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Comments Off on What Does the Future Hold for Email and Social Marketing?

What Does the Future Hold for Email and Social Marketing?

2013 has arrived, and with it comes thoughts and ideas of how email and social marketing will evolve. While we can’t predict what will become the next big social media channel this year, we can give you some tips to help you stay ahead of the game.

Mobile Design – This may be the most important thing to consider for your email marketing this year. According to Litmus, 36% of emails are opened using a mobile device/tablet, and they predict it’ll be 50% by year’s end. Hence, mobile design is something you definitely want to take this into account when crafting your emails, and it’s not as hard as you may think. With a few minor tweaks, your email will render clearly for readers on a variety of devices or platforms, just follow these tips:

  • Keep the design slim – Around 500-600 pixels
  • Use call-to-action buttons
  • Use a simple, single column layout
  • Include links that’re large enough to “click” i.e., touch
  • Have a text-only email back up
  • Give your email the “touch screen” test (is it easy to navigate with your finger?)
  • Ensure your email renders/downloads properly on an iPhone

Social ROI – Remember the tag line from the movie, Field of Dreams? “If you build it, he will come.” It also applies to social media, as well as baseball fields. Once social media was built, people came in droves (hint: So get on it, if you’re not already!). And, social media no longer pertains to a certain age group or demographic; everyone’s on it. The key now, is to keep people continuously engaged with your business on social, and to do so, you simply need to keep at it! Here are a few engagement-inducing ideas:

  • Content is king – Share links, post videos and/or images (According to Facebook, posts that include a photo generate 120% more engagement).
  • Add value – Share useful information and tips, even if you’re sharing from other sources.
  • Interact and engage – Don’t just post and leave your page unattended – Answer questions, make comments, and ask questions.
  • Post on a regular basis – This could be multiple times a day, or several times a week depending on your customers and the content available.
  • For more social media engagement related posts, read: “Want Better Facebook Engagement? Stop What You’re Doing” and/or “What Motivates People to ‘Like’ or ‘Unlike’ Brands on Facebook“

You can actually track ROI on social media; you just need to set up some key tools. Facebook Insights is a great start for monitoring progress on your Facebook Page. Google Analytics (GA) will also track where people come from when they visit your website, plus it tracks activity on your social accounts. And, if you set up goals in GA, you can track conversions from social interactions. If you’re sharing links from your site, or sharing from another, using not only shortens long URLs, it also gives you tracking information about the people clicking on your links. Even if you aren’t tracking, don’t overlook the power of social engagement. SocialBakers has been tracking exactly this and find that more engagement on social creates more reach, more click throughs, and ultimately more conversion. So keep sharing great info, and it’ll pay off in the end!

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Comments Off on Facebook tests new version of Offers to increase conversions, give users control when they share with friends

Facebook tests new version of Offers to increase conversions, give users control when they share with friends

Brtittany Darwell, Inside Facebook

Facebook is testing a new version of its Offers product, which gives users the option to shop immediately or get a reminder before the promotion ends. The interface also lets users decide if and when to share the offer with friends.

The new implementation could be more effective in leading to direct sales for retailers, while helping users remember to take advantage of the offers they’re interested in and giving them more control over how their activity is shared.

A Facebook spokesperson says the company is working with a few global retailers for this test, but for now other pages aren’t affected and their offers will continue to appear in the original format.

For e-commerce offers in the test, users will see two buttons: “Shop Now” and “Remind Me.” Previously, users could only select “Get Offer.” When users click “Shop Now,” they will be taken directly to a retailer’s website. When they click “Remind Me,” users will be sent an email and at a later date will be reminded with a notification on Facebook. It is up to each retailer when they will remind users about their promotion, but they can only send one notification per offer.

