This Week In Business

Considering The Affiliate

This month’s theme is showing love to businesses and, much like we’ve formalized love with marriage, the formalization of business love online can be an affiliate agreement.

An affiliate is someone who reps/represents your company a mutually agreed upon way. They aren’t an employee but they’ve typically signed up to let you know they are interested in doing this. You may have terms for them, like they can’t use the product you are trying to sell in a certain way or can’t do certain things with product links. Once signed up, your affiliate can recommend your company and typically they get a financial kickback for doing so (ex: when someone becomes a paid member or upgrades their account.) In other words, they can recommend all they want but until your company gets a conversion, you don’t owe them anything.

By Googling “Warby Parker affiliate” I see what the terms are for me to recommend cool frames and where I can sign up. This brings down Warby Parker’s overall marketing costs while giving me incentive to share my love of them.



How do you know if an affiliate has made a sale for you or not?

Option 1: Give them a custom link.

For example, let’s say your name is Bob and you LOVE our blog and wanted to get people to subscribe. We talk about it and I say I’ll give you $1/person who signs up for email list. I could make a custom email newsletter subscription link like breakingeveninc.com/newsletter%bob that you can share. The people you share that link with are directed to a normal looking page; I’m just tracking it in a special, distinct way. In my website software, I could set up for it to track when someone who got to that link signed up for our email newsletter (filled out and submitted a form successfully). Every month, I sendBob a check for the amount of subscribers he sends.

The link makes things easy because the ‘customer’ doesn’t have to do anything. As the affiliate, you have to remember to use your special link and as the company, I have to set up tracking but the person clicking through is mostly unawares. Note: Bob could do something cool with his website like make bobswebsite.com/becrocks redirect to my fancy affiliate link. That gives Bob’s friends/customers something easy to remember and lets him use the affiliate link we agreed upon together.

Option 2: Give them a coupon code. 

The other way to do this, especially if this relationship involves purchasing, is to offer a code. Let’s say as someone entered their email into my website, I have a ‘coupon code’ portion where the person signing up is supposed to write ‘Bob’ for him to get credit for sending me a subscriber.

The good thing with this is it’s very deliberate coming from the customer… but most people aren’t going to take the extra step unless they get something for doing it. That’s why most coupon codes involve a discount code or free download or something for the customer for taking the trouble. Maybe by entering ‘Bob’ in the signup form, the people get a free ebook from me.

Whether option 1 or 2 is used, both Bob and I understand what is supposed to happen and what Bob will get when that agreed upon thing happens. 

Anchorspace is an affiliate for StandDesk which means when someone buys from our link, they save $50 and we get $50. So we’ve earned $150 just by recommending a product we already use and love and given people too far afield to come into Anchorspace a way to support us through their purchase.



How do you set up an affiliate program?

You may think this seems complicated. Why set up something just for Bob?

If you think about the power of even having ten people like Bob as sort of un-salaried salespeople for your company, you’ll see that this can be a good idea for you. First of all, you’re only paying when you get what you want and second, by rewarding Bob and people like him, you’re incentivizing him to refer you more often, even if it’s a discount on your own products versus cold hard cash.

So you have two options with affiliate programs.

Option 1: Use an existing (third party) affiliate program. 

Websites like shareasale.com or Commission Junction offer a ‘plug and play’ option where you can set up agreements, have it automatically generate/track links, etc., which is perfect if the idea of DIY totally overwhelms you. If what is preventing you from doing this is the tech, please take that away as a concern. That said, Moz has an excellent point as these websites are creating links that aren’t as direct as you making the links yourself, which can detract from search engine benefits. Also these probably cost money since they are attempting to make your life easier.

Option 2: DIY on your own website. 

Tools like Google Goals and plugins like AffiliateWP Wordpress plugin allow you to set this up on your own website directly. So long as you are clear about how you want it to work, it’s totally doable to set up and even have it create cute reports and stuff. If you ask someone like us, we can get you an estimate at the very least and you can make your decision from there.

(Aside: Whenever people ask me about the difference between using something like Squarespace and Wordpress, I always say your website can ‘do more stuff’ with Wordpress and this is the kind of thing I mean. Here’s what Squarespace forums say about setting up affiliate programs.)

The best thing you can do to understand affiliates better is to try them out yourself as a referrer.

