WHAT YOU WILL LEARN
In our last lesson, we gave a brief description of the first five of the 10 most common Internet marketing methods used by successful SFI Affiliates. In this lesson, we will briefly describe the last five. While space prohibits us from giving you more than a brief introduction to these last five methods in this lesson, future lessons will address each of these methods in more detail.
Recall from our last lesson that we enumerated the most common Internet marketing methods, particularly useful in promoting the SFI affiliate program, as follows:
1) Gateway Pages and Search Engine Registration
2) Banner or Textual Ad Placement (Exchange Programs)
3) Banner or Textual Ad Placement (Online Classifieds)
4) Banner or Textual Ad Placement (Affiliate and Paid Placement)
5) Building Your Own Content Rich Website
6) Utilizing an Opt-In Program
7) Hosting FFA Pages
8) Using Safelists, Announcement Lists, and Viral marketing
9) Press Releases, Relationship Building, and Offline Promotion
10) The Latest New Technique
Also, in the last lesson, we briefly described the first five. Here’s a brief description of six through 10.
UTILIZING AN OPT-IN PROGRAM
E-mail is a vehicle that works in conjunction with other interactive features of a Website to create a flow of communication with your prospects. In order to avoid spamming, you have to have consent from a prospect to send them e-mail. The best way to get that consent is to have them do something on your Website that establishes that consent. Such devices are called “opt-in” programs.
The simplest example of an opt-in program is to have a line on your Website which says “Join our Newsletter” and provides a form for the viewer to submit his or her e-mail address. From there, the extent and variety of opt-in programs that can be created is limited only by imagination. Often effective are contests. Viewers enter a contest to win something by entering their e-mail address. Often, there are interactive games which pit the viewer against other players around the world, and the scores and results of the games are communicated to the participants with e-mail. Particularly interesting is one which has a slot machine interface on the site which you can play for free, but if you accumulate any winnings, you have to opt-in to collect your money.
There are many types of opt-ins. You can sign up to receive news, weather, stock tips, pictures, and many other types of information to be received by e-mail. There are many educational opt-in programs for school children (and adults) including “science facts,” “strange animals,” “today in history,” and other education subjects. A prayer of the day, week, or month is available from many different sources.
You can also allow people to post information on your Website and thereby gain consent to e-mail them. Examples of this are business directories and FFA pages (discussed below), among many others. Remember, imagination is the only limitation.
It is both intuitive and supported by research that an e-mail inbox is a much more effective place to communicate with a prospect than a Website. But, it takes the Website to get the necessary permission to communicate by e-mail. Thus, the “Opt-In” program is a crucial step in an effective Internet marketing campaign.
One of the most effective opt-in programs on the Internet is the SFI marketing Group’s affiliate program. As an SFI affiliate, you need only point people from your Gateway page to the SFI page for this very effective opt-in to be made available to your viewers.
HOSTING FFA PAGES
“FFA” stands for “Free for All” which is short for “Free for all to post here.” FFA’s are Websites where you can post a link and perhaps a short description to your Website without having to pay an advertising fee. When you post on one of these FFA sites, you will receive an e-mail from the site host confirming that your link was placed and, in all likelihood, containing an advertisement as well.
It is not an effective use of your time to individually post your link to these sites. These sites are actually rarely seen by anyone. Plus, almost all these FFA sites have a maximum number of posts that will be displayed. The old ones are dropped to make room for the new ones. In many cases, this process occurs in just minutes or hours so that your link is not on the site long enough for it to do you any good at all.
There are FFA submission services that will post your link to hundreds of these sites at once. That makes it somewhat more time effective, but even with that, this is still not a terribly effective way to promote your Website. Should you use one of these submission services, be sure to create a separate e-mail address to use. You will receive confirmation e-mails from several hundred FFA sites after using one of these submission services. It will choke down your e-mail. Thus, do not use your everyday e-mail address when making such submissions.
An effective way to use FFA sites, however, is to HOST an FFA site. When you host an FFA site, you get to send out all the confirmation e-mails – with YOUR ad in them! There are services on the Web which will allow you to host an FFA site on their server without charge or for a small fee. There are also autoresponder services available (for free or a small fee) which you can connect to your FFA site to send the confirming e-mails.
USING SAFELISTS, ANNOUNCEMENT LISTS, AND VIRAL MARKETING
Safelists are e-mail lists which allow you to join and post advertisements in exchange for receiving advertisements from others. You and other members send your e-mail to a list address and from there it is distributed to the members of the list. There are several such lists at Yahoo! Groups and other e-mail list services. These also are only effective if done in bulk. That is, you must create a separate “throw-away” e-mail address to sign up for these and use group mail software to send to hundreds of lists at once. The e-mail you will receive from being a member of hundreds of lists will be in the thousands per day. Thus, it is imperative that you use a different e-mail address from the one you use for daily correspondence.
It is not easy to use safelists effectively. Until you are experienced, you should seek the tutoring of a more experienced Internet marketer in setting this up properly. You can begin to learn, however, by going to Yahoo! Groups and searching for lists that allow advertising. For now, just join one or two groups to become familiar with the process. Do not expect any results from the ads you post to just one or two groups, but use it as a learning process. It will be much easier for you to master the skills necessary to effectively market with safelists in bulk if you have had some hands-on experience with the lists first.
Announcement Lists are similar to advertising lists but with a slant toward announcing new sites rather than advertising per se. Unless you obtain a list of “safelists” from a very trusted source, carefully read the rules for each list before you post and keep your posts within the guidelines for the list.