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Comments Off on 5 Steps To Building A Search Persona

5 Steps To Building A Search Persona

It’s easy for online B2B marketers to become distracted by the search engines and forget the real reason they’re doing SEO in the first place: the customer. Customer demand is the driving force behind search and must be the foundation for your SEO strategy. Whether you’re an SEO newbie or already running a few SEO campaigns, it’s important to take a step back and determine what techniques really align with your customers’ needs.

An effective, simple concept every search marketer should leverage is the process of developing a search persona. Similar to a marketing persona, creating a search persona helps professional B2B marketers to accurately identify their target customer, to understand how users are actually searching for their business online and to ultimately, drive higher conversion. This is not a very time-consuming process, and will have a significant impact on your marketing efforts behind search and must be the foundation for your SEO strategy. Understanding the keywords your prospects use and the places they go to find information is the critical first step in implementing a successful inbound marketing strategy

1. Know Your Target Audience

Identify a target audience that is most likely to turn into customers. Ask yourself: Who’s my perfect buyer? For any businessperson (regardless of SEO), this is something you should be able to answer.

2. Understand Your Audience’s Pain Point(s) & Know How They Search to Solve Them

How would your target customer articulate their need for this in terms of keywords? How do they search? Determine the queries that are used by your target audience, are aligned with your business goals, and appear in significant enough volumes.

3. Provide Real Solutions

Create great content that’s well optimized for the search engines, but also meets the needs of your target customer and provides calls-to-action that encourage users to further explore and engage with your product or service.

4. Be Compelling

Offer a call to action that compels the searcher to dive deeper into your conversion funnel. For example,
this might be a discount code, or an online form. Basically, a feature that allows you to keep in contact with a user and offers them an incentive to stay engaged with your website and product or service.

5. Know Your Data

Make sure you’re regularly tracking performance metrics that help demonstrate the efficacy of these campaigns.

One of the most overlooked aspects of this process is to truly try to understand the target searcher’s agenda. Think of yourself as you search for something. All the pages you bounce off of, because they aren’t relevant, trustworthy, or are too complex for one reason or another. Search persona only works in context with business goals, and content that was designed for them. Doing only one thing out of the overall list above will not bring the desired results. Now that you’ve built your search persona, examine your website’s content and existing SEO campaigns and make any adjustments necessary to align with the criteria you’ve identified in this process. Understanding the keywords your prospects use and the places they go to find information is the critical first step in implementing a successful inbound marketing strategy.

This article is excerpted from a whitepaper by Optify Inbound Marketing Software. Learn more.

Comments Off on A Dozen Free Marketing Tools from Google

A Dozen Free Marketing Tools from Google

List originally appeared on Practical eCommerce

Need better results from your web site, but not ready to shell out large $$ to get SEO done? Before you spend any money on a search-engine-optimization campaign for your website, take advantage of Google’s free tools to optimize your site and increase its PageRank. And if you are just starting out with SEO, check out Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide PDF.

Here is a list of free Google tools for your website’s SEO campaign. There are keyword and trend tools, website optimization tools, tools to increase your backlinks, and more. All of these tools are free.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics lets you measure sales and conversions, and gives you access to your visitors’ behavior. Understand which parts of your website are performing well, measure the success of your social media programs, and create better-targeted ads. Price: Free for users with less than 5 million page views a month.

Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools show you how Google crawls and indexes your site. Learn about any problems Google is having indexing your site’s URLs. Identify the top search queries that drive traffic to your site, as well as any links to your site. Share information, such as how often your important pages change, to improve your site’s visibility. Price: Free.

Google Insights for Search

Google Insights for Search lets you compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames for any search term or phrase. Track search terms, and find potential customers based on their search volume. Price: Free.

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Google AdWords Keyword Tool is a great way to get keyword ideas and find the best text for your audience. Identify what words or phrases will drive the most traffic to your site. Determine what keywords are the most profitable if you plan to use Google AdSense. Price: Free.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts are, according to Google, “emails sent to you when Google finds new results — such as web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs — that match your search term.” Enter a keyword or phrase, the type of data you want to retrieve, the volume of results you’d like, and get it all via email. Monitor your competitors or track the latest relevant Google results. Price: Free.