To become your own version of Bob, think of companies you already like. Visit their websites (the best first stop is the navigational menu that is  typically on the bottom of the page) and look for an ‘Affiliates’ link. If you don’t see one there, ask Google if the company has one, or write to the company via their website and ask.

Once you have a few affiliate links/codes, try them out with people you think would genuinely appreciate those goods/services. Are people receptive? Does certain language/certain websites seem to work better for you? Do certain things seem to make people take action? Use these experiences as the referrer when you make your own affiliate program.

Like any tool, when used sparingly and in the context of an overall marketing strategy affiliates can be an effective way for people to love your business and get rewarded for it. (Yes we are considering an affiliate program ourselves; contact us if you are interested.) In the meantime, let us know if you are an affiliate yourself or if your company uses affiliates to drive sales!



Sharing is Caring

Leaving a review is one way to show your favorite businesses some online love. Another way is hitting that “Share” button (on Facebook, which translates to retweeting or reposting on other platforms, or just passing along information). As a business, there are ways to make it easy for people to share your stuff, which ultimately spreads your marketing to a greater audience than it otherwise would have.

There are plenty of ways to share on behalf of a business or organization you care about online. Some of the more common methods include:

  • Share as a status update, on a friend’s timeline, or in a private message.
  • Invite friends to an event on social media or share link to event registration.
  • Retweet (Twitter) or Repost (Instagram).
  • Forward a newsletter to a friend and/or tell them how to subscribe if it’s something they’re interested in.



Sharing as an individual is fairly straightforward. But as a business, what can you be doing to make your content more shareable? Besides being generally useful and interesting, here are some things to keep in mind:

On Social Media.

Whether you’re promoting a sale, sharing an event, or just doing general updates, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering “share-ability” of your post. Most shared content on Facebook includes a photo or video. If you have one or the other, consider quality (is it blurry or off-center? Is there unnecessary footage?) as you’re posting- fans want to help you promote your business but might not want to share a ‘meh’ visual. This goes for Instagram, too, since it’s an all visual platform.

If you’re making a flyer for an event, check out our post on How Not to Design a Flyer for tips on this particular type of visual.

Keep in mind that well over half of Facebook users are on their mobile devices, so double check your links (especially those that you share from your own website, if you have one) can be read on mobile. Test it on your own device or ask a friend to help!



On Your Website.

A lot of websites have plugins or extensions for sharing through email, social media, or even text messaging on mobile. Hubspot has an easy to follow guide for adding social buttons for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram. This is an easy way to let people share your material on a channel of their choice, not necessarily one that you’re active on. If you aren’t automatically publishing blog posts on your social media accounts, social sharing buttons on your website makes it easy for others to share them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

We’ve talked about this before, but if your website is where all the “big” things happen (sales, registration, donations, etc), having a responsive/mobile-friendly site is something you really want to consider. If someone is getting to your website through Facebook on their phone on the train, they might not remember “Oh when I get home I have to sit down at my computer to follow through with this.”

In Your Newsletter. 

In addition to social sharing buttons at the bottom of your newsletter (example pictured below), you can also add options for “Forward to a Friend.” True, a person can easily hit “Forward” on their own, but the idea is to make sharing easier for people.

In addition to making it easier to share, you can also give followers an incentive to share. Some businesses offer a “Share this post for a chance to win” contest on social media, which is a fairly simple contest to set up. Encourage people to share your content, be interesting, and have fun with it!



Online Reviews: An Introduction

Last year, I packed up my family and moved us to a new apartment, a process I liken to having a root canal, only with less sitting, fewer painkillers and far more cursing. I hired movers for the job, and was pretty impressed with their humor, chill attitude, and the fact that one of the guys kept right on working despite needing to bandage a wound on his palm with paper towel and duct tape.

Yes, I tipped, but then they told me that if I was really happy to give them a review on Facebook. This was a first for me, but it made sense. This was a Maine micro business at its core, just starting out. Online reviews were pretty critical in generating good word-of-mouth.

Making your own business available to online reviews is a double-edged sword. The folks at Yelp acknowledge this on their guidelines for responding to reviews: “Negative reviews can feel like a punch in the gut. We care deeply about our business too, and it hurts when someone says bad things about our business. For you founders and sole proprietors out there, a negative review can even feel like a personal attack.”

