I Once Was a 15-Year Girl…

Remember the introduction to the movie “The Jerk”?

“I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin’ on the porch with my family, singin’ and dancin’ down in Mississippi…”

(Of course, when you say the quote, you need to do it was a thick south’n accent!).  One of my favorite movies and favorites lines from Steve Martin.

Now it is my turn:

“I’m a 14-Year-Old girl with acne that none of the boys want to touch.”

I know the quote is not as good, but it is just as ridiculous as the jerk.  The funny thing is that *I* was the 14-year-old girl.

Back when I started internet marketing, I was following what the “ebooks” were telling me.  Pick a product, create a persona around that product and sell it to the followers and peers of that group.

I was having problems with Google Adwords at the time promoting everything from lottery websites to “Win a Free iPod” to ultimate abs workouts.  I bid general terms like “win the lottery”, “free iPod” and “ads workouts”.  The bid prices were high and I never got any clicks.  Too much competition.

I then saw a commerical for Pro-Activ and there was Jessica Simpson selling the product.  Hmmmmm…a masterful online marketing plan erupted in my brain and I got right to it!

I jumped on Adwords and checked out the competition and search volume for “Jessica Simpson”.  YES!  Tons of traffic and few bidders!  You know that people looking for acne solutions MUST be searching for Jessica Simpson, right!?  Then, the plan become more ingenious.  I was going to be a 14-year girl with acne problems but after watching the Jessica Simpson ad, I decided to try it and YES, it cured my acne!

(What the *%$%! was I thinking!)

I really did this, too.  I created a landing page.  I then bid (rather small amount) on the exact phrase “Jessica Simpson”.  I then started to scour the teenage forums, built a MySpace page (in those days), and began my marketing genious!

The Google Adword impressions went through the roof!  My click-thrus… ummmm… hmmmm…not so good (<0.1%).  Still it was something!

Then my brilliant forum work left me banned on three sites and a mob of people littering the internet of stories about the a-hole who is trying to be a girl to sell stuff.  (I even argued it as the girl for awhile, but finally retreated).

At the end of the day, I spent $78 on Google Adwords, made an idiot out of myself and spent about a week creating a website.

The return?  One sale for $4.55.

It was my first sale online and I knew this was the beginning of something big…but it wasn’t this!  :-)

cheers…matt

Get Over Your “I’m Not a Writer” B-S!

Since 2006, I would say that I have written about 1000 articles, blog posts, reviews, etc.  The funny thing is that they never scored more than a 380 on my verbal SAT test and I almost got kicked out of university because I would not construct a proper argument.

I never wanted to become a writer.  I’m an technical guy.  I still don’t call myself a writer. But when internet marketing rolled around, I just started to write (because that is what I was told to do to make money). I was more focused in on making money than my writing ability.

At the end of the day, my writing has never really improved.  I write in “speech”, as some would say it.  My punctuation is pretty bad and my grammar is virtual non-exisitant.  I like doing things like adding three dots (…) between my thoughts and if the sentence lacks a verb, so be it.

That being said, I still can communicate.  Maybe not according to the rules of the English language, but enough for you (my reader) to understand what I am saying.  And to be honest, I never really worried about whether my writing was or good not.  I just didn’t care.  I just did it.

Its been 7 years since I started “writing” for my website and it has directly generated over $1,000,000 in sales.  (To that writing professor a-hole that said I would never survive in any industry because of my “poor” communications ability -> F.U.! I’ve probably made more from writing that you ever have!) 

I bring this up for one major reason and it relates to a discussion I had with one of my Landmark Forum group-members…He was struggling (for years!) to start a blog.  He knew what he wanted to do and I even helped him set up a simple wordpress blog.  But now he is TERRIFIED to write.

  • “What if no one reads this?”
  • “I’m not a writer!”
  • “People will laugh at me!”
  • “I only have a high school education!”

I told him it really didn’t matter and I explained to him what I wrote above.  His homework this week is to finally write in his blog.  I’m going to make him accountable for that.

But if something is holding YOU back from something based on what others have told you OR just plain fear…get over it!  I hate to say this, but really:

NO ONE CARES IF YOU DO IT NOT!

Give people a reason to care…whether it is good or bad…Any recognition is good recognition!

cheers…matt

Selling Stuff Online, But How?

I feel that I keep diverting the question I keep asking which is:

“How am I going to sell stuff online?”

I’ve already kind of poo-pooed the idea of selling stuff with auctions.  That being said, don’t completely ignore it.  eBay, for example, does offer something called eBay Stores.  There are a few great things about this:

  1. It is a real online store…not just an eBay Auction
  2. You inherently get traffic from the eBay auctions (this is awesome!)
  3. The framework is already set-up for you.

