Archive | Marketing

How to Launch A Successful Podcast

In December 2015 when my business partner suggested we launch a podcast I wasn't convinced. I was certainly familiar with podcasts but had never loyally followed or listened to one.

My initial response was a common one for me, “that sounds like a lot of work.” I'm always skeptical of new initiatives that don't have a clear ROI and podcasting was in that category.

A few months later I attended a series of presentations at the Traffic and Conversion Summit about launching a podcast successfully and I came home from that event ready to move forward.

Soon after we launched The Concealed Carry Podcast which quickly grew to be a top 2-3 podcast in our industry and as of today our “podcast network” consist of 4 podcasts.

What follows is the answer to the common question I receive “how do I launch a successful podcast?”

Finding Your Place in An Ever-Expanding Podcast Library

In 2016 when we launched our first podcast about 25% of the US adult population had ever listened to a podcast. Now in 2020 that number has about doubled.

Podcasts are effectively on-demand radio shows and as broadcast radio loses ground every year podcasting takes up that lost volume and more.

As such the podcast realm which was already plenty heavy is growing ever more saturated with new content and shows. Standing out and winning in this growing competitive platform is very challenging.

While not as difficult as starting a successful YouTube channel today, the risk of becoming just one more podcast that doesn't bring anything unique to the audience is your top concern.

Start by researching the other shows in your category. Take notes about how their shows are formatted, to whom they appeal, and what unique value they bring to the listener.

Consider what you are going to do differently.

What unique value will you bring to the audience?

What unique perspective can you bring to the category that nobody else can?

Choosing A Host & Platform

A lot of the questions I get are relating to hosting and technology. At its core a podcast is a RSS feed that is formatted properly for podcast marketplaces to read.

Don't fret, I'm going to break it down. Lets start with some vocabulary.

Podcast marketplace: A website or app that catalogs a large number of podcasts and makes it easy for consumers to subscribe to and listen to those podcasts. iTunes is the original and as of this writing the most dominant podcast marketplace. Google Play Music is also a growing marketplace. Spotify, Tune-In, I Heart Radio, and now even Audible falls into this category.

Podcast host: A service (often costs money) where the actual audio files are stored (hosted). When a listener tunes into one of your podcast shows they will stream or download the episode from the host's server. There are hosts out there that tailor to the podcast market and are purpose-built. Blubrry, Libsyn, and Soundcloud come to mind. That said you can use any website hosting service to host your podcast but you may experience performance issues when you use a service not purpose-built for podcasts. The host is also going to be the place where you are going to get all your reporting and statistics.

Podcast website: The website you build to support and be the face of your podcast. That website may or may not be related to hosting in conjunction with the Podcast Host. For example, if you use Blubrry as your host, you can build a website using WordPress and then connect the two via Blubrry's “Powerpress plugin.” Libsyn also will work with WordPress or you can just host your website directly on their platform.

Podcast Feed: The RSS feed URL that is properly formatted to be read and indexed by podcast marketplaces. This URL will be generated and will live with your Podcast host.

I strongly encourage you to work with a podcast purpose-built host. I use Blubrry exclusively because they have the best WordPress integration in my opinion and WordPress is my platform of choice for building and maintaining a website. I also think their reporting interface is very good. Depending on the frequency of publishing your show you will pay $20 to $100 a month.

I manage the podcast and publish episodes via the website using the Blubrry Powerpress plugin but the actual audio files are hosted on Blubrry's server.

Titles, Headlines, and Categories

Like most business ventures, naming your podcast is going to be a mission critical step. Don't take it lightly.

Just as important is an understanding that the title of each show episode is a critical headline. Episode titles determine if the listener is going to engage and listen much like an email subject line determines if the recipient is going to open the email and read it.

Be deliberate and thoughtful when you write your episode titles.

When you launch your podcast and add it to catalogs like iTunes you will have to select a category and often a sub-category. There are 2 reasons why choosing the right category will matter for you.

First, potential listeners may browse a category in search of new podcasts they want to listen to. You want to be found in the place they are most likely to search when looking for your content.

Second, some categories have more podcasts and competition than others. If you have 2 different categories that both seem equally accurate and appropriate, but one has less competition you might choose that one in order to maximize your odds of ranking higher in your category.

The Launch Plan – The first 4 weeks are critical

Launching a podcast correctly will have a strong impact on your ongoing success. Many Podcast Marketplaces have a category for new and popular podcasts and getting a lot of downloads quickly may put you in a position where the marketplace will highlight your show and get you a lot more views and attention.

