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>Get Ready For Your Membership Site

 15th July 2008 by gihan

>I recently conducted a teleseminar for First Step members on the topic “Create Your Own Membership Site”. In preparing for this teleseminar, I asked members to send me their most pressing questions in advance, so I could make sure I answered them in the teleseminar.

Matt Hern asked this question:

“What is the priority of items/elements to prepare before launching a membership site? I know you need content, but what are the most in-demand / used / needed content elements?”

This is a great question, because some people launch into a membership site with great fanfare, but quickly lose interest because they haven’t prepared for it effectively. On the other hand, if you do prepare well, your membership site can be one of your most profitable – and personally rewarding – offerings.

So how do you set your priorities for content?

Answer: Give them what they want, in the way they want it, when they want it.
In other words, it depends on your members. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
Now I admit that might not be a very useful answer – on the surface. But here’s the point (two points, actually):

  1. You should already know what your market most wants to know. They’re telling you in your presentations, in client meetings, in diagnostic assessments, in coaching sessions, in e-mail questions, and at any other time you interact with them.
  2. And you should already know how they prefer to receive your solutions – in short e-mail replies, in detailed white papers, in small group sessions, in one-on-one coaching, or at large conferences.

Now you just have to translate that to your membership site.

For example …

  • If you do your best work in small group sessions, plan a series of teleseminars.
  • If you keep getting the same questions over and over again, create a Frequently Asked Questions section.
  • If people keep asking for your take on news and current affairs items, publish a members-only blog.
  • If the people who come to your public seminars get as much value from talking among themselves as they do from your material, you know they value peer interactions (or maybe you’re just not very good ), so focus on a discussion forum.
  • If people are buying your books, e-books, CDs and audio downloads from your Web site, make them available at no cost to members.

What if you don’t know what they want or how they want it?

In that case, you’re not ready for a membership site yet.
If they’re not buying you in real life, they certainly won’t buy you on-line. Not unless you’re a brilliant Internet marketer. And most infopreneurs aren’t.

But we do have a big advantage as infopreneurs. Before trying anything on-line, we can test it in real life with real people who have real problems and are seeking real solutions.

So cut your teeth in the real world, then figure out how to take this on-line. That’s true of anything you do on-line, but particularly for something as big an investment as a membership site.

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>Don’t Become a Digital Dinosaur

 12th July 2008 by gihan

> I’ve recently finished reading Andrew Keen’s book The Cult of the Amateur, where he talks about “how today’s Internet is killing our culture and assaulting our economy”. His main argument is that the new Internet promotes popularity over expertise, trivia over serious news, and sound bites over substance.

He paints a somewhat extreme and pessimistic picture, and I don’t agree with everything he says, but I do think he’s right to some extent. In particular, the Internet poses a danger for experts like us.

Why? Because amateurs have more power than ever before.

You don’t have to own a newspaper to publish a blog.
You don’t have to own a radio station to publish a podcast.
You don’t have to own a magazine outlet to write an e-mail newsletter.
And you don’t have to be a TV station to create compelling video.

This is good news and bad news.

The good news is that anybody can have their say.

But the bad news is that anybody can have their say!

If you still want to be “The Go To Guy/Gal” in your area of expertise, you’d better be out there, making a contribution. You can bet your life somebody is else doing it – on your turf, to your clients, in your market.

They might be other experts vying for the same business. Or they might be rank amateurs, muddying the waters for you. Or they might be big companies with big bucks, ramming their opinions down our throats, as usual. It doesn’t matter which way it is – the point is: It’s not you!

Don’t become a digital dinosaur.

In one chapter of his book, Andrew Keen talks about the decline of print newspapers, who haven’t adapted to the digital revolution, and have rapidly lost advertising revenue.

However, he also points out the success of the U.K.-based Guardian Unlimited newspaper, which is thriving because it’s embraced the Internet rather than fighting it.

Which will you be?

If you think the Internet doesn’t matter to your business, you’re wrong. And you probably won’t know it until it’s too late.

So what can you do?

Write an e-mail newsletter to build relationships.
Record a podcast to create personal connections.
Publish a blog to demonstrate authority.
Create videos to deliver experiences.
Write e-books to distribute your message further.

Too much? Just pick the first two (e-mail newsletter and podcast) and learn to do them well. Then move on to the next.

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>Copy It Right

 8th July 2008 by gihan

>The Internet landscape has changed when it comes to copyright. Previously, publishers would jealously guard their material, and could even send lawyers after you if you copied it without permission. But now Web 2.0 sites like YouTube encourage users to copy their material, so they get more exposure and more traffic.

So what has changed, and what can you do about it?

First, understand that the basic copyright laws have not changed. Anything published by somebody is still copyright, and you’re legally not allowed to copy it without their permission.

