Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Friends on the Net

I deal with computers all day long. I read and type emails. I research. I note. I message. I make connections. I teach and share. I promote and advertise. I question and respond. At times, I’ll even preach. All of it happens while sitting at my computer, connected to the Net.

Since I’m doing it staring at a computer screen, I often forget that some where out beyond the Great Internet Cloud (GIC), what I’m sending is going to be received by a live human being.

The other day I was having a conversation (a real, live, face-to-face one) with a good friend, and he was commenting on how technology changes the way we interact with people, the way we make friends. He said that now that we can connect with millions of people, we often have more friends, but the relationships with those friends are more shallow.

I made a mental note of his comment, and I found a lot of validity in it. For example, you can go to my myspace page and see that I have about 450 friends! Woo Hoo. I hardly know any of ‘em! I’ve got a ton of people in my IM friends and contacts list. Over half of them are listed by iconic names that I don’t remember.

You can go to my website and sign up on my mailing list! There’s several hundred more right there. Are they my friends? Some of them, true, but most I don’t know at all.

I participate in a lot of online forums, like yahoogroups, myspace, and many others. I do it mainly to promote my site and my music, but also because I like meeting people. I’ve got hundreds of online friends that way, too.

My website has even generated some fan mail, even from as far away as India and Russia.

Now, it’s been technology that’s allowed me to “meet” these many people (probably on the order of a couple of thousand, if I were to add it all up. If it weren’t for the ‘net, I would never be in contact with any of them.

But it’s true that in the vast majority of cases, our relationship is really shallow. In most cases, I’ve never met them face to face, If they faded off a forum, or stopped visiting my website, I wouldn’t “miss” them, per se. Just the same if I stopped sending them my newsletters.

I don’t think, however, that the technology has made my relationships more or less shallow, on the whole. I mean, if you think about it, in your daily life, you encounter lots of people, and some of them you encounter more than once, some on a regular basis. A few of those you connect with, you spend time with, and you become friends. Even fewer of those get deep enough to be very close friends.

I think it’s the same on the ‘net. I encounter lots, and very few are those that I invest enough time into to be come truly close friends.

I think, though, that technology has changed even that. A few anecdotal examples: When I was in High School, I had a very good friend. As usually happens with HS friends, we drifted apart. He went into the Military, I went to college, etc.. A few years ago, he hits me on the IM. Ever since then, we chat two or three times a week. I haven’t “seen” him since the early ‘80’s. But now we are closer friends than we ever were, even back then. And just through the chats.

I can think of some other friends I’ve made through musician’s groups where our contact has been wholly electronic. I’ll probably never meet these people face-to-face (one, in fact, lives in Finland). Perhaps it’s the anonymity of the communication that makes it so open, or just the fact that we’ve invested time in communicating with each other. In either case, those friendships are just as deep as my face-to-face friends, in some cases more so.

So, where am I going with this?

As you are out on the ‘net, flying though the GIC, remember that it is a human on the other side that’ll be reading your message, seeing your ad, or your website. What will they think? How will they react?

The success of your business depends on building a relationship with the people on the other side of that cloud. And, in reality, your own sense of well-being can be enhanced as you develop true friendships with the people out there.

The technology hasn’t really changed how we make friends, at the core, it’s just facilitated it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


This is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but I’m not really sure what it means. I mean, I could look it up in the dictionary, but what does it really mean? Is it my beliefs? Is it the things that are most important to me?

I hear the word thrown around a lot in election years. Ads on TV tell me that this candidate supports my values, and that the other guy is actively working to destroy them. His opponent presents his views the same way. How do either of them know what MY values are? Sometimes I think they’re just assuming, and other times, I think they’re trying to manipulate them, that somehow by making the ads strong enough, I’ll be convinced to change whatever my values are to match theirs.

I also hear companies throwing the word around, implying essentially the same things. “We value the same things you do, and the competition is just out for your money like the greedy, hungry dogs they are!”

Well, it’s not that bad, but you get the idea…

Values-based marketing, then, is when a company’s promotions and advertising is directly connected to some kind of perceived belief system. You see it all around. It could be a Christian bookstore, or a health-food store. It could be the vending machine that says that it donates half the profits to the Boys and Girls Clubs. It’s the company that sells flags in election years, the store that sells yellow ribbons in wartime.

Values-based marketing can be a very effective tool, in the long run, for marketing your products. If, and that’s a big IF, it’s done right. Here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Identify your audience

One of the problems I have with the political campaigns, especially, is that the ads blast out to everyone, and assume that my values match theirs. When that’s not the case, it comes across as criticism, like they’re insulting my values. The truth is, that I’m simply not one of their audience. If you don’t identify your audience first, you can end up alienating a lot of people and the very least, wasting a lot of advertising effort and money. Know who you’re looking for.

2. Identify their values

Once you know who they are, you need to know what their beliefs are. If you’re going to connect your products with those beliefs, it’ll be difficult without knowing them. How does that group feel about themselves, their families, the world? What is important to them?

3. Compare your own values to your audience’s

If you’ve picked your product and your business based on your own passions and interests, then you’ll find that when you do the first two steps, you, yourself, are a part of your audience. If that’s the case, then you’re in a good position to market to their values, because you share them. You’re connected to them. You live them yourself. This will also make you more believable.

If you check your own list of values against that of your audience, and you discover that they clash, you might want to reconsider using values and beliefs as a part of the marketing process. You might want to use other strategies.

4. Show how your products enhance their ability to live their values

This is the essence of benefits-driven advertising. When you do your promotions, your websites, your ads, your press releases, you want to focus on how your products or services will enhance your customer’s ability to live their values. For example, if your audience values education for children, then science kits and books might be promoted to show how that will help your children learn. Point out how educational video games are better than shoot-em-ups.

5. Use Charitable Giving Carefully

A very easy way to appeal to values is to promise a portion of the proceeds go to a particular charity. If you do this, make sure to contact the charity and see if they have any policies for that. In essence, by tying in to their name, you are implying an endorsement. Also, when I see signs like that, the skeptic in me always wonders what actual percentage of what I pay goes to the charity. It might not be a bad idea to be a little more specific.

Also, it helps if the recipient charity is in some way relevant and related to the topic of the site. You should at the very least choose a charity that impacts your audience. Is your audience women? Then maybe breast cancer research. Christians? There are a huge number of churches and Christian charities. You get the idea.

6. Avoid insincere exploitation.

People aren’t stupid. They can spot insincerity, and it will impact your business. If you followed through with steps 1, 2, and 3, it will show in your promotions. Otherwise, you’ll be seen as someone just trying to make a fast buck off of someone else’s kindness and faith.

7. Carry on in the face of criticism

Even if you ARE sincere, there will be those who doubt your motives and will criticize you. Others who oppose your beliefs may try to distract you and derail you. But if you are committed to your values, carry on, and you’ll succeed not only in business, but in fulfilling your values in your life. And that’s a powerful place to be.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Net Neutrality and You

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the idea of “Net Neutrality”. What is it? What does it mean? And how does it impact me? These are questions you might ask. And these questions are a little bit difficult to answer.

What is it?

It all begins with the word “Bandwidth”. This is a buzzword that gets thrown around tech circles quite a bit. It basically means: how much data is flowing through any system. If you could take on the old “Information Superhighway” metaphor, a high-traffic road that takes you to very busy destinations would be like a high-bandwidth connection. You might imagine a beltway freeway around a busy city. Conversely, a low-traffic side street could be compared to low-bandwidth. There’s not as many people hitting those websites.

There’s also certain kinds of data that require higher bandwidth. Pictures, for example, have generally bigger file sizes than text. Audio is even bigger still. Video files are the largest of all. Imagine that these are like vehicles on the road. Someone driving a motorcycle can zip and turn into any little side street and park wherever he finds a spot. Someone driving a car is more limited in where they can go. A big semi pulling three trailers had better stay pretty much on the freeway. What I’m saying is that the big stuff needs high-bandwidth to carry it effectively.

So, what’s happening is that some people are starting to talk about certain kinds of content being allowed only on certain kinds of connections. And if a site needs more bandwidth, they’d be required to pay for the bigger roads.

On the surface that makes sense. Those that use it more need to pay for it more, right?

But the trouble is that it also sets up a tiered system of access. The big sites, that use lots of traffic, and are making more money because of it, can afford the better access. The smaller sites can’t afford it, and some say that will weaken them and marginalize them.

It goes even further. Some want to “Buy Out” certain internet roads, so that only their content vehicles can drive on them. If this is allowed, then the big companies will be able to successfully lock out smaller enterprises, and the playing field, which has been getting bumpier and bumpier already, will no longer even be close to level.

What should you do about it?

First of all, get informed. There’s lots of information, both technical, social, and political on the net about the issue. First, go to and do a search for net neutrality. Do the same at Google and Yahoo. Read the opinions on both sides of the argument. How do you feel about it?

Second, get involved. Let your congresspersons know how you feel. Go to, find your representatives, and send them a message. Don’t copy anyone else’s letter, but write your own. Include your story, your business, your needs. Tell them how this issue will impact you directly, in clear and calm terms.