This effectively builds a cycle of growth. Getting downloads brings more listeners that get you more downloads that get you more listeners.

So in the first few weeks of your launch your goal is to drive as many listens and reviews/ratings as possible.

Strategy 1: Make the First 5-10 Episodes Your Best

Spend a lot of time thinking through your first 5-10 episodes. Ask people for their input and make sure the titles/headlines are amazing.

This will naturally increase loyalty early on and drive larger audiences.

Strategy 2: Publish A Lot of Episodes All At Once

Your ongoing publishing plan may be to publish a new episode once a week but in the first two weeks publish 3-10 of them. This helps you maximize the number of downloads you can get from your initial audience in the first few weeks.

Strategy 3: Make A Launch Team

Reach out to influencers, blogs, and friends and ask them to join your launch team. Effectively you are asking them to set aside some energy in the first 2 weeks of your launch to help you promote your new podcast.

Prepare assets for them to help them promote your show. Images for social media, press releases they can reference, and anything else you think would be helpful.

One way to encourage an influencer with a large audience is to invite them to record one of these early episodes with you. This gives them an incentive to promote your show and gives you greater credibility.

Promotional Plan – How Will You Drive Listeners

First read my post “How To Get A Large And Engaged Loyal Audience

Here are some additional thoughts specific to Podcasts:

Strategy 1: Offer to be a guest on other podcasts in your industry

If you want to reach people who already consume podcasts there is no better place than on other podcasts.

It can be a tough sale to convince a competing podcast to have you on as a guest for obvious reasons (note the word “Competing). You will have to have a unique, attention-catching method of asking AND you will have to bring something valuable to the relationship. Something that causes them to NEED you as much as you need them.

Strategy 2: Invite Guests Who Have An Audience You Want to Reach

Your industry has influencers. People with large email lists, Instagram followings, blog readers, etc. When you invite these people on your show not only does that add to your credibility but it also gives them a good reason to share your show with their audience.

Strategy 3: Attend Industry Trade Shows

Your industry has events where you can shake hands with hundreds to thousands of consumers and or businesses. Go to those events and network. If finances allow get a booth and record episodes right there at the show.

Formatting and the Publishing Schedule

Formatting is the word we use in broadcast to refer to the process of determining how your show is going to be laid out. What content you are going to have.

While some successful podcasts have no format, they just consist of the host(s) talking for some length of time; MOST successful podcasts follow a specific format. Perhaps they always start with the sponsor message or an introduction. Perhaps they discuss current events followed by listener questions.

Whatever it may be, listeners like consistency. Think of your favorite news broadcast, late night TV show, or radio show. The consistency of segments and layout creates loyalty and tribe. You want both.

Also in thinking about consistency, the most successful podcasts create what is effectively an appointment with their listeners. How often you publish and what day you publish is far less important than picking a schedule and staying true to it.

Production Value

There are few things that will turn OFF your audience faster than poor production value. In the case of an audio podcast, I'm talking about audio quality.

Invest in quality microphones and recording equipment. If recording remotely with guests and other hosts experiment with various tools to reduce audio variance and quality loss due to bandwidth.

Ask guests to participate from quiet locations with quality internet. Ask them to wear headphones to minimize audio feedback. Trust me, audio quality matters a lot!

Securing and Pitching Sponsors

Let me first say that if your only or primary motivation for starting a podcast is to secure paying sponsors just stop now. Unless you have a built-in library of salespeople and advertisers you already work with you don't have what is necessary to be successful out of the gate.

A podcast is a great way to support a passion or to support an existing business plan, model, or product. The amount of energy and time that will have to be invested to get a large enough audience to be able to make decent money from sponsorships is VERY high.

With that in mind here are some ideas that will help you with sponsors.

Pricing

The industry standard way to price podcast advertising is on a CPM (Cost per thousand impressions). This is similar to most other forms of online advertising in which the advertiser is paying based on the ACTUAL reach of their message.

In the case of a podcast there are two ways this can be done. You can calculate the number of downloads after a certain amount of time has passed and bill the advertiser based on those actual numbers or you can bill the advertiser in advance based on a minimum guaranteed reach in a certain number of days based on your past history.

For example is I know my average episode is downloaded 11-12 thousand times within 30 days of being published then I might sell my podcast episode sponsorships based on 10K downloads minimum.

