Do you need a VPS (or do you know what one is)?

You might not even know what a VPS or should you need one?

A VPS is a Virtual Private Server. Typically when go for ‘cheap’ web-hosting you have some shared hard disk space on (typically a Linux) server. You share this space with hundreds, perhaps even thousands of other users. The restrictions are pretty tight as to what you can do.

For simple hosting of websites this is adequate. However if your site becomes busy then the next step up is a VPS. A VPS is like having your own machine on the Internet. You have full control over the operating system and the memory and hard disk space is partitioned just for you. This means you can install whatever you like.

Now cost wise it is not a great step-up. For shared hosting you can typically pay $2-$10 per month and a Linux VPS can be had for as little as $10 per month although you will typically be paying $10-$30.

Fulfilled By Amazon

So what is FBA if you’ve heard the term?

Well basically it means that if you are selling items on Amazon you normally have to pack them and send them out yourself. With FBA you send your items en masse to Amazon who then store them and despatch them as they sell. Depending on the size and weight of the items then you get charged accordingly for storage and handling. For smaller items this can be pence.

In fact Amazon have a calculator you can use if you want them to fulfil on your behalf. Doing this means you can get an idea of your overheads vs fulfilling items yourself. You can access the calculator here.

So why would you let Amazon fulfil on your behalf? Well one massive benefit is that Amazon prime members get free shipping. That makes a large difference to your sales.

So as I often believe there are those making money by digging for gold and those that make money by selling the spades (and sometimes both!). Now I have dipped my toe in the FBA waters but not done much with it. I’m currently reading/watching material to gen up on it.

Just the other day I stumbled across a course by the ‘StartupBro’s’ :) called Import Empire. Now they do what I believe most smart marketers do; they give away killer content for free. Their entire FBA course weighs in at $1997 (get in contact if you want a 50% voucher code) but they did a 3 hour webinar which probably has enough to get you started. You can watch it here. Key takeaways:

  • Just do it! Not rocket science, you want items priced $10 – $50 that are easy to store and lightweight
  • When dealing with chinese firms appear as the buyer not the owner of your business so you can play good cop, bad cop
  • Sell your samples don’t give them away! You are testing the market, if no-one buys your samples then no-one is going to buy them in large quantities!

Now also be wary of FBA courses on udemy, the ones I have seen fall into two categories:

  • Those selling a course on FBA but they don’t actually do it
  • Those claiming to earn X amount per month from FBA but with no evidence

And from what I have seen the skimp on one of the key success factors; product selection. The other thing to note is the big earners in FBA either white or private label their goods. White label is taking an existing product and putting your brand/logo on it. Private label is when you actually have the item manufactured to your requirements. Either route means you probably need to ‘go east’ and work with asian manufacturers; something alot of lower priced courses simply do not cover.

There is plenty of free content to get you going. Once I start looking into it I will report back here.

Now I should also mention something I stumbled across the other day which is pure gold. A chap by the name of Manuel Becvar. Now he lives in Asia and works with Chinese manufacturers so knows the game well has a website called Import Dojo (importdojo.com). He offers a free book and a ton of free content which covers everything you need to do know about working with Asian suppliers and/or manufacturers. Well worth a look!

There are a number of other courses, like Amazing Selling Machine which costs $6000 :O, not knocking it but that is top end price wise but you can start with scouring the net.

How I Make $xxx a Month Junk Courses on Udemy

I’m both a student and instructor on Udemy and have been on there for 18 months. What I have noticed in the last couple of months is a myriad of ‘make money online’ courses.

I get offers for free or discounted courses and have gone through some of these. All of them so far are complete and utter junk! Why? They always, without exception, lack two key things:

  1. A case study which shows what they actually did to generate the income
  2. Any proof of that income

Of course with many forms of activity you might not want to reveal the exact niche but there is nothing, nothing at all which demonstrates any proof the instructor has actually done what they teach!

 

Cost Effective Email Marketing Solution

This is from an original post I made way back in April 2008 on my technology blog but its still as valid today.

The flippent answer would be one that generates a definative and repeatable return on investment! There is going to be a cost for any email marketing, whether it be the design of the layout of the email if you need to make it look enticing, or using a third party service which charges a subscription fee. Before you do anything though consider;

  • How targetted are the prospects on the list?
  • How well written is the copy? Are you starting with a compelling, benefit oriented headline?
  • How compelling is the actual offer?

