Example

This past week, I made a mistake that cost me money. The funny thing is that it was not a huge mistake by any means…just a small oversight that was caused by not taking that extra couple of seconds to make sure everything was in line and ready to go.

This story starts with Black Friday. Like I pointed out in an earlier post, I take great care in timing my Black Friday promotions so that my cookie will be recorded within affiliate programs when my readers start buying their products online (read how I do this here). By planning ahead and timing my articles correctly along with timing an email to my newsletter subscribers through Aweber, I am able to capitalize on large buying days and sales throughout the year. That is…of course…minus this one mistake.

First: My Small Mistake

Just before Black Friday, I wanted an email to go out to my newsletter subscribers on Bike198.com that they were already used to that provided value and contained my affiliate links to setup for Black Friday. I had timed everything perfectly so that a blog broadcast email was going to hit on Thanksgiving morning just in time to record the Amazon cookie for the next 24 hour period of buying.

The blog broadcast feature in Aweber is the source of my highest traffic days and those emails see the best open rates out of anything I send out. It was the perfect way to promote my articles and Black Friday deals. I used a method that I have previously outlined on this blog (article: Are you leaving serious money on the table?) and edited above and below my blog broadcast feature through Aweber to include reminders to check out the Black Friday deals on Amazon and the largest online bike retailer JensonUSA as you can see below.

Formatting HTML Email in Aweber

As you can see by the screenshot above, everything was set and ready to go. However, I only linked my affiliate account to the links you see underlined and left the brand names of the online retailers untouched and unlinked. Not giving it a second thought, everything looked good to go at first glance and I set the email to blast out to my newsletter subscribers.

The Mistake That Cost Me Big Money

As the email when out, I started tracking clicks, open rates and responses on the blog just as I would with any other broadcast email. When I went into my email inbox to delete all of the “out of office” responses and check for any reader responses, I noticed something strange.

Email As It Showed Up In Email Program

As you can see in the screenshot above, the Amazon and JensonUSA links are linked to the online sites, but they are not linked via my affiliate link…they are linked to the respective homepages! Worse yet…they are the first two links in the email!

What I forgot as I was drafting up my email for release was that most email applications will automatically link anything with a .com, .net or .org within the email body. This means that anything you put with an ending will not give you credit for the referral and subsequently not give you any affiliate sales. My readers clicked on those links, bought items from the online stores and I did not receive commission all because I put the .com ending on the brand names in the email without linking them up with my affiliate link.

So…like I alluded to earlier…stupid small mistake that ended up costing me a large sum of money. Did readers still click on the other links and purchase? Of course, but the amount of income I brought in during this 48 hour period would have been higher if I would have taken one more step and made sure everything was in line.

I write this article hoping that it helps other bloggers out there but it is also done for a self reminder to slow down to dot my eyes and cross my t’s. Is it the end of the world? Absolutely not…what I learned from this little mistake has me better setup for the future and hopefully my experience can help you guys not make the same mistake.

So as Miles Davis says…”Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” We learn from our experiences and apply that knowledge to the future.

Products Mentioned: Aweber and I use PopUpDomination to grow my newsletter subscriber list.

Example

Fear can be a great motivator.

However, in most cases it causes its unsuspecting victims to fall short of their goals due to fear paralysis that brings all forward progress to a screeching halt. Many times, the victim if fear paralysis does not even know they are a victim as they waste time on meaningless tasks and always find that one more reason not to move forward at this point in time.

There is a lot of talk about using fear to motivate progress and how you shouldn’t be afraid of failure. We learn from failure and every successful entrepreneur, blogger or internet marketer will tell you they have failed far more times than they have succeeded. This is a known fact that we have all come to accept and we look forward to the day when you can bestow that knowledge unto others. But what can be even more crippling to entrepreneurs around the world?

The Fear Of Success

In my experience, the fear of success can sometimes be far more crippling than the fear of failure. When you fail, you are typically only affecting yourself. While the after affects can affect those around you (lost income for the family, more time investment, etc.), when you fail it is just another part of life. You have been preparing yourself for it since day one and it has been beat into your head that it will happen. So you pick yourself back up, dust yourself off and run at it again with the new knowledge and experience to hopefully make your idea a success the second time around.

What happens if you actually succeed?

What happens if your idea is as good as you thought it would be? Now you are accountable to that idea and the process of keeping it going. You have attached your name to a product, service or idea that now has grown a life of its own. In success, comes responsibility and that fear of being accountable to other people, places and things can keep aspiring entrepreneurs from taking that last step into launch mode.

In my life, the unrealistic fears of success have been the greatest hurdles to cross. We expect to fail in our lives. It is the illustrious hanging fruit of success that is the goal and can be more stressful than failure.

So what do we do when we are scared of success?

  • We hold off launches until they are perfect (which does not exist).
  • We tell ourselves that we are just going to fail anyway so it is not important.
  • We worry about the time management.
  • We try to convince ourselves that greatness is ok not to achieve.

Have you ever tweaked a website to death only to find out that all of your “great ideas” that took weeks or months to complete are worthless once readers hit your site? What about that eBook idea that you have been sitting on for months? Have you even taken the first steps towards that great idea that could get you to where you want to be monetarily? There is no “perfect time” or fully complete project. There are those that are launched and those that aren’t.

