Tuesday, April 17, 2012

3 Unusual things you can save money on

Saving money is an art as well as an economic science. It takes some time and a lot of thought to master it. Most people squander away their wealth in the most unlikely places without even knowing that they could have saved a fortune over a lifetime if they just had a better understanding of saving and frugal living. Patience and a knack for keeping an eye out to spot the best offers are the only things you will need and you will never have to pay more than its worth for your regular needs. Frugal living is not about depriving yourself, rather, it is about finding a way to get around the cost and still have what you need. Here is a small list of everyday things which you never thought about saving on or didn’t know how to save on.
  • Clothing and groceries – You can trust brands but you can’t trust brands to be cheap. Branded clothing and canned/bottled edibles are what most people opt for simply because it is the tried and tested method. Its good to go exploring and find unbranded or in-house products which retail at a much lower price. Moreover, every department store and supermarket also has clearance sections where you can get your hands on clothes and edibles at prices significantly below the retail price. You can also use discount coupons and pick up ‘packaged deals’ when you are doing your grocery shopping. Just remember not to buy more than you need of anything even if it’s really cheap. Use e-mail offers and online discount sites to scrounge for inexpensive deals on clothing.
  • Books and magazines – If you have been buying your magazines off the rack at supermarkets or from the local grocery store, there is a good chance that you are paying somewhere between $3 and $10 depending on the publication. You have two options here; you can choose to reduce the number of magazines you reduce to a couple or maybe 3 or you can opt for a yearly subscription. You can easily save up to 90% on the cover price of a magazine if you get through subscription. You can also get heavily discounted subscription deals online as well. If you have an iPad or a Kindle, you can also subscribe to electronic copies of the magazines that you read for a fraction of the price you would pay for a hardcopy subscription. As far as books are concerned, if you don’t intend on to reread them a number of times or collect them, you can buy used books online for at a huge discount.
  • Airfare and car rental – Contrary to the popular myth that booking your flight tickets through a travel agent will get you the best price, it is always better to book on your own. Airline companies use a dynamic pricing strategy wherein the earlier you book your ticket the cheaper it will be. Moreover, travel agents include their commission in the bill they present you with, which just pushes your cost up further. Car rentals work similarly to airline ticketing systems. Book in advance over the Internet and you will get the best deal. You can also use discount codes and coupons which are can be printed out or come with magazines as a part of promotional services.
There are many such odd things which look seemingly inexpensive and doesn’t see to eat into your finances but in the long run you end up paying hundreds of dollars more than you could have. These are just some of the things you easily save your hard earned dollars on. You can explore and find new avenues to save money smartly.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

How to Create Marketing Offers That Don't Fall Flat Read

In marketing, offers are the gateways to lead generation. Without them, site visitors have no way of getting converted into leads. They are also a critical tool for nurturing existing leads into a position that makes them more sales-ready. But gosh, isn't the word 'offer' so utterly vague and abstract? What the heck is a marketing offer, and what are the qualities of a good one?

Because we see so many marketers get tripped up on this concept, let's discuss exactly what a marketing offer can be, highlight the characteristics of an effective offer, and explain how you can start using them the right way.
What an Offer Isn't

Sometimes the best way to explain what something is, is to first identify what it isn't. Unfortunately, many of the things marketers sometimes consider to be marketing offers aren't actually offers at all. First, let's clarify. What marketers should classify as an offer is something of value that a website visitor must complete a form to get access to. And yeah, sure -- you can put just about anything behind a form. But there are certain things that, when put behind a form, just won't contribute much of anything for your lead gen or lead nurturing initiatives. We're not saying you shouldn't bother with these types of content. What we're saying is that you shouldn't put them behind forms or rely on them to effectively generate and nurture leads.

Here are some great examples of things you should never consider to be a marketing offer:

* 'Contact Us!' Okay, so you can put this one behind a form if it's one that allows site visitors to email you. But this will never bring in leads as effectively as true offers will.
* Product-Centric Content: We're talking brochures, product videos, etc. Yes, these can be great tools to introduce to leads who are close to making a purchasing decision, but there's no reason they should be gated behind a form. You should want your site visitors to be able to access this type of content freely and frictionlessly. And if site visitors are looking at this type of content, they're likely already in your sales funnel and much closer to making a purchasing decision.
* Customer Case Studies: Just like product-centric content, customer case studies are likely something you want to make it very easy for visitors to access. Making a visitor or lead fill out a form is unnecessary.
* Fact Sheets: Simply put, fact sheets and other company-focused content is not lead generation material.