My father used to say, there are three types of people: Those that make things happen, those that watch things happen, and those that wonder what happened. Which one do you want to be?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Tool or Toy?

Tool or Toy?

I can remember one summer afternoon as a kid, I got together with some friends, and for some reason, we got this idea in our heads to dig a foxhole. So, we grabbed some shovels, found a spot in our backyard, and started digging. I’m sure we spent the better part of the afternoon and early evening throwing dirt out of our growing foxhole, then playing “battle” in it.

When I came back in the house that night, I was a mess. While I was taking my bath, I was telling my mom all about how much fun we had digging and playing in the dirt.

My mom just didn’t get it. She couldn’t understand why she couldn’t pay me enough money to dig up potatoes in the garden, but I’d spend a full day of my valuable summer vacation digging for fun.

Sheesh. Moms.

But as I look back on that, I think of the shovel. Was it a tool, a device created to get work done, or was it a toy, designed to bring a good time? What IS the difference between work and play?


Well, basically, “work” is when you do something that you have to. “Play” is when you do something you don’t have to. I “work” on the ‘net all day. When I come home, I often get back on the ‘net and “play”.

And where does technology fit into that? For my mom, the shovel was a tool. She didn’t have time to play with it, so it only got used as a tool. For me, I couldn’t stand working, but I loved playing, so it only got used as a toy. The same is true of technology.

For a long time, my wife was completely disinterested in the computer. I was fascinated by it. For her, it was a way to get some things done. For me, it was something to play with. As a result, I learned how to use it very quickly. Also, as a result, she was constantly asking me how to do things on the computer. She only asked when she needed to get something done, and she didn’t want me to show her any other cool things you could do with it. For my wife, it was a tool, and she had no interest in it beyond that.

But I learned how to find bulletin boards, and make pictures, and websites, and find programs, and customize my desktop, and play games, and… you get the picture. Today, for example, I’m so hooked in with my tech, that I carry my cell phone/pda/mp3 player/game set around my neck on a noose. Well, actually it’s a lanyard, but some days I wonder…

Bit by bit, as my wife’s interest grew, and as her need for the tool grew, she became more and more connected to the computer. Even to the point where she’s set up a wireless network on her own, and even set up video chat with my parents.

OK, so what does all this rambling mean?

You might look at your computer and say, “This is a tool to help me make money.” And you’d be right. That’s what it’s there for. But that’s not all that it can do. If you let yourself play with it a bit, you’ll be surprised what you can learn. And one of my core beliefs is: The more you know, the more you can earn.

Your business is an Internet Business. That means that in addition to knowing your business (your products, your customers, etc) you must also know the internet, and the technology that carries your message.

So, take your shovel out in the back yard and dig a hole!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Freedom and Rights?

Censorship. It’s one of those words we use that means lots of different things to lots of different people. It’s one of those words that’s very emotionally charged, one that sends blood pressures rising and tensions mounting.

On a purely academic level, censorship is something that prevents some sort of expression. It’s all around us, in various forms, and we all do it. It’s not just when an oppressive government stamps out an opposition newspaper. It’s also when a public library decides not to buy a certain book because it’s too lewd, or when a school filters its internet service. It’s also happening when your wife asks you, “Now be honest, does this skirt make my butt look big?”

So, not all censorship is evil. Sometimes it’s very appropriate. Not all censorship is good, either.

But we’ve built our society around certain rights, and one of those rights is free speech. And, essentially, another of those rights is free enterprise. And there are times when those can collide. Let me tell you a story.

Many years ago, I was working full-time in the music industry, and I signed on with a program for the distribution of independent music. “Indies”, as they are called, are musicians that are self-produced, and usually not signed to a record label. If they are signed, then it’s to a smaller label that’s not tied to any of the big boys.

The man that ran this distribution network (called the Independent Musicians’ Co-op, or IMC) had set some standards for the artists that he wanted to carry. In addition to making sure that the music had a baseline of studio quality (no living-room recordings here), he also wanted to make sure that there were no albums listed that were blatantly offensive or obscene.

At the time, one of the projects I’d recorded was a metal band, and while their music wasn’t foul or obscene, the cover they’d chosen for the album was pretty violent. So much so, that I wasn’t sure that it would be appropriate for the IMC.

So, I met with the owner.

He reviewed the material, and as we talked about it, we both agreed that it was borderline. He wanted to include as diverse a musical base as he could, but the cover was just too much. He was quite apologetic to me, partly because we were friends, and partly because he’d not had to approve a project that was so edgy before.

He commented that he didn’t want anyone to scream, “Censorship!” at him, but he felt the cover to be too violent.

At the time, I told him what has since solidified into my own personal understanding and policy. I told him that I didn’t feel that his choice was inappropriate at all. He wasn’t telling the band what they could or could not do. He wasn’t forbidding them or controlling them. They still had every right and every freedom to make the music they wanted and to put any cover they wanted on it. They also had the right to explore any distribution method they wanted. They had full freedom of speech.

Here’s how it applies to the business world: I also told him that he, as a business owner, had the full right (under the rights of free enterprise) to decide what his business would sell. If a product didn’t fit with his vision for his business, or if it didn’t fit appropriately with his audience, then he had every right to decline it.

See, just because one person has the right to free speech, doesn’t mean that the rest of the world has the obligation to listen to it. Just because a product is released doesn’t mean that every store in the world has to sell it. If you don’t believe in it, don’t stock it on your shelves.

And if that makes some people scream about censorship, then let them. We all have our rights!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


July 24th is a very exciting day in Utah. There are parades, barbecues, and parties. There are celebrations in parks, complete with bands, rides, food, rodeos and dancing. It’s a great time for sharing with family. And it all ends in the night with Fireworks. You can drive up into the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains overlooking the Salt Lake City metro area and see firework displays lighting up all across the valley.

It celebrates the day the first pioneer settlers came down Emigration Canyon and into the valley in their wagon trains in 1847.

A few years ago, in 1997, Utah celebrated the Sesquicentennial of that event (that’s a $75 word for “150-year anniversary”). There were lots of the same sorts of celebrations, all turned up a notch, but there was also something special. There were groups of people that re-enacted the trek of thousands of miles by walking and riding wagons and horses all the way across the scorching summer plains of Nebraska and Wyoming.

Of course, there were those in the trek that did it a little bit differently than our pioneer forefathers. The old-timers didn’t have GPS satellite pointers to mark the paths. They didn’t have cell phones or RV’s or mp3 players. I remember hearing about one man, a reporter, who made the trek posting digital photos on his blog along the way. He had a satellite internet connection and a solar panel to recharge the batteries in his laptop.

Partly in an attempt to get connected with my own pioneer ancestors, and partly out of interest, and partly because my wife got me a fortuitous Father’s Day gift, I’ve been learning how to cook in a dutch oven this summer. It has been a lot of fun, and I’ve been making some interesting and very scrumptious meals, if I do say so myself. The first one was pizza (because I had a fond memory of dutch oven pizza from a scout camp), then a chicken and rice dish with lemon slices, then an odd, but delicious, chicken soup. My attempt at making bread didn’t turn out so well, but the cobbler I made for a night out with our friends did.

I’ve been pouring over instruction books, on the ‘net and from the bookstore shelves, looking over recipes and learning all I can. I’m constantly amazed at what impressive, even gourmet meals I see in pictures that have been cooked outside with little more than this black iron pot and some coals. There are all kinds of breads and rolls, soups and stews, cakes and pies. It’s like anything that you can cook, fry, bake or boil can be made in this thing.

So, where am I going with all this?

Well, here it is: I spend all day at work on the computer. I teach my students, I work on my websites, I set up and monitor my promotions. I build links and write blogs. When I’m not at my desk, I’m carrying my cell phone. I can call, text message, or jump on the ‘net from anywhere. I can also read books and spin songs on my handheld.

When I go home, I’ll unwind in front of the TV, or spend some more time chatting online with a friend. Maybe I’ll spend some time recording a song in my studio and upload it to my site. I’m a child of my times. I am connected. I am wired.

Until just recently, I thought “roughing it” meant a dialup connection.

So, my point is that even though it’s very important to be actively engaged in your online business on a daily basis, and that it takes lots of hours at the computer to make a business run, it’s also good to unplug. Take some time and do some things that separate you from the busy tech-driven world.

My pioneer ancestors walked across the plains without a broadband connection or even a microwave. Yet, somehow, they survived. You can live without it for a little while, too.

Don’t worry, it’ll still be there when you get back.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Words, Words, Words

The ‘net is all about communications.

That’s it.

Here we’ve got this really cool toy that allows us to move information around the world as good as instantly. We move pictures, sounds, numbers, and even money, it’s true, but most of what we move is words.

That’s right, as much as we talk about the web as a source of media in all its various forms, the vast, vast majority of all communications over the net is text. And that means that to effectively do business on the ‘net, you have to become comfortable with using words. You have to use words to convert website visitors into buyers. You have to use the right words so that people find you using search engines. You have to use words well when you’re responding to a customer’s email. Ads have to be written, agreements read and signed. It’s all in the words.

Unfortunately, there are many people who don’t feel confident in their word skills. I can understand that. It’s a confidence thing. But nonetheless, there are some things that, done continuously, can make you a better writer. And it’s not like all the drudgery that you dealt with in school, either.