The fear of success goes hand in hand with the fear of commitment, responsibility and accountability. To be a success, you have to embrace the idea that you are worth the positive outcomes and you can handle the responsibility that comes with that success. You have to beat down the roadblocks that are keeping you from achieving your goals. Success is stressful…but it is a great problem to have.

Example

The biggest, most extreme shopping day of the year is upon us…Black Friday. The day of long lines, early openings and crazy deals are all part of the deal as shoppers all over the world are looking to cash in on the busiest day for retails stores of the year. As an affiliate, this day marks the first of a 30 day hammer of trying to cash in on online shopping and pick up your percentage. If you are not preparing for this largest revenue time for bloggers while holiday shoppers look to decrease their stress by buying online, you are behind the 8 ball and are leaving a ton of money on the table.

There is an art to making sure your the one that gets credit for the sale on this ever illustrious day, so let’s take an in depth look at what I am doing and hopefully it will help you out with your blog.

The Black Art Of Black Friday

While this is the biggest shopping day of the year, it does require a bit of planning on the blogger’s end if you want to be the one watching your affiliate sales rise while you lay in bed sleeping when everyone else is shopping. During this week, you are going to need to take a serious look at how you are positioning yourself with the largest online retailers and their cookie recording. For example, Amazon has a 24 hour cookie, so when you send a shopper from your website to Amazon, anything they buy within the next 24 hour period gives you a commission, so after that all bets are off. Other online retailers have 30 day cookies or even as high as 60 days, so know who you are dealing with as you plan your content and affiliate promotions.

On Bike198, my largest black Friday participant is going to be Amazon.com, so I need to make sure that my referrals are recorded within that 24 hour period when purchases are at their highest. Since the cookie period is short, it requires more careful planning than if it was longer.

The Days Leading Up To Black Friday

In the days leading up to Black Friday, I make sure the content on my blog is heavily skewed towards product reviews and articles that lean themselves more towards product based links that I can point towards Amazon.com and other online retailers participating in Black Friday. This way, I can insure that my cookies are getting recorded for the longer duration affiliate programs and it gets me a head start for the push in the hours leading up to the largest shopping day of the year. If you are planning on just spamming links in the final hours without any real planning, do not expect great results.

Some great ideas for articles are:

  • Reviews of hot products for this holiday season.
  • Buying guides related to your niche highlighting different products.
  • Informational articles that are complimented with product links (ex: I do riding tips that include equipment suggestions).
  • Comparison articles.

All of these types of articles are very product based in nature and naturally lead themselves to linking to products, but they are also a source of high-quality content that attracts readers to your blog. By hitting both birds with one stone, you are able to build the confidence and trust in your content while also preparing to cash in on the affiliate revenue.

The Hours Leading Up To Black Friday

With the longer cookie affiliate programs, the work you did on articles leading up to this week will already be reaping benefits, but what do you do for the shorter 24 hour cookies that are going to require immediate action? There is a ace in the hole that you hold as the blogger that is going to exponentially increase your income during this shopping day and you don’t even know it…

Just like with any product launch or affiliate promotion, your newsletter subscriber list is your largest asset you have in blogging (mine is serviced by Aweber). About 12 hours before Black Friday, I send out an email to my list highlighting the best reviews, buying guides and other product related content to my readers. The 12 hour window gives them enough time to open the email, click on the links and get that cookie recorded for the next 12 hours when shopping is going to be the highest online for the entire year. By providing this value in a way that greatly benefits my success rate during this shopping experience, I am able to continue to gain trust, provide quality and do this without my readers thinking I am spamming them in an attempt to make more money online. The reality…I am not spamming them…I am just continuing to deliver what I promised but timing it in a way that increases the bottom line for my blog.

So on Black Friday, I am sleeping in and watching my blogs make money while other people are out shopping. Through the careful planning of content and the release of one email, I am able to cash in on the biggest shopping day of the year. What are you doing to prepare?

Example

One of the more popular ways to make money blogging is to offer something for sale on your site. Typically, bloggers look towards digital products like eBooks and coaching programs as their first jump into the sell your own products realm, but physical products are not outside the list of options when you are looking to grow your business.

One of the biggest hurdles bloggers run into when they are looking to expand into physical products is high upfront cost of development, minimum orders and carrying inventory for fast shipping. This is a real fear as you can watch your income causally sit in your home office just stagnant…and that is never a good thing. When you are looking to jump into the world of soft goods (t-shirts, hats, etc.) or niche products, there are ways to get rid of your fears and tackle the obstacles in front of  you in a way that promotes growth and provides another resource to your readers.

As with most things on Blogging Labs, I am going to show you how I launched a new t-shirt line on Bike198 without using a single bit of operating capital (my cash) and was able to stock all inventory in the process.

Gauging Product Interest

As with any product you are going to release on your blog, you are going to want to gauge the interest of your readers to see if what you are about to release has any actual value to them. If they are not going to buy it, there is no reason to move forward and you need to find something your audience is actually willing to spend money on. This goes for any product including digital ones.