What an Offer Is

The good news is, you have quite a few great options at your disposal in terms of the types of offers you can, well, offer your target audience...

* Ebooks
* Guides
* Webinars (Live & Archived)
* Slideshows
* Kits
* Industry Case Studies
* New Industry Research
* Templates
* Free Tools
* Free Trials
* Product Demos
* Consultations
* Coupons

What Makes an Offer a Good One?

While the types of offers we mentioned above are all great options for marketing offers, there are a number of qualities that an offer should possess in order for it to be effective for lead generation and nurturing. Here are our top three:

1. Is High Quality/Premium and Valuable to Your Target Audience

The important thing to remember is that, if you're requiring a site visitor to complete a form in order to obtain your offer, the value of that offer needs to be compelling enough to convince those visitors to fill out the form. People don't like to give up their contact information freely, and your lead-capture form will create some friction. So if you start putting mediocre, low-value offers behind your forms, your business will start to get known for bad offers that aren't worth the form completion, seriously hurting your lead generation and nurturing goals.

In the simplest sense, an offer is valuable if it addresses the problems, needs, and interests of your target audience. This value could also mean different things for offers used in different stages of the sales process. For example, an offer you're promoting to generate net new leads at the top of your funnel (like, say, an educational ebook or a webinar) is likely valuable because it educates your prospects and fulfills a need. A free product trial, on the other hand, may not be as educational in nature, but it's still a very valuable offer for existing leads you're trying to nurture and who are closer to making a purchasing decision.

2. Aligns With Your Business and the Products/Services You Offer

A great marketing offer complements the products and services your business sells. That educational ebook is probably not very focused on how awesome your products and services are, but it should address concepts that align with your paid offerings. For example, HubSpot sells inbound marketing software, so our offers focus on helping prospects with their marketing challenges. These offers help set HubSpot apart as an industry thought leader and educate prospects about the problems our software helps to solve.

3. Targeted to the Right Buyer Persona at the Right Time

As we hinted at before, a truly great marketing offer also takes into account a person's point in the sales process as well as that buyer persona's specific interests and needs. How this really comes into play is in lead nurturing campaigns and how you decide which calls-to-action (CTAs) to place where on your website.

lead history prodIf you use lead management software, you can easily collect key pieces of information (AKA lead intelligence) about your prospects that will help you segment your leads into nurturing campaigns based on their buyer persona, their point in the sales process, and what you can determine their interests are based on their activity on your website. Sending them offers that appeal to those interests as well as how close they are to making a purchasing decision can help you better qualify a lead before he/she gets handed off to sales. For example, if your business is in plumbing and a first-time visitor comes to your site and downloads an ebook on how to unclog a minor plumbing backup, you might enter them into a lead nurturing campaign that then invites them to also attend a webinar about common plumbing problems and how to fix them. As they move further through the sales cycle, you could then offer them a coupon that discounts your services for that (apparently) not-so-minor drain problem they're having.

The same concept applies to how you choose which calls-to-action should be placed on different pages of your website. For example, if you conduct analysis that shows that your blog is typically how new visitors find you (whether through social media, search engines, or another referrer), you can infer that many people who land on your blog are first-time visitors to your website. Therefore, on your blog, you should probably place CTAs for offers that appeal to people who are just entering the top of your funnel and know little about your company (like an educational webinar, ebook, or kit, for example). On the other hand, a visitor on something like a product page probably indicates someone who is much closer to a purchasing decision. What might be more valuable to those types of visitors is a CTA for something like a free product trial, or a demo if you're a software vendor.
How to Leverage Your Offers Effectively

Now that you have a much clearer understanding of what makes a good marketing offer (and what doesn't), let's dive into some offer best practices. After all, you can create a ton of great offers, but if you're not using them to your best advantage, they're not going to do much good to generate and nurture leads.

1. Create a lot of targeted offers. First things first. With all that talk about targeting and segmenting the right offers to the right buyer persona (at the right time), you can probably guess that what all that translates to is a need for a variety of offers. Building up an arsenal of offers is the toughest part of the whole process, but it can mean the difference between good results and awesome results. Create a spreadsheet that allows you to list the offers you currently have, highlight the holes in your group of offers (for what topic are you missing an offer that your audience would appreciate?), and map offers to the various points in your business' sales process. Then slowly work through your offer to-do list, gradually filling in those gaps.

2. Put offers behind lead-capture forms. If offers are the gateways to lead generation, lead-capture forms (AKA conversion forms) are the gateways to your offers. Always place your offers on landing pages, gated by forms. This allows you to collect information that helps you qualify a new or reconverting lead and track what they've downloaded from you throughout the sales cycle.

