Mar 09

The Multi-Media Flair Phenomenon – Part 3

By mikefilsaime | Uncategorized

In the last two articles, I’ve talked about audio and video as a form of online ‘Flair’. But what is ‘Flair’? Simply put… it’s a touch of professionalism added to your media that sets your website apart and makes your competitors look like amateurs.

I can’t think of a single ‘Flair’ tool that’s become more prevalent in Internet Marketing than the use of audio and video to boost conversion and stick rates. Last month we learned that you don’t need a ‘Guru’ budget to achieve professional media Flair. But what do you need? In fact, it’s usually the simplest but often-overlooked things that have the most devastating effect on the quality of video and audio production.
Excuses, Excuses…

My research into Flair shows that people commonly come up with one of seven excuses to explain the lack of audio or video use or to justify the poor quality of their recordings. Some of these are understandable but all of them are easily solvable with a little effort and creativity. Any of the following sound familiar?
Multi-Media Flair Phenomenon

  1. “I don’t have a Mac so all my videos are rubbish”
  2. “I don’t own any fancy video production or capturing software”
  3. “I never sound good because my computer microphone is rubbish”
  4. “Good cameras are way too expensive”
  5. “The ‘Gurus’ have recording studios and I don’t”
  6. “I’ve a strong accent so people don’t understand me.”
  7. “I have a face for radio so my videos look terrible!”

1. “I don’t have a Mac so all my videos are rubbish”

It’s no secret that I’m a Mac man. Like they say, once you go Mac you don’t ever go back. However, the notion that you can’t create amazing-looking videos on a Windows-based PC or laptop is just not true. As a matter of fact, Vista and Win7 both come with Windows Movie Maker built in.

WMM is very simple to use and you may not even realize that you already have it on your computer. It allows you to create a movie out of assorted clips, images and text that you can easily edit together in a timeline. You can add or delete segments, insert transitions and images. It even enables you to overlay music or narration onto your video. Once you’re happy with the production you can render and export the project as a movie file and upload it to your website for people to view.

The Mac alternative for WMM would be I-Movie, and yes, it does boast a few extra bells and whistles. For example, it has a pretty exhaustive library of audio clips, music and sound effects as well as some nifty layering and text overlay features. Plus, it lets you publish directly to YouTube. Apart from this, it works the same as WMM: you import your video clips and images, then crop, clip, copy, paste and stream to your heart’s content. Again once you’re satisfied with it, simply export it for viewing on to your website.

2. “I don’t own any fancy video production or capturing software”

You may need a couple of new applications to create your final masterpiece. It depends what you’re trying to do. Most of what you need is available online – free or practically free. Try for example, Techsmith’s product Jing, which enables you to create 5-minute screen-capture recordings for free. Jing is a pretty cool alternative to the more elaborate Camtasia Studio Suite. It allows you to save the screen capture to your desktop and then import it into WMM or I-Movie for further editing and splicing. An open source alternative is Camstudio.org, which you can download free at www.Camstudio.org.

A Google search for ‘free video editing software’ will turn up thousands of results. Most of these will offer 30-day trials so that you play around with them before you shell out. Steer clear of those open source video editors who will plaster a watermark advertisement all over your final production. This is distracting and cheapens the quality of your video.

3. “I never sound good because my computer microphone is rubbish”

You have a point here. Audio quality is very important whether you’re delivering a video narration or a straight-up MP3. Most computer microphones leave a lot to be desired on playback because they are inherently over-sensitive.

I would advise you to invest in a Lavalier microphone. Lavalier mics are specifically designed for live narration applications and cancel out most unwanted noise. You don’t need an expensive wireless one; a wired, battery-powered version from Ebay for as little as a tenner will give you far better sound quality than a computer mic.

Regardless of the mic you choose, always remember to keep it in a fixed location while you’re recording so that it doesn’t pick up motion noises. Also, if you’re not happy with the sound you’re getting, try importing your recording into Audacity – another free program that you can download. Use the equalization features to tweak the sound quality and edit out unwanted noises.

4. “Good cameras are way too expensive”

True, professional cameras can be expensive and with lower priced ones you usually have to compromise on one or two elements of production quality. If you’re really trying to get ‘Pro Flair’ don’t use a built-in computer camera or webcam. You’re better off going with a USB Flip by Mino or a Vado by Creative. These are very fairly priced on Amazon or Ebay.

Unfortunately, the downside is that they have no mic input for your Lavalier so you will have to be very careful to reduce ambient environment noises. The next step up from a USB camera would be a digital camcorder with a microphone input. These tend to cost a bit more but the overall production quality of the video and audio is well worth it.

One final tip on cameras. It doesn’t matter how much you spend: if you don’t put your camera on a tripod, your video will look amateurish. Whether it’s a small desktop tripod or a floor-standing version, stability is a crucial factor in recording quality.

5. “The ‘Gurus’ have recording studios and I don’t”

You don’t need a professional studio to produce a quality video or audio recording and that’s a fact. Flair often comes down to good old-fashioned planning, practice and preparation. Be mindful of lighting and use multiple house lamps to cancel out shadows. Be creative with household items like throws, rugs, blankets and cushions as sound dampeners to remove unwanted reverb. A creative and detailed approach is more than a match for a professional studio environment.

6. “I’ve a strong accent so people don’t understand me”

The general rule in sales presentations is to “Appeal To The Masses”. In order to accomplish that, you need to sound as clear and comprehensible as possible. If you feel your accent is preventing you from making sales then consider outsourcing the narration to a professional by using pre-recorded clips from VoxFlair.com or ordering a custom audio. Another option would be to use sub captions in your video or text slides. This way the viewer can follow you by reading along.

7. “I have a face for radio so my videos look terrible!”