The CPM rate varies significantly by podcast but ranges between $20 and $100. That variance is going to be justified by the uniqueness or value of the average listener and the loyalty to the show if the average listener.

CPM is cost per thousand. You can find CPM calculators online to help you figure out the numbers.

Pitching Assets

It is common place for savvy and larger advertisers and agencies to request a media kit. A media kit is a file (PDF is most common) that highlights the various aspects of the show and it's audience. It often contains advertising rates and options as well.

Reach out to other podcasts in your industry and request their media kit to reference as examples.

Over Deliver

Whatever you do be sure to over deliver for your advertiser. Do everything in your power to make sure their message is received by the audience. Be a user and consumer of their products so you can naturally refer to them in context outside of sponsor messages.

Conclusion

If you think a podcast may be a great way to reach and grow your audience you might be right. Investigate existing podcasts in your market and do something to be different.

Invest in quality gear and work to product a high quality podcast.

Figure out a business plan that isn't dependent on finding paid advertisers unless you already have the experience and access to salespeople and paying advertisers in your industry

Build a launch plan that will maximize your odds of success.

If you have other questions about launching or operating a podcast let me know!

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Enalito Thriving eCommerce Summit Nov 2020

Enalito is a company that provides various software tools to empower and support eCommerce businesses.

On a regular basis they conduct a summit in which they host these style of discussions to help educate and support their existing and their potential customers.

Currently, I do not use any Enalito's products and at no point during this process did they pitch me. This is an important thing for me to point out because Enalito appears to be focused on truly supporting and empowering their audience. This attitude of being useful and valuable first, and then exchanging money second sets a great example in their space.

Here is the video recording of the panel in which I participated:

Things we discussed:

  • The importance of identifying and communicating your brand's deepest purpose and passion
  • How is COVID affecting the eCommerce space and how does that affect different business categories?
  • What are the best marketing strategies to dominate your market in the next 5 years?
  • The growth of SMS and direct messaging
  • How does the ROI on paid advertising vary by category?
  • How to understand your consumer's behavior
  • The single greatest point of advice for new internet entrepreneurs

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Interview: “Doing Things He Loves – Guns and Internet Marketing”

On May 21st 2020, my interview with Bart Merrell on his podcast was published.

Bart and I crossed paths in a business venture back in 2007 and I was very excited to hear from him and honored to be invited as a guest on his podcast.

Here is the interview:

Some important topics we covered:

  • What is the “Field of Dreams” entrepreneur myth?
  • The success formula for hiring the right people
  • The three ways to get customers
  • The formula to a stable business that can survive a storm
  • Getting the plan B and being ready to pivot
  • The book I most frequently recommend to people

Learn more about the podcast and subscribe with your favorite app by clicking here.

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How To Get a Large and Engaged Loyal Audience

  • How do I build my email list?
  • How do I get more podcast listeners?
  • How do I get more website traffic?
  • How do I rank higher on search engines?
  • How do I get more YouTube subscribers?

All these questions have the same answer, and in my experience, it isn't what you want to hear.

The real question at the root of all of these:

Question: How Do I Get A Large and Engaged Loyal Audience?

Best Answer: Build and sell a product that you can profitably advertise at scale.

You may not believe me but don't worry I'm prepared to back up my claim and provide a roadmap.

There are three ways to build a large and engaged audience.

While I do feel that selling a product at scale is the easiest way to build an audience I must admit that there are other options. I just feel it is the easiest of the three methods.

Option 1: Be among the first in your market/niche on that platform. In almost every industry, you can go on YouTube and find a dozen or so channels that are very large. Often you might watch their content and ask yourself WHY they are so popular. The answer is often; they were an early adopter.

Today the odds are very low of you starting a YouTube channel in your industry and just taking off because you think you are as good as or better than the other giants already on YouTube in your industry.

YouTube is cluttered. It's been done. The low hanging fruit is gone.

This attitude is the equivalent of thinking you can be bigger than McDonald's because you can make a better hamburger.

For Option 1 to work you either need to be among the first voices in a new market or conversation or you need to be among the early adopters on a new platform that doesn't have great market penetration yet. Good luck.

Option 2: Do something so different, wild, interesting, entertaining that despite being late to the game people notice and share.

Sound hard? It is. Companies spend a lot of time and money trying to break through the clutter and it rarely works.

Option 3: Sell a product.