Sometimes a business can do everything right, but there may be no pleasing a customer who has had a terrible day, perhaps because he’s just spent the entire week DRIVING AROUND A MOVING VAN THAT GETS 5 MILES TO THE GALLON AND WOULD IT HAVE KILLED YOU TO INCLUDE THE EXTRA SAUCE IN HIS TAKE OUT ORDER LIKE HE ASKED?!?! ONE STAR!!!!!!!!

Sorry about that flashback.



The point being, is it worth buying into online ads? Yes, but it takes courage.

Unlike traditional print reviews written by critics, online reviews keep coming, and coming and coming, so long as internet-savvy folks keep using your products or services. The advantage of this is that each day is another day to get it right, to improve your weaknesses and build upon your strengths. Here are a few more popular choices to get you started in this brave new world:

Yelp is enormously popular, having garnered more than 115 million reviews last year. Making money off ad revenue, Yelp is free for both the business itself and for consumers. Seemingly everything — from local restaurants to doctors, from prisons to showgirl supply stores — gets reviewed through their website or mobile app.

The company uses an algorithm to  weed out fake reviews or reviews written by owners about their own businesses. Yelp’s relations with small businesses hasn’t always been rosy, as owners have complained that the algorithm weeds out positive review and leaves negative ones. Yelp admits its algorithm isn’t perfect, but the company has become so ubiquitous, so popular since its 2004 founding that utilizing Yelp makes still makes sense.

Facebook reviews are a pretty organic extension of your existing business’s page. And it makes all the sense in the world to utilize this free service. As we’ve noted before, 79 percent of American adults who use the Internet use Facebook.

Like Yelp, you can respond to reviews positive and negative. Search Engine Journal also notes that Facebook reviews will be giving Yelp a run for its money, in part, because Facebook is already integral to our everyday lives: “Facebook is a platform that nearly everyone uses on a daily basis. We use it to document our lives, connect with friends through Messenger and check into businesses. It’s the one-stop shop for us to get everything we need to get done, from collecting information about our friends, finding news and stories to read and to watch cat videos.”

Google, like Facebook, is seemingly everywhere. Similarly, it only makes sense to integrate product and service reviews with the search engine giant, especially considering how powerful and important Google Maps has become for finding, well, anything.

Our theme for February is “Loving Your Favorite Businesses Online.” Leaving a review, whether on Yelp, Facebook, Google, or elsewhere, is one way to give a business a boost. Stay tuned for other ways you can share the love this month!



Rocky and the Power of Failure

(Spoilers ahead)

The best movies in the “Rocky” franchise are not concerned with winning or losing, but about drive, ability and performance. Rocky may be synonymous with Eye-of-The-Tiger-themed training montages and “Yo! Adrian!” catchphrases, but at their core, the best Rocky films are deeply personal stories of perseverance.

In the original “Rocky,” the titular hero isn’t interested in whether he can actually beat heavyweight champion Apollo Creed — winning is a secondary consideration. Rather, as he confesses one night to Adrian, Rocky needs to know whether he has it within him to “go the distance.” That is, to go 15 rounds with Apollo without getting knocked out or otherwise having the fight stopped. That’s where Rocky’s self-worth lies, and how he’ll prove to everyone that’s he’s more than just a “bum,” to use the film’s parlance.

Rocky II’s a good movie, too, but it doesn’t have the emotional resonance as the first film. Rocky III-V continued with diminished returns. It’s worth noting that, especially in the case of III and IV, the franchise becomes more invested with whether Rocky can beat the Big Bad at the end — whether that’s Mr. T or Dolph Lungren. Those films are preoccupied more with man vs man than man vs self. To me, that’s what makes the sequels a whole lot less interesting, (even despite the appearance of a young Hulk Hogan in III or a musical spot by James Brown in IV).

Spoiler ahead: The best Rocky films (“Rocky,” “Rocky Balboa” and “Creed”) are the ones where Rocky loses.



So why am I writing about Rocky? Because there’s a good chance your business is going to fail. The small business survival rate, after six years, falls to just 40 percent

There’s numerous reasons why businesses fail, and they’re not all in our control. Economics both macro and micro, disasters natural and man-made and emerging technologies all contribute to uncertainty. We all lose sometimes.

