Seth Godin Will Speak in Utah! (if we want him badly enough)

Utah blogs are buzzing about the chance we have to get the legendary Seth Godin to visit Utah as part of his new book tour. We just need 500 people to each pay $50 (and get 5 copies of his new book) so that he will stop here on his tour.

I took a trip to NYC two years ago to hear Seth speak, so I paid a lot more than $50. He was the keynote speaker at an advertising conference, and he slammed traditional advertising and explained in a powerful way how the internet changes everything. To hear him speak in Utah would be incredible.

I still think his “Permission Marketing” is the best book ever written on appropriate email marketing. I refer people to it all the time.

So please check out this message from Phil Burns, and jump on the bandwagon. We’re running out of time:

He started one of the first internet companies, yoyodyne, which was acquired by Yahoo, he then became a VP at Yahoo. He more recently started a Web2.0 company, squidoo. He is always talking about internet marketing – he’s one of the experts on it, and he has one of the most popular blogs on the internet.

…. We have a HUGE opportunity to get Seth to come speak to us here in Utah! People have tried to get him to come speak here in the past but to no avail. Now, it will take the efforts of us all in order to bring him here on May 24th of this year!

To get him here, we need to get 500 people willing to pay $50.00 to hear him. Not only will you have an opportunity to hear him speak, you’ll get 5 copies of his new book, The Dip. We are gathering pledges to pay to hear him to see if we can get 500 people to pledge (instead of gathering money up front).

If you’re interested in hearing Seth speak, there are a few things you need to do.

· First, pledge to pay $50.00 at http://www.pledgebank.com/SethGodinUtah

· Next, blog about it! We’re trying to create a blog storm about this, even a quick simple post advertising this will help a lot

· Third, tell everyone at work or who you think will be interested about it!

· Finally, all the details and updates are being managed at a new site, http://www.wordmob.com keep an eye on the site for details

Here’s Seth’s blog post announcing this opportunity: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/the_dip/2007/03/the_dip_tour.html

There’s a big catch here, we have to have evidence of a large motivation to do this my Monday (like, in 3 days)! We have a tentative date from Seth that he’s been kind enough to hold for us, but we have to show we’re going to be able to make it so, please, if you’re interested, stop what you’re doing and go sign up here: http://www.pledgebank.com/SethGodinUtah RIGHT NOW! Then blog about it asap, encourage other to blog about it and talk about it all day!

This is a pure grass roots effort, it will only work if those who are interested (YOU?) take 5 minutes and actually do something about it – so please help out!

Thanks!

Phil Burns

CEO TagJungle.com

This is a brilliant way for an innovative author to start a new book tour. If he gets 5 cities to get 500 pledges at $50 each, he’ll sell 12,500 copies of his book, generate $125,000 in revenue, visit 5 cities with an energized audience, and generate a ton of publicity for once again, being so innovative.

Let’s hope that Utah will pull this off and make it on his list of cities to visit.

The fortune is in the follow up

Chris Loch of whatisyoursecret.com spoke at the Provo Labs Academy recently.

Chris’s main point is that a very important part of internet marketing is capturing email addresses from customers so that you can follow up with them with useful information and offers. He kept saying, “the fortune is in the followup.”

He is an excellent internet marketer who combines traditional marketing with internet marketing in some very novel ways. For example, some of his work has involved using direct mail (postcards) sent to targeted recipients to bring them to a very unique web site that plays an audio file and encourages people to sign up for a series of e-mails that lead them to purchasing a service that they need. Check out his web site and some of the projects that he has done for clients.

Many of his landing pages have only one purpose–to capture an email address from a prospect. One example is www.specialagentqa.com. He likes using auto-playing audio. He has discovered that adding navigational links to these pages actually decreases the conversion rate, so he doesn’t put any other links on the page. The only thing a web visitor can do on these pages is sign up by entering their email address for free information, or exit the site.

When it comes to email marketing, one of the challenges is getting the emails that you send to prospects and customers to actually get to their inbox. Since ISPs and email providers are trying to block spam, many legitimate email messages get blocked by the spam filters for various reasons.

There are blacklists and whitelists that email marketers need to understand.

Some companies instruct their email subscribers to add them to their “whitelist” so that emails from them will make it through. Here is a real estate company that teaches users of AOL, Earthlink, Hotmail, Yahoo, MSN, NetZero and various anti-spam products how to add them to their email whitelist.

Chris said he uses E-filtrate to make sure his legitimate email campaigns won’t create a false positive in spam filters (based on the copy) and get blocked.