A Product Offering Saves the Day

If you can predictably break even or be profitable selling a product online by running advertising for that product, then you can scale that to some degree and acquire customers.

Customers = Audience.

Resource: Machine Builders

And not just any audience… buyers. People who are willing to put in a credit card number to buy a product in your industry. There is no better audience than a group of past and current customers.

So, as a content creator who wants to build a large audience for whatever reason; consider that the answer to your problem might be building and selling a product at scale… even if you only break even.

But I Just Want to Be An Influencer I Don't Want to Sell Stuff

This is an understandable sentiment. Afterall, you want to grow your audience not go into business right?

You can always take a run at options 1 and 2 above but your odds of success are very low and I have to ask, what is the end goal of growing your audience anyway?

Isn't your intent to monetize that audience by getting sponsors or companies willing to give you product and money? So your end objective is to go into business anyway right?

Why not accelerate that by creating or finding a product you can sell online at SCALE. Something you can advertise and still break even or be profitable selling.

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The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau – Book Review

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New FutureThe $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wish I had read this book a few years ago as it would have been more valuable then but all the same I'm glad I read it and would recommend it. The author basically takes you through several examples of modern “micro-businesses” and shares patterns or lessons you can learn from many of them.

For anyone who is primarily familiar with traditional large businesses, venture capital, and writing business plans this should provide a valuable view into a new type of company.

Simple concepts like how to build a product and how to perform a good product launch are my favorite things in the book.

That said, I'm not giving the book 5 stars because it utterly failed to discuss TRAFFIC. Endless stories are given that provide the reader with the impression that you can just create a product, build a website for it and somehow magically the customers will find it and give you money.

Even in the product launch chapter, it assumes that the reader has a list or audience of potential or past customers they can message about the new product being launched.

The success of any online business is directly tied to getting web traffic via some means and generally, this means spending money on advertising or engaging in some sort of joint-venture or great PR.

If you want a more comprehensive book that will help you start and launch a simple “micro business” online I suggest you go read The 4-Hour Workweek instead of or in addition to this book.

View all my reviews
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You Have Emails But You Don’t Have An Email Marketing Strategy

This is for any business owner or marketer who is currently NOT sending regular emails to an email list of subscribers, customers, and potential customers.

This conversation usually happens when I'm talking to a business owner who has been around for a few years but doesn't currently send much or any email.

WHY You Need to Be Sending Email

Not building and cultivating an email list is costing you money. Depending on how amazing your email strategy is, your lack of doing something is probably costing you between 5 cents and a dollar per email address per month.

Now I get it… writing emails is hard and can be expensive! That is what has been holding you back. It doesn't have to be that rough… I promise.

Scraping Together Your Email List

Before we get into the how and what, we need to build your email list. It is time to go to all your various resources and combine all the files, exports, and other assets you have to build out your email list.

Where possible, you want to capture as much data about each email subscriber as possible but specifically where you can be sure to export/capture: First Name, Last Name, Email Address, State, Zip Code.

This information will be handy later when you are making so much money from email you can't handle it and you decide to start segmenting or customizing emails to each recipient 🙂

Here are a number of potential resources you may consider where you can find email addresses you have collected over the many years you have been in business:

  • Your eCommerce system
  • Your CMS where customer data is stored
  • Any 3rd party system where you have hosted a giveaway in the past
  • If you have ever donated product to someone else's giveaway and they captured emails they may be able to provide them to you
  • Your fulfillment and shipping software or system
  • Your outlook or email contact list and that of your employees
  • If you are in the B2B space you may have a Rolodex or large pile of business cards. There are phone apps that can take pictures of your cards and extract the email addresses.

A Warning Not To Buy Or Steal Emails…

There is often a temptation to buy an email list from a vendor or swap email lists with a partner or vendor. I strongly discourage this. People don't like getting emails from random businesses that they didn't specifically opt-in to receive or with whom they have some sort of relationship or brand awareness.

Further, it could be a violation of terms or at very least trust from that 3rd party to be providing you with those email addresses.

Lastly, if you have personally overseen the gathering process of email addresses that end up on your email list you don't know where they came from and frankly quality is MUCH more important than quantity.

Often purchased email lists contain email addresses specifically built and monitored by email service providers to catch companies that are sending SPAM and junk mail.

Waking Up Your List or Sending the First “WARNING” Email

Now, you have put together your email list and you are wondering what to do next. Well, first thing you need to do is WARN these people you are planning to send them email.