Those are all really good reasons to consider an eBay store as a starting point to selling products online.  It is very low cost and low risk to begin with (you can start as low as  $15.95/month with a 20 cent insertion fee).  Now I’m not saying that this is ideal for the long run.  Those insertion fees can add up and you really don’t get much flexibility in how you want your store to be.  Still, it is not a bad starting option.

Another similar idea (and one that I have personally used to start an eCommerce store in the past) is Yahoo Stores.  This is a little bit more pricey per month (starting at $29.96/month) and they do have a 1.5% transaction fee.  Still, this has a lot more options than the eBay store and it will look like a true eCommerce solutions online. It integrates shopping carts, merchanting, product placement, etc.  Plus you have more flexibility with design (they have some HTML functionality…but it “ain’t” perfect…a lot of the structure of their site is RTML-based which a few select designers really know how to program).  I did like this option a lot!

The next step is do it yourself (well, sort of).  For the eBay Store and Yahoo Store, they host your website (i.e., you don’t need a hosting company).  If you want to manage the entire store yourself and avoid some of those larger monthly fees and transaction costs, you can host a store yourself.  There are companies that can sell you the entire template of a store which you (or even them) can install on a server that you rent (you know, through something like HostGator for $10/month).

ShopFactory is a company I’ve used in the past as well.  I’m kind of a tech geek so setting it up myself wasn’t a big deal.  Still, they offer set-up services to do it for you.  For products like this, you pay a one-time cost up-front and then you are done!  No recurring fees (other than hosting), no transaction fees.  These types of shops you typically have a lot more options with customization, too.  That is good.

So there are three good options to start looking at.  I’ve used the last two, but I know a lot of people who use eBay Stores, especially for the internet traffic.  Just remember that setting up the store does not have to be technical and expensive.  This is the easy part!  Wait until we start talking about marketing!

cheers…matt

Selling Stuff Online – What to Avoid Doing!

Last time, we talked a bit about auctions and eBay.  For creating a real ecommerce business online, auctions can be quite useful but the days of Making Millions on eBay are long gone.

I hate to tell everyone this, but easy online money is really not around anymore.  Sure, there are a few quick shot strategies that may work temporarily, but they catch on quickly these days and make them obsolete quickly.

If you are going to sell stuff online, it should be a business.  There is a lot more to making money online than creating a website and sourcing some products (that is actually the easy stuff).  Its finding customers and getting them to buy that’s the difficult part.  We’ll talk about that another day, but right now we still need to figure out the website and philosophy of your website.

Now my first MAJOR tip is simple:

SELLING PRODUCTS CHEAP USUALLY ENDS IN FAILURE.

If you are like me, I scour the internet for one thing:  cheap stuff.  And therefore, you probably assume that offering products the cheapest will make you a winner.  This is false!  Little to no margin is NOT going to make you money, it is going to make you busy working for nothing.

Do you really think you are going to beat out Walmart or Amazon?  I have my Prime membership with Amazon and when I want something, I usually go there first, get a product that is typically as cheap or cheaper than everyone else and it will be shipped to my house in 2 days.  I just bought a 60 pound barbell set with Amazon Prime and it cost me $20.  (The shipping alone probably would cost you more than that!).

Don’t go into a price war!  You won’t win.  You can’t (unless you create an Uber-mall like Amazon).

Speaking of malls, this brings up my next point:

STAY AWAY FROM MAKING A MALL ONLINE!

I know it sounds like a great idea at first.  When I first created “TheWebReviewer” I kept it a generic name because I was going to review EVERYTHING.  That was a mistake.  From a marketing point of view, it is really hard to promote a mall unless you have some serious resources behind you.  In this case, it is about a brand rather than a product.  I know, there are some nifty product feeds that will give you everything you need to set up the mall on a website, but promoting it is going to be nearly impossible.  Plus, what can YOU offer these shoppers that Amazon cannot?  Not much.

Finally, one more big thing to think about:

SELL WHAT IS SELLING

I know, kind of a “Yoda” saying here.  But it makes a really good point.  In my career, I have come across some rather cool gadgets and toys.  You know, some of the weird stuff you may find in SkyMall on your next flight.  Now with SkyMall, it works because of its distribution.  But for you, you are going to find these “inventions” tough to promote.

IF NO ONE IS LOOKING FOR IT, WILL IT BE BOUGHT?

Maybe, but the marketing strategy is very different and can be very difficult.  Now, exploring niches can be good.  Let’s say diamond-encrusted dog collars.  People are looking for dog collars and some even be interested in high end dog collars.  It is probably a small niche that has some demand.