In fact, I know somebody who recently received a nasty letter and a big bill from a law firm representing a photo library, alleging she was using one of their photos without buying the licence. It turned out her graphic designer had used this picture illegally on her Web site.

So be careful about what you copy from the Internet. If anything, it’s become easier, not harder, for copyright owners to track down offenders.

But more people are giving permission.

The big shift is that more people are giving permission for other to copy their material. I’ve already mentioned YouTube, which goes out of its way to give you the exact instructions to copy any of their video clips to your Web site or blog.

Another copyright system that’s becoming more common is the “Creative Commons License”. It’s very useful to know how this works, because it allows you to use other people’s material – with their permission.

For example, Flickr (which is like YouTube for photos), allows a photographer to make their photos available for others to use. Flickr can be an excellent source of photos for your PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, books, e-books and any other publications.

Here’s how it works …

By default, photos on Flickr are copyright. But optionally, the photographer can grant these rights:

Attribution: You have to give them credit for using their photos.
Noncommercial: You can only use them for non-commercial purposes.
No Derivative Works: You can’t alter the photos.
Share Alike: If you use the photos in any product, you must make that product available for others to use in the same way.

These rights can be combined. For example, “Attribution + No Derivative Works + Noncommercial” means the photo can only be used in original form for non-commercial purposes. On the other hand, just “Attribution + No Derivative Works” means you can use it for commercial purposes (but still only in its original form).

For our sake, as potential users, the least restrictive licence is just “Attribution”, because it means we can use it – at no charge – for commercial purposes, and even alter it, as long as we attribute the original photographer. For instance, if you’re using the photo in a book, attribute the photo where it appears or on the Acknowledgements page.

So how many photos are available this way?

Here’s the good news. At the time of writing, Flickr has over 8 million photos available for use under just the Attribution licence! That’s a huge collection to choose from, so it’s an excellent starting point when you’re searching for a photograph to use in your presentations, documents or products

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>The March of Unreason, by Dick Taverne

 11th June 2008 by gihan

>Here is a well-researched and well-presented book defending science and rational thinking from the recent trend of society to lose its trust in science and embrace irrational, fear-based, feelings-based ideas.

Taverne takes aim at eco-fundamentalism, anti-globalisation organisations, environmentalist lobby groups, alternative medicine and other pseudo-scientific approaches. But he doesn’t just do this in an ideological way; he presents studies, research and verifiable data to support his point.

Ironically, his opponents often don’t. He presents the case that some of these approaches aren’t based on scientific principles. For instance, he quotes Lord Melchett, the Director of Greenpeace, admitting that he would be permanently opposed to genetically modified crops, regardless of the scientific facts!

If you’re already ideologically closed to Taverne’s arguments, it’s unlikely you will change your view by reading this book. However, if you read it with even a slightly open mind that encourages you to do your own investigation into the facts behind the claims, it will have served its purpose.

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Make it Easy For Them To Buy

 29th May 2008 by gihan

Make it easy for them to buyImagine going to your local supermarket and watching the shoppers. They pick up a shopping cart, wander around the aisles collecting their groceries, and eventually take them to the checkout to pay.

But imagine if two out of three shoppers got to the checkout queue, then suddenly changed their mind and left the store, abandoning their shopping cart full of products.

In the real world, this would be bizarre. Sure, there are valid reasons for this behavior – the queues might be too long, they realized that they’ve overspent their budget, and so on. But these are the exception rather than the rule.

In most cases, shoppers will dutifully fill their shopping carts and complete the transaction at the checkout.

But it’s the other way around in the on-line world. Studies have shown that most shoppers who start buying on a Web site abandon the process before completing it.

Why? The reasons vary, but in most cases it can be summarized as: The Web site makes it too difficult to buy.

Remember that the Internet is probably the least-trusted shopping medium in history. Lots of people are making lots of money from it, but many others lose potential sales because of a poorly-designed ordering system.

Here are some of the dumb things that Web site owners do to annoy, upset and even scare their users:

  • Force them to “register” as members before they can buy anything
  • Not using a secure server.
  • Adding unnecessary steps to what should be a straightforward process.
  • Not publishing a clear privacy policy on their Web site.
  • Not providing a variety of payment options, especially for people who are worried about giving their credit card details on the Internet.
  • Not publishing a telephone number that allows a wary customer to talk to a real person.
  • Not publishing a full street address that reassures the customer that this is a legitimate business.
  • Assuming that all customers are from the same country, and not providing a handy currency converter for international customers.
  • Making it difficult to determine postage and handling costs, or not even publishing them at all.
  • Including a whole block of incomprehensible fine print for Terms and Conditions, instead of writing them out in plain, easy-to-read language.
  • Not publishing a refund policy, or making it so heavily weighted against the customer that it’s a deterrent rather than an incentive.

You’ve probably seen some of these mistakes already on other Web sites. Make sure that you don’t make the same mistakes.