First of all, in order to write well, it helps to read, and read lots. The more you read, the more your mind becomes saturated with language, and the more good writing you absorb. It becomes easier to write because what you write will “sound better” in your mind’s ear. It’s good to know rules of grammar, but what will work best is training your mind to listen for the way sentences should be put together.

Start off by reading things you like. Pick some fun novels. Read magazines about your interests, your hobbies, your business. Then read to get informed. Get on the net and find content-rich sites. Read your competition’s websites. Read the newspaper. Not only are you filling your mind with the sound of good language, but you’ll be learning the things you’re reading about. You’ll stay informed.

While reading will help you write better, there’s nothing that will improve you like practice. You’ll need to write. And just like you had to read a lot, you’ll want to write a lot.

Start off writing for fun. Write emails to family and friends. Keep a journal. These are useful because they’re low pressure. You can’t make mistakes because there’s basically nothing at stake. You’re not turning them in for a grade, you’re not trying to close a sale, you’re just writing about your day. With no pressure, you can just let it all go and have fun with it. Do it EVERY DAY.

Starting a personal blog is a great idea, too, but it’s a bit more public. Still, since it’s personal, there’s no rules about what you’re writing about or what you’re saying. So, it’s still pretty much just for fun. Still, it can also help build an audience and point traffic at your website, so it still has some direct business value as well.

In doing business on the web, you’ll need to learn to write to sell. This is really the same as what English professors might call “Writing to Convince”. The business world calls it “Ad Copy”. Whatever you call it, it involves putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, and writing something that, from their perspective, solves their problems. There are a lot of ways to learn how to do this, all the way from taking classes, to simply reading lots of ads.

I do have to add one thing that’s also critical to successful internet writing. As long as the computer is an obstacle between your mind and the written word, it will be difficult. That means that you need to be familiar with both the workings of word processing, and fluent with the keyboard. And, while taking classes is a good way to learn, nothing beats practice!

This will show my age, but when I was in high school, our typing classes were mostly filled with girls, preparing to be secretaries. Even though it was a man teaching the class, there were only 4 boys among the students. I didn’t even do that well. When I got out, I think I was at about 30 wpm, tops.

These days, they often start kids in what are now called “keyboarding” class in elementary school, and everyone is involved.

When I was a kid, it was possible for someone to be very successful in business and life without ever knowing how to type. Not anymore. Heck, there are kids who can text message with their thumb on a cell phone faster than I could type when I was their age!

With practice and patience, any of these obstacles can be overcome. Fill your mind’s ear with good words. Write every day. Learn your tools. It will pay off big in the long run.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of…

Almost all Americans know that quote. It comes from the Declaration of Independence. This document, while it has no legal bearing on our government (where the Constitution does), spells out clearly the ideals of what it means to be American. In a lot of ways, it’s like our country’s mission statement.

Here’s the full quote:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” (for a full, annotated text of the Declaration, go to:

That spells out that we believe that everyone on the earth should have the right to live, the right to choose their own path, and the right to be happy and seek to better their own lives.

It’s that last part that I want to talk about today. Actually, I want to celebrate it today. The Pursuit of Happiness. That simple phrase, when applied economically, has created a concept, a focus, that we often nebulously refer to as “The American Dream”. This is the idea that no matter what the circumstance, a person with creativity, motivation and persistence can excel in America. That’s why America’s economy is one of the strongest in the world. That’s why America is often referred to as “The Land of Opportunity”.

American history is full of “rags to riches” stories of impoverished children or immigrants who arrived on our shores penniless. People who, after much hard work and innovation, amassed great fortunes.

Most of you who are reading this today are doing so because you’re entrepreneurs yourself. Maybe you’re on the edge of it, merely considering taking the plunge. Do you have the creativity to stand out, to make a difference? Do you have the motivation to try? To move from dreaming to action? Do you have the persistence to keep at it until the success comes, to not abandon your dreams because they don’t happen as fast as you wanted at first?

To you, I say, welcome to this Land of Opportunity!

If you want to have a part in this land, but you feel you don’t have those traits I mentioned, join in anyway, and strive to develop them! Get help! Work with others whose strengths complement your weaknesses. Learn and grow. Then turn around, and help others learn and grow in your steps.

Ours is a great tradition of a free market economy. Yes, in many cases, it has had to be regulated and maintained. Yes, the freedom to excel has often brought with it the freedom to exploit. Many who’ve chosen these destructive paths have caused considerable damage to the world around them. It’s not a perfect system.

But I still celebrate it. In this season of celebrating our nation, let’s remember our roots and celebrate our freedom to pursue happiness.

And let’s celebrate it by going out and pursuing it with vigor.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

How to Buy Advertising Part II

CPC, CPA, CPM, What do all these TLA’s mean?

Last time we talked about two ways to understand advertising. Two models of what advertising is like: Duck hunting and deer hunting. Duck hunting advertising is the kind that shoots a lot of ads at lots of people and some of them hit. Deer hunting is where you take aim at a target market and shoot your ads right in front of them.

This time we want to talk about three more models, but this time they’re pricing models, represented by the letters CPM, CPC, and CPA. These show us how advertising is bought and sold, and how results are tracked. Knowing how to use these TLA’s (Three-Letter Acronyms) will help you when you decide what kind of advertising to use and when you go to make the purchase. They’re really not that hard to understand. Let’s take them one at a time.

CPM stands for “Cost Per Mil”. It’s often seen as “Cost Per Mille” or spoken as “Cost Per Thousand”, because the word Mil is Latin for 1,000. We start off with this one because it’s the one that’s the most common in the world of traditional advertising. Let’s say, for an arbitrary example, that someone wants to buy an ad in a newsletter. Let’s say that one newsletter has a circulation of 5,000. And let’s say that the ad costs $50. An ad in that publication would then be priced at $10 CPM, or in other words, $10 per 1000 readers. That ad would be a better deal than in a mailer with a circulation of 7,000 that cost $100 (a little more than $14 CPM).

Online, CPM is also sometimes expressed in terms of CPI, or “Cost Per Impression”. This means that when an ad loads onto a computer screen (as a part of a web page, email, or pop-up, etc…) it has been shown once (one “impression”). A single impression, granted, is different than 1,000 impressions, but it’s still paying per showing, like a magazine or TV ad.

CPM advertising is often used (both online and off) for branding. These are ads that, while they might not generate immediate response or immediate traffic, solidify the name recognition of a product. Political ads at election time are perfect examples of branding.

CPC is a system that’s unique to Internet advertising. It’s an acronym for “Cost Per Click” and that means that the company buying the advertising only pays when the potential customer clicks through the ad to the website. It’s a great way to buy ads, because you don’t pay when it doesn’t work. If an ad appears 100 times on 100 websites, but only generates one click, then the buyer only pays for that one click.

While one might think that this would be less expensive, in the long run, it can cost the same. The cost for that one click can easily be as much as the cost for a hundred or even a thousand or more impressions.

CPC is often referred to as “Pay Per Click” or PPC, especially when referring to advertising on the search engines. This is where the search engines place text ads for “Sponsored Links” above and to one side of their “organic listings”. Advertisers place bids on certain keywords and when someone clicks on their ad, the amount of their bid is deducted from their account. The higher the bid, the closer to the top is the listing.

Finally, there is the CPA. This stands for “Cost Per Acquisition” or sometimes “Cost Per Action”. This means that the advertising company has a way of tracking not only when someone clicks through an ad to a site, but also if the customer acts on the offer at the landing page. If the customer buys something, or signs up for an offer, then they are an acquisition or they have acted, and the advertiser pays for the ad. This is more complicated to set up, and usually costs the most, but in the end, you’re paying for real results.

In the world of advertising there are many variations and shades of these three models, and know what they are and how they work will allow you to first, speak intelligently with those that are trying to sell you, and two, understand what is best for your business!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How to Buy Advertising Part I

Going Hunting

Buying advertising can be a very confusing thing. What kind? Where? How much should I do, and how much will it cost? How will I track my results? It can leave you pretty baffled.

Let me start out simplifying things a little bit.

First of all, let’s talk about hunting. Deer hunting and duck hunting, specifically. Don’t worry, no deer or ducks were harmed in the writing of this article.

But they make for a convenient analogy because all of the world’s advertising fits very nicely into one of those two models.


OK, this is where a hunter goes out in the woods near a swamp or pond. There’s a lot of ducks in the air, and he shoulders his shotgun and blasts up a spray of tiny little pellets. Most of them miss. But, a few of them hit, and he gets his dinner.

This is comparable to advertising methods like newspapers, television, radio, and other mass media outlets. Often mailers (traditional and emailers) will be “duck hunting style”. Flyers and handbills fall into this category as well. You might be able to do a certain amount of general aiming, like the hunter does when he decides where to point his gun, but overall you’re just looking for coverage. You’re not so concerned with who’s out there, but rather you’re interested in getting in front of as many people as possible. You put out lots of ads, and most of them miss. But—enough of them hit that you’re profitable, like the hunter getting his dinner.