If for any reason you’d prefer not to appear on camera, the quickest and easiest alternative is to create a PowerPoint slideshow and just narrate over it. Many marketers do this and then add a photo of themselves to the slideshow so the viewer can at least put a face to the voice. Alternatively you can also outsource this on-screen work to a trained actor/actress. A Google search should throw up some live presenter service providers.

So no excuses left standing; just a final piece of advice. Don’t skimp on the planning and preparation. Write it down first, not just the script but the entire process. Try sketching out a storyboard, flow chart or process map. It can keep you focused and give you an early heads-up on any potential challenges.

I hope that with all the information and resources I’ve given you in this series of articles, you’re well on your way to creating some professional media Flair! You can find step-by-step guidance and practical tips for producing your video and audio at www.VoxFlair.com.

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By Omar Martin
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This article was originally featured in Mike Filsaime’s print newsletter, “MDC Monthly.” You can get a free trial copy shipped to your door by clicking here.

Check out Omar Martin’s WordPress tutorials at http://www.wordpressarsenal.com. Omar Martin’s sales portfolio includes many ofthe Fortune 500 corporations as well as professional sports teams and restaurant chains. Regardless of product, venue, or industry Omar has proven that people love to buy, but hate to be sold. Learn more about Omar at http://www.omar-martin.com.

Mar 06

Neighborhood Marketing Part Two: From Little Acorns…

By mikefilsaime | Uncategorized

In Part One of Neighborhood Marketing we looked at the basic points to consider before launching a locally targeted Website. In this installment we’ll be leaping into action with some tips on how to get started with your local Web venture.

Start Small and Create Natural Momentum

This critical success tip actually pertains to any Website, local or otherwise. Unless you have a solid base of startup cash, lots of relevant connections, and a good deal of marketing experience you should start out with a small, simple concept and plan on building from there.

It’s perfectly fine to outline a big plan and to project where you’d like to be in one year, two years, and so forth. By no means am I suggesting you limit yourself or undercut your capacity for tremendous success. However, once your full blown master plan is in black and white ask yourself:

What one or two aspects of this plan can I put into action right now with the honest expectation of real growth and success?

For example, if you start a simple discussion forum for local issues and general chatter, stick to just the forum board in the beginning. Go ahead and add an Ezine or newsletter that ties into the discussion but don’t get into developing the actual Web property beyond creating the forum categories. Have a general talk section, local sports and shopping sections, a board for activism and charity, an “upcoming events” and “recent news” area, and maybe a nightlife section.

Take the time to start a number of discussions yourself, perhaps using articles and polls as the initial posts. Invite your friends, family, and co-workers to join the forum and get involved in these conversations. Nag them if you have to. Anything you can do at first to create even the illusion of activity will initiate a momentum cycle that grows with time. Respond to yourself if you have to; just find a reason to add to your initial post with a second, or create a second member account and respond as your alter ego.

There’s nothing at all wrong with setting up more than one user profile using your middle name, a nickname, or even a made up name. For some people this might be a gray area but the truth is it’s nothing more than storytelling or acting. All you’re doing here is playing a role that adds new content and value to your community. Once things begin moving along you can simply drop the extra profiles, or you might consider keeping your new characters around and putting them to good use down the road. You can use these additional profiles to stir up an intense discussion, back you up in a pinch, or as regular comic relief.

If you feel at all uncomfortable with this suggestion, here’s something to consider: you don’t HAVE to conceal the fact that you are behind the second or third forum accounts. You could be totally open and make a running gag out of it, perhaps setting up a second profile as your “evil twin” or “secret identity”.

As your membership grows and posts start flowing, pay attention to the things that get come up most in the member discussion threads. When you get lots of posts, comments, questions, and rants pertaining to anything specific, ask the forum members if they’d like a special section devoted to conversations of this nature.

Exploit the Power of Your Own Volunteer Organization

If there’s a good response, set up the new section and then approach one of the more balanced, regular posters and ask them if they’d like to moderate your new section. All they’ll need to do is delete ads and offensive content, move off-topic threads into the appropriate area, and notify you of any major incidents or issues. You can repeat this process as often as needed until you end up with a very robust forum site and a whole team of moderators.

In this manner you’ll give people what they want and line up a group of volunteers to handle most of the work for you. This is a legitimate win-win scenario as the whole forum gets new content and discussion opportunities, your project experiences serious growth, and the folks you get to moderate enjoy the benefits of their new position.

Believe it or not you’ll have little trouble getting people to moderate your forums without ever paying them a dime. This may sound odd, or even unscrupulous, but I assure you there’s nothing even remotely shady about this arrangement. Forum participants may be interested in an unpaid moderator position for a variety of reasons. Some users will enjoy the idea of being seen as a “big fish” within the community, and will be flattered by the trust you demonstrate with your invitation. Other people will be excited by the idea of being involved in the building of something fun and positive. These types of member will genuinely care about the forum and work hard to help you make the site a success.

Another reason people who are part of a forum might have an interest in being a moderator is more base, and less beneficial; they may be attracted by the idea of power. You may find this amusing. How could someone perceive a free moderator position as a station of power? You’d be surprised. Especially in cyberspace where people experience the false sense of anonymity and security, you’ll discover that many individuals get a rush from the chance to push others around and assert their control over an environment. This type of user will not be legitimately interested in the good or growth of the community. If you sense a participant is of the “power mad” variety it’s best to avoid giving them the moderator job. Should a control freak slip past your radar, i.e. you offer them the moderator gig before you realized what they’re about, take the appropriate action to correct the situation immediately.

If your forum offers articles that include highly opinionated, editorial style content you can actually turn a member with power/control issues into an asset. A bit of controversy has its place, especially within a community. You may be able to turn such a person loose within their own special section, thus creating content that really fires up your readers and posters. Be sure to only apply this idea if you can do so without seriously offending anyone or causing harm to your member growth.