One member of the Academy who has done a lot of email marketing has found that many emails get blocked because the domain name and IP address of the sender don’t match in the email header. He does custom php coding for companies to make sure that the domain name and IP address do match. (I’m not totally certain that I’ve captured this correctly. I welcome readers who can clarify the point the Academy member was trying to make.)

Chris showed us audiogenerator.com and instantvideogenerator.com which are sites that enable you to easily add audio or video to your web site with the goal of increasing your conversion rates.

Chris told us that he typically increased the email capture rates by 40% by adding audio to the landing page, and even more when he uses video.

He told us that one way to get people to sign up for your email offer is to use an “ethical bribe,” meaning, give them something valueable and free if they will give you their email address. One example he shared was by offering an email series called “9 steps to weight loss” which people can get for free when they give you their email address. You can find this on 9stepstoweightloss.com

Chris says teleseminars work great for high-ticket items. For example, if you want people to attend an expensive real world seminar, you may want to offer a free teleseminar to generate leads for the actual event. On the teleseminar you can have interviews with the speakers who are going to be giving the actual seminar.

Chris mentioned that Virtual Seminar Week recently had 49 speakers who gave presentations. Each speaker emailed their own lists and told them about the Virtual Seminar Week, which had educational content about dozens of important topics. Pooling lists in this way and combining forces to present a great online educational value is a win-win for the conference organizers and for the individual speakers. The individual speakers who sign up the most subscribers get the majority of the revenue from their own efforts.

(I recently subscribed to eComXpo, so that I can listed to the 175 presentations that have been given by ecommerce experts and internet marketers. I think this model of bringing together experts and selling subscriptions to the archives is an excellent one.)

Chris’s wife runs jenmagazine.com, a fashion and culture site for LDS teens and young adult women. The site traffic and email list is growing fast. By adding a “tell a friend” feature to the site the list started growing 40% faster.

Chris says marketers should try to participate in trade shows and events where you get the entire database of attendees if you are an exhibitor or sponsor. At one major trade show, every exhibitor got the entire database of attendees, but only about 5-10% of the companies even used the list afterwards. He again emphasized that the fortune is in the followup, and that emailing or mailing the trade show attendees after the trade show is over is a gold mine, but many companies overlook that. They come away with whatever sales they made at the show, but don’t do anything afterwards. Chris mentioned one popular entrepreneur speaker who will not agree to speak at a conference unless she gets access to all of the attendees.

Chris says there are many companies who compile mailing lists, and that virtually any type of list can be used in your marketing campaigns. I think traditional direct marketers and list brokers are far more sophisticated in their targeting than internet marketers, partly because there is far more public data available (every US address, credit card data connected to people and households, subscribers to thousands of magazines, etc) to offline marketers than to online marketers. And since it is so much more expensive to use direct mail, marketers have to use more careful selections.

One of his clients offered a space pen with insignias for each branch of the U.S. Military and then mailed an offer to every retired officer. They were able to rent a list of all retired military officers, which branch they served in, and how long they served for.

One publicly traded company that offers an unbelievable rich database of US consumers and businesses is InfoUSA.

You can select any custom list from over 200 million U.S. consumers. The web site lets you design your list before purchasing it. Try the InfoUSA list selection tool right now if you have never done this before.

I also like Melissadata.com, which offers all kinds of data for marketers.

Other sites Chris mentioned:

1shoppingcart.com: he loves this shopping cart, which integrates auto responder and email list management capabilities with its ecommerce transaction services. In other words, you don’t need an ecommerce site plus an email management system like aweber.com or getresponse.com. It all comes with 1shoppingcart.com.

tellafriendking.com: one of my BYU student marketing teams used a trial recently and found that this is effective in generating word of mouth referrals.

Like Chris Loch, I believe strongly in creating an in-house opt-in email database of customers and prospective customers. At MyFamily.com, we were able to build an inhouse database containing millions of names. It was extremely valuable. At 10x Marketing, we once had a client ask us to build them a 1-million name house email list in 90 days, before the launch of their new book title. We contacted some co-registration networks (where you pay a small amount of money for each person who registers for your newsletter). We rolled out our opt-in and double opt-in email signup forms across the co-registration network, and within a few weeks we were collecting 10-15,000 email addresses per day. I was amazed. We would have reached the 1 million name goal, but at a cost of about $0.30 per name, the client decided not to keep spending.

We ended up with about 350,000 or so names. When they launched their book title and many other products, they were able to easily recover the cost of building the list, and as far as I know, they are still monetizing the list to this day.

Remember, these were legitimate opt-in and double opt-in offers that attracted opportunity seekers who were interested in their products.

A question for my readers: what is the best email list building strategy that you have tried or seen? Please share….