You could be losing most of your shoppers!

Remember that the research shows that most shoppers abandon the shopping process. In fact, some of the research suggests that the number of these shoppers is as high as 80%! If you believe that research, it means that you’re missing out on 4 out of every 5 sales.

So that hard work you put into getting more traffic to your site is wasted!

Imagine what would happen to your business if 80% of your customers came in the door, talked to you about your products and services, made the decision to buy, but then walked out before completing the transaction. That might well be happening on your Web site.

But you CAN turn this around!

The good news, of course, is that if you could convince these potential customers to complete their order, you would increase your profits instantly! And all this happens without having to get one extra visitor to the site.

Look at how much of a difference this could make to your business. If we take the 80% figure quoted above, convincing just half of those people to complete the transaction would mean that that number drops to 40%. This means that you’ve now got a 60% completion rate, compared with 20% before making the change. That means you’ve just trebled your income!

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Membership Has Its Benefits

 29th May 2008 by gihan

I’ve recently done a lot of consulting to help clients create membership sites. That’s not surprising – it’s been one of the biggest trends on the Internet in the past three years. And it’s even more powerful now with the popularity of social networking sites like Facebook.

American Express made famous the slogan, “Membership has its privileges”, and then went on to describe what you’d get if you had an Amex card.

But of course American Express membership also has benefits for American Express – including:

  • A recurring source of income
  • A loyal community of members
  • The opportunity to partner with other organisations

Could a membership site work for you

Hmmm … maybe.

Before you launch your membership site, consider these three factors.

1. Value

Do you have proven valuable expertise that people are willing to pay for?

If you’ve already got an established information business – in speaking, training, coaching, consulting and the like – the answer is probably “Yes”. You’ll be delivering similar value to your members, so it’s important to know others already consider it valuable enough to pay for.

2. Products

Do you have a suite of high-value products you already bundle in with your services?

You’ll be regularly adding products and other resources to your membership site, so be sure you know what people value.

3. Database

Do you have a database of clients and prospects who might be interested in joining your membership site?

This will probably be your e-mail newsletter list at first. Later, you can consider joint ventures with other businesses to promote your membership site to their databases as well. But start with your own first.

Did you answer “Yes” to all three questions?

If so, then you might be ready for a membership site. Before you jump in, though, start by joining one – so you get some experience of how it works. This is a good idea anyway, even if you didn’t answer Yes to all the questions.

As an example, if you could do with improving your sales skills (and who couldn’t?  ), join David Penglase’s SalesCoachCentral.com. That’s an example of an extremely high-value membership site. You might choose to start on a smaller scale, but it will give you something to aim for.

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>Are You Making This Big Internet Marketing Mistake?

 13th May 2008 by gihan

>

Ros Lee, one of the members of the First Step Member Community, asked an insightful question about Internet marketing – especially as it applies to infopreneurs.

Broadly, her question went something like this:

When you are already an information expert specialising in a particular topic, eg reputation, networking, referrals, time management etc, how important is it to find a tighter niche (i.e. a subset of your potential market) online in which the demand for information outweighs the supply available? Don’t the same principles apply to information experts as to other types of internet marketers, that they will be most easily found online if they successfully identify a hungry crowd with a particular problem not already being solved elsewhere and position themselves as offering the solution?

This is one of my favourite topics!

Ros offered an excellent insight into the mind of an Internet marketer.

On the Internet, the best marketer wins. Not the best infopreneur; the best marketer. And most infopreneurs are poor marketers – at least, when they’re not there in person to do the marketing.

So, yes, if you’re going to do Internet marketing, follow the same principles as the successful Internet marketers. And they are exactly what Ros said: Find a crowd with a problem and money to pay for it, then position yourself as a solution provider. And yes, the smaller your niche, the better your product.

This is different from your current business.

If you’re a successful infopreneur running live programs, more often than not people buy you as much as they buy your topic. It almost doesn’t matter what your topic is; when people get to know you, they’ll trust you to present (speak / train / coach / consult / facilitate / whatever) it effectively.

This doesn’t work when you reach out to strangers on the Internet. Now you not only have to find that hungry crowd, you’re also competing with everybody else out there chasing the same crowd. You can no longer rely on the trust you’ve built with clients, because these people out there don’t have a relationship with you at all.

If you’re successful with your live programs, that does not necessarily mean you’ll be equally successful selling on-line. It might be true, but don’t assume it. Sadly, I see many people who make this assumption, and spend too much time, money, energy and effort chasing this out-of-reach dream.

So is it worth going ahead?

Yes, by all means. Just realise that it’s a whole new ball game. The marketing things that used to work as an infopreneur won’t work any more. It’s like starting an entirely new business.

This is the key difference between chasing active income and passive income; between marketing to clients and marketing to strangers; and between presenting live programs and selling on-line products.

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