Always remember to do small scale tests first. if you have a list of 10,000 prospects why not come up with two different emails (same offer, different copy in the email) and send email A to 100, and B to another 100 and compare the results.

If you are going to use a third party service then check they offer costs on a ‘per subscriber’ and not ‘per email’ basis. If you are being charged per subscriber it means you can email the list several times for no additional cost. One great service which does that and offers a whole lot more besides is Mailchimp.

Are You Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Campaigns

There has been a huge uptake in customer relationship management (CRM) systems over the last couple of years. All businesses from small to large have been clamouring to select, buy and implement CRM as it is seen as a ‘must-have’. But I wonder, how many businesses have actually measured their return on that investment? How is your CRM system delivering benefit not just in operational process but in additional sales and new customers? Sure your CRM will tell you how many leads have been won, the status of those leads, which salesperson brought in that lead. It will also tell you how many and the potential value of any opportunities arising from that lead. But of course the real crux of the matter is you need to measure/test/refine/repeat the effectiveness of your campaigns.

And there lies the problem, whilst most CRM systems on the market allow you to create a campaign against a list of customers it is the segmentation of your customers that falls down. Why? because even if you do have an integrated CRM and financials system the chances are you cannot create what I would term as dynamic campaigns. I had this very request a few weeks ago from a Sage CRM customer. “We want to be able to create a campaign based around customers who have bought product x”. Can the system do it? No! Can it be made do it? Absolutely. Here are 4 examples, from hundreds of possible, dynamic campaigns you could be using (but probably won’t be);

  • Customers who bought product x
  • Customers who have spent more than (or less than) x pounds, dollars, euros
  • Customers who have bought within the last 180 days but not within the last 90 days
  • Customers who have only bought once from you

So the key is getting at your financials data and using it to create customer segments that are meaningful (and hopefully responsive!) to an offer in the campaign.

Facebook Ads

As I have been doing Google Adwords Pay per click (PPC) I thought it was time to start at looking at PPC on the Facebook platform. Why? Well first off I know that some niches are extremely competitive now on Google so looking at another channel I wanted to see how effective Facebook is.

Whilst I typically work in the ‘offline’ sector, i.e. marketing for real bricks and mortar businesses I typically ‘battle-test’ strategies and techniques using online products. The common consensus at the moment seems to be that Facebook has plenty of eyeballs but alot more ‘spiers’ than ‘buyers’.

The big difference is that Facebook ads are ‘contextual’ as opposed to ‘search’. What I mean is that with Google a prospect has actually typed in a keyword or phrase so there is a good chance they a looking for a solution to a problem and a good chance they are looking to spend money to solve that problem. Facebook ads on the other hand appear when the demographics you have specified match the user that is currently on Facebook. The issue is you have no idea where they are in the buying cycle, or if they are looking to buy at all.

However, if you have a product or service which targets a tight demographic it could be a useful channel to add to your current marketing efforts. I will cover Facebook again and specifically what you can do to lower your cost per click.

When Writing Good Copy is Less Relevant

OK I thought there wouldn’t be an occasion to discard everything you have learned about good copywriting but I may have just found it. I have dipped my toe in the water of Facebook advertising before and like many others have found it extremely difficult to monetize offers.

What I had done in these instances is taken years of writing good google adwords advertisements and used that as the basis of generating Facebook ads. However when you think about it there is a fundamental difference from a Facebook user to a google searcher. One is (or you can determine) actively looking for information or to buy a product or solve a problem and the other is simply looking to hook up with friends and share their feelings/thoughts etc. The bottom line is this, you have no idea if they are looking to buy your product or service.

So you need to re-think your ads, you might not be able to sell them on your product or service but you might be able to get them to ‘Like’ your page which is setup specifically to promote your product or service. Once they are a fan you can then build that relationship and monetise later. The key here is, and my initial testing has found that you can significantly boost your click through rates, create a fan base and drive down your cost per clicks.

Facebook Fan Pages for Business

Should you use one?

In a previous post I mentioned how you need to look at what copy you are writing in your Facebook ads to improve click through. As we are typically dealing with browsers rather than buyers trying to get a sale directly from an ad might be a tall order. So the best step is to get clicks, and preferably ‘Likes’ to your page and then sell later.

So the question is should you have one? I would say its certainly easier for ‘sexy’ products where prospects can get enthused, even excited over your product/service as opposed to an offering which doesn’t invoke much enthusiasm to build fans but its another marketing channel your business cannot afford to overlook. You can put offers on your fan page to entice prospects and, most importantly, build a relationship.