Google Trends

Google Trends give you popular search terms. You can also compare trends for multiple search terms, or get daily unique visitors for multiple sites. Take advantage of trends in your keyword campaigns to get a jump on your competitors. Price: Free.

Google Website Optimizer

Google Website Optimizer is Google’s website testing and optimization tool. Test individual elements or complete page layouts, and identify your most effective site elements. Fix and deploy compelling landing pages. Identify the winning content combinations that drive conversions. Price: Free.

DoubleClick Ad Planner

DoubleClick Ad Planner is a tool to help you plan an effective online advertising campaign. You can also use it to search competitor websites for traffic statistics, such as page views and keywords searched. Use the information to tailor your own successful campaign. Price: Free.

Google Page Speed

Use Google Page Speed to analyze and optimize your website. Identify why your site is too slow, and apply best practices to make it fast. Reducing page load times can reduce bounce rates and increase conversion rates, and encourage the health of your site. Price: Free.

Merchant Center

With Merchant Center, upload your site’s product data so it is available to Google Product Search — soon to be “Google Shopping” — and other Google search services. Allow shoppers to easily find your site using Google Product Search or Price: Free.

Google Site Map

Google Site Map is a way to tell Google about the pages on your site. Creating and submitting a site map helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google’s normal crawling process. Use Site Map to provide Google with site information, such as content metadata or update schedules. Price: Free.


Google+ is Google’s social media platform to share, collaborate, and create. Starting a Google+ account and developing your brand through Circles helps get high PageRank backlinks to your website. Price: Free.
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Comments Off on Google Explains Over-Optimization

Google Explains Over-Optimization

In a recent article excerpted here by Jill Kocher at Practical Ecommerce,  we alerted you to a shift undergone at Google that would ostensibly reduce page rank for web sites that attempted to “game” the system by paying more attention to optimization than site quality.  That fact remains, but Google has come out with more details and Kocher has a follow up article that refers to it as more of an “evolution” than “revolution.

She continues, “Google’s much discussed over-optimization penalty turned out to be a moderate evolutionary step in Google’s site quality crusade. Launched April 24, Google wrote in a blog post of its update, “The change will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s quality guidelines. This algorithm represents another step in our efforts to reduce webspam and promote high quality content.”

According to the Google blog post, an estimated 3.1 percent of U.S. search results will be affected by the algorithm update, while sites in countries like Poland that are more prone to produce webspam could see as high as 5 percent change in rankings. The algorithm will more aggressively penalize webspam tactics like keyword stuffing and irrelevant linking from sites that “spin” content with barely readable content. “Spinning” refers to the practice of scraping content from other sites and then manually or mechanically rearranging the words to create a “new” piece of content.

Is All SEO Webspam?

In its announcement, Google’s head webspam cop Matt Cutts also addressed the difference between search engine optimization and webspam. The first three paragraphs of the announcement details the difference between ethical or “white hat” SEO practices and manipulative “black hat” webspam under the guise of SEO. As an ethical SEO practitioner, I appreciate the vote of confidence for the SEO industry, but Google’s Cutts must really have felt under fire after his over-optimization comments last month to write such a missive. Cutts’ best advice is to focus on creating “amazing, compelling web sites.” That, to be sure, is not a newsflash to most ecommerce brands.

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Comments Off on Mobile Advertising Became ‘Relevant’ in 2011

Mobile Advertising Became ‘Relevant’ in 2011

Internet ad revenue report from IAB and PwC says it grew 149 percent last year.

by Bill Mickey,

The IAB released its Internet Advertising Revenue Report yesterday, which details full-year 2011 results and was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers. As it has for the last ten years, except for a slight dip in 2009, annual revenue easily beat the previous year—hitting $31.7 billion in 2011, a 22 percent increase over 2010 and an all-time high.