One example of how to leverage highly opinionated people within your business model is to set a few of them up with their own blogs; some forum software allows specified members or member types to run blogs as part of their profile. Assign specific topics to each blogger and pay close attention to the comments and interactions that result from their postings. Note comments from readers who disagree with your bloggers in a particularly intelligent and well thought manner, then ask these people if they’d like to have their own blogs to present a counter perspective on the issue at hand. Raging debates, intelligent extremists, and even entertaining loudmouths can be very good for business. These elements will get other readers talking amongst themselves, and about the site, resulting in more and more public interest and traffic. As long as you remain fully engaged in the process, assuring all bloggers of their importance in the overall scheme of things and keeping the exchanges from getting ugly, this style of setup can quickly become an explosive local Web community.

Show Me The Money!

While you now have an idea of how to establish a great forum around events and interests from your local area, you might be wondering how any of this will put money into your bank account. There are lots of different ways to create an income with a forum Website.

A general discussion forum could turn a profit using Adsense or some other contextual ad system. The special code from such a program would display targeted advertisements to your members based on the content from each discussion, and you’d get paid any time one of your readers clicks on any of the ad links.

Traditional advertising sales is another obvious revenue stream. Offer local businesses banner or pop-up style ads in specific forum sections relevant to their products and services. Because of your low overhead (ten bucks for a domain, a few bucks per month hosting, and maybe $100 for a designer to whip up some cool graphics) you can offer very low pricing on monthly or quarterly ad space. Just $25 each 30 days from 10 shop owners or service providers adds up to a cool $250 per month in passive action. Once you start getting some decent traffic you could easily charge $50 to $100, or you could put together a special sponsorship package with banners, pop windows, and even an email endorsement for $200 and up. There are many, many, ways to offer ad space on your site and this always amounts to a win-win system whereby you get paid for helping the local economy.

You could also arrange affiliate-style promotions with the business owners in your area and use the appropriate sections of your forum to promote upcoming sales, special events, and more. Virtually any entrepreneur will be happy to give you a cut of the action when you help them sell their wares.

Depending on the content and interest, you may even be able to sell exclusive coaching and consultation packages through a local forum site. Your neighborhood horticulturist might be open to putting on a Saturday seminar on water gardens and letting you profit from ticket sales or backend promotions. Perhaps a local musician could offer a group tutorial especially for your members and split the proceeds with you. Get creative and brainstorm with some of the services in your area to see what you can come up with.

A locally grown, forum Website, can generate a truly surprising array of income streams. Every town is different, meaning there are bound to be unique opportunities right under your nose if you put some genuine time and energy into the thinking and planning process. Remember also that a forum could be the seed from which the rest of your venture grows. Certainly you don’t have to limit yourself to only a forum board. This is one of many ways you can start your locally focused community site. While a forum may be the most practical and easy option, it’s not the only route you can go.

Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow

The main point of emphasis here is to start small and tightly focused. This allows you to keep your options open so you can adapt to the desires of your visitors and members. Instead of taking a big leap in one direction, that may or may not work out, you can take your first few steps and then adjust course by heeding the feedback of your participants. Starting small will also give you more time to fix anything that gets broken or messed up in the beginning. It’s easier to work through any technical or logistical issues with a small program (like a forum) than to set up a multi-faceted site and then end up having to troubleshoot numerous software platforms and member support issues at the same time. Finally, taking things slowly in the early days gives you the opportunity to learn the ropes and refine your skills so you can really maximize your results once you begin expanding. Virtually all runaway success stories started with a very simple idea and a basic method of operation. Take your time, do things right, and reap the rewards later when you’re in a strong position to go large.

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This article was originally featured in Mike Filsaime’s print newsletter, “MDC Monthly.” You can get a free trial copy shipped to your door by clicking here.

Mar 02

Crisis Management – Part One

By mikefilsaime | Uncategorized

There’s a popular Mark Twain quote, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.

Your parents may not know how to tweet, blog or email but there’s some wisdom that only comes with years of experience. Like it or not, your parents will always have the edge over you on that one. Fortunately, I figured this one out a while back, so I listened carefully when my Dad said, “Mike, remember that your business, as it grows, is not about how much money you make; it’s about how much money you keep.

It may not ever be as popular as a Mark Twain quote but I think it deserves to be. It’s one of those statements that sounds like simple common sense, yet most business owners act as if this is a totally alien concept. It’s understandable really. The excitement of seeing the PayPal account filling with sales can distract you from the realities of cash flow. In practice, the more money you have coming in, usually the more money you have going out. It’s the difference between these two numbers that determines how profitable your business REALLY is.

It’s extremely difficult to overstate the importance of handling this part of your business correctly. The longer it takes you to grasp this area, the longer your profits will be needlessly restricted. In the worst case scenario your cash flow can completely dry up and your business bankrupt before you even realize there’s a problem. This isn’t scare-mongering – this HAPPENS to businesses every day.

Let’s consider a handful of business practices you can put in place that will keep your cash flow healthy.

Watch Your Bottom Line

A classic mistake that new business owners make is failing to realize how much expenses can affect the bottom line. Creating $100,000 in sales this year means nothing until you’ve also figured out your expenses for web hosting, office materials, computer equipment, fax machine, phone line, paying your affiliates, and so on. If you want enough profit to pay the rent and put food on the table – let alone paying for vacations and a new car – then the only thing that really matters is the amount of money that’s left over: The Bottom Line

Another of my Dad’s favorite pearls of wisdom is, “Watch the nickels and dimes, and the dollars will take care of themselves.” This means paying attention to everything that you spend on your business, INCLUDING the lower costs. For example, if you’re hiring a graphic designer to create a logo, don’t just take the first reasonably priced provider that you find via Google. Post your project on an auction site, such as Elance, and take a little extra time to get some bids. If you can find a reputable provider that charges $79 instead of $149, it may only sound like a small saving in the scheme of things, but the culmination (or the long-tail) of all the instances in which you reduce your expenses is going to put more money in your pocket and keep you profitable for years to come.