But what about a self-cleaning fork.  Might sound cool.  Does anyone know about it?  Probably not.  Who would be looking for it?  I don’t know.  See the problem here?

Market research must be a part of your product selection.  And don’t be afraid of entering into markets that are already doing well (that just means people are making money in it…that is a good thing!).

So next time, we’ll talk a little bit more about how we are going to sell stuff and how we are going to structure our website to do so.

cheers…matt

I’m Gonna Make Money On eBay…NOT!

Last entry, we talked about product sourcing and finding stuff to sell.  That is a good starting point!  But the key to this all is:

“Where am I going to sell this stuff?”

Of course, this question probably came before you started to look for products to buy wholesale.  But it is an interesting question and one that requires a bit more thought than probably you have been told.

Auctions

Gosh, the whole “Make Money on eBay” niche seems so 2005 to me.  Yet, you still see plenty of people hyping about the millions that you can make selling products on auction.  Let’s get something really clear here:

Selling on auction-sites as a business is tough.

This is one of the most over-saturated markets to sell anything in.  This works well for three different types of people:

  • Selling used stuff
  • Selling liquidated and extreme wholesale products
  • Lead generation

The first one is really the intention of eBay…sell your old stuff for money.  Kind of like a domestic Craigslist.  Profits are good but typically stock is low.  Unless you run a consignment-type business or a pawn shop, your inventory is going to be tough to keep up.

The second one is buying extremely low cost products.  There are still some niches out there that you can make a profit on wholesale-sourced products.  Usually this is few and far between and if competition rears its ugly head, you might be in for a price war (usually resulting in you losing!).  Other people have exclusive rights to sell specific products at lower rates than the public.  Again, no competion results in huge gains.

Last is lead generation.  This is the game I have played over the years and it works well.  The problem here is that you really aren’t selling anything for profit!  Yes, you heard me…you typically LOSE money this way on auctions…but gain business elsewhere.  Personally, I see this as the only real fundamental and sustainable way to use auctions to make money.

For example, let’s say that I sell fishing equipment somewhere else on the internet and I am looking for customers.  Why not buy a bunch of fishing tackles wholesale and sell them LESS than what you paid online?  People like it because they want a deal (exactly why they are on the auction site in the first place) and you will like it because you know they are great fishing leads.  At this point, you make sure you deliver promptly, throw in a coupon and thank them for their purchase.  You can also get them to opt-in to your sales funnel, too.

This works. 

And frankly, I see it as the only way to run a business on auction sites these days.  I’m open to hear your thoughts (and I assume there will be stories to contradict this, but there are not many any more).

Is this your path to selling stuff online, maybe…but it isn’t a direct way to do it!  I have more ideas up my sleave…just wait!

cheers…matt

Reseller Licenses – Do I need one?

Being in the internet marketing business for a number of years, I’ve spent some time in the buying and selling of goods. How does this work?  Simple, you first need to find the products to sell (the lower the cost, the better!), sell the products on your website or auction, and then deliver the products.

All three parts have their problems associated with them.  Today, we talk about the first problem and that is product souring!

Where do you find products to sell?

Over the years, I tried all kinds of services and sites to help me find wholesale products.  Worldwide Brands and Doba have been two of the most successful ones for me.  There are other places to look, too, like Alibaba and Thomas Register online.  These two are quite large, but a bit less reliable.  You could always do some Google searching, but the results usually get cluttered with “middlemen” (companies claiming to sell you items wholesale, but really they are just reselling you THEIR wholesale products at a marked up price.)

I’m not totally against middlemen vendors for some ventures (something for another post), but realize that not only do they mark up the price, but legally they should be charging you sales tax on those products, assuming they sell from a state that collects sales tax.

The Reseller (or Resale) License

Companies that ask you for your resale license are usually true wholesalers.  They might also be authorized distributors, but typically this is the bottom of the barrel (unless you are planning on buying massive quantities).  If they don’t ask for a reseller license, then technically, they should be charging you sales tax and usually they are marking up the price.

Wholesale directories like Worldwide Brands typically require you to have a license before you can communicate with many of their vendors.  This is a good sign that you have reached some good suppliers (plus, Worldwide Brands does an excellent job researching and validating the vendors in their directory as legitimate).

OK, So How do I Get a Reseller License?

The good news that it is pretty darn simple and it typically costs no money to get this resale license.  The bad news is that every state has different laws and processes on getting these licenses.