This is tactically wise but also ethically good. If you have email addresses that up until now you have never sent anything and all of the sudden you are going to send them email with any type of frequency don't you think they deserve a heads up and the option to say “no thank you?”

In addition to the warm and fuzzy reasons, there is a tactical benefit as well. It costs money to send email and for every email address on your list that isn't interested in receiving emails you are going to be paying to send it to them.

Further, if they mark your email as SPAM or move it to their junk folder this is going to hurt your sender reputation which in the long term will keep your emails from getting to the contacts who DO want to receive them.

Getting “bad” contacts off your list is just as important as getting “good” contacts onto your list.

So We Start With The Ferris Cold Email Template

I first saw this email several years ago when top blogger, podcast, and author Tim Ferris decided to resurrect his email list and start emailing them after years of ignoring the list.

I have adapted and used this template several times and I encourage you to adapt it for your business:

The easier you make it for people to unsubscribe the better because remember one of the core goals of this email is to get “bad” contacts off your list before you start sending frequent emails.

Also note that Tim provides some value in his email by including some free resources and products that help people engage with his brand and remember who he is and how he can provide them with value moving forward.

How Often Should You Send Email?

Congrats. At this point, you have pulled together your email list and warned them you will be sending more frequent email. Now what?

Commit to a regular sending frequency. How often you send email is not nearly as important as committing to a frequency and communicating what that will be.

Meaning, be consistent. If you commit to sending weekly, plan to send weekly; and however often you commit to sending, manage that expectation moving forward by telling subscribers what to expect.

You can manage that expectation in the Ferris Cold Email template and anywhere on your website where people can opt-in to receive emails. Every new subscriber should get some sort of “welcome” email and in that email manage expectations about how often you send emails.

What Should You Send?

I have found that this is where the rubber hits the roads. Most of the business owners I talk to get stuck on this part.

Listen, if you are already busy and haven't been sending emails for the last however many years then taking on a serious email strategy that requires typing up great emails often is probably unrealistic.

I generally suggest, just to get the ball rolling that you build some sort of newsletter template that is going to be low work to build and execute.

Something with 3-4 sections that you can quickly insert content into and hit send. For example, one of our brands does a weekly newsletter which includes 4 sections.

  1. Section 1 is their latest podcast episode (yeah its a podcast)
  2. A social feature. Basically featuring an instagram follower/customer
  3. Share of the week in which they include an article, video, or similar from some other website or channel that isn't them. (it is ok to share content that isn't yours)
  4. Product of the week. Exactly what it sounds like.
I think this was my first ever marketing email. In that business we decided to write and send a weekly “safety tip” to our contacts to create a lot of value and drive high open rates. Then we put an offer at the bottom of each email.

Once you have a template built out it should be low maintenance to commit to your sending schedule.

But This Newsletter Won't Make You A Ton of Money

Now you have the foundation in place but if you really want to generate cash from your email you need to go beyond this.

You now built your list and got them to expect regular emails from you that contain valuable information. Great job. This is the most difficult part.

Now you need to figure out how to monetize this. Monetization strategies are going to vary dramatically from one business to the next depending on what you sell, who your customers are, and much more.

Obviously sending emails that promote your own product or service include sales, referral or loyalty programs, and new product offerings is a good idea.

In addition you may be able to market 3rd party services or products that are not a conflict with your own products. You might be able to get paid a commission based on the performance or just get paid a direct advertising fee for promoting that 3rd party's product(s).

This article was meant to get you to this point. You can read other articles on my site about email marketing or consult with a marketing coach to keep the ball rolling but I promise that email with be a low cost, high ROI asset of you do it right!

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Getting a High ROI From Your Booth

My first ever booth. 2008 at a 5K race in Utah. Learned some tough lessons.

I've been through a handful of business ventures and through them all I've been to A LOT of trade shows where I've seen A LOT of booths. I've had some opportunities to manage or execute a booth or two of my own and today's blog post is my attempt to point out the obvious lessons that aren't so obvious.

Have A Clear Core Objective

A big mistake I see are booths that suffer from having too much going on. They have sale signs, fish bowls to enter to win something, swag, flyers, and more.

This confuses the target consumer and makes it difficult to stand out. Like almost everything else in business you tend to succeed when you pick one thing and do it really well.