In the last decade, revenues have shot up $25.7 billion at 20.3 percent CAGR. Even so, mobile got recognition as a format that came into its own in 2011, jumping 149 percent to $1.6 billion for the year. 2011 also marked the first year in the report that mobile was broken out as a standalone format. Its revenue increase drove 3.7 percent of the overall 22 percent advertising growth for the year.

While mobile’s 5 percent slice of the full-year digital advertising pie is a tiny one, it’s passed email (1 percent), sponsorship (4 percent) and rich media (4 percent) in share of revenues. Mobile is now tied with lead generation.

It’s likely been singled out due to its big jump over 2010’s $641 million, by far the fastest growing segment. Plus, the platform has traditionally been bemoaned as one that’s not been capitalized on nearly enough.

Nevertheless, digital video (6 percent)  and classifieds (8 percent) are still slightly ahead, as are display and banner advertising which command the highest share of revenues at 22 percent and 47 percent respectively.

For the full report, click here.

The original article is here.


Comments Off on SEO: Build Relationships, Not Links

SEO: Build Relationships, Not Links

by Jill Kocher on Practical eCommerce

When the Internet was new, it was difficult to find interesting and relevant websites. Link building was easy in those days. It was often just a matter of letting webmasters know that your site existed and they could link to it. Things have changed in the last couple of decades.

Webmasters today are jaded. They’re bombarded with requests for links, offers to receive hundreds of links for one low price, and comment spam, among other things. Approaching a blogger or site owner today with a request for a link is akin to walking up to a stranger and asking for $50. You might get lucky, but chances are you won’t even get a reply.

The concept of link building — manually identifying and contacting individual webmasters to request a link — is all but obsolete. In this new social era of Internet marketing, to get a link you’ll need to build a relationship.

Relationship building as part of search engine optimization is a difficult concept for ecommerce sites to understand. Imagine a Facebook thread that included three back-and-forth replies from a relevant and influential blogger. If your primary goal is building links, that Facebook thread is gold as a relationship builder.

Links: Give to Get

Yes, search marketers seek links and social mentions. But successful link builders today are able to put that personal need to rack up links aside and act more altruistically, knowing that you have to give more than you receive. Think about being at a party where everyone is trying to avoid that loud-mouthed jerk that only talks about himself. The same concept applies to online relationship building. Take a good look at your link requests, your social media activity, and your blogging. Is it all about your brand and the benefits your products bring to the rest of us? Your brand may be that loud mouth at the party.

To build relationships online requires seeking out others with similar passions or questions or problems. Ask for their opinions. Compliment their points of view. Answer their questions. Like or retweet or +1 their updates. Like in the physical world, people online want to be appreciated and respected for their opinions. And just like in the physical world, friendships flourish when both people give freely of their knowledge and respect.

But, and this is important, only participate if your participation is sincere. As a human, it’s easy to know when we feel something sincerely. But what does a brand feel sincerely about? Anyone participating in link building or social media for a brand needs to be able to personify that brand, to step into the brand’s persona and act on its behalf.

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Comments Off on Small Business Marketing Strategies: Keeping Yourself Up-to-Date

Small Business Marketing Strategies: Keeping Yourself Up-to-Date

By Edmond Hong
Guest Writer

When running a small business you want to do things right the first time out, otherwise there may be no second chance. If you want to get your small business known, you need to ensure that the word gets out there. In years past, big marketing was reserved for well-established, long lived companies.

But with the age of technology thriving, all that has changed, and even the smallest business can have the loudest voice. Not only that, but staying on top of the ball. With technology being so rapidly introduced, it has never been more important to stay ahead of the competition and familiarize yourself with the latest up-and-coming trends. How do you go about this though? Get the creative juices flowing and keep your head held high. Get ready to bring your business to an entirely new level.