When we first meet Rocky, he’s a part-time “ham and egger” fighting in boxing clubs. He’s alone except for his pet turtles, making money working for a loan shark. His best days are far enough behind him that when challenged to fight champion Apollo Creed as a lark, he initially declines. Rocky fails to beat Apollo Creed, but by at least giving it a shot, he ends the film in a much better place. He found his self-worth in his quest to go the distance. He becomes a legitimate athlete.

He has Adrian.

Whether in business or in life, we mustn’t shirk a challenge.

That “Rocky” got made at all is somewhat of a minor miracle, and is a testament to the tenacity of writer and star Sylvester Stallone. Stallone recalled how, after he finally sold the script, the studio was reluctant to let him star. A relative unknown, Stallone pushed until he got the movie made his way — even turning down a $350,000 offer for the script without him starring. “Rocky” went on to win Best Picture, launched a franchise and created an iconic character.

Rocky teaches us that success doesn’t always mean we win, or that we are considered the best in our field. Sometimes success means going the distance and defying expectations of others or of ourselves.

It’s one of life’s paradoxes that in losing, sometimes we win.

For Further Reading

From Startup Dope: 5 Life Lessons Rocky Balboa taught us

From People.com: 10 Life Lessons We Can Learn from Rocky Balboa

From Brightscope.com: Eye of the Tiger – What Rocky Taught Me About Life and Business

You’re the Boss (New York Times): What “Rocky” Teaches Entrepreneurs



Phone Cases That Do More

**This post contains affiliate links**

Most people with cell phones consider cases a necessary add-on. After all, who wants to be left in the lurch with a shattered screen or malfunctioning phone after it has a little lovetap with the ground? Phone cases are also a way to show off a bit of individuality (since we all have the same 2-3 phones, it’s nice to feel like we’re standing out in some small way). My favorite former case was my iPhone 5’s Otterbox, which finally had to be retired, but if I dropped my phone it would just bounce right back up into my hand (more or less).

Although phone cases are a necessity nowadays, there are a variety of functional cases that can actually benefit your business while protecting your phone.

In1 Case Tool Kit: If you’re like me, you don’t think a whole lot about having a tool kit until that moment strikes when you suddenly need one. The In1 Case not only has a built-in kit with different tools, including ball point pens, a nail file, tweezers, a set of scissors, a Philips screwdriver, a flat-head screwdriver, a bottle opener, and a kick stand. So, you probably aren’t going to be able to do any major renovation projects with this phone case, but you can safely remove a splinter or tidy up your nails before a meeting on-the-go. And, it’s TSA compliant, so you can still travel with it.

Lifeproof: Lifeproof is perfect for anyone who needs something that’s a step up from Otterbox (which I wasn’t even sure was possible until recently). For those working around a lot of water, dirt, or out in the elements in general, this case has you (and your phone) covered. Beyond just being waterproof, this case can remain submerged in 2 meters of water for up to an hour without any damage to your phone. It can handle a drop from 2 meters high, and you can take it on your next ski trip without worrying about snow getting inside. This case is perfect for anyone who is active/adventurous/maybe a tad careless.



Megaverse Anti-Gravity: If you’ve ever tried watching a YouTube tutorial on something that requires both hands while also trying to hold your phone, you’re not alone in this predicament. Instead of trying to grow a third arm, the Megaverse Anti-Gravity case is the perfect solution. This case can stick to just about any surface: “…windows, mirrors, whiteboards, metal, kitchen cabinets, tile, flat car dashboards and more.” You can lift weights or bake while binge-watching your latest show on Netflix and not having to worry about dropping a dumbbell or spilling flour all over your phone. It’s also perfect for hands-free selfies/live-videos. The cases are also slightly more customized, with built-in wallets and bottle-openers (why have a case that can only do one cool thing?)

Cases that Charge: A lot of freelancers or even just on the move a lot during the workday and don’t have time to sit around plugged into a wall, a phone case that acts as a battery pack may be a good idea for you. Since there are so many different types of phones out there, I’m just linking to the Amazon best seller list (personally I’m an iPhone user but Samsung is represented here as well). Continuing on the “more than one cool thing” idea, some of these cases have kickstands or other features.