Potential Objectives May Include:

  • Lead Capture. Gather contact information for potential customers
  • Real Conversations. Talk to target consumers and understand their needs
  • Brand Engagement. Get consumers to use or better understand your company / product / service
  • Sell product and generate cash revenue

In addition, having a core objective also helps you understand who your customer is and how to target them in the crowd. Most likely you do NOT want EVERY person at the event to stop by your booth. Just the people in the market for what you are selling.

So identifying your objective leads to identifying your target consumer at the event, which should guide my next few points.

Lead With Value

A booth at an event is no different than any other marketing medium. If you want someone to do business with you or buy your product you need to lead with value.

What experience, product, tool, insight, or conversation can you provide to your target event attendees that will be inherently valuable on its own and relevant to your product or service?

The SilencerCo Booth at SHOT Show 2016. As you walk in it tells a story in timeline form along the walls about the history of gun control and specifically suppressors in America. Very captivating and provides and valuable experience that is RELEVANT to their products.

ONLY AFTER you provide some immediate and inherent value do people tend to be willing to hear your sales pitch.

A common way businesses will try to do this is to hand out a product sample but unfortunately, this doesn't create a now experience. You need something that creates a NOW experience that causes the person to stop at the booth and engage with you.

Benchmade Knife Company has a busy booth each year because they will sharpen, service, and laser engrave your knife on site for FREE.

Your lead must be relevant to your service. In the last few years I've seen booths that setup comfortable chairs and charging stations so people will stop, sit, and charge their phones for a few minutes. This is effective at getting people to stop but they aren't stopping because they have any interest in you or your business and that is a problem.

Now you may be thinking you just have a 10×10 booth with a limited budget and you just can't afford to do something huge. It is ok to start small, but it isn't smart to think people will stop and talk to you at your booth just because you have a fabulous product.

They do not know they need or want you. In order to let them know you need conversation time. You earn that conversation time by providing something valuable.

Don't Have SUCKY SWAG

At the USCCA Expo 2018 we handed out FREE pistol cases valued at about $15 each. People went absolutely insane. You want to be the booth that someone walks up to and says “Hey I see people everywhere with %%THING%% how do I get one?”

If you are handing out candy, pens, koozies, frisbees, balloons, or some other cheap trinket that anyone can buy at a dollar store your SWAG sucks.

Attributes of Awesome SWAG:

  • Visible at the event. When people take it from you and walk around the event everyone else sees it and wants to know where they got it. If your swag fits in a pocket it becomes invisible
  • Relevant to your product/service. People associate you with whatever you give away. Make it relevant to your business
  • It doesn't have to have high retail value as long as it has high perceived value. Free bottled water on a hot day doesn't have high monetary value but it has high perceived value.
Design Pickle booth (don't know where or when). These guys always let you take a picture with their mascot… which is a pickle. They also give away cold crisp pickles. Real ones… that you eat… because apparently a lot of people enjoy a fresh crisp pickle.

I know what you are thinking… you can't afford it right?

On more than one occasion I've been able to partner with a 3rd party company to provide me with some products either at steep discount or free to be able to give away at a booth. A joint-venture on a swag item can be a big win for both parties.

You can also lessen the cost of a swag item by including along with it a coupon or offer that, with even a low percentage of conversion will help you generate some cash to offset the cost.

In the above picture, those pistol cases we handed out were stuffed with about 10 coupons from various companies that paid us to deliver their offer to event attendees. It was a pain to stuff those cases but it offset the cost of buying the swag.

When you still can't figure out a way to justify the expense, think of something you can print that would be valuable. A flyer or card with some sort of inherent value like a tutorial, recipe, tips, or something that you would normally sell.

Start Small!!!

Now, if you are about to have your first experience with a booth I strongly recommend you start with the standard 10×10 booth and do your best to follow the above ideas. No point in investing a lot of money in a big booth and then losing that money due to poor execution due to lack of experience.

A booth for my promotional apparel business JP Tees. Setup at a local 5K race trying to convince people to buy our shirts or hire us to print shirts in bulk. We sold one shirt and I'm still frankly shocked that we did even that well. This was not the right target audience and even if our target customer was in the crowd we didn't do anything well to attract their attention. But we gave away a lot of bottled water which was a good primer to understanding how to attract bigger crowds.

If your first time is anything like my first… 6 times, you will make some critical mistakes and learn some important lessons about your target consumers that will make it easier to do a bigger and better job the next time.