Make Your Presence Known

Treat Your Website as a Storefront

When trying to sell a product, do you want your customers to come into your store with everything on the floor, haphazardly strewn about? I think not. Upkeeping a professional website is crucial. This is what sets the tone for your potential customers. It reflects you and how serious your business is. If you keep your website maintained, with fresh updates regularly, you’ll most definitely keep your visitors coming back for more, not to mention bringing their friends along as well.

Mailing lists are another great idea when it comes to your websites. It allows you to keep your current and future customers in the loop about whatever might be going on with your store.

The last key ingredient in making your website a success is making it search engine optimized (SEO). What good is putting hours upon hours into a website if no-one knows about it?

Taking Advantage of the World of Social Media

Show Your Customers That You Are an Expert

If you plan on having a successful business, you better know what it is exactly that you’re selling. If not, you might be in for a bit of trouble. Blogging is a great way to assert your knowledge, and let your potential customers know that you actually know what you’re talking about.

Blogging allows you to connect one-on-one with your customers. It allows you to hear them out, what they like, what they don’t like, what they want from a store, etc, which in turn will build their trust, especially if they know you’re listening. Another benefit is the fact that blogging will grant you visibility, and the more you show you know what you’re talking about, the more that will lend to your credibility as a business.

Facebook as an Ally

800 million people use Facebook. 100 million of them use the site on a daily basis. Knowing your social media immediately gives you an advantage in today’s market. Facebook is one of the largest audiences out there, it’s granted that at least a few of them will want what you’ve got to offer. You may have to do a bit of searching on your part, but once you tap into the audience you’re looking for, you might see things starting to swing in your favor.

If you already have a Facebook business page, then good for you. You’re already a step ahead of the game. If you don’t, then there’s no need to fret. Once you have your page, it’s time to set it up. Visual representation is a key aspect for your small business. It’s basically your first impression. So fill in all of your business’ information so that visitors can get to know a bit about you and the business.

After that, maybe post a bit on your wall about all of the sales and offers currently available from your website. Adding in your profile picture is actually pretty important as well, as people will be able to recognize your logo one your name starts getting out there. Don’t be afraid to add photos and video clips of your merchandise either, if someone doesn’t feel like checking out your site then and there, seeing a picture of your merchandise might make them think twice.

As stated earlier, what good is putting effort into a website if no-one sees it? After you have your page set up, it’s time to unveil it to the world. Facebook does provide Social Plugin Widgets to add to your site, which are essentially profile badges for your actual website to lead traffic to your Facebook page. If you have some room in your budget, it might be wise to purchase an ad and/or buy fans for your Facebook. This can get quite pricy, but doing both will lead traffic to your site and instantly populate your page, respectively.

It is important to keep your page up to date, and decorate it a bit. But your main focus should be your contact with your visitors. Treat them as you would your own friends. Upload pictures from your latest vacation, share a bit of your personal life with them. They’ll be far more receptive if they know they’re doing business with an actual human being. The most important part about Facebook is to not let it overwhelm you, which it can do in an instant. Keep the ball rolling and keep yourself ahead of the learning curve. Here are 20 tips that could guide you on how to use facebook for business correctly and efficiently.

Keeping Customers Updated in 140 Characters or less

Twitter, although one of the smaller social media sites, can actually be one of the most powerful. Your posts cannot reach more than 140 characters, and your main goal here isn’t to gain as many followers as possible, but rather to use the site as an extension of your main website. Keep all of your followers up to date the moment things happen, such as sales, upcoming items, and discounts.

Every morning, update your twitter a bit with links from different websites related to your products. This will allow your followers to gain more knowledge on whatever your business pertains to. Get your employees involved as well. When people see your business working like a bunch of friends as opposed to just all business, it creates a fun feeling for everyone. Also, don’t forget to include your twitter handle whenever you post your website address.