Internet companies and merchant account limits

If you run an internet business with the potential for rapid growth, and you use a merchant account for processing credit card transactions, please check your merchant account monthly limit before you encounter the problem that we experienced over the weekend.

Wikipedia has a decent article on Merchant Accounts, but until I edited it today it said nothing about monthly transaction limits.

The merchant account limit bit one of our Provo Labs companies this weekend. Here’s what happened:

WorldVitalRecords.com started selling subscriptions to its web site on October 4th. We had some initial subscribers from blogs and news releases, but we didn’t turn on our online marketing efforts until last Friday. Our first email campaign went out to 80,000 genealogists. We invited them to get 2 years access to our databases and online courses for the price of 1 year. Our expiration date on this offer is today, October 31st. (MarketingExperiments.com has demonstrated how important it is to have special offers that include urgency.)

The email campaign brought us a large number of new subscribers. Our team had a contest to see who could guess how many subscribers we would get in the first 24 hours. I won the contest–my guess was within 4 of the actual number.

The large numbers of signups continued into Saturday, but then came to an almost complete stop. On Sunday, our numbers were tiny.

Upon investigation yesterday, our team discovered, much to our dismay, that we had reached our monthly transaction limit on our merchant account. Between Saturday and Sunday 113 credit cards were declined, costing us more than $5,000 in revenue.

Yesterday, when our bank helped us get the limit increased temporarily, we saw the subscription numbers soar once again. Hopefully, we can recover the lost revenue from the denied cards. But more importantly, we hope to get an increase to our limit so we won’t have this problem again.

I remember many internet companies had problems with merchant account limits years ago. A 2002 story about profitable internet companies in Southern California describes the trouble that one internet startup had with their merchant account:

The toughest part, they agree, was establishing credit as a totally Internet business. The first weekend they received $10,000 in orders. “Our merchant account (for payments by credit card) would take 12 days to clear our money,” Livdahl says. “Suppliers wouldn’t ship because we hadn’t paid. We just had to wait. It was terrible.”

InternetRetailer.com sells a report that lists 500 retail ecommerce companies that had 2005 revenues of more than $3 million. Many of these companies are fast growing. I wonder how many of them have run into the merchant account limit problem at some point in their history? I bet this is a pretty common thing.

Does anyone have insights into this problem or first-hand experiences with it? What can be done to avoid it? (It’s actually a nice problem to have, in comparison with other problems that many startups have, like not having enough customers.)

P.S.

Interesting thing from Google Trends when you look at the cities where people are searching for “merchant account” or “credit card processing.” Apex, NC has far more queries than any other US city. Does anyone know why?

And Pakistan has far more searches on “merchant account” than any other country. Pakistan is listed by MSNBC as one of the top 5 countries involved in credit card fraud.

Yahoo Mail Question

I switched from Yahoo Mail to Gmail a long time ago, but I still get dozens of emails a day sent to my old Yahoo email address. I forward them to Gmail, but I’d like to make sure my 2,600 contacts in my Yahoo Address Book and many thousands of other people who have emailed me in the past know my new email address.

I’ve avoided using Plaxo just because it annoys me so much when other people use it. I love LinkedIn.com because the email addresses of my 480+ contacts there get updated automatically whenever they update their profile. Maybe I should use Plaxo, but I’m looking for another solution.

Does anyone know how I can email not only the contacts in my Yahoo Address Book but also the thousands of others with whom I have corresponded in Yahoo Mail, whom I haven’t added to my Address Book?

I’ve been looking for some kind of email harvest tool, but every one I found works primarily on external web sites and won’t allow me to legitimately harvest my own email contacts in my own personal address book?

That is my first question.

My second question is how do I harvest all the email addresses from people who have posted comments on my personal blog? I’d like to invite them to listen in on a free conference call and possibly join an online network of entrepreneurs in an exclusive private forum. I certainly don’t want to collect their email addresses on at a time. I use WordPress 2.03, and I read something about a MySQL query that could give me access to the email addresses of the commenters, but I don’t know more than that.

That is my second question.

Finally, how should I get around the Yahoo Mail limit of 100 emails sent at a time? To notify all my legitimate contacts that my email address has changed, I’ll need to send about 5-6,000 emails out, and I don’t want to do them in batches of 100.

That is my third question.

Any suggestions from all of the wonderful people out there?

Can’t Live Without Web Analytics

I’ve been using web analytics from Omniture this morning (Provo Labs uses it in our more mature portfolio companies) to discover some really interesting (and disturbing) customer usage patterns.

LDSMedia.com — our LDS search engine — has a new subscribe page. Using SiteCatalyst, I can run a report showing every visitor in June who hit the signup.php page, and using the Next Page Flow Report, see visually what each of them did next.