Edible Gummy iPhone Case: This was an intriguing find during internet travels that I had to look into. Although I’m not convinced this case provides a lot of protection to your phone, you can still at least gnaw on your phone case if you find yourself trapped somewhere without access to other food. The flavors are pretty intriguing, too, with offerings like Bubble Tea, Fermented Apple, and…Fish Lips? I also really enjoyed the product photo (below).

Having a phone inevitably means having a phone case, but you might be able to find something that can bring something extra to the table for you and/or your business.



Six Phone Apps Worth Paying For (For Your Business)

So I was sitting in an airport when I downloaded Osmos without even a second thought of paying for it. It was a fun game (and totally mesmerizing if you never have played… your objective as a bubble is to get bigger by absorbing other bubbles. It’s like more fluid Tetris).

And yet, I totally hesitate when it comes to spending money on apps for functional things like my business. I get that it’s probably because business apps seem more expensive (or maybe your phone is supposed to be your destination for fun). I will say, I’ve been glad to have paid for some of these features because they are handy, have saved me money, or simply made me look good to the professional people I have the pleasure of dealing with. Here are six apps I have paid for and, looking back, I’m glad I’ve done so:

Split Screen Multitasking ($3.99)

How many times have you wanted to watch a Youtube video while checking your Facebook messages? I used to like how my phone made me do one thing at a time but now that I know this exists, I am not sure what I did before.

Cloze ($159.99 annually)

Hope you’ve picked yourself off the floor from reading that price but here’s my thing: I have A LOT of contacts to manage and sometimes, I need to be prodded to contact them. I also want to classify people (Customer, Family, etc) and add notes about them (birthday, kids’ names)… and have things like phone number and email addresses automatically synced. For all that $160/year doesn’t seem so nuts. Plus you can try it for two weeks free and see if it’s you’re thing before buying.

Quickbooks Online (Monthly fee)

So many people have tried to tell me that I should install their free Quickbooks on ONE COMPUTER. This terrifies me for many reasons which is why I use Quickbooks Online. But the best thing I wasn’t expecting about Quickbooks Online is being with a customer and having them say “I think I owe you a check, can you remind me of how much that was?” I’m able to tell them in about thirty seconds and send them a receipt, right from my phone. If it costs a few bucks to get paid faster, in the long run it is worth it for you not having to chase people. Trust me, I resisted forever and now I am a total convert.



Genius Scan+ ($6.99)

So the free version of this app served me for years. You can scan PDFs and email them to yourself or other people. It was great for collating, say, all my physical receipts together every year… until I realized that since I don’t have automated backups on my phone (I know, I know) it could all go poof. The pro version automatically syncs things into whatever Dropbox folder I want and I personally appreciate the backup. The scanning is great on this; I’ve had some people come into Anchorspace looking for a scanner and when they see the results of me scanning with this app, they are blown away. If you need a historical photo scanned to retouch, by all means go to a real and high quality scanner, but if you just need to get a lease to your lawyer, this is more than adequate, doing things like straightening out the document and finding the edges of scanned items automatically for crisp edges.

It looks like they have a cool app called Genius Sign too, which allows you to sign and annotate documents (how many times have you printed something only to sign it and rescan it?)

MileIQ ($59.99 annually)

I resisted this for years thinking I could keep track of own driving. I downloaded this app as a free trial and within the first month, I saw how many business meetings I drove to I wasn’t counting. I got more mileage tax credit than I paid for the annual subscription. Also, classifying drives is something I can do while sitting waiting, say, for a doctor’s appointment where I can check off a business to-do rather than just waste time on my phone. Generating my spreadsheet of driven miles every year for my accountant made me crazy but this year, it’s going to be a one click thing.

Note: This is an affiliate link where you save 20% and I get a $25 kick back if you sign up.

iMovie ($4.99)

You know when you take a video and think ‘Gosh, only ten seconds of this is actually funny’. Having iMovie on your phone lets you lop off those too-long videos. So you can just send the part where your dog runs toward you in the snow without the part where she stops and pees a little. Remember that some light video editing before uploading a video is something 99% of people don’t do so by even trying to do this before uploading to Facebook, your customers will take notice and appreciate (plus you can add your website URL at the end or something similarly useful in case it ‘goes viral’).

Point is, our phones are less the music players/gaming devices they started out as and more like computers that help us run our businesses. As such, investing in them can be a no brainer for your business or productivity.