3. Create calls-to-action, and place them appropriately. We mentioned this above, but it's an important one. Create CTAs for each of your offers, and align them with the pages on your website. In other words, if you're that plumber we mentioned above and you just wrote a blog post about the best and worst products to unclog a drain, you might place a CTA for your free guide to the best plumbing products of 2012. Once you have created awesome-looking CTA buttons for your site and you're moving onto ninja status, you can also test different versions of your CTAs to determine which ones generate the best click-through rate.

4. Create blog content around your offers. Take that last best practice one step further, and create content specifically around your new offers to help launch and promote them. So if you just created that 'Best Plumbing Products of 2012' guide, why not write a blog article that highlights the top 5 products mentioned in the guide and couple that with your CTA, explaining that readers can learn more by downloading the new guide? Excerpts make for easy blog content, so you'll be killing two birds with one stone!

5. Promote your offers in social media. The promotion of your offers shouldn't have to remain on your website. Use social media as a promotional vehicle by sharing links to the landing pages for your offers and briefly explaining their value in your tweets, Facebook/Google+/LinkedIn posts. Spend some time to build your social media reach so you can expose your offers to as large an audience as possible.

6. Use them in email marketing and lead nurturing. As we mentioned above, offers are critical to a business' lead nurturing efforts, but you can also promote them using general email marketing as dedicated sends. Promote your new offer in a dedicated email send that only highlights that one offer and conveys its value. If it's a very general offer that every buyer persona in your audience would enjoy regardless of their point in the sales cycle, send it to your entire list. If it's a more targeted offer, segment your list, and send it only to the people to whom it will appeal.

7. Align offers with prospects' point in the sales process. This is another one we've already talked about, but it's worth emphasizing. Aligning the offers you use in your lead nurturing campaigns and in the CTAs on your website with a prospect's likely position in the sales cycle will not only help to better qualify a lead, but it may also shorten the sales cycle, as a prospect will be much closer to a purchasing decision with a ton of knowledge about your business before he/she even talks to a sales person.

landing page analytics8. Track performance with your analytics software. Measure the performance of your offers. This will help you identify which types and topics of offers are successful in generating leads and customers so you can create more offers around those topics or in those formats, helping you become a much more effective marketer. Do your prospects prefer webinars to ebooks? Do they only care about certain topics that your offers are addressing? Use what you know to improve your lead generation and lead nurturing efforts in the future.

How many offers are in your back pocket? How much do they factor into your business' lead generation and nurturing efforts?

Great Valentine’s Day Gifts that Don’t Cost a Fortune

This holiday dedicated to heart can quickly get out of control spending, if you buy roses and make reservations at fancy restaurants. But your honey has nothing to feel what the novel. So why not save your dough and go for some gifts that are sentimental (instead one hundred mentally)? Some of your loved ones will not cost a fortune to inspire you.
First Map of Valentine's Day - If this is your only gift he would better be good. Thus, all registers draw with colored craft paper, ribbons, glitter and glue and create a card that meets your fifth grade self would give two thumbs.
The second love poetry - Shakespeare, you are not, but that does not mean you can not chain a few lines to tell him how you feel. Even if you are ashamed to do it yourself, turn around and borrow the legendary bard think some of his timeless words.
The third dark chocolate - some girls hate it, chocolate is due to the high fat and sugar. So get your sweetheart a sweet treat that does not go directly to the hips with a little imagination, dark chocolate from a store. It's a bit pricey, but a few good things goes a long way.
4th potted roses - Do not waste your money on a dozen tribes that will wither in a few days. Instead, choose a nice pot and plant a rose for your love true. Whenever she sees, she'll make a note of your actions.
Dinner at the fifth - Whether you start the pot, you can try your hand at sushi rolls, the establishment of a wine tasting with a cheese plate or production of a 5-course meal, the kitchen your honey on this holiday will save you a lot of trouble and pulp.
Name a Star sixth - For only about $ 50, you can go to the International Star Registry and name a celestial body after your honey. Present (or framed) to a schema, and the certificate linked with tape and let the ambiguities arise.
7th Keepsake Box - this is something you can easily create. Go to the craft store for a box of paper mache and some glue cutting, pasting and then get busy printing photos of you and your honey in the pits. You can insert all kinds of decorations to make it special, and then encourage them to pursue their favorite memories of your time together.
8th Playlist - The Modern Mix Tape is a great way to express your love, lady, how you feel, you fill them with love songs which agitate and put them in the mood for love.
9th Movie Night - There are many ways to entertain your lover (a clown, a quarter, a magician or Surrey Vegas style). But all you really need is a bowl of popcorn and a perfect rom-com. But instead opted for a modern, full of cynical jokes and gross jokes, opt for a classic chic like The Philadelphia Story and It Happened One Night.
10th Promise Ring - While some people go and blow all could use a wad of cash on an engagement ring for Valentine's Day, you're better off skipping the pressure (and cost), and opting instead for a promise ring. All you need is a simple band of some sort (even a ring to pop, if they can take a joke) and fine words to let him know how you are dedicated.