Learn From & Network With Others

Always take the time to walk around the event, even if you have a booth there, and observe the other booths. Look for the crowds and see what is attracting people.

See if you notice a pattern of products or swag items that everyone seems to be carrying or using or wearing.

Your market or industry is unique to you and there is no shame in copying the best ideas of others in your industry.

In addition some of the highest ROI from the event will be in the contacts you make if we work hard to introduce yourself to other vendors.

Maybe you will find some dealers for your product, someone with whom you could co-sponsor an upcoming event, join in an online product giveaway, a potential celebrity endorsement, or someone willing to trade promotional assets like direct mail or email.

When I go to the effort, especially at a very industry specific and targeted event, to go booth to booth and introduce myself to the other vendors there I always leave the event with the confidence that my greatest ROI will be in the contacts that I made.

What other things have you found that make for a great booth experience and ROI? Let me know in the comments below.

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How and Why To Buy Domains That Are Not Available

In 2016 I was attending the Traffic and Conversion Summit event where I heard a presentation from Perry Belcher about some of his best tips to acquiring good domain names.

Since then I've been on a personal journey to acquire quality domain names. I've found some tricks that work for me and some that I learned from Perry that have proven fruitful as well.

First, WHY Go To The Effort?

I imagine it goes without saying that your website's domain name is arguably more important than your company name and where possible they should be one and the same.

In today's climate your domain name will become your brand even if you don't want it to. Despite this I often talk to businesses and friends who tell me they can't name their business X because the domain name isn't available.

When you decide to launch a new business or project don't restrict yourself to domains that are available or you are effectively restricting yourself to crappy business names. All the good ones are probably taken unless you are launching a local business with no plans to expand and can include the city or state name in your domain.

For Sale By Individual Or Broker?

When I identify a domain that I would like to own that isn't available I follow these steps:

  • See if the domain is being used for an active website or if it is just parked.

If the domain is in use then I'm going to spend some time looking through the website to determine some important things.

First, how recently it has been updated and how much traffic it may be getting? Websites that get a lot of traffic or have been updated recently are going to be more expensive or difficult to convince the owner to part with.

Second, is the content on the website relevant to my business? Likely search engines have already crawled the website and if I completely redo the website to a topic that is different that is going to slow down my ability to rank well for target search terms on that website. This is worth considering.

If the domain is parked or otherwise not in use that is likely a good sign as the owner is more likely to be willing to part with it. Often the parked page will have information about the domain being for sale and how to contact the broker and make an offer.

Here is a domain I'm interested in. Going to the site loads this “parked page” that tells me it is for sale. The broker is Uniregistry which I really like but sadly they want $16,000 and to me it isn't worth more than about $1,500. Sometimes it just doesn't work out.

If there is information about contacting a broker to make an offer to buy the domain this is generally a sign that the domain is going to be on the more expensive end of the spectrum.

In my ideal scenario the domain isn't in use and doesn't have any information about it being available for sale.

Use WHOIS Tool to Find the Owner

All domains have a registered owner. There are a number of lookup tools online to help you discover who the owner is. My preferred tool is the GoDaddy WHOIS lookup tool and you can find it here.

Put your target domain in that search box and presto… you may get lucky. You are lucky if you see the name and address of a real human along with an email address and sometimes a phone number.

If that is the case you now have contact info and even if they had a broker listed to contact you can bypass the broker and contact the domain owner directly.

SADLY, you aren't always lucky as domain registrars do allow the domain owner to use privacy registration to replace their personal contact info with the information for the registrar. When this happens you don't have any way to directly contact the domain owner without working through a broker or buying service.

This is the WHOIS results for the domain jacobspaulsen.com. I have domain privacy on all my domains and so you get results that don't show my email, address, or information

If You Can Directly Contact The Owner

Here is a script I use a lot:

SUBJECT LINE: Would you consider selling it?

Some noteworthy things about my script:

  • I think it is very important to include your personal cell number and letting them know they can text you. This communicates you are a real normal single human and that you are serious about buying the domain and that this is very unlikely to be a scam
  • I don't include my full name as my name is fairly easy to Google search and find out who I am, what I do, and to make some assumptions about how much money I may have
  • I do not include an initial offer or bid. Right now my only goal is to solicit a response. Negotiation can take place after they respond
  • I don't say why I want the domain or what I intend to do with it. It isn't any of their business and again I don't want to turn them off before I even have a chance to begin the conversation

In addition to an email I will often try to find the person on Facebook and send them a message there as well. Script might look something like:

If You Have to Use A Domain Broker

Don't despair if you have to use a domain broker. I especially like the team and service at Uniregistry.com and have acquired several domains via a broker. But understand the broker is going to keep a fee and the seller must be fairly serious about monetizing their domain assets or they wouldn't have hired a broker to begin with. You should expect to pay a lot more.