Income Vs Profits

If you really pay attention to your profits, compared with your income, you’ll start to see ways to increase the amount of money that you keep from each sale.

Put it this way – if you’re selling a product for $47 and it costs you $10 to cover your merchant fees and the shipping and handling, you’re netting $37. But if you can find a less expensive provider and reduce your costs from $10 down to $5, now, for every nine eBooks that you sell, you’ve made an additional $45 in profits – basically the equivalent of another sale. If you can imagine your profits INCREASING at the same rate that your expenses are DECREASING, you’ll quickly find the motivation needed to spend time reducing your costs.

Variable Expenses

A variable expense is an expense that varies – yes, I know, it’s not rocket science! The clever part is making your expenses vary, up and down, in correspondence with your sales volume. Affiliate sales are a classic example of a variable expense. If you pay 50% commission to your affiliates then you only have to pay commission when a sale has been made. No matter how many or few sales are made, you are assured of always having enough funds to cover the expense.

Compare this approach with a business that has an in-house sales team being paid by the hour. The cost of the salary is fixed and has to be paid, even if one month no-one makes any sales. In that scenario you have to dig into last month’s profits to find the money to pay everyone’s wages (on top of the fact that your sales team sucks)!
Keep this in mind when negotiating expenses and you’ll find lots of areas that can be run as a variable expense, even if they are traditionally a fixed expense. As an example, imagine you’re looking for a virtual assistant to handle your help desk queries. Rather than paying a fixed number of dollars per day, offer them, let’s say, $0.25 for every product you sell. Now your help desk management expenses will scale up and down based on the number products you sell. Immediately after launch, when business is booming, and the number of help desk queries is high, your virtual assistant is going to get a wage to match their workload. In a year’s time, if sales volume has dropped, along with the number of help desk queries, the amount of money you are committed to paying for this expense is also reduced.

The more variable expenses you have, compared to fixed expenses, the less likely it is that you’ll find yourself in a situation where your expenses exceed your income.

Never Measure Your Business by Your Balance

The balance in your business checking account can vary considerably from month to month. Those swings will appear even more pronounced if you’re looking at your balance on a weekly basis. Week one your balance could be $50,000, week two $75,000, week three $110,000 and week four, right back down to $30,000. When taken in isolation, using your balance to diagnose the health of your business is extremely inaccurate. Even if you start to factor in your expenses, if you play it fast and loose then you’re setting yourself up for a REAL crisis. Maybe you remember to factor in your American Express bill and your hosting bill, but what if you forget that you haven’t yet paid your affiliates for the big launch you had two months ago?

Anytime you have a financial decision to make, start by getting a full breakdown of your accounts including: revenue, expenses, profit, forecasting, and so on. If you’re not confident about doing this yourself, hire a bookkeeper or an accountant and request regular financial statements that will show you exactly how profitable you are.

The best way to escape a crisis in your business is to properly manage your affairs before any problems become critical. Make sure you’ve read this article through carefully and then go and get your bank statements, credit card statements, and any other accounts information you have regarding your business. Look through the numbers and make sure you have an accurate understanding of your cash flow. Then, and only then, are you in a position to start applying the suggestions in this article.

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Find a Reasonably Priced Provider in Less Than 24 Hours

Searching for a good value provider doesn’t even have to add an unmanageable amount to your workload. Next time you need to hire someone in a hurry but don’t want to pay through the nose, try this approach.

Step One: Post your project on Elance but go into the Advanced Options and set the auction to run for just one day.

Elance

Step Two: Once your auction is open for bids, go to the “Browse” section of “Get Services” and browse using the Skills Directory. Choose the skill that is the closest match to your project and bring up all the providers in that category.

Elance

Step Three: Refine the results by moving the first two slider bars up to the maximum. Adjust the “Hourly Rate” slider if it’s appropriate to your project, otherwise leave it set to “Any”.

Elance

Step Four: Click on the name of the first provider that appears in the results (hold down the CTRL key when you click to open the details in a new tab) and select the “Get a Proposal” button.

Elance

Step Five: Go back to the search results and repeat Step Four for about a dozen providers (or more if you wish).

This will usually generate a nice handful of bids for you to choose from, often within just a few hours. This technique has the added advantage of helping you to find efficient providers that are good at responding quickly to emails.

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By Mike Filsaime
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This article was originally featured in Mike Filsaime’s print newsletter, “MDC Monthly.” You can get a free trial copy shipped to your door by clicking here.

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Mike Filsaime is an author, software developer, renowned speaker, personal coach, business consultant, and most of all… an intensive marketer.

Feb 28

Compliance: Can you afford not to?

By mikefilsaime | Uncategorized

If you’re anything like the average Internet Marketer, you probably haven’t spent a whole lot of time keeping up-to-date with the laws that apply to your online activity. It usually takes an irate customer and the threat of a lawsuit to make us think about whether we’re protected sufficiently under the law. By then it’s probably too late.

The consequences of doing nothing
Let’s look at the potential consequences if you do nothing to ensure your business is compliant. You might get sued by a dissatisfied customer. You might get sued by several dissatisfied customers armed with a relentless consumer advocate lawyer who doesn’t like the way you’re doing business online. The government might launch an investigation into your industry and all its practices – the biggest fear among all Internet marketers, newbies and pro’s alike.

If the government means business – and they usually do – you can end up losing your business assets and having your bank accounts frozen. And unless you started your business with the right structure, you could lose your personal assets too. Best-case scenario, these situations tend to be settled with a very large fine from your pocket and a promise never to be naughty again. Is this a risk you can afford?