For the t-shirt line, I already knew that my audience likes to buy shirts related to the sport of mountain biking. There are companies that are completely dedicated to it so I had to find my niche in the sea of shirts to set myself apart. I decided to attack the sub-niches of mountain biking as riders are pretty passionate about their gear and trails. The first on the chopping block was “29ers Size Does Matter” and for those of you that don’t already know…29ers have a larger wheel size than typical 26″ bikes that we are all used to.

29er Size Does Matter T-Shirt

It had been a good review product week, so I sold a part on eBay and paid my product designer Adam Allen (adam-allen.com) to draw up the concept. He provided me with the initial comps and I went to my email list, Facebook page and Twitter account to start gauging interest on the shirt. While I did have to front the money for the design, I still didn’t want to go to the market with something that people didn’t want to buy. Luckily, interest in the shirt was great so we needed to move forward to the pre-sale process after I got the pricing nailed down with a friend of mine that owns a t-shirt printing company (scrappymusic.com).

The Art Of The Pre-Sale

A pre-sale can serve multiple purposes for bloggers. For example, you are releasing a coaching program and you want the forum to look active to new members, you can have a pre-sale to get your program populated before the launch. In my case, I needed to raise the funds necessary to complete the first order that would fulfill the orders for the pre-sale, give me stock to sell from and to get me the best price possible by being able to order in large quantities. Since I already knew the shirts were going to sell based off the interest I received from my readers and other riders, it was time to move forward and make the jump.

The Hook: How To Get Early Adopters

When you are asking a reader/customer to buy on a pre-sale, you are asking them to deal with longer lead times and uncertainty as they have zero testimonials or proof from others before they buy. Because of this, you need to have some added value for your customer for participating in the pre-sale process to encourage sales. In my case, I offered the shirt at $5 dollars less than the regular price during the week of the pre-sale. This gave a discount to my readers for buying early and helping me get together the necessary funds to make the order.

You can also throw in bonuses, free items and other hooks to get your readers to jump on the bandwagon early.

Time Is Running Out

With any pre-sale, there needs to be a sense of urgency. You are on a time-line to get the project or product live in its final form, so allowing a pre-sale to go on for too long can have a negative affect on earnings and overall perception from other readers or customers. For my t-shirt release, I set the pre-sale for one working week (starting Monday and ending on that Saturday). This also allowed me to add in the lead time for the actual order to let my customers know exactly when they could expect the shirts to ship. The sense of urgency and the definite shipping date calms any wonder on whether or not they are really going to get their shirt in the mail.

Leveraging Your Blogging Assets

At the beginning of the pre-sale process, I emailed my newsletter subscriber list through Aweber, I hit up my Facebook page, I tweeted and I sent out press releases to the major sites and forums in my niche. I even contacted manufacturers of 29ers and asked them to post about their shirt in their social media outlets announcing the pre-sale and the discount for ordering early. As you could probably guess already, my newsletter subscribers were my highest converting into sales (another reason you should start a newsletter with Aweber today if you haven’t already).

By leveraging my assets that my blog has built over time, I was able to draw readers and potential customers to my sales page and have them complete an order during the pre-order process. At the end of the week, I had enough sales to cover all of my costs including stock…so the order was placed and we are off to the races.

The Pre-Sale Timeline

What you have just read is my step by step process of the pre-sale, but there is also a defined time line that you need to be aware of when you are going to release a product in this manner. A pre-sale has an interesting component to it that affects how you react with your readers. Your “pre-sale week” or however long you choose it to be is going to see the following order process…

  • Day One: First initial order swarm
  • Day Two – Day Before The Last Day: The trickling in effect (lower quantity per day than day 1)
  • Last Day: Ending process order swarm

Your readers that order on day one are looking to get their order in fast so they don’t forget. They know they are going to order it anyway so they might as well get it off their mind and do it now. The readers that trickle in during the middle part of your launch process are typically ones that saw the email at work and had to wait until they got home or just saw the email at that point in time. Your readers that order on the last day at the last minute probably saw and read your first email, but they wanted to wait until the last day to place their order because they are lazy or they didn’t want their money tied up for an extended period of time without anything to show for it.

Because there are a large quantity of people in the “last day” part of the process, it is vital that you send out a second email to your subscribers, followers, etc. 24 hours before the pre-sale ends. That gives your email enough time to hit their inbox and allows your reader adequate time to order it online. You have no idea how many responses I get from readers thanking me for sending that last email because they had forgotten about the pre-sale end date. Your product is not the most important thing going on in the lives of your readers, so a casual reminder at the end of the week is a very effective closing tool.

Selling Physical Products On Your Blog

As you can see by this process, I was able to release a t-shirt that is the start of a complete line without having to put it on a credit card, pull funds from the bank or use personal income to fund the process. By simply selling a piece of review product and launching an effective pre-sale process, I was able to get everything accomplished and cover all initial costs. Now, my blog has another asset to sell that also promotes my brand. When you are looking at what your readers want to buy, do not rule out physical products as they can provide you with additional income, but…more importantly…they can jump start your credibility within your niche with a huge promotional tool.

You can buy the t-shirts here.