On the other side of the forest is the deer hunter. He shoots with a rifle, which aims a single shot straight at the target. This kind of advertising is targeted and focused at the people that we already know are interested in our product. In this category are strategies like Magazines (with all their special interests), and direct mailings using targeted lists. Building your own business mailing list is a big part of deer hunting advertising as well. Online, it includes strategies like inbound linking and search engine optimization.

The question that’s in your mind shouldn’t be “Which one is the best,” because they are both effective. They are effective in different ways and with different situations. The question should be “How should I use each one?”

For example, duck hunting is usually done in much higher quantities that deer hunting. Think of it this way. There’s only one bullet in a rifle, but there’s a lot of shot bb’s in a shot gun shell. So, when you do duck hunting advertising, you’ll want to do a LOT of it. If you make one flyer and put it in a single supermarket bulletin board, you’ll probably not get many customers. As a result, per unit, duck hunting advertising is usually much less expensive. In the long run, since you have to buy more of it, you still end up paying.

Duck hunting is also the style of choice for branding advertising. These are ads that, instead of focusing on immediate response, focus on getting the company or the product name in people’s minds. Almost all television ads are branding exercises, and many online ads are also branding. For branding to work, you have to see the company or product name a lot. Why do we recognize the McDonalds arch? Because we’ve seen it over and over and over for years and years.

Deer hunting advertising, while usually being much more expensive per unit, is also much more effective in terms of response. It makes sense. If the ad appears in front of people who are interested, they’re more likely to respond, right? The biggest challenge with this kind of advertising can often be correctly identifying your audience. If you’re marketing to the wrong people, in the wrong way, you won’t get many results. That’s why you don’t often see perfume ads in “Field and Stream”.

The idea, in setting up your advertising campaigns, is to utilize both duck and deer hunting strategies. Don’t neglect either one, but don’t confuse them, either. Imagine going duck hunting with a rifle. It would be difficult to make it all work.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Have you taken your kids to a museum or a zoo lately? Maybe a planetarium or some other destination that involves some sort of experience? Here’s how that experience might look:

First, you arrive. You might have to pay for parking, depending on where the center is. You might also have to pay admission, but most likely the entrance is free. At the very least, the admission isn’t very much.

Once you get inside, there’s a whole bunch of exhibits and activities all around. There’s lots of places where you and your kids can learn and dig and touch and experience whatever the theme of the destination is. Maybe it’s all about dinosaurs, or wildlife, or space. Your kids will probably rush in and start “feasting at the table” that’s spread there in front of them. You might have a tough time keeping up with them.

As you’re walking around, you might be a little hungry or thirsty, so you might spend a buck or two on a soda and a bag of chips each.

Then, you might notice some special exhibits that cost extra. Maybe one is a touring exhibit only there for a limited time, or maybe it’s one of those huge-screen Imax films. These things might cost anywhere from $5 to $15.

As you look at the printed program they gave you when you came in, you might notice that they’d love to have you contribute to the charitable foundation that supports the museum. Maintaining these places ain’t cheap, and they’d love to have help from those that have enjoyed the experience. You can buy a “membership” for as little as $50 or so, which allows you discounts on some of the other stuff, and maybe advance notice on special events. You could become a “patron” for as much as $500 or even more, where they would engrave your name on a big wall.

Finally, just before you leave, you hit the gift store. You’ve just had a great experience, and your kids want T-shirts, and toys, and hats, and souvenirs.

Let’s look at what happened:

1. You got in for free (or very little money), and you got to experience a lot of really cool stuff just for showing up.
2. They offered you a chance to enhance your experience by upgrading into a better package.
3. They presented you with opportunities to get involved that were all across a price spectrum. Some things were cheap, some quite expensive.
4. Finally, there was an opportunity to shop.

So, let’s talk about how to make this business model applicable to your website.

First, entice people to come into your site, and participate in the experience. That means content: Articles, information, interactive bits, relevant games. Have them join a forum, or comment on a blog. Bring them in and let them get their hands dirty in your site.

Second, get them interested in some advanced features of your site. Offer some special services to “members”. Offer some products to them that are not available to regular shoppers, or a bit of special consulting time.

Third, don’t just carry cheap products, and don’t go exclusively high-end. Make sure that all your products are relevant to the theme of your site, but offer a wide variety. Not all fine jewelry costs $2000.

Lastly, After they’ve looked around the site content and enjoyed the tour, let them shop through your catalog.

These four steps can change your web business from a simple website to a destination!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Podcasting Without Actually Podcasting


Did you understand what you just read? Or am I finally completely flipped out? How can you do something without actually doing it?

Well, what I’d like to talk about today could be summed up as “How to use the current trend of podcasting to promote my web business, without the difficulty of creating, maintaining, and promoting my own podcast!”

First, a bit of catch-up: Podcasting is a relatively new phenomenon where people create audio content (like music, or spoken commentary and interviews) and put it out on their websites. The advent of the iPod technology allows listeners to subscribe to their favorite podcasts using a program called an “aggregator”, and whenever a new episode of a ‘cast is released, it is automatically downloaded. In many cases, programs will not only download it automatically, but will also immediately install it onto the subscriber’s iPod, or other portable mp3 player. It’s information about your favorite topics, on a complete grab-and-go basis.


There’s lots of potential for promotion of a web business this way. Creating a “radio show” full of cool information and interviews about your website topic is great, and while building a subscriber base, you’re also pointing people to shop at your site.

But, creating a podcast can be a technical affair, involving mics, recording, tweaking of volume levels, waveform editing, and lots of other twists. Then you have to find the host and set up the site. It can be an organizational challenge as well, booking guests for the interviews, blocking out time to produce the ‘cast… For some, all these add up to make it all prohibitive.

So, that’s where this article comes in. In the past year, as I’ve seen the podcasting phenomenon grow, I’ve begun to see how it can be very effective to use other people’s existing podcasts to promote your site rather than trying to start your own.

One way is to acquire advertising time and/or space on someone else’s ‘cast. Another is to be the interviewed guest on a ‘cast, or to provide some kind of content for them to use.

Either way, the first step is to find the ‘casts you want to get in on. Look to podcast hosts like, or podcast directories like, and Remember the guiding principle of targeted marketing: Find where your audience is, and put yourself there. Look for ‘casts based around topics that interest your demographic.

Once you’ve found one with possibilities, investigate it. Most ‘casts have their own main host website. Check it out. Download and listen to an episode or two. This can be time consuming, because some ‘casts can be as much as an hour or more long. Still, not only will you find your audience in this process, but by listening to what they’re listening to, you’ll also find out lots ABOUT your audience as well!

That’s the real work. The next step is getting your site’s name and message in front of the audience of these podcasts.

One way to do this is to buy advertising in the ‘cast. And there’s a couple of ways to do that as well. One is to buy visual advertising on the ‘cast’s main page. This is a great way to get eyes and clicks on your ad. The downside of that is that once people subscribe to the ‘cast, they’re getting the content delivered straight to their iPod, and there’s no need to return to the site. So, if the ‘cast is growing, then there’s lots of new eyes on the site. If the ‘cast is stable, there won’t be so much site traffic.

Another benefit to visual advertising is that it provides a link back to your site, which can boost your search engine link popularity.

Another approach some ‘casts will do is to make audio ads in the podcast itself. The big advantage of these is, of course, that the listeners hear the ad whether or not they go to the site. The down side of these ads is that there’s no immediate response. The interested listener has to go back to their computer, call up a web browser and type in the address themselves. Still, it’s good for branding advertising.

The cost of these advertising efforts depends on the individual podcast. Generally speaking, the more popular the ‘cast, the more expensive the ad, and the greater the reach.

A second approach to utilizing other people’s ‘casts is one I’ve been able to play quite a bit in my efforts to promote my CD. That’s the strategy of providing content (often in the form of guest interviews) to existing podcasts.

Again, the first step will be to find ‘casts that appeal to your audience. Then, when you’re checking out their website, contact them. Mention your website, and your unique area of expertise. Comment on how that knowledge is of interest to their (and your) audience. Let them know that you’d love to do an interview. The actual process for the interviews can differ. I’ve just set one up that will take place this summer that will be done over Skype (internet voice phone). Another one I did last year was an actual face-to-face interview that got recorded. A third one that I’ve participated in was one where I merely sent some audio content (a song), and they included it in their ‘cast (a musical radio show).

This has a lot of advantages over advertising. One big one is that you get a lot more time and attention in the interview than you do in a short ad. Often, the ‘casters will include info and a link in their site for their guests, where they might not always for advertisers.

Keep in mind that one of the great challenges for a podcaster is to find interesting and relevant content week after week, month after month. You’d be helping to provide that for them.

All in all, it adds up to a great way to promote yourself, especially if you’re not feeling technically confident enough to produce your own ‘cast. You can still get in on what is becoming more and more an entrenched movement, and less and less of a passing fad.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Let’s Affiliate!

(Part of the Internet Business 101 Article series)

Unless you’re brand new to the internet, or you’ve been hiding under your mouse, you’re probably aware of what an affiliate program is. As a catch-up, it’s an advertising network where lots of websites (the affiliates) point links to a central website (the merchant). A visitor comes to the affiliate’s site, and clicks through that link to the merchant site. The clickthrough carries a tracking code with it, so that if the visitor buys something, the merchant records who the visitor came from, and credits that affiliate’s account with a percentage of the sale. When that account reaches a threshold (often $50), the merchant cuts a check to the affiliate.