10 more ways to make money online

Money has always been an issue for many people and your not alone. Many people aren’t aware of the many solutions that they can do to possibly earn some extra money. The idea of making money online is attractive to many, primarily because of the benefits it offers. Making money online is mostly about customizing a monetizing formula for your blog. Depending on your skill level, network, and current traffic levels your blog has a variety of options. So find your blog’s formula below to maximize your earnings.
Sponsored Reviews
A sponsored review is basically an advertiser paying a blogger to write about their product or service. This can either be done through a ‘review site’ which facilitates the meet ups between bloggers and advertisers; or it can be done by individual bloggers who offer the service to advertisers for a flat fee. If your blog has a big audience you could also offer sponsored reviews directly, cutting off the commissions of the middleman.
Private Forums
A lot of popular websites will incorporate a message board or forum for their readers to interact with one another. You can generate revenues by charging a small fee for membership on the board, or for access to special sections of the board. This creates a sort of ‘exclusive club’ where members can talk about industry-related topics, exchange valuable information, and socialize. Charging $5-10 a year per user can add up after membership starts to grow.
SEO Blackhat charges $100 monthly from its members, and they have thousands of them. Obviously in order to charge such a price for a forum membership you need to provide real value for the members (e.g., secret techniques, tools, and so on).
Premium Content
If you’ve built up a solid website with some really excellent resources, you may consider charging people for access to your premium content. That means creating an area that non-members cannot access unless they pay a small fee. For people who are able to offer readers valuable information, this is a great way to generate some income and help your readers appreciate your content more. Great example of premium content is SeoMoz.
Membership Site
If you have the drive to make great lessons, tutorials, classes, or other content worthy of a membership site then you should definitely do it. They are all the rage right now and show a great way to earn a regular income. With new products online, the set-up has never been easier. I would definitely check out the resource if you have ever thought about a membership site.
Sell Your Website
Some people live for the thrill of a new project. If this sounds like you, then you may want to consider earning money by starting up and establishing new websites and then selling them off for profit.
Market places on online forums like DigitalPoint and Sitepoint are always active with website buyers and sellers. Keep in mind that they most used parameter to determine the value of a website is the monthly revenue that it generates, multiplied by a certain number (the multiplier can be anything from 5 to 30, depending on the expectations of the seller, on the quality of the site, on the niche and other factors).
Ebook Sales
If you’ve got a blog or website about a particular niche, why not capitalize on it by writing an ebook? Believe it or not, you don’t have to be a brilliant writer to create a useful handbook on a subject that you are familiar with. If you write a blog, you can write a decent ebook. The best way to understand the process is by learning how to write an ebook and then how to sell it.
Theme or Template Sales
To get this money making product going you first need some serious design skills or the money to pay for someone to develop it. Once a unique design is created premium themes can go from $19 -$200. There is great earning potential in creating themes and another very advantageous bonus. When you create your theme a link is put into the footer of the theme with your blog’s url. So the more themes that are used the more backlinks to your blog. Brian Gardner and Unique Blog Designs are two examples of websites that make money with the sales of premium and custom WordPress themes.
Job Boards
All the popular blogs are trying to leverage job boards to make some extra income. A great example of this is Problogger’s job board. The advantage of this method is that it is passive. Once you have the structure in place, the job listings will come naturally, and you can charge anywhere from $10 up to $100 for each.
Join Referral Programs
Just joining referral programs and referring your friends and family members can easily earn your first hundred. I wouldn’t be surprised if you took it to the next level and started joining affiliate programs to refer people online that you don’t even know. Referral programs can be tremendously effective if you have a large audience to work, however, it may take time to build a large audience.
Start Your Own Online Store
Stocking up on merchandises and selling them on your own store front can strongly build up a reputable name for your store, especially if your store front is targeted only at a certain product that many people don’t offer. Making sure that your store is some what more unique and different from the other store fronts, can make your business that much more memorable in terms of branding and getting returning customers.