grow it quickly so she asked me for suggestions on what to do. And I recommended she post videos to social networks.

But each network is different in the types of content that your viewers expect as well as how long your videos can be. So I'm sharing some tips with you…

Facebook Live for Discussions

Facebook Live is one of the best social networks for getting engagement in the form of likes, comments, and messages. It’s also the social network where viewers stay the longest. That means followers are more likely to watch your videos all the way to the end, rather than abandoning them halfway through.

When you start a broadcast (live video) on Facebook, the social network begins letting your friends and followers know that you’re on video. This notification system boosts the number of viewers you get. 

But Facebook doesn’t start telling your followers about your video until you’ve been recording for around 10 minutes. Many of your viewers will expect a longer video as well. So you’ll want to plan to be on Facebook Live for at least 15-20 minutes.

Instagram Stories for Behind-the-Scenes

While Facebook Live is great for discussions, Instagram Stories are designed to feel a bit more personal. That means they’re perfect for behind-the-scenes moments and quick check-ins.

Keep in mind that Instagram Stories are limited to sixty seconds or less. That makes it easy for you to create a lot of content but it also means you need to keep things brief. If you have a large amount of information to share, try to break it up over the course of several stories.

YouTube Videos for Search Results

When it comes to videos, don’t overlook YouTube videos. YouTube is considered the second most popular search engine in the world. That means you can send a lot of traffic back to your website or blog by simply posting videos to YouTube.

But YouTube video content is different from Facebook Live or Instagram Stories. The content on YouTube tends to be educational in nature. 

It’s also expected to be more polished and less “off the cuff” than other video sites. For this reason, you’ll want to use YouTube for tutorials, product demos, DIY content, and tips or “hacks” that your audience would find helpful.

Have a Link Ready

In your video, you’ll want to invite your viewers to check out your website. But take it a step further and provide a link. This link should be a landing page with an offer for a free gift with a sign up option. When visitors fill out the form, they should be automatically added to your email list so you can contact them in the future.

Video can be a wonderful way to reach your community and grow your list. But before you press record, make sure you have a few content ideas and a landing page prepared. This will make your videos flow much smoother and be a more enjoyable experience for both you and your viewers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Participate in Giveaway Events

One simple way to grow your mailing list is to participate in giveaway events. If you’ve never been part of a giveaway, you might be wondering what happens during one. Here’s how they typically work: one business owner decides to create a giveaway. She asks other online business owners to contribute a product of their own.

After the giveaway goes live, people can sign up for it. They typically give their email address and name. In exchange, they receive instructions on how to claim their goodies from each of the business owners. Then they use a coupon code or special link to access the product you’re giving away.

The advantage of contributing a product is that it grows your list. Depending on the giveaway you’re joining, you may get hundreds or even thousands of sign ups. Plus, you get to form valuable relationships with other online business owners.

So, if you’re interested in participating in a giveaway, how do you get started? Begin by following some of these tips…

Look for Giveaways

Before you can participate, you need to find the giveaways. Go to your business groups on Facebook or LinkedIn. Make a post and ask for giveaway recommendations. You’ll probably have a few comments that can get you going in the right direction.

You may also want to try using a search engine. Go to Google and type in the names of marketers you know and the word giveaway. For example: Kelly McCausey + giveaway event. Another word that may be useful is “free summit”. For example: Angela Wills + free summit. (I have experience with both of these ladies - which is why I use them as examples. Check them out!).

Make a Product

Once you have a few giveaways that you’d like to participate in, you need to create a product. Don’t panic if you’ve never made a product. You can create one easily by using PLR content from
Coach Glue or Piggy Makes Bank.

Simply buy a PLR product, add your own branding and upload it to your website. Just make sure your product is relevant to your business.

If you sell weight loss products, then creating a product on Google Analytics isn’t likely to attract your target customers. But if your product was about natural cleaning solutions, then your ideal audience would enjoy your product and happily download it.

Write 2-3 Emails

A requirement for many participants in a giveaway event is that they email their list. Even if you only have one subscriber, create a series of emails about the event.

Your first message could be about the giveaway and how excited you are to be part of it. In the second message, talk about the giveaway and highlight a few products that might appeal to your subscribers. 

Your third message should be sent to your subscribers on the final day of the event. Mention how much you’ve enjoyed the event then remind your list that it’s the last day to claim their freebies. Encourage them to sign up so they don’t miss out.

Don’t Be Bummed…

Some (but not all) giveaways have certain requirements. For example, one host only wants contributions from business owners who have a list of 5,000+ subscribers. Others may want you to have a product on a specific topic in order to participate.

If you see these giveaways, don’t get discouraged. Keep a list of them and when you’ve grown your list or have a product on that topic, you can join next time.

Participating in giveaways is fun and rewarding. But there is some initial set up work to make sure everything flows smoothly for your new subscribers.