It’s a pretty simple system. As an affiliate, you provide the merchant with an inbound link, and traffic. If you make sales, they provide you with money. Win-win!

This technology and marketing strategy has been around for many, many years. I remember back in the day, when I was first learning how to build websites, I signed up for a GeoCities free personal page. I was making a family tree site. I liked how it looked, too. I noticed that there were a lot of other GeoCities sites with this strange ad to a place called “”. A little bit of research showed it to be one of the first affiliate programs, and actually, that’s what put the now-huge retailer on the internet map.

So, it’s possible to use affiliate programs on your own website in a couple of ways.

One is to monetize an information-based website. Is there something you really enjoy, but you can’t find product to sell in that topic? Find some affiliates that relate to that content and that audience. Make a site with lots of up-to-date information, and lots of affiliate links. Got a blog? Put on the affiliate links and turn it into an income stream!

Another is to provide additional products for your customers to buy. Let’s say you have a site selling dropshipped camping supplies. Why not affiliate link to Amazon for some camping books or travel guides?

There are a lot of mistakes made by many affiliate adopters that you should be aware of.

1. Picking the wrong Affiliate Program to join

Always pick programs that sell products of interest to your audience. In the early days, people would put up an Amazon link just to have one. Just because of the off chance that someone would arrive at their site and think, “Oh! Now’s the chance to buy that new mystery I’ve been wanting to read!”

The end result was no clickthroughs, no commissions to speak of, but a lot of free branding advertising for Amazon!

Do some due diligence and look into the companies. It’s tough to take the effort to sign up, paste the codes into your site, and then see the company fold.

There are a lot of great sites where you can research and find good affiliate programs. Sites like,, and These sites also have articles loaded with good affiliate marketing tips.

2. Generic Linking

This mistake refers to linking from your site to the main page of a merchant’s site, with little or no reference to the products inside. It’s like you signed up for the affiliate program, and simply copied and pasted the link into your site. No setup, no recommendation. Just “click here and buy something.”

There’s very little that could be less attractive than this.

Consider these case studies.

A long time ago, I was looking for a site where I could buy a “Dummies” book. I did a quick search engine check, found a likely site, and clicked in. What I found was a very well-made site, full of reviews of the various books. I found the one I wanted, and when I clicked on it, was surprised to find myself at the page OF THAT VERY BOOK. This was not a generic click to the main page in the hopes that I would find something I liked. This was a site that essentially set up Amazon as their dropship fulfillment house. They prepped me, they closed me, and they sent me to Amazon only to take the order.

Another site I visited was owned by a doctor. It contained pages and pages of information about the various illnesses and procedures he specialized in. At the bottom of each of these pages there was a bibliography. As I moused over each book in the bibliography, I discovered they were links. Guess where they linked to? That’s right! The page for that book.

The moral of the story? Find and use affiliate programs that allow you to link to specific products, not just the main page of the site.

3. No content

Affiliate sites thrive on traffic.

Think of it. A certain amount of people will click into your site. A certain percentage of those will find your affiliate links interesting. A certain number of those will click through, and a percentage of those will actually buy, generating a commission for you.

So, it stands to reason that the more people you load into the front end of that food chain, the more people will buy at the back end. So, what’s going to bring people to your site, and then keep them there long enough to go to an affiliate merchant? Content!

You have to have information, relevant and usable, on the website. That’s what draws in the visitors, that’s what makes them want to buy. Articles, instructions, blogs, whatever you do, make it informative and update it often!

And make the affiliates you join relate well to the content. You’re drawing in that audience, so sell them what they’re looking for.

4. Not knowing the payment thresholds and policies of the merchant.

Read your agreement! Know what the percentages are, and how often they pay. Learn how they account for the money and how they’re audited. This will save you a lot of grief in the long run.

5. Gaming the system

If there’s a system on the net that can benefit someone, there will also be a program someone has written to game it. By that, I mean that someone will create a way to cheat it and make either money or misery off of it, without providing the value. Affiliates can find a way to cheat the merchants with fake clickthroughs and orders. Merchants will find ways to cheat the affiliates out of the clickthroughs.

The best advice regarding gaming? Don’t! Eventually, you will be caught and you could face expulsion at least and criminal charges at worst. Long run, It’s not worth it!

6. Spamming

And while we’re talking about bad form, let’s not forget spam! Including affiliate links in spam emails can get you expelled from a merchant’s program pretty fast. It doesn’t take much for people to get irritated enough to report you. Best to not push it! If you do send out an affiliate address (in a non-spam email, of course), make sure that it’s not so long that it breaks and wraps half-way onto the next line. That will make it so the click link won’t work, and it’ll be much more clumsy for people to respond to.

So, there you have some great ideas for avoiding bad ideas in the affiliate world. Let’s turn traffic flow into cash flow!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Scanning the Horizon: New outlets for TV ads

Note: “Scanning the Horizon” articles are notes about trends that are happening in the web marketing world. It might not be possible for many small web businesses to take advantage of these ideas yet (due to financial or other challenges), but it’s vital to be aware of what’s happening around the world of net business.

“Viral Videos” have been around for a long time. Short, funny little clips that people share around the web. You might get one in your inbox, play it, and smile. Then you think of someone that would enjoy it, so you send it along to them, and a bunch of other people that you see in your address book. It’s likely that many of them will do the same, sharing it through their social network. Pretty soon, the clip has made the rounds, spreading across the ‘net like a virus, but not doing any damage.

Some of the early ones I saw were simple things, like the funny clips of someone riding their bike into a tree or falling off a boat. Pretty soon, anything funny, quirky, or attention grabbing was circulating all around the web. People started making their own fun clips and sharing them.

It was only a matter of time before people saw the potential for marketing. It’s easy enough to simply put a company name on the email that’s carrying the video attachment. It’s a little more difficult, but a little more effective, to put your company name and address directly in the video, at the beginning and/or the end.

But the best idea is to make the video itself an ad for your product. And that’s where all this has been going in the last few years.

A lot of companies put their TV ads up on their websites, for people to download and share. It’s easy to find, for example, all the superbowl ads for a given year. keeps a running archive of their often-controversial, frequently-censored ads.

But even more recently than that, companies have seen the potential for branding by creating ads for the sole purpose of releasing them virally on the web. These are never intended for Network or even Cable TV release in the first place. Companies put them out, and let the power of viral interconnectivity do the talking.

It has some real advantages and challenges:

First of all, the ads have to be good. They have to be funny, shocking, or attention grabbing. They can’t just announce your president’s day sale or a special discount. There has to be a story line, a punchline, and payoff. If it’s like 90% of the ads on TV today, it’ll never go anywhere on the web. The result? A company might end up paying a whopping lot more to produce an ad for the web than they do to produce a TV spot. They’ve got to have good creative people who can think innovatively, and deliver.

Second, once the ads are made, the delivery is much cheaper. Considering the millions of dollars spent getting their ad into the lineup at each TV network and station, it’s much easier to put it in a few key sites on the web, and let nature take its course.

Third, a company can get away with much more in web-based ads than they could ever do even on cable TV. Many viral web ads are racy, violent, shocking, and edgy. Why? Because they don’t have to deal with FCC regulations. They’re not being broadcast over airwaves, but rather made available for those that want them. As a result, they can push the envelope. In fact, many feel that in order to get any sort of impact on the information-glut that is the internet, they HAVE to be more daring.

Not everyone agrees. There are many ads that are simply clever, funny, and intriguing that are being circulated. Here are some good examples to begin an exploration of these kinds of ads:

How does all this impact a small business owner? Most are unlikely to have the budget required to create a high-end, professional ad, but if someone’s clever, and has access to a camera and some editing software, who knows what can be done? Adapt the ideas, be flexible. Taking advantage of the viral nature of the way information spreads on the ‘net is an excellent way of promoting a website.

Most of all, simply being aware of what’s happening better prepares you to participate as circumstances change.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

“Someday Never Comes”

This morning, as I was getting ready for work, doing the shower and shave thing, my mind drifted into one of my favorite songs. It’s by Credence Clearwater Revival, and it’s called “Someday Never Comes.” It’s all about a young man coming to terms with family struggles. The verses each end with the phrase, “Someday, you’ll understand.”

But then the chorus comes in strong:

“Well I’m here to tell you now
Each and every mother’s son
You’d better learn it fast
And you’d better learn it young
Because someday never comes
Someday never comes”

As I thought about it this morning, I started to think of it in other contexts, beyond family functioning. I started to realize just how often I fall into what I now call, “The Someday Trap.”

This is represented by the thinking that someday something will happen, and I will be happy. For example, someday, I’ll get that job and then I’ll be happy. Someday, my business will take off, and I’ll be rich. Someday, I’ll retire, and then I’ll be able to relax.

It doesn’t even have to be as big as those. It can be simpler things, like: Someday, I’ll get a faster computer, and then my website will really fly. Someday, I’ll get that top search engine ranking, and people will flock to my site.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that someday never comes, and there’s two reasons why.