The cost of being compliant
Internet marketers who are already making six figures are of course more than willing to shell out for legal advice to protect a thriving and profitable business. Done correctly, compliance requires customised legal advice and legal documents prepared by a solicitor who actually knows the latest Internet law. Getting your business protected proactively is costly but probably not as expensive as the damage-limitation you’ll have to do if something goes wrong without protection.

For those of us who need to think twice about this kind of expenditure, compliance is more of a business judgment. You need to risk-assess your industry and your business. Ask yourself, “How likely is it that I am going to be sued? If so, what are the consequences? Is it X amount? Am I going to lose everything? What’s going to happen?”

Am I safer from the long arm of the law if I run a business from home?

How likely is it that a home-based business owner is going to be targeted for non-compliance? It depends on your content. If your website purports to sell a cure for AIDS or offers illegal products like firearms, there’s a good chance that you’ll get into a lot of trouble, and will even be arrested.

If you’re selling something that’s deceptive or unethical but isn’t illegal, like get-rich-quick products, there’s a slightly lower risk of being hauled up for non-compliance. However if your target market includes ‘sympathetic’ consumers such as stay-at-home mothers, children, the elderly or other segments that government agencies are keen to protect – you’re a lot more likely to get squashed if you step out of line legally speaking.

Reducing your risk without breaking the bank

Many online entrepreneurs simply cannot afford the professional services fees involved in becoming compliant. If your budget can’t stretch to an experienced Internet lawyer, it’s going to be a case of self-help:

  • Start by purchasing legal website templates that have been prepared by a credible Internet legal expert.
  • Educate yourself on the do’s and don’ts of online marketing by reading up on official government and industry websites so you’re at least aware of the fundamentals of what you can and can’t get away with.
  • Check out the plethora of free online resources for business owners: government websites, consumer protection bodies and trade organisations and professional institutes.
  • Draft yourself a thorough privacy policy that covers how you will treat customers, and the data you collect from them. My general rule of thumb is if you treat customers the way you want to be treated you’re going to significantly reduce your odds of being sued or investigated. Plus, you have the added bonus of sleeping better at night because it’s the right thing to do.

What about businesses that serve international markets?
Website owners should ideally be compliant with laws in every jurisdiction in which they sell products or services. Many large companies have separate websites for each country where they do business: Amazon for example. Realistically though, most home business owners can’t afford to do this when they start out. Many chose to protect themselves in the country in which they are based and/or in the country where most of their customers are.

Many companies aim to comply with US laws since the US not only has a large number of customers but also aggressive government agencies and consumer protection attorneys that frequently pursue cases against foreign sellers. Countries with smaller markets present a lower risk of lawsuits. Minor markets are often ignored in terms of compliance, at least temporarily, until the business grows to a point where it makes economic sense to address every risk.

Think You’re Untouchable?
Let me give you an example of how a country’s e-commerce law can reach far beyond its geographical boundaries.

A few years ago an Australia-based British citizen violated US federal e-commerce laws by conducting illegal online marketing to US customers.

He was of course unaware of the fact that a free trade agreement between the US and Australia included an extradition clause. The United States used that clause to request that the Australian government extradite the offender to the United States where he was prosecuted for violating US law without ever having set foot in the US before.

He was duly arrested in Australia and hauled to the US where he pled guilty, and is now serving a five-year prison sentence.

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Meet Michael E. Young, J.D., LL.M.

Attorney & Counselor at Law
I admit it. I’ve been a geek since I was a kid. I started writing basic programs on an Atari 400 and by the time I was a senior in high school, I’d started programming in COBOL. Even when I went off to law school, I spent a lot of time online with Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) and this was obviously before surfing the web was popular.

In 1996 I started picking up Internet legal clients drawing up contracts for web design, hosting (there were a lot of small hosts back then) and for operating what used to be called cyber malls, where you could buy a page on somebody’s domain – the equivalent of a mall store.

Over the years, I’ve been fascinated with ecommerce both from a business standpoint and as an Internet lawyer helping others protect and grow their businesses. I understand myself as a business owner and I understand the nuances. I like to help others do the same thing and achieve success to boot.

www.MikeYoungLawUSInternetLawFirm.com
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By Michael E. Young, J.D., LL.M.
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This article was originally featured in Mike Filsaime’s print newsletter, “MDC Monthly.” You can get a free trial copy shipped to your door by clicking here.

Feb 24

PPC Search Campaign Advertising Secrets

By mikefilsaime | Uncategorized

If you use PayPerClick advertising campaigns on Search Engines, by now you have probably noticed how expensive it is compared to previous years. These days it seems as though every one knows about Google Adwords, Yahoo Search, and MSN Adcenter, and your competitive advantage has vanished due to the upsurge in competition. Your profits diminish while your advertising costs steadily increase. But hope is not lost! I’m going to share some secret keyword research strategies with you that will unleash a flood of cheap, profitable traffic from your PPC campaigns.

Secret #1: Amazon.com
Amazon.com is one of the largest retail sites in the world. They started out selling books and have morphed into a giant online retail mecca, where you can find almost anything you want, new or used. Although Amazon.com sells merchandise and is your competitor, they can also be a huge competitive advantage for you. This is thanks to the vast amount of data that can be collected from their site – if you know how to find it. There are two effective strategies that you can use to find hidden keyword gems.

The First Amazon Strategy
First, you will need to use Google’s External Keyword Tool (https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal), though we’ll be utilizing a feature that many people ignore. Instead of the “Descriptive Words or Phrases” feature, select the radio button titled “Website Content”. This is a powerful feature that uses Google’s page analysis algorithm to determine what the specified URL content is all about. Here you will find various keywords and their search volume data, competition data, and the estimated bid prices that Google feels is relevant to that particular URL. This potent feature helps us uncover a goldmine of low competition keywords.