Making Your First Offer

When I'm dealing directly with the seller I generally start really low. For example if I would be willing to pay $1000 I might make my first offer $250.

When dealing with a broker I'm going to leave less room for myself. If willing to pay $10,000 I might offer $5000 in my initial offer.

Should You Use Escrow

There are a number of different Escrow services you can use which effectively will take your payment and hold it in an account giving the seller confidence they can transfer the domain without fear they won't get paid. Once the domain is transfered to your satisfaction you notify the Escrow account to release the funds. Thus you are both protected in the transaction.

I prefer to use escrow.com for this service but understand that escrow services come with fees. I rarely use them and so far I've never been scammed or otherwise dissatisfied with a transaction. Use your best judgement.

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I Don’t Have the Problem That You Are Trying To Solve

Products solve problems. If you are a business owner, salesman, or entrepreneur of any kind ask yourself what problem does your product solve?

Understanding the problem is the first step to all marketing. Your customer is in their current state. They have a problem. How does your product solve that problem and get the customer to their desired state? Here are additional thoughts on this marketing approach.

Now, as a consumer you also need to approach product purchasing this way. Using the “what problem” paradigm of shopping has some great benefits. When you see an advertisement for a new product ask yourself… what problem do I have that this will solve?

Here are the core advantages to this “Problem Solving” method of shopping:

  1. You actually get to the root of the issue. Sometimes you might be tempted to buy products that address a symptom of your problem but don't actually address the problem at all. A lot of money and time can be saved if you figure out the actual source of your problem and buy to address it.
  2. Often you will discover you don't have the problem. This happens to me all the time. Fellow business owners will tell me about the latest program or service they are using that has made life so much better. I take one look and say to myself… “This solves a problem that I don't have” and then I move on. Hey don't get me wrong the squatty potty ads are hilarious but I don't have an issue with my bowel movements so I'm good to just laugh at the videos on YouTube and move on in life.
  3. You can make more logical priced based decisions. What is it worth to you to solve that problem. When you really understand the problem you are trying to solve you may more easily understand what you would be willing to solve that problem.
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The Answer is Zapier – Solve All Online System Integrations

If you own an online business and you don't have an account with Zapier.com you should fire yourself immediately and hire a web guy who isn't clueless.

What is The Problem We Are Trying to Solve?

Stuff needs to talk to stuff. In order to make your business awesome you have to use a ton of different software solutions…

  • Email Marketing Software
  • CMS Software
  • eCommerce Software
  • Fulfillment Software
  • Google Drive
  • Giveaway Software
  • Social Media
  • Revenue Reporting
  • Affiliate Software
  • Marketplace Sales like eBay, Amazon, etc
  • Helpdesk Software
  • That One Thing That is The Best At Doing That One Thing
  • And On and On….

Companies do exist that claim to have the full suite! Do it all with them and you'll never have to worry about getting all the different systems to play nice together. The issue with those providers is that they suck. Honestly, if they really had the very best and most robust tools in all the categories in which you need tools then they would dominate and we would all flock to their service… BUT how can you be the best at 20 things when there are companies out there dedicated to being the best at just one of those things? You can't.

So, we all end up using a bunch of different services for different things. Sadly these things just don't get along. What if my eCommerce system doesn't have flawless native integration with the Email Marketing system I use? What if my Helpdesk software doesn't work perfectly with my social media profiles?

Zapier is the Answer

Zapier Is the Solution

Zapier is an online middle man. It connects to a large number of other online platforms and allows you to integrate (pass data) between two systems that otherwise don't have native integration.

So if I want to have a spreadsheet of every phone call that I receive at the office I can do that. We use CallRail.com for our phone calls and we use Google Sheets for spreadsheets. So I set up Zapier to connect to CallRail and for every new call that comes in I configure it to populate a specific Google Sheet. Done.

I want to make sure that orders that come into our fulfillment system for a specific product also generate an email to the company that dropships that product? No problem Zapier can manage that.

Use the best systems out there for what you need and then let Zapier do the connecting!

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