One, as long as your thinking is locked in the someday instead of the here and now, you’re trapped. If you think living in the past is a problem, living in the future is even worse. You’re constantly dreaming of how nice it’ll be when some imaginary thing happens, and you’re not putting any effort into making that thing real.

Fantasy is great. It fills you with feelings of well-being and comfort. Fantasy can motivate. It can inspire, and even lead you to creative problem solving. But only if you come down out of the clouds once in a while to implement what you’ve been fantasizing about. Come out of the someday, and do something today.

Two, someday never comes for the same reason that tomorrow never comes. When you wake up tomorrow morning, it will no longer be tomorrow, it will be today, and there’ll be another tomorrow a day away. What I’m saying is that once you do get to your someday, there’s a new someday even farther ahead that you want even more.

“Someday, I’ll get that new car, and I’ll really be driving in style!”

Great. And when you do get it, you’ll find that it won’t be too long before that new car isn’t cool enough. It’s going out of style. There’s a new model with more features. More bells, more whistles. And you want that one, too.

I’m not saying it’s bad to keep wanting to grow and change. That’s what drives capitalism and business. That’s what keeps making things better and better. I AM saying, however, that if you always put your happiness and self-worth in the someday, you’ll never get there. Because someday never comes.

So, plan for the future, and hope for the future, but live in the today, work for today, be happy today.

Because someday never comes.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Using MySpace, Part II

Last time, we talked about how works, and how to protect your kids who want to be on it. It’s a big, exciting, online club, and it’s fun to be a part of. It’s also important to play safe.

So, this week, we’re going to talk about how to use MySpace to promote your business. I’m writing this after using MS to promote my music website for quite some time, now. My own myspace profile can be found at

MySpace is basically a place where people gather. As a result, if you want to make it effective, you have to realize that you have to be a bit careful how you advertise. You could come across as being quite pushy if it’s done wrong.

In fact, it’s probably best to not think of running a MySpace profile as an “advertisement” and think of it instead as a way to build up your customer base. And there’s a difference.

So, here’s how to do it:

1. Is your business right for MySpace?

MySpace promotion is a very time-intensive process. Before you invest a lot of time and effort into it, take a little time and effort discovering it. Click into some of the profiles, get familiar with the interface. Jump from profile to profile in the “friends” list. It’ll seem pretty chaotic at first, but before long, it’ll start to make sense.

You’ll probably notice very quickly that most of the people with profiles on MySpace are between the ages of 15 and 25 or so. There are variations, but the majority fall into that range. They’re also, by and large, a tech-savvy bunch, and very aware of trends and popular culture. Some are outgoing and opinionated by nature, others are using MySpace because they feel shy face-to-face. Does that sound like your demographic? Is that the audience you want to market your products to? If so, then MySpace is your place. If not, then don’t waste your time here.

2. Set up your “space”

If you realize, like I did, that this is where your target market hangs out on the ‘net, then you’ll want to have a presence there, too. At the top, you can click into the registration page, and after following their instructions and answering a few questions (as well as uploading a picture or two), you can have your MySpace profile page set up.

Here are some hints to make it more effective: One, make sure that you link, very conspicuously, to your website. The whole point is to get them to click there. Show pictures of the things you want them to buy. Grab their attention.

Two, many people fill up their profiles with hundreds of irrelevant pictures and animations and songs and videos. Resist that temptation. Keep it focused and clear.

3. Make Friends

The key to social networking websites like this one is a process called “adding friends”. Typically, a MySpacer will go to someone else’s profile page, and click the “Add to Friends” link. That person will then get a message saying that someone made a “friend request”. If it’s approved, then they each get added to each other’s “friend lists”, and have links back and forth to each other’s profiles. They can also post comments on each other’s pages.

A marketer trying to reach these young customers will think of the friends list as a variation of the mailing list. The more interested friends there are, the bigger the marketing base!

When you go out making friend requests, it’s usually a good idea, first of all, to target your market even more narrowly. Are you wanting to sell your products to boys or girls? What kinds of styles and music do they like? Are they a part of a particular organization, club, or church? You can use these things as search parameters and pull up lists of people that are ideal for your products.

When you visit their profiles, it’s best to send them a message as well as an add request, and to make that a more personalized message. Comment on their profile page, or on something they said there. Comment on why they might like what you’re promoting: “I see you’re a skater! Do you do halfpipe tricks? We make some of the best street boards around!”

When someone accepts your friend request, or even if someone sends you a request, go to their profile and post a comment. Your profile picture and your comment will appear at the top of their comments list, for all to see, further promoting you.

Having lots of friends is great, but having lots of qualified friends is better. Blasting out hundreds of “add me” messages to anyone and their dog might get you responses, or it might get you blacklisted. In either case, it won’t bring you many buyers. Identify your target market and pursue them.

4. Use groups

MySpace has some extensive interest group pages, and forum sites. Find ones that are of interest to your audience and join them. Start actively participating. People will see your profile picture and click in and soon you’ll be getting more inbound ad requests, as well as clicks to your website.

5. Send bulletins, bring them to your site

Building up a big friend list, even a good quality one, is great, but if you don’t use that to promote your site, there’s no point. Sending a “bulletin” is a great way to do that. When you send a bulletin, that message gets sent to everyone in your friends list. It’s just like a newsletter mailer. Send out a bulletin often, but not too frequently. Have something to announce, like a new product, or a new page on your site. Running a special sale? Send out a bulletin!

The bottom line in any kind of marketing, but especially on the web, is to find your audience and get in front of them. If your audience is young and tech-tuned, then MySpace is the place to be to attract them to your site!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Using MySpace, Part I

Lately there’s been a lot of talk on the media about a site called “”. It’s primarily a place where people (and it’s used mostly by teens and twenty-somethings) to create a space for themselves on the web. They can collect friends and comments on their profile pages, post their own blog entries, and interact in the forums, groups, games, and chats.

The reason it’s been getting so much press and coverage is that there are some people out there using the net as predators, and they tend to gather wherever other people are also gathering. Where there’s fish, eventually the sharks will come. And some of the kids on MySpace aren’t always careful about the information they share.

Recently, a concerned mother asked me about it. “My daughter has a MySpace page, should I be worried?”

My first response to ask if she had checked out her MySpace page. When she answered no, I wasn’t surprised.

I asked her if her daughter had a driver’s license.


And does she drive her car?


You let her go out in the world in something as dangerous as a car? She could be killed, or hurt someone else!

“Yeah, but we’ve taught her how to use a car safely.”

So you see my point.

Here’s some ways you can help your teen or your young person be safe and enjoy MySpace

1. First of all, spend some time checking out their MySpace page. Check out what they’re saying about themselves in their profile. What kind of pictures are they posting? What’s the message they’re sending out about themselves? Click into check out some of the other people in their friends list. Your kids won’t have any control over what the others put in their profiles, but they have total control over who they accept on their friends list.

2. Tell your son or daughter that you are checking out their MySpace, and that their computer privileges can be conditional on what you find there. If they’re giving out too much information, you can tell them to cut back, and where. You can tell them if they’re posting pictures that are inappropriate. You can tell them if they’re sharing links with friends that make you nervous. If they accuse you of invading their privacy, tell them that it’s your job as a parent to do that. Besides, a MySpace page is public, and you should have just as much access to it as anyone else.

3. The minimum age that’s allowed on MySpace is 13. I’d recommend that you not allow anyone below 15 or 16. Those few years can make a huge difference in the maturity and responsibility of the child.

4. Online friends can be wonderful. I have a lot of them, most of whom I’ve never met face-to-face. The ones I’ve met face-to-face are ones that I’ve met as an adult. As the parent, you can tell your children that they are not to set up a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online EVER. There are certain conditions when a F2F meeting can be safe. If you’re with them in a public place, for example. Remember that a grown adult meeting another grown adult is risky enough. Don’t let your kids meet someone online without your protection, and maybe not even then.

5. Remind your child that just because someone’s profile says they are a 16-year-old high school kid, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they really are.

6. While you’re in your kids’ MySpace pages, take an opportunity to learn about them. When they come home and you ask, “What did you do in School today,” they’ll probably say, “Nuthin’” But then they’ll post blogs about the game or the math test, or whatever. You’ll have a good chance to discover what’s important to them.

MySpace is an exciting phenomenon, and if it’s misused, it can also be a dangerous place. Face it, the same can be said for the whole internet.

Have a safe drive out there on the information superhighway!

Next time in Using MySpace, Part II: If your target audience is trendy, tech-savvy youth, then MySpace can be the perfect place to promote your website. We’ll talk about how to do it right.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Three things I’ve learned from the music business

My first adventure in full-time self-employment came when I got fired from a regular job duplicating audio cassettes. Do you remember those? That was in the days when the CD’s were just beginning to take off.

I came home and told my wife that I’d been fired. She said something that changed my life forever. She said, “Well, honey, I think it’s time you tried to do your music.”

At the time, I wouldn’t have imagined those words being actually spoken by my wife, but she did. And we began the adventure. First of all, doing studio work, then live sound mixing. The business grew, and somehow, we managed to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads.

