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Tech Thursday: What Cart Should I Use?

Online shopping cart, that is! After doing some research for a client, we thought we’d share our findings on a few of the different options for online stores that people may find useful, including Amazon, E-Bay, and setting up a cart on your own website.

If you have any questions or ideas for future topics, let us know!

Selling Stuff Online: Your Time

The final in our series of ‘selling stuff online,’ is selling your time.

Now this is somewhat covered in the ‘events’ post but there we concentrated on ticket selling and more of the questions you’d need to ask if you were running an event with a group of people. Lots of people (massage therapists, internet marketing consultants, etc.) trade time for money and having a system that integrates with a calendar is their saving grace.

Instantaneous (Live) Support Versus Book Ahead

The first question you need to ask yourself is do you want live support or do you want to book time ahead. Most people don’t have the staffing (or general interest) to be available nearly constantly but I do know some consultants who hold ‘office hours’ where people can drop in unscheduled.

Most of the time though, there is some kind of way you can schedule time, like a calendar interface on the side of a page (as with paperfling.com):

paperflingsidebarscheduling

 

To a slicker landing page one a la blinds.com:

blindsdotcomschedulingscreen

 

Free or Paid

So a free consult could get people in the door but taking payment ensures people are truly booking something of value.

Some scheduling programs will allow you to take payment (or at least hold a credit card). There may be some additional fees (processing fees, monthly fees, etc.) for this, just as a warning but getting paid for your time up front may be worth a bit of cash to you. Sublime Canines won’t let you book a class without payment, which I’m sure makes sure EVERYONE shows up to their scheduled session:

sublimecaninestakespayment



Rescheduling

The more meetings you schedule, the more rescheduling you’ll have to do.

Having an email automatically go out to the client after they book (and also on the booking page) can communicate your rescheduling (and possibly refunding if you are taking payment then) possibility.

If not, you’ll want a way to handle rescheduling, whether it is setting aside your own time for admin or hiring out. I have been trying out Fancy Hands this month for rescheduling with clients and it has been AMAZING so far.

In any case, if you are going to think of exchanging your time for money, it is something to think about.

Taking Your Time Into A Marketplace

It’s one thing to have people book time with you through your website but there are a whole generation of websites that let people consult with people who will pay them.

Google Helpouts, probably the best known example, is shutting down in April but there are plenty out there: TaskRabbit, LiveNinja and other sites have let people sell their time/services for money in a general way.

liveninjabrowse

Depending on your service, there may be sites specific to your service (for example Uber with driving) or you can start on a more general website like LiveNinja.

So even if you don’t have any products, you can be selling something online. And that’s pretty powerful.

Other posts in our series:

Selling Stuff Online: Products

Selling Stuff Online: Events

Selling Stuff Online: E-products



Selling Stuff Online: E-Products

In looking at our series the past few weeks, I bet at one point it occurred to you: “Golly, if you didn’t have to get people together for events or ship physical products, it could be a lot easier to make money.”

And so we have entered the world of e-products. From buying apps to having a member subscription to a favorite website, digital products are something not only everyone is increasingly comfortable with but also satisfied with. A few things to think about if you are selling digital products:

Limited Time Or All The Time

bschoolregistrationclosed

 

One way to get people interested in what you’re selling is to have it for a limited time only. This ‘B School’ is only open for enrollment for a few weeks each year. The rest of the time, the above screen captures leads.

If you want your product available all the time, that’s fine. But sometimes the ‘get it before it’s gone’ philosophy works as well for programs as it does for kitchen gadgets on infomercials.



One Time Payments or Recurring Payments

There’s something to be said of offering a product, taking payment, and that being it. Some products (a digital edition of a book for example) can and should be paid for at once.

Letting someone do recurring payments (typically monthly) can help support an ongoing service (though like Google Apps, you can give a discount when people pay a bulk of it up for the year):

googleappspricing

Freemium Model

Honestly, if you have nothing I can look at for free to give me an idea of what I’m spending my $10/month (or whatever amount) on, I’m not very interested.

In terms of a mainstream website that gives away some stuff but has the rest behind a paywall, Consumer Reports comes to mind. Here’s the screen you get to after you click ‘Sign up’:

consumerreportssignuppage

Different Tiers

If you want to appeal to different kinds of people (or maybe more accurately people at different levels in your sales funnel) is to have offerings at different tiers. You’ll see most every digital product you see has a sort of ‘lite’ version as well as versions for those more ‘heavy’ users:

netflixpricing



What online products can you sell digitally?

Some ideas I found online were not limited to: blueprints, special reports, videos, educational programs, recipes, patterns/clip art/design templates, databases, turn key websites, photography, apps, software, and email programs.

Point is, you can get creative, set up some kind of online way to take payment (and automated product delivery), and theoretically you could be making money.

Yeah, I make that sound easy, don’t I? Honestly, the most work you do is creating the thing you want to sell. While you may be the mastermind behind the idea, it may be worth hiring a videographer, ebook designer, etc. to help you make a polished product. OK I’ll just say it, it IS worth it. 🙂

In planning, you’ll want to keep in mind the ideas above and decide how long your offer will last; how people will pay; and how/if it can be divided into a few different price points.