Remember, the major point of getting a reseller license is for sales tax purposes!  Having a license (aka, a Sales Tax ID) exempts you from paying tax when you buy the wholesale products BUT now you are responsible for collecting sales tax when you sell your product.

Bummer dude!

In my example, I got my license in a day.  I had to go to the San Diego county tax office, fill out a few forms, then viola! In California, the State Tax IDs are issued by the counties.  Also remember that some states don’t collect sales tax and you need to look into their guidelines and responsibilities to obtaining a license.

One more thing about your license:  it is based on where you do business NOT where you are incorporated.

So where can you figure out how to get your license?  Simple:  There is a pretty good website that will direct you to resources to obtaining a reseller license for all states at:

The Sales Tax Clearinghouse Website

Check that out first!  Again, I am no expert at this, but I do know that when I did it is was rather simple and once I had my State Tax ID, communicating with real wholesale companies became really easy!

Good luck!  cheers…matt

I Will Re-Build My Business – That is My Word.

As I mentioned in my last post, 2013 is going to be year of changes for me.  This is what business is all about, right?  Learning to adapt is the key to continued success.  Sometimes it is a shift in how you sell something…for example, Blockbuster Video.  How many of these stores do you see anymore?  Not many.  I’m not saying that they adapted quick enough to be the dominant force, but they needed to move to Blockbuster On-Demand.  The product is essentially the same but the distribution is different. 

In other businesses, the change is drastic.  Do you have any idea where Circuit City went?  Well, we don’t see that many audio/video stores anymore, do we? And when their business model started falling apart and stopped making money, a bunch of smart business guys got together and re-invented their company…to CarMax.  HUH?  That’s weird.  Do either of the two have any connection?  Not really.  But they saw one opportunity fading while another one appeared and shifted gears 180 degrees.  CarMax is HUGE these days and audio/video centers?  Well, not so much.  Best Buy is still around but much of their income come from services not sales.  Costco is where I get my electronics and big electronics have such little mark-up. 

My point here is that virtually all businesses take major blows at some point.  If something is successful, people WILL try to copy it and move into its space.  That is business. 

And then there are other factors.  Business went head-over-heels when the internet was born.  Novelity and niche shops became obsolete.  People could charge less on the internet due to less overhead.  Fads come and go, too.  I have a friend who in the late 90s opened a Beanie Baby shop and made a KILLING on it…until Beanie Babies were no longer the fad.

And now, here I sit in a niche covered in slime by the “make money online” marketers who juiced the concept of home based business to the point of making it a big scam.  So much so, that companies like Google will punish you for just being in this space.

I suppose I understand it, too.  Believe me, I have plenty to say about Google right now (and I will in later posts) but at the end of the day, I totally understand. 

My job right now is not to focus on what Google has done to me, but rather, FIX IT.  Fix my business.  Re-structure it.  Clean it up.  Focus on what others have not already destroyed.  This is how you succeed in business:  Not complain about what happened, but adapt to what can be. 

I feel confident that I will re-build my business.  (For those Landmark people out there…I say it as my word.) 

cheers…matt

Out with the Old!

Last post, I introduced you to the new TheWebReviewer 4.0. The new “style” is in place and I’m starting to get a nice warm and fuzzy feeling about it.

But I’ve been looking through the content and YIKES!  Yes, I’ve been doing this since 2006, and it seems like some of my reviews are from, well, 2006.  (Does The Rich Jerk still exist?).

So this week, I am giving the website a content enema.  I know, sounds gross, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

First thing to go are all of the “making money online” programs and ebooks.  I kind of gave up on these things back in 2010, but my site is still littered with these reviews.  Are there going to be more of these?  Probably not.  There are a few programs that ARE worth looking at, but I’m not going to pawn them on my website.  (I usually tell my members of them when they come out, but it is few and far between).  The days of the $47 get rich quick online ebook has had its days.  And frankly, there is so much free stuff out there (including my own stuff) that I personally don’t think it is worth your time to invest.

I do like to attend some internet marketing events (primarily to network and get some of the latest information on internet marketing), but these things really don’t exist in a special sauce ebook any more.

Along with these ebook and online making programs, it is time to throw in the towel on paid surveys.  Do they work?  Uh, kind of.  Not really.  In most cases, these survey sites are just trying to get your name so they can sell you into their coaching programs (something I am quite familiar with…but worth a discussion in another post!).

So my focus of TheWebReviewer 4.0 is going to be two-fold:

1)  Tell you about my experiences in internet marketing and help you learn from my mistakes and things to avoid.

2)  Review products and tools that I use or find necessary to grow your business online.