As it was going along, I learned three things, which I wrote as: Hansen’s Three Laws of Survival in the Music Business. They are:

1. The more you can do, the more you can get paid to do
2. If someone offers you money, take it
3. Do what you can with what you have

It turns out that they are the same for any self-employment situation. They could be called the Three Laws of Entrepreneurship. Let’s look at them one at a time.

1. The more you can do, the more you can get paid to do.

I started out many years before by learning how to play instruments and how to write songs. As I began to learn how to work in a studio, I also learned how to arrange and produce songs. I learned how to mix bands in live venues. The point is that the more I learned, the more opportunities I had to make money within the music world.

This isn’t the same as diversifying. I was still making music. I wasn’t doing music and car washing. But I was learning more and more, constantly learning about things that would make me a better musician.

In any business, the more you can offer a customer, within your focus, the more opportunities you have to make a sale. Stretch too far out of your focus, however, and you’ll end up stretched thin and unable to serve well.

2. If someone offers you money, take it

This seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Yet time after time I saw musicians let their attitudes get in the way of accepting money. And then they’d complain because they couldn’t make a living at it!

When I was growing up, I hated country music. Couldn’t stand it. The thought of even being remotely connected with anything country turned my innards. But then, thankfully, I learned that’s not a healthy attitude. One day, after recording a blues session, I was offered a steady gig, three nights a week, as the house sound engineer for a country/western dance club. Without even thinking about it, I accepted. For several years, I was there making the bands sound great, making contacts, and, of course, making money.

The lesson here is to not let your personal quirks get in the way of serving a potential customer.

3. Do what you can with what you have

There have been many times in my life where I’ve caught myself in “mope mode”. This is where I trap myself in a dark cloud of wishful thinking. I can tell when I’m in those kinds of moods because I’ll hear myself saying lots of things like, “If only I had…” or “I wish I could do…”

Usually, I get stopped in my tracks in music when I convince myself that without this or that particular piece of equipment, or without this or that opportunity, I can’t move on. I can’t go anywhere.

One of my mentors taught me this rule, and I can always count on it to raise me out of the funks. Instead of pining for something, I say, “What can I do right now to move forward?” And then I do it.

I’ve got, right now, in my basement studio, far more recording capability (at least as far as the technology goes) than the Beatles did when they recorded the masterpiece Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. What right do I have to mope? Above my keyboards in that studio hangs the adage, “Gripe Less, Do More.”

I’ll admit that I don’t always live by these three rules like I should myself. But when I do, my business and my musical life moves forward. When I don’t, it grinds to a crawl.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Do Nice Guys Finish Last?

A few years ago, while perusing one of those craft fair/boutique things at a open-air city festival, I found someone selling plaques with catchy sayings on them. One of them caught my eye, and really struck me. I asked the vendor about it.

“Oh, that?” He said, “That’s some good advice for parents.”

That’s true. Where was the quote from?

“Oh, that’s in the New Testament somewhere…”

So, I looked it up, and sure enough in the tenth chapter of Matthew, in verse sixteen. Now normally, I don’t like to quote Bible verses in a business-oriented article, nor do I intend to get all preachy and give a sermon. But what this verse says has such a universal application, and especially appeals to the business world, that I want to share it with you.

The verse says, “…Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

What amazing advice! Think of the words we often use to describe the business world. They include such scary images as: Cutthroat, dog-eat-dog, every man for himself, swimming with sharks, and lots of other things. Why is that? Because business is competitive. And we’re all trying to get a slice of the pie. And if my slice is bigger, then it must mean that yours is smaller. The best way to grow your business is to crush the others like the slimy bugs they are.

And while that approach helps some companies survive, ultimately it leads to a closed off, distrusting industry, in ways that hinder progress and overall growth.

The other side of the coin is disparaged, though. If you’re kind and helpful, then people take advantage of you, and then turn around and squash you like a bug. And that’s not helpful either. That’s why you’ve got to be tough and take the world by the throat and drive to your goals, no matter who you have to trample on the way, right?

I keep remembering something I learned a long time ago about the win-win negotiation. It’s not easy to achieve, but it is possible. It’s all about understanding the people you’re working with and trying to arrive at a settling point that is beneficial to both of you. That’s not the same as compromise. In that situation, you want something (A), and I want something (B), so we both settle on something neither of us wants (C). More often than we think, we can arrive at what we both want (A+B), and both be happy.

“But,” some people say, “If I try to help my competitors achieve their goals, then I lose. How is that a win-win?”

It’s not. That’s a win-lose, and you just lost. The idea is to help them get their goals while holding fast to your goals as well. If you ignore what you want and need out of a deal, then you’re setting yourself up for attack. If you’re only “as harmless as a dove”, you’ll get your goose cooked. But the verse also tells you to be “as wise as a serpent.”

How can you do that? Well, first of all, keep your eyes and ears open, and don’t go naively into a situation you don’t understand. Research as much as possible and know about all of your options. Listen for deception or misinformation. Listen also, to understand the things others want. How can you help them get to their goals if you don’t care what those goals are? At the same time, you need to know clearly what your own wants and needs are, or you won’t be able to stand up for them.

It’s a delicate balance, at times, but with time and experience you can be both strong and easygoing, both assertive and generous, both protective and open, all at the same time.

Wise as serpents, harmless as doves…

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

When the Apple Falls Too Far From the Tree

Imagine that in your back yard, out by the fence, there’s a big apple tree. It’s been growing there for many, many years, and it’s gotten really big. So big, in fact, that many of the branches reach out over the fence.

Your next-door neighbor really likes the tree. Partly because it’s big enough to shade most of his backyard as well, and also because every summer, he’s able to pick fresh apples off the branches on his side of the fence.

Here’s the question: Is he stealing your fruit?

That’s a very interesting dilemma. On the one hand, let’s say that you get along really well with this particular neighbor, and for many years you’ve never had any problem with him helping himself to all the fruit on his side of the fence. After all, there’s plenty there for everyone, right? Plus, that means that you don’t have to pick half the apples or prune half the tree.

And maybe sometimes, when his wife is baking pies, she might make an extra one, and they might bring some over to share back with you. Having good friends live next to you is great, isn’t it?

But what if they don’t know you that well? Or what if you don’t get along? That could put some more difficult wrinkles in the scenario, couldn’t it? Who really owns the apples?

Now let’s change the scenario again. Let’s suppose that it’s not an apple tree that’s reaching out to cross over the property lines, but your wireless computer network. These days, for just a few dollars, and maybe a half hour, a couple of computers in a house can be hooked up to a home network. In my house, for example, there are three computers. My music workstation, my kid’s game computer, and my wife’s laptop. Because my wife needs to use the computer while she’s supervising the kids in various places in the house, she needs the network to be wireless. It’s really cool.

But—that also means that the signal for the wireless router broadcasts in a circle, and ignores our property lines. That means that, in theory, someone sitting in a parked car in front of my house with a laptop could access the internet, and even my home network through my wireless connection. Someone in the house next door could tap into my network.

There are some that say that it is “theft of service”. They’re using the internet connection that you paid for, and using it on their own. It’s being compared to tapping into someone else’s cable TV line for your own house. The difference is that cable doesn’t “broadcast” a signal that crosses into someone else’s property.

There are others that say that your right to complain ends with your property line. “If you put the signal out there, I can use it!”

Now, if you (with the wireless router) know about it, and like your neighbors, and you want to provide them with access, that’s probably your choice. But again, what if you don’t get along with your neighbors? Or what if one of those neighbors downloads or hosts kiddie porn, or sends out spamming messages through your network? What if they hack your computers and extract valuable personal information from your hard drive?

One very obvious way to stop this from happening is to simply make sure that your in-home network is secure and password protected. Most wireless routers that you can buy can set this up very simply. Just make absolutely sure that you change the password from the default. If you keep the default settings, you might as well not have the protection.

Some have taken the opinion that if you don’t secure your system, you are giving tacit permission to be hacked this way. It’s like saying that someone who leaves their keys in their car is asking to have it stolen. Fortunately, in this case the law doesn’t back it up. If they steal your car, they can still be arrested and prosecuted.

It’s best to protect yourself, not just from being hacked, but from someone using your network and your access to do something unethical or illegal. Make sure the apples don’t fall far from the tree.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

How to Be an American

My wife and I just recently got a taste of grass-roots politics. It was a new experience for us. For my wife, because she’s been pretty apolitical for as long as I’ve known her. For me, because I’ve never been that active on a state or local level. The experience taught me a lot. Let me tell you the story:

As many of you might know by reading my articles and blogs, we have a six-year-old son in a wheelchair with Cerebral Palsy. Throughout his (so far) short life, we’ve dealt with a lot of government and private programs to help provide all kinds of necessities for him. We’ve gotten wheelchairs, physical therapy and equipment, modifications to our house, all funded in whole or in part. For this, we thank you, the American taxpayer, because much of this would be completely out of our reach without it. His nighttime feeding formula, for example, costs $2000 a month. His powered wheelchair costs over $25,000.

This year, our state legislature began its two-month-long session, and as always approached the budget. The problem with setting out the state budget is that everyone wants to get a slice of the pie. And the problem with that is that, for the most part, the needs of all those that want the funding are valid. Schools, roads, business development initiatives, these things all enhance the state and are very important. Medical care money is also critical. And this term, there were lots of debates about how the state should spend its money.