16.3% of our visitors who hit the signup.php page exited the site. Not good. 4.7% went to the home page (using the ClickMap I would be able to see if they clicked on the logo in the upper left corner of the landing page.) 2.1% went to the login page. The vast majority of visitors left the signup page and went back to the content page they were looking at. In the few seconds they take to look at our signup page, we lost almost all of them. Only 1.8% clicked through on one of the green “Sign Up Now” buttons.

1.8% would be an okay conversion rate for a content subscription web site. But this isn’t the site’s conversion rate. Only a small percentage of these people who clicked through actually completed the credit card process, so the overall site conversion rate is extremely low.

To me, this is a huge opportunity. Fortunately, we’re only a week into offering the subscription and this is the first landing page we’ve tested. The good news is that we are an internet company. We can make a few changes, test the results, make a few more changes, test again, and over a period of time optimize our subscription process so that the messaging is just right and the signup process is easy and appealing. I can’t wait to blog in a week or two about how our next landing page doubled or tripled our conversion rates!

With hundreds of thousands of people searching the internet for important LDS religious content, much of which is only available on this web site, our conversion rate should be (and will be) much higher.

By using web analytics, we have a starting point from which to measure our progress.

Web analytics is one of those essential ingredients to online marketing success that most people aren’t familiar with. There are a lot of free web stats packages out there that just don’t give you what you need. And more commonly, there is so much data available that it is nearly impossible for the untrained webmaster or marketer to know which web analytics reports are really important.

This morning I came across this excellent article about web analytics. I’ve been using web server log files and custom analytics reports since 1997 and SiteCatalyst since 2002, so I’m extremely familiar with hundreds of different reports.

But I love how this article focuses on six practical reports that online businesses should run regularly in order to understand their customers and how their web site is working (or is not working).

I think in all the years that I’ve been involved in online marketing, this is the best introductory article on web analytics that I’ve ever read. I’m definitely going to be using this in my BYU internet marketing class this fall.

I would like every Provo Labs employee to read this article and run each of these reports of one or more of our web sites.

We’re going to have some Omniture SiteCatalyst training in an upcoming meeting, but in the meantime, try to run each of these six reports and carefully review them to determine what we should do differently or what we should do next on our web sites.

Most importantly, if you’re on the LDS Media team, let’s put up a new landing page today or tomorrow that isn’t so complicated. The one we are using right now has Basic and Premium packages (too complicated) and has way too much text. It was patterned somewhat after a popular genealogy subscription web site’s signup page, but it is obviously not working for us.

I would like us to test a completely different page layout that is patterned after RealNetwork’s SuperPass 14-day free trial signup page.

What I love about this page is that it offers a 14-day free trial and captures an email address at the very beginning of the subscription process. Since growing our email database is a high priority, this approach makes a lot of sense.

We don’t have to try to convert a visitor into a paying customer on the first visit. If we can capture their email address and permission to contact them again, then we will have many opportunities to interest them in our premium content in the future.

Let’s launch this new 14-day trial email capture landing page and start reporting on how many new email addresses we get each day in addition to the number of daily subscribers.

Neal: I’d like an email or SMS every day with those two stats in them.

A Myriad of Decisions for Internet Startups

I continually get questions from students and startups such as: Which
email solution provider should I use? What is the best affiliate
program to launch? What about payment processing? What is the best
low-cost or free web analytics software?

These are tough questions for anyone to answer because most of us, even
internet veterans, have tried only a handful of solutions in each
category (email, affiliate, analytics, payment processing, etc.) and
often have deep experience with only one.

And today there are literally hundreds of available solutions, from
high-end enterprise solutions to entry-level solutions, including some
free services, and many, many open source solutions that are evolving
quickly.

In the 90s I used to rely heavily on Dr. Ralph Wilson of WilsonWeb.com.
Since 1995 he has been reviewing solutions continually and he has
helped hundreds of thousands of people find possible answers to these
questions.

Another resource that was first published in 2005 is a *must have* for
any serious internet entrepreneur, particularly one in the ecommerce
space. It’s the 2005 Guide to E-Retailing Resources published by Internet Retailer.

This guide book lists 378 retailing solutions in the following
categories: affiliate marketing, content management,
consulting/research, customer service, delivery services, e-commerce
systems, email marketing, fulfillment services, order management,
payments processing, search marketing, site search solutions, supply
chain solutions, returns processing, web analytics, web design/hosting,
and web monitoring.

It still won’t be easy to decide which solutions to try, but the Guide
often indicates how many employees or customers a particular company
has, and who some of their key customers are.

It is still hard to integrate some of these solutions, but at least you know what many of your best options are.