Next go to Amazon.com and click on any department displayed on the left hand side of the page. As an example I chose Electronics – TVs. Once that page has loaded, scroll down until you see the “Best Sellers” box on the right hand side. At the bottom of that box is a link that says “See all Bestsellers in Televisions”.

Amazon Image

Click on it and you will be taken to the Televisions bestseller list. Copy the bestseller list page URL from your browser address bar and paste it into your Google Keyword Tool’s “Website Content Analyzer”, then click the “Get Keyword Ideas” button. In just a few seconds Google will produce a list of keywords – the jackpot of keyword research.

Amazon Image

This list of keywords is typically much more of a “long tail” type of list. This is great because the competition for these is usually much lower, leaving the bid prices a lot cheaper. The long tail list is different because it’s generated from Amazon.com, a site that is specifically sales orientated, not wholly informational like Wikipedia.com. This means that people searching for these long tail terms are more interested in buying than the average searcher. You can apply this strategy to many sites on the Internet and uncover lots of low competition long tail phrases. Using Amazon.com is best for sales targeting and gets you the long tail “BUY” keywords, which will dramatically improve the ROI of your PPC Search Campaigns. Say hello to your new competitive advantage.

The Second Amazon Strategy
The second part of uncovering your untapped goldmine of keywords on Amazon.com, is to utilize their book search function for finding titles related to your products or services. To continue our example, I’ll do a search for Television books, specifically looking for book listings that have the “Look Inside” feature.

Amazon Image

The “Look Inside” button is designed to give you a preview of the content and usually allows you to make an educated decision about the quality of the writing. For us however, it’s a goldmine of untapped keyword potential to use in our PPC Search Campaigns. Simply click on the “Index” of the book and you will see hundreds, even thousands of keywords that are related to your topic – most of them “Long Tail”.

Amazon Image

This strategy alone can make your PPC Search Campaigns extremely profitable because of the amount, quality and availability of untapped keywords that you can use in your campaigns.

Secret #2: eBay.com
Ebay.com is arguably the largest virtual marketplace on the planet. Many of the buying and selling public start with a search on eBay to see how their prices compare. Here too is a competitive advantage, as we can simply utilize our first Amazon.com strategy on Ebay.com. Search your topic of interest on eBay in order to find relevant auction listings. For example, I’ll search for the keyword “Televisions” again. Once the list of auctions about Televisions is shown, I simply copy the URL from my browser address bar and enter it into the Google Keyword Tool “Website Content Section”. Finally I click the “Get Keyword Ideas” button. In just a few seconds, I have another list of great, long tail keywords, the “buy” kind that are so lucrative. As I said before, people who search these keywords are more likely looking to purchase something than merely find information on it. This is the perfect time to make sure that they see your PPC Search Ad!

Secret #3: Forums
This industry secret is more appropriate for people selling informational products than the retail kind that were the focus of the previous two secrets. It can however be extremely effective for all types of products if applied correctly. Look for forums focused on your specific topic by entering “Topic” Forum in the Google Search Engine. Continuing our existing example, I’ll enter “Television Forum” into Google. I then find forums that are focused on Televisions and explore the various forum topic threads. By entering these thread topic URLs into the Google Keyword Tool’s “Website Content Analyzer” and clicking the “Get Keyword Ideas” button I find more hidden keywords.

Hopefully, the select secrets revealed in this article will spark even more ideas for you to improve your PPC Search Campaigns. Using these exclusive methods of keyword research will help you discover a wealth of targeted keywords, and more importantly, uncover the ones that will give you the high ROI you are looking for. These untapped long tail buying keywords are the key to rediscovering your competitive edge in a flooded market. To be a serious player in today’s PPC Search game and enjoy lucrative traffic conversion rates, you must think outside the box and use every resource available to you to perform successful keyword research. If you aren’t using the Google Keyword Tool’s “Website Content Analyzer” then start using it today and watch your ROI grow!

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By Jon Shugart
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This article was originally featured in Mike Filsaime’s print newsletter, “MDC Monthly.” You can get a free trial copy shipped to your door by clicking here.
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Jon Shugart is a Software Engineer and Internet Marketing Professional who focuses on driving large amounts of traffic utilizing PPC. His powerful software application, Keyword Rockstar (www.keywordrockstar.com), is unmatched in the industry for both driving traffic and rapidly creating, winning PPC campaigns.

Feb 21

Repurposing PLR Content for Viral Traffic

By mikefilsaime | Uncategorized

Do you capitalize on your Private Label Rights content for multiple uses, such as repackaging material and using it to draw traffic to your websites? Amateur marketers sometimes make the mistake of selling PLR products they way they are. Why not exercise the full flexibility of Private Label Rights and repurpose these contents for viral traffic generation?

Successful business people and businesses offer us many examples of repurposing. KFC is a simple example. The fast food chain sells fried chicken but offer much more than just chicken legs. They’re innovative in crafting their menu to include fried chicken pieces, chicken burgers, hot rods, chicken nuggets, chicken burritos and more. KFC can invent ten new products to sell off the counter from the same piece of chicken!