That’s it.  I’m also going to re-vitalize my own blog at MatthewBredel.com to share my geeky side and show off some of my php, MySQL, HTML, javascript and wordpress theme skills.  I’ve done so much over the years (some pretty cool, tricky stuff) and I am wanting to start sharing this stuff.  It won’t be for beginners, but it will give everyone some insight to the sneaky things us programmers can do online.

I always welcome comments and suggestions!  cheers…matt

TheWebReviewer 4.0!

Holy Smoke!  Can you believe it has now been 7 years since I started TheWebReviewer?  As Jerry Garcia once said:

“What a long, strange trip it’s been…”

Back in 2006, I never would have dreamed that in 2013 I would still be doing this (and loving it just as much as the day I began).  I went from literally knowing nothing about the internet (other than how to put in a “www” address) to becoming a pseudo-expert in all aspects of internet marketing (including affiliate marketing, eCommerce, lead generation, product creation, Search Engine Optimization, Pay-Per-Click advertising, and social marketing, just to name a few).

I ever have become a rather crafty web programmer and today I introduce you to my latest and greatest version of TheWebReviewer, version 4.0!  I admit, things started out quite ugly:

TheWebReviewer.com's beginnings (it ain't pretty!)

Basically it was a static 20 page website that I created in Nvu (A fairy basic, but free website builder).  Hey, it did the trick and it got me started in this business.

Over time, I got to learn php and MySQL (and created a killer content portal for Tru-Guru, which you can see yourself for free by joining TheWebReviewer EXTREME).  I became pretty good at Adobe Dreamweaver, too.

Today I release my latest version of TheWebReviewer (my fourth “major” re-design).  I learned an awesome new skill, that will hopefully help a lot of your in the near future:

WordPress Plugin’s and Themes

I ended up re-writing the entire website as a WordPress Plugin (I love technology!).  I can’t tell you how excited about this release I am, too.  I have crammed all of my “behind-the-scenes” special sauces to the design, plus made it super user friendly for (hopefully) you, my visitor, my editors and writers and myself.

Now I’m still ironing out the kinks of the website (please let me know if you find any major problems or error…send it to my helpdesk!).  So this is kind of a “beta” release right now and I have a few more features I want to add, but I’m hoping that Q2 of 2013 will bring you the brains behind TheWebReviewer and release the Plugin to the public.

ReviewPress is Coming!

But right now, you should do two things:

  • Enjoy the website and check out the years of reviews and research I have performed to you create your own money making online venture.
  • Sign up for TheWebReviewer EXTREME!  It is free and I will be notifying my members first  of the release (and pre-release!) of the ReviewPress plug-in.  It is going to be killer!  Join here!

cheers…matt

Writing an Effective Press Release Can Boost your Chances of Making Money Online

In this digital age, the
press release no longer is dictated to a reporter at a newspaper nor is
it typed out and mailed or faxed to various print-based news outlets.
Now, it is released through the internet on demand. Writing a press
release these days may employ a few of the same elements as yesteryear,
but for the most part, it is now cutting edge. You must have the latest
and greatest content to capture the short attention spans of the
internet user.

Making
money online these days requires that you constantly promote yourself.
Compelling, urgent-sounding information released frequently is what it
takes to stay in the consciousness of your targeted audience. For this
reason, content truly rules in the realm of cyberspace. If you are
having some trouble trying to sound continuously fresh in your press releases, put a fresh spin on your basic product or service.

Hype New Services and Products

While
your press release will have some of the same elements from story to
story, the best way to spice things up is to focus on a hot trend or
current event making headlines that could tie into your business. When your press release links into something your audience wants to know about, they will find it relevant and newsworthy. Readers will often end up
visiting your website to learn more, ultimately boosting your ability to
make money online with your business.

Tie into Research and Statistics

People
love “top ten” lists and statistics derived from the latest surveys.
Research articles as well as trade journals and whitepapers and more to
glean information that may tie into your products and services you sell
online. When you can provide your own information that may help your
target audience research their purchases, you can end up with new
customers.

Promotions and Offers

Nothing brings in potential customers more than special promotions and offers such as free shipping on certain products or even “buy one, get one free” deals. Making your products and services appear more attractive for shoppers
in your press release will help you make more money online and boost
business.

Keep
in mind that you can submit press releases on your own through various
news distribution channels and social media outlets. However, the
process is rather time intensive. Consider hiring a professional
submission service to do the work for you. They know which news outlets
to focus in on to ensure your target audience is reached. A professional
press release distribution service like eReleases or PRWeb can help boost web traffic to your site as well as help with
search engine ranking. Stick with what you know – running your online
business – and let a professional submission service handle your online
press release promotions. They know how to get results for you.