Use LinkedIn to become more SEO

LinkedIn is a great way to become more search engine optimized. LinkedIn is currently the world’s largest business network, and holds a lot of clout in search engines. If you have a LinkedIn account, and someone does a search for you, your LinkedIn profile will undoubtedly show up. LinkedIn, because of it’s reputation, will also give your business quite a bit of credibility in your customer’s eyes. Don’t forget to add links to all of your important websites as well on your page!

Tapping into the Mobile Market

Although cell phones have been popular for years, the age of the Smartphone is on the rise. Smartphones are basically powerful cell phones that have full internet capabilities, as well as the use of applications, or apps, for personal, business, or recreational use. Some of these apps can be very useful to your business, apps such as Yahoo Local, Citysearch, Google Places, and Yelp!.

Aside from cell phones, other mobile devices are on the rise as well, and all of them have the same abilities, such as iPods and tablet computers. Tapping in the mobile market is a great move, and will keep you one step ahead of the competition, as this is one area where not too many small businesses tread.

Visual Media for Information Marketing

Testimonials and Ads

Testimonials are the ultimate confirmation that you are a valid business, and that others should come to you and buy your products. You will gain much more credibility through testimonials than with sales slogans and such. After all, how do they know they can trust you?

Instead of using sales speeches, get one on one with your customers and give them recommendations, should they ask. This gives them complete control, and doesn’t make them feel pressured into buying anything. You’d be amazed at what difference testimonials make. Don’t count out audio marketing just yet though. It may no longer be as prominent, but it’s still around.

E-books offer a lot to your customer. It expands their knowledge, and proves to them that you are a knowledgeable, credible source of information. Digital readers have become very popular, and are available on most mobile devices as well. Try your hand at writing and E-book and offer it on your site for download. It won’t cost you much time or money to make one, and in turn, shouldn’t cost your customers much either. Just make sure to keep the subject matter relevant to your business.

There is no right way to market your small business, because some things might work for some people, while not for others. It’s really a matter of reaching your target market, and doing so in a fresh, new way that might be a bit out of your comfort zone. Remember, without risks there can be no rewards.

Lets recap:

Staying ahead of the curve can be difficult for small business. Take advantage of a few creative and aggressive marketing strategies to take your business to the next level. Keeping yourself in the running is especially hard when things are changing faster now more than ever. But taking advantage of these newer strategies that are present in today’s market can pretty much guarantee success.

  • Search engine optimization and keeping your website professional and complete will keep you in the foreground of potential customer’s minds.

  • With so many social media sites out, it would be wise to take advantage of them, as it cost nothing to sign up, and very little to go far.

  • Tapping into the mobile market is a great idea, especially now, since this market is expanding so rapidly.

  • Using testimonials and e-books helps to enforce your credibility and give you a solid name and brand recognition


About Edmond Hong:
Edmond Hong currently lives in St. Kilda, the beautiful seaside suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. Edmond holds a degree in both Civil Engineering and Business Marketing from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. He is an expert on small business marketing, and has been featured many times in both The Age Australia Business Section and The New York Times, and spends much of his leisure time writing marketing books and coaching entrepreneurs. He also owns a company that promotes facebook fans to companies of all sizes.

Comments Off on eBooks on the Grow

eBooks on the Grow

Excerpted from an article by Sig Ueland

Ebook sales will be $9.7 billion in 2016, more than three times this year’s $3.2 billion in sales, according to a recent report by Juniper Research. Online publishers and ebook distributors offer a growing opportunity to authors and small publishers, as well as affiliate marketers.

Here is a list of ebook publishing resources.

Ebook Stores

Amazon Kindle Store. The Amazon Kindle Store lists over one million digital titles. It supports Portable Document Format (PDF), Amazon’s Kindle Format (AZW), and Mobipocket (MOBI). To publish books in the Kindle Store, access the Kindle Direct Publishing site. Royalty rates are 70 percent for titles priced between $2.99 and $9.99 that are at least 20 percent lower than the lowest list price for the title’s print version. For other prices, the royalty rate is 35 percent. Affiliates earn up to 15 percent commissions.