The same holds true for people in the information business. When you repurpose information and content, you open up a can of possibilities for making more money, and also drawing new visitors and potential buyers to your websites. You can reach the largest audience by offering your expertise through as many mediums as possible. To get the full benefit from PLR content, why not repackage it into various formats, and use them to draw in web traffic?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Reproduce the PLR content as a Powerpoint slide video and upload it to YouTube. Marketers are catching on to YouTube to draw traffic to their websites. Did you know that YouTube receives millions of new visitors every day? If you target the right audience using the right keywords, they will click on a link and visit your website.
  2. Repackage the written PLR content into short YouTube video tutorials, guides and presentations that provide helpful information. This elevates your status as an expert. Expert power raises sales, especially in a recession when people are hesitant to spend.
  3. Break down PLR contents into special reports. Now you can use them in a Give Away or as Master Resell Rights products. I have personally used this tactic with a lot of success. Back in 2008 I gave away my bonus Gold membership access to one of my membership sites through special Give Away and MRR reports and it helped me get 30 to 40 new members a day on autopilot.
  4. Record audio and podcast it! Podcasting is becoming popular yet few marketers are tapping into it right now. It’s getting ever easier for people to subscribe and listen to podcasts so it’s becoming a gold mine for drawing new audiences. Imagine having your own personal “radio station”, providing content you didn’t have to write from scratch. People’s perceived value of you as an expert will skyrocket.
  5. Break PLC into short articles to distribute on other blogs as a guest blogger. Find related blogs with high traffic and become a guest blogger or guest author. This increases your expert power, creates more incoming links to your site and gets your name and content to a wider audience. It’s a great avenue for targeted traffic and these marketers don’t usually have as many restrictive rules as article directories. Join as many major blogs as a guest author as you can. You can republish the same article on many different sites but consider repackaging the material for different audiences.
  6. Build a free membership site. This is precisely what I did. In fact, I added 2 more paid levels to the same membership site to offer upgrade options for my free members. The premise is to draw in higher responsive members instead of just ‘regular e-zine subscribers’ who will unsubscribe at any time, without any remorse. Since they have already joined my membership site, they will think twice on passing up the value of my member’s area. The content of the site? You’ve guessed it: PLR.

The more PLR content you have on concentrated topics, the more content you can repurpose and repackage. Be open to new ways of using content to build your web presence, expert power and audience. Use avenues such as books, eBooks, reports, articles, blogs and podcasts, and keep an eye out for emerging venues for sharing information. PLR shortcuts your product creation like a knife through butter, and you can truly be successful in Internet Marketing through innovation. The creativity is already there – why not use it to its full potential?

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By Edmund Loh
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This article was originally featured in Mike Filsaime’s print newsletter, “MDC Monthly.” You can get a free trial copy shipped to your door by clicking here.

Edmund Loh is a digital Private Label Rights expert and has been marketing online since 2005. Some of Edmund’s bestselling products include PLRGold: Enterprise, PLRGold: Videos, Resell Rights Mastery, and Mega Red Packet. Visit Edmund Loh’s Internet Marketing blog at http://edmundloh.com/ for his latest online marketing strategies, witty business ideas and insights into building a successful 6 figure Internet Business.

Feb 17

Book Review: The Success Principles(TM) By Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer

By mikefilsaime | Uncategorized

The Success Principles(TM): How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
By Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer
Published By Harper Paperbacks

The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer is the ultimate manual for helping you identify what you want and teaching you exactly how to realize your objectives one step at a time. The content is intended to broadly fit into business and personal agendas but I believe marketers in particular will find a resonance. A total of 64 success principles are covered in the book. These ultra powerful ideals go beyond nut and bolt style tutorials and delve into the how and why of personal success in a very clear, enjoyable manner.

Jack Canfield fans in particular will be pleased to see the author’s typical use of real-life stories in illustrating each success principle. Using both famous icons and ordinary folks who have participated in his coaching programs, Canfield shares plenty of dynamic examples to demonstrate the rules of success in action.

Among the first ironclad principles to be covered is the virtue of accepting responsibility. The essential foundation of genuine progress and growth, absolute accountability is the missing element in so many people’s process map! It’s just too easy to blame other people, point to a bad economy, or insist that we would already be successful “if only” someone else had or had not done such and such. The rarely comfortable reality is that our thoughts, feelings, actions, and reactions always define our outcomes.

As Canfield puts it, E+R=O, or Event plus Response equals Outcome. Something happens. We then respond, either with thoughts & feelings, or perhaps with words and actions. The end result will be determined more by how we handle the original event than by specifically what this event is. If you spend a day really meditating on this single idea it could well change your whole life.

Placing blame anywhere outside of your own thinking and acting is totally counterproductive. Those who choose this method of operation are destined for constant frustration and failure. If things you can’t control must change in order for your master plan to work out, you’ll pretty much have to just sit around and wait won’t you? On the flip side if you are the cause of everything that happens in your business you can make big changes any time you want. Once you accept complete responsibility for all of your results you’ll be in a position of legitimate power to deliberately choose your next outcomes.

Add to this the other 63 principles and you’ll have a serious recipe for massive success! I strongly recommend this book for entrepreneurs and marketers in every field and of every experience level.

Rating: 4 stars

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By Aaron Whiston
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This article was originally featured in Mike Filsaime’s print newsletter, “MDC Monthly.” You can get a free trial copy shipped to your door by clicking here.

Feb 14

Book Reviews: The Magic Of Thinking Big, By David J. Schwartz, Ph.D.

By mikefilsaime | Uncategorized

The Magic Of Thinking Big,
By David J. Schwartz, Ph.D.,
Published By Simon & Schuster

Written in the 1960’s, The Magic Of Thinking Big is one of those timeless classics that is still incredibly relevant today. Interestingly, this particular title is less well known than other “self help” greats from the early and mid 20th century. When I first found the book on a local retail shelf, I mistakenly thought it to be a newer release. Only after getting into the material did it become obvious this work came from an earlier period.

As with many books from this era, the content often equates general success concepts with getting ahead in the ranks of a company, impressing potential employers or clients, and so forth. This quaint reminder of a bygone era brings a touch of nostalgia to the experience. Make no mistake however, the insights you’ll find are 100% applicable to success in the information age.