Well, my wife is very active as a parent and family advocate for disabled children. She works for a state agency part-time, and is very active in helping Utah families, even in her downtime. When the budget proposals came out, she and many others had to become lobbyists. There was a particular program that they were lobbying for. It provides services to families of disabled children, and runs with a waiting list that’s currently 7-10 years long. The budget proposal that was before the house would have cut its funding even further, in a year that saw an overall budget surplus! “End The Wait” was the slogans from T-shirts and buttons as they shook legislator’s hands.

It was interesting to watch my non-political wife learn how to meet and influence the state legislators. She might not have had an interest before, but when needed services to her child were at stake, she became like the mama bear fighting for her cub. Meetings, subcommittee testimonies, emailing campaigns, many hours were spent rallying the disabled community around the capitol to help fund a critical program.

I participated, especially in the email campaign. At first, I didn’t even know who my representatives in the state legislature were, much less how to contact them, or where they stood on the issue. But I did a little research and joined in the fray. I learned some valuable things on the way. Let me share them with you:

1. Be a part of the process.

The first step is to realize that “Government by the people” means that we need to be aware and involved. Read the news. During your state legislative sessions, find out about the bills that are being considered. Many won’t impact your life. Many others will. Here’s another hint: It works on a federal level, too.

Choose issues that impact you and your business, and that get you passionate. Learn what the facts are, so you can discuss them intelligently.

2. Do Some Research.

Like I said, at the start of this, I didn’t even know who my representatives were, nor what districts I lived in. A quick trip to the Utah State website and I was able to find the map outlining the districts, and the names of the representatives, and their email addresses. A quick Googling would easily turn up any number of government watchdog sites that would report on how various state and federal legislators voted on certain issues. Find out who’s with you and who’s against you.

3. Contact Your Legislators

Sometimes it’s valuable to meet them face to face, sometimes that’s not possible. Sometimes a simple email or letter can work wonders. If you do communicate in writing, make sure that your letter is concise, but thorough. Don’t just tell your legislator how you want him/her to vote, but also why. Tell your story. How will the bill in question impact your life? This will go much farther than quoting facts and figures.

At all times, however, it is vital to be polite and respectful. Channel your passion into effort, not into shouting or name-calling.

Finally, I learned that being American is all about being a part of democracy. You and your business are what make this great country strong. You want to be patriotic? Sure, fly the flag, but don’t stop there. Make a difference. One of the things I love most about my country is that you and I both have the right, and even the obligation, to make our voices heard. Even if our voices clash. If we’re peaceful in our disagreement, we can both have an impact on our government.

The impact we had? The final budget significantly increased the funding to the program for the disabled that we worked so hard to promote. God bless America!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Believe, But Not Everything

Some will say, “Whatever you can believe, you can achieve!” or “Just believe in yourself”, and lots of other things that motivate and inspire.

And I agree with those things. It’s important to have vision. It’s important to daydream, and then to act on those dreams.

It’s also very helpful, when dealing with the ‘net, to have a certain dose of healthy skepticism. This may come as a shock to many, but let me let you in on a little secret: Not everything you read on the net is true!

What?! How can this be!?

Well, even though the ‘net is relatively new in the history of the world, lying isn’t. And since it’s really the same old people that are on the net as existed before the net, most are great, wonderful honest people, but some are not. Let me give you some examples of some of the lies that have spread, some benign, others dangerous:

A long time ago, an email circulated claiming that Microsoft and AOL were testing an email tracking system, and they’d pay you as much as a dollar for every person you forwarded that message to. This one was relatively tame. The only danger in getting sucked into this one was that if you sent it to your family and friends you might annoy them, or get yourself embarrassed when one of them pointed out that it was all bogus.

Then there was the “Bear Virus”, AKA “jdbgmgr.exe”. In this email, the letter warned you of a terrible virus and gave you instructions to search for and find the infectious file on your computer, named jdbgmgr.exe. But the “virus” was the email itself. It turns out that everyone has the file, not because they contracted any virus, but because that file was an integral part of windows, and it was on everyone’s computers. And the email showed you how to delete it!

Fortunately, that was OK, because, while it was integral, it wasn’t a critical file. Unless you like debugging java programs.

The Nigerian money scams, where someone claiming to have a big, big chunk of money spirited away somewhere, and is looking for someone to help them get it out of their country. I understand that some people actually got caught in the scam and lost some significant chunks of money. This one’s very malicious.

The most common one I see right now are the “phishing” (pronounced “fishing”) scams. These emails try and cheat you out of critical financial access information, that the perpetrators can then use to empty your accounts.

An official-looking email comes in (and I currently get three to four of these A DAY), from somewhere like PayPal or eBay, or some other money or financial institution. I’ve even gotten these from banks that I know I have no accounts in!

Of course, even though they look real, they’re not from PayPal or the bank. It’s someone disguising the email. It’ll say that I need to verify some information in order to keep my account active. Conveniently, they’ll provide a link for me to click on. When I do, without realizing it, I’m taken to a website that looks very much like the spoofed company’s site, but is in reality not. There’s a form for me to input my account number and my PIN or password. In one easy step, I’ve given them access to my money.

So how do you protect yourself from all these dangers? The first is to have, like I said, a healthy dose of skepticism. Look at everything with a cocked eye. Ask yourself, “Why would a government official from Nigeria be offering ME 15% of 20 million dollars?”

A second line of defense is to check things out. When I get a suspicious email, I’ll go first off to and check it out. There’s reports on almost all of these, and you can see if it’s real or bogus.

When you get an email that you think is phishing, the best thing you can do is to not click on the link in the email. Rather, go to a web browser and type in the address of the site (like, and then login with your username and password. Then check your account. If you do that, you’ll know that you’re in your real account. In fact, most communication from the real companies now will tell you to do this, and not include a link anyway. Here’s some more ways to detect a spoof at PayPal’s site.

Just don’t believe everything you read, OK?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Of Punks, Goths, and Businesspeople

Whenever I go downtown, I see punks and goths, and it makes me smile. For those that might not know, these are young kids that dress, well, in ways that most people would consider “weird”. And their “style” is defined a lot by the music they listen to. The punkers listen to, well, punk rock, and wear a lot of grungy shirts, chains, usually with multiple body piercings. Baggy, torn shorts are common, as are spiky, multi-colored hair styles.

Goths, on the other hand, wear black. Lots of it. Black shirts, black pants, black overcoats. Black hair, black eye makeup, black fingernails. White faces, though. Pale white. They also seem to wear black moods, and I think it’s against the rules for a goth to smile. The music they like is dark, moody, angtsy, and, of course, loud.

But I have to chuckle when I see these kids, because I used to be one of them. Not punk or goth, mind you, but in my day, I was a rocker. I was raised in the 70’s, but I really “grew up” in the ‘80’s. That’s the decade I claim. And I loved the hair band rockers. I still do. But back then, I also wanted to look like them. So, I grew my hair out long, wore long dangly earrings, tore up my shirts, tore holes in the knees of my jeans, and wore my high-tops untied. I wore zebra-striped and Union Jack bandannas, and a dirty old trench coat loaded up with so many buttons and pins it weighed more than my backpack.

And that’s even how I went to church!

And I thought I was cool.

It’s scary, now, to see the pictures of me back then…

And, I scared away a lot of people. They didn’t know quite how to relate to me. I was a nice guy, and very friendly, but there was something about me that wanted to scare people away. It’s like I was testing them. I wanted to see if anyone cared enough to get past it and get to know the real me.

Now, in the years since then, I’ve mellowed a lot. My hair is shorter, my clothes more business-like. I still like a good, loud rock band as well as the next guy, but I’m not so pushy in my appearances. I’m a little bit easier to get to know, now.

So, that makes me think about things in business. I’ve seen it over and over again: Cluttered little shops with quirky owners and quirkier trinkets on the disorganized shelves. They’re tucked away in a corner of a street with hardly any sign to tell that they’re even there. But when I start to talk to the cashier, or sift through the scattered and dusty shelves, I find some really cool stuff, and the people are really helpful and knowledgeable. And when I walk out, I reflect on my luck at finding such a cool place to buy whatever I was looking for.

But I’ve realized that it’s a lot like being a punker or a goth. It’s like these businesses are challenging me to find them, like they’re trying to scare me away first to see if I really want to dig past it all and find the quaint little shop therein.

On the other hand, there’s the huge retailers that advertise so much I can sing their jingles in my sleep. Their shops are clean and well-lit, and stocked with lots of stuff that I want, most of the time, but not all the time. Their prices are usually pretty reasonable. But when I want to ask a question to someone, they don’t know the answer. Or if I just strike up a conversation, they’re too busy stocking a shelf or ringing up the next customer in line to chat.

So, what’s the best? Do I want to run a business like a punker? Really cool, but hard to find? Or like the big retailers, that are easy to get to, but with no heart?

There really is a “best of both worlds”. You can truly be available to your customers, and still have a great-looking, classy business that’s well-promoted. You don’t have to choose one or the other. You don’t want to be the web’s “best-kept secret”.