Amazon Kindle Store.


Barnes & Noble Nook Books. Nook Books offers over 2.5 million titles. It supports Epub Format (EPUB) and PDF. To publish in the Barnes & Noble store, access its PubIt! site. Royalty rates are 65 percent for titles priced between $2.99 and $9.99. For other prices, the royalty rate is 40 percent. Affiliates earn 6 percent commissions.

Apple iBookstore. The Apple iBookstore lists over 700,000 titles. It supports all formats. To publish in the iBookstore, access the requirements and application. The royalty rate is 70 percent. Apple does not pay publishers until they meet payment requirements and earning thresholds, which vary by territory. Small publishers may get paid faster using an ebook aggregator.

Sony Reader Store. The Sony Reader Store lists over 1.2 million titles. It supports the ePub and PDF formats. The Reader Store does not allow independent authors to publish directly. Authors and small publishers must go through an aggregator such as Smashwords. If you publish to Sony using Smashwords, your royalty will be 60 percent.

Sony Reader Store.


Kobo. Kobo lists over 2.3 million titles and focuses on mobile devices including cell phones. It supports the ePub format. To publish on Kobo, authors and small publishers must use Smashwords or eBookIt. In addition to royalty rates, Kobo charges a conversion fee that starts at $29. Kobo affiliates earn up to 25 percent commissions.

Diesel eBook Store. Diesel eBook Store lists over 2.4 milliion titles. To publish on Diesel, authors and small publishers must go through Smashwords. Diesel affiliates earn 10 percent commissions.

Google eBookstore. Google eBookstore lists over 3 million titles. It has an affiliate program based on Google Affiliate Network (GAN) and Google AdSense. Authors and small publishers can submit their books by joining the Google Books Partner Program. Google will upload a PDF and add books to search results for free.

Google eBookstore.

Want to know more? Read the full article…

Comments Off on Look for the Lefty in Every Market

Look for the Lefty in Every Market

from an article by Jerry McLaughlin

What do a hospital operating room, a Top Chef kitchen, and a base camp at Mt. Everest have in common? Each workplace is filled with highly specialized tools that are designed to do one thing, and do it well.

Of course, most people have no need of most tools.  Take ice axes, for example.  I’m sure a well-made mountaineering ice axe is easy to carry, comfortable to hold, and indispensable on an icefall.  But I’ve never found myself in a circumstance that could be improved by my deft employment of such a product.

So I don’t need an ice-axe-manufacturer’s offering, and most people don’t need yours.  The lesson here is simple: It is not productive to educate someone about your tool if that person is unlikely to find herself in a situation where your offering could be of greater benefit to her than any available alternatives.  Such misdirected efforts waste your time and hers.  You can’t afford such distraction if you are serious about building your profits.

Instead, honestly ask yourself:  “Who is the person and what is the circumstance in which my offering will solve the problem better than any alternative?”  To win sales and profits, given any particular consumer need, your offering must provide the singular, superior solution to that need.

If you sell scissors, for example, you have a lot of competition.  But if you distill your offering to just lefty scissors, all of a sudden you have a lot less competition—and your product is a lot more appealing to a certain set of people.

Focusing like this shrinks the available market.  Only about 1 in every 10 people is left-handed.  But the smaller market for lefty scissors is easier to identify, easier to market to, easier to win, and more profitable.

And yet, it’s a peculiarity of human nature that businesspeople cannot bring themselves to focus only on the lefties.  We are wired to avoid loss more strongly than we are to pursue gain.  And so we resist letting go of the vast potential market we can see in order to capture the smaller market we could dominate.  But a better approach is to figure out who can benefit more from your offering than they can from any available alternative, and to narrow your offering to make it compelling to a clearly defined market subset.

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