The next Internet marketing technique, VIRAL marketing, is interesting but not very effective. Viral marketing is designed to circumvent the spam rules by hoping the recipient of the e-mail will forward it on to the people on his or her forwarding list. Since you have not sent the e-mail to these other persons directly, you can not be accused of spam. The concept is that the e-mail will spread out to many recipients like a virus – being passed from one to another to another. Each recipient receives the e-mail from someone with whom they have a pre-existing relationship. Since a pre-existing relationship is an exception to most spam rules, the e-mail is not considered spam.
All of us have had the misfortune (or perhaps good fortune, if you have a lot of spare time) of being on a number of our friends’ e-mail forwarding lists. Every time they receive a joke that they think is funny or the latest urban legend (“Watch out for AIDS-infected needles hidden in theater seats or gas pump handles.”), they very generously pass it on to us and the 15 or more other people on their list. Many of the people on their list then pass it on to 15 or more other people. Observing this phenomenon, it occurred to a number of enterprising Internet marketers to try to harness this distribution technique for marketing.
A consulting group I organized ran an experiment on viral marketing about 18 months ago. Our results were interesting. What we found was that in order for the distribution to be effective (i.e. for people to keep passing it on) it had to be either of a “hysterical” nature (ex: hidden AIDS needles or people stealing your kidneys) or it had to be humor or complete nonsense. Otherwise, it died in two generations (that is, it was not passed on more than twice). In theorizing about these results, we considered the effectiveness of an ad traveling along with one of these hysterical or nonsensical e-mails which would survive several generations. We concluded that the state of mind induced by either the hysteria or the nonsense of the primary message was not conducive to generating response to the ad. In other words, the ad did not flow with the material and thus would not be effective.
One of the funniest things I have seen was the viral e-mail that convinced the reader that the technology now existed for an ordinary computer monitor to take someone’s picture like a camera. You were then given a link to a page where you were instructed to hold your face in front of the monitor and then click a “shutter button” and count down the exposure time. To see the results, you were taken to a full screen picture of a surprised looking monkey – which was a pretty accurate picture of you at the time! This particular viral achieved extremely wide distribution. However, it could certainly not be used effectively for marketing. Who wants to buy or join something when it has just made a monkey out of you?
Thus, while viral marketing per se does not appear to be an effective Internet marketing technique, an understanding of its limitations can lead us to consider the most powerful technique of all – sincere communication. People decide whether to pay attention to e-mail based on two obvious factors: the source and the subject. Viral e-mail, by definition, comes from a trusted source. It also has an attention grabbing subject. Its limitation is that it is either not serious at all (just humor or a practical joke) or it is too serious (warning of some bizarre danger).
There is a somewhat slower, yet very effective process, however. You can send sincere communication to someone you know (and who you know does not mind receiving e-mail from you) and sincerely tell them about your successful experience with an affiliate program such as SFI. Do not make it sound like an ad in any form or fashion! Rather, let it just be a sincere sharing with them of your experience. Mix in other things about your life and inquire about their lives so that it is not just a single subject e-mail. They, in turn, may become interested in your program and may later join. If they do, they may later share their successful experience with others that they know. And so it continues and grows! Let’s not call this process “viral marketing.” Let’s call it “infectious enthusiasm”!
PRESS RELEASES, RELATIONSHIP BUILDING, AND OFFLINE PROMOTION
While the offline world does not exist to the exclusion of the online world, neither does the online world exist to the exclusion of the offline world. Although the SFI program is primarily online, you can certainly use offline marketing in conjunction with your online techniques. You should combine offline and online efforts in effective ways. For example, you can send classified ads and press releases by e-mail to newspapers, which will then appear in print publications. The printed announcements and ads can then direct people online to your Website. Successful SFI Affiliates use the two together effectively.
You can use the relationship building techniques effective in the offline world in the online arena as well. Relationship building and “infectious enthusiasm” are things that occur both online and offline. You can meet people online and then build a relationship which carries over to the offline world. You can communicate with people online that you have met and known from the offline world. The bottom line is that it takes trust to induce someone to buy or join. It takes a relationship of some sort to build trust. These principles have always been true in the offline world and they are still true in the online world. The relationship begins when people first see your ad and they continue to judge you by everything that follows. An ad does not sell—it starts a relationship. The resulting relationship sells—provided it becomes a trusted relationship.
THE LATEST NEW TECHNIQUE
Have you heard of “vortals”? They are single subject portals and they are the latest buzz. And, hey, what are “portals” anyway? Isn’t that what we used to call “Search Engines” before they added a bunch of new features and some personalization capabilities? The only thing constant about the Internet is that it is constantly changing!
The latest tip is that you should be on a constant search for new subject specific portals (vortals) dealing with your subject and make sure your site gets listed there. Search for these vortals through the search engines by searching for words dealing with your product or service. When you find them, read the rules for posting and post a link to your site there.
One constant is that you should always stay on top of what’s new on the Internet and be one of the first to take advantage of each new technique as it becomes available. You will need to stay informed and be adaptive to be successful in Internet marketing. How can you do that? There are a bunch of experts at the SFI sites just waiting for you to read their articles and ask them questions. Hang out with the right people and you can not help but be successful.
Remember that these last two lessons have been just a brief introduction to many different concepts. Do not be concerned if you are still a little confused. Things will become clearer as we address each method in more detail as this course continues. You can get more information immediately by becoming an IAHBE member and accessing the expert advice there.
WHAT’S COMING NEXT
In our next lesson, we will discuss the history and evolution of affiliate programs on the Internet. You will see how the SFI marketing Group has established itself at the forefront of the new revolution, empowering home-based entrepreneurs by drawing from the best of the traditional networking concepts and applying them successfully to the digital frontier.