If you have less of a ‘product’ and more of ongoing information you want to pay for, a subscription website may be your jam. To get more ideas, check out 9 Most Profitable Subscription Websites (Mequoda).

Just because you didn’t put it in a box or meet the person you’re selling to in real life, doesn’t mean they aren’t a potential customer. Digital products help you reach exactly those people.

Other posts in this series:

Selling Stuff Online: Products
Selling Stuff Online: Events



Tech Thursday: Why Don’t You Want My Website to Have Fun?

Some weeks, we end up doing more design than marketing. This was one of those weeks. After some of our meetings, we felt kind of like parents who were telling their kids they couldn’t go to a party, but that they’d thank us later. We aren’t trying to shoot anyone’s design dreams down, but to better explain our rationale, we thought we’d use this week’s Tech Thursday.

We walk the line between artists and technicians in the web design process. It’s not that we don’t want your website to be fun and pretty- because we absolutely do. It’s just that we’re also thinking about things like mobile users and load time-the customer’s overall experience. As Kassie says, when your website’s animated header won’t load on a Kindle, it fills her with nerd rage. We want your site to look great, but also work well!

Tools such as Pingdom (tools.pingdom.com) are a great way to test a website’s load time, and it will show you the elements of the site that are taking longest to load. Most of the time, it’s an image that is slowing your roll. There are also ways to customize your site that aren’t going to impair your site’s load time- think of sprucing up photos by adding drop shadows, rotating pictures in your slideshow- and all that jazz.

To summarize, we aren’t being lazy or lame when we try to steer you away from an idea. We’re just trying to make your site the best it can be!

Online Ads 101: Affiliates

The last few weeks, we’ve talked about a few different ways to make money online with your website: PPC (pay per click) ads, display ads, and ad networks. The idea, of course, is not to overwhelm but show you how some of your favorite people online make money when you visit their website. This post is the last in our series.

Affiliate ads, or basically selling a product or service for a commission, is not a new idea. Many people do this in real life (think of any sort of party at which you could also buy things: cookware, jewelry, adult toys, etc.)

Online affiliates are even easier as you don’t have to clean your house or have suitcases of product to do them. Sometimes an affiliate will pay when someone clicks on a link to their site from your website, sometimes only when a purchase is made. Fees paid out can be a commission (percentage of total) or a flat fee per customer, depending on the service. There are literally thousands of affiliate programs (and if you have a unique product or service, you can set one up. More info on setting up an affiliate program here: http://lkrsocialmedia.com/2011/09/how-to-create-an-affiliate-program-that-doesnt-suck/)



The most popular online affiliate program is Amazon. When you sign up, they give you a way to make special links to products on Amazon.com. Like the new desk chair you bought? Make an affiliate link. Like the sweet and spicy tea you keep in your office? Make an affiliate link. Then you post these links places: social media, blog, website, email newsletter, etc. If someone follows your link and buys your product, you get 2-3% commission (up to 10% if you sell more).

For fun once, I made an Amazon Affiliate account and shared a couple links on Facebook (to my personal profile) over the course of a few weeks. You know, I never did get that $1 and change from Amazon…

I made $1 as an Amazon Affiliate. Stop being jealous.

I made $1 as an Amazon Affiliate. Stop being jealous.

(I guess I just felt slimy doing this, which is why it ended up being a three day experiment without much thought put into it and yielded such unimpressive results.)

But I do know plenty of bloggers who post, say, links where you can buy books they are reading or write ‘affiliate’ blog posts linking to products. It’s possible, especially if the thing you want to sell isn’t made by you (ex: You want to recommend people buy a Seth Godin book but aren’t a bookstore or Seth Godin.)



Amazon doesn’t have high profit margins so they can’t give you, say, 50% commission. But that’s where working directly with a smaller distributor makes sense. The more directly you work with the company selling the product, the higher your commission.

Let’s take another affiliate example. I am a pretty big Rupaul fan but I also know that Rupaul mentions sponsors, etc. on his/her/not-sure-the-proper-pronoun podcast. So I went to the Shop portion of the Rupaul website:

rupaulaffiliate

I know the writing is tiny on my screenshot but you’ll see the ‘Glamazon’ shirt can be purchased on Rupaul.com but The other items (ex: action figure) can be purchased from other websites. Tell tale sign of an affiliate, you get redirected to another website (note the URL and website design change when I click on the action figure):

Love Rupaul but not sure my love is $199 of love.

Love Rupaul but not sure my love is $199 of love.

Point is, affiliates let you recommend stuff and get paid, without having to process the payment, ship it, or really do any kind of customer service. You are middle manning it. That said, if you have an audience and that audience trusts you to recommend products, your middle manning is worth something.

If you want to see if a product you like has an affiliate program, simply type in “company name affiliate” into Google. Typing “Constant Contact affiliate” into Google got me to the CC affiliate page:

constantcontactaffilate

Affiliate marketing, when done by those who genuinely enjoy a product and want others to experience its benefits (and, let’s face it, make a buck or two in the process), is a useful marketing tool. That said, there can also be a dark side. For example, if I am a financial advisor and I sell you the IRA plan where I make commission on but there is another IRA in the world that I know is actually better for you, that’s conflict of interest territory to me. I couldn’t sleep at night doing that. But as long as you’re straight-forward about what you make money on, I think affiliates can be perfectly ethical and potentially profitable.



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