The great thing about these slightly older titles is the raw simplicity. The finer points alluded to are in fact so basic that many readers will dismiss them and in so doing forfeit the tremendous potential benefits. For example, the author points out how small efforts like standing up straight and walking slightly faster will increase your energy level, sharpen your focus, and raise your overall confidence. I challenge you to practice this yourself for a period of 30 days and see for yourself how powerful this small adjustment can be. This book is a great reminder that massive success need not be an overcomplicated or melodramatic affair.

Other gems within include the advantages of treating yourself to a “first class” lifestyle, the wisdom of thinking and acting “right toward others”, and the undeniable impact of self image and deliberate visualization. These concepts touch on the core of what it means to be a successful player in the games of business and life.

Speaking frankly, the reason so many people fail miserably to succeed with Internet Marketing is the fact that they’re not genuine entrepreneurs in the first place. Most people have no time for personal development and little interest in creating value; they just want to find the fastest and easiest way to take as much money as possible so they can proceed to make their neighbors jealous with new cars and bigger televisions. As The Magic Of Thinking Big succinctly illustrates, the essence of living large and being fulfilled, wealthy, and whatever else you want, is deep enthusiasm and authenticity.

I don’t exaggerate when I say every entrepreneur should read this material at least once each year. Every chapter is a straightforward exploration of essential virtues and foundational principles that will open new doors and spark empowering attitudes for the reader.

Rating: 4 stars

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By Aaron Whiston
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This article was originally featured in Mike Filsaime’s print newsletter, “MDC Monthly.” You can get a free trial copy shipped to your door by clicking here.

Feb 10

State-of-the-Article: Part Five

By mikefilsaime | Uncategorized

Finding a Money Making Product in 30 Seconds!

In my previous article we looked into the different types of landing pages and how to make the most out of each type. We also discussed getting an opt-in form set up on your landing page so you can build a mailing list. In this article, we’ll discuss how to quickly and easily find a product (or products) to promote. Selecting the right product is essential to succeeding with this method. With the evaluation I’m about to reveal, you’ll be able to select the right products and start profiting from your landing page.

What is a Profitable Product?

There’s no point in setting up a landing page if you don’t have profitable products to promote – but what exactly makes a product profitable? Many people think that a profitable product is one that pays you a high commission. While a large commission is welcome, this is not the most important factor in choosing a product. Far more relevant is the conversion rate of the product.

In my research, I’ve found that there are two types of products that offer the best conversions and are the most profitable for article marketing – Clickbank and CPA offers. If you are new to online marketing, Clickbank products are the best place to start. CPA offers require you to show evidence of substantial traffic to your site. If you’re just starting out you probably won’t be approved for a CPA network.

Researching Clickbank Products

Clickbank has a variety of products in many different categories; eBooks, membership sites and video courses are all available for sale. Each time you make a sale for the product creator, your commission is automatically deposited in your account and you get paid twice per month.. The vast majority of products have a commission of 50% or more.

ClickBank Image

In order to use Clickbank, follow these steps:

1. Register for Clickbank.

If you’re not already registered for Clickbank, you can sign up at <A HREF=”http://www.clickbank.com” target=”_blank”>http://www.clickbank.com</A>. The instructions are pretty straightforward but you need to pay attention to your nickname selection. If you decide to sell products later on, your Clickbank ID will be visible to your customers and it cannot be changed once your account is open. Consider choosing something that is generic or branded to your name rather than something niche specific. This way your ID will be appropriate no matter what you are promoting or selling.

ClickBank Image

 

ClickBank Image

2. Search the Marketplace using your niche keyword

Go to the Marketplace tab and enter keywords related to your niche. This will pull up a list of products related to that niche.

ClickBank Image

3. Scan the results

Quickly scan through the results and look for multiple products to promote. Ideally you want a base of four or more solid products but make sure you find at least two products in your niche. If you see a lot of products in your niche, that’s a good thing. It means there is a lot of money to be made in that niche. The more products there are, the more likely there is a demand for this type of product and the more likely people are spending money consistently on them. In addition, you’ll have more products to work with. You can test different products and determine what works best for your landing page. If a product’s conversions start to slip, you’ll have other products ready to replace them.

4. Sort the results by popularity and gravity.

After scanning through the results, it’s time to sort them to see which ones look the most promising. First, sort the products by popularity – this shows you which products are getting the most sales.

The gravity score is a little more complicated. According to Clickbank, gravity is: “the number of distinct affiliates who earned a commission by referring a paying customer to the publisher’s products. This is a weighted sum and not an actual total. For each affiliate paid in the last 8 weeks we add an amount between 0.1 and 1.0 to the total. The more recent the last referral, the higher the value added.”

Translated, this means the gravity of a Clickbank product is higher when lots of unique, individual affiliates are making sales. When a product has a high gravity it means that a lot of affiliates are having success selling the product – which means you probably will, too! High gravity also means the product has good momentum and that it converts well for affiliate traffic.

When you have a product with high gravity, you probably won’t be competing with just a few super affiliates who dominate product sales. If a Clickbank product has high popularity but low gravity it means that only a few affiliates are selling it. The may have the market completely saturated. It’s better to promote products that have a high gravity. This way you’re grabbing a piece of the pie that’s already divided among many affiliates.

Look for products with a gravity rating of 30 or higher. Anything over 30 is worth testing with article marketing. If you find a product with a gravity score of close to 100, it’s a close as you’ll come to a sure thing.

Let’s take a look at how this appears in Clickbank. Here is the list of the most popular products for the keyword “acne”.

ClickBank Image

As you can see, the most popular product is #2 for gravity, and the product with the highest gravity is #2 for popularity. Both of these products have a gravity of over 50. These are good possibilities for promotion.

The third product only has a gravity of 14.54 but it may be good to take note of it for testing. If you are going with a comparison site, you’ll need at least three products to display. Naturally, the highest gravity product should be shown first on the page.

You should also be aware that Gravity can go in cycles. Sometimes affiliates will stop promoting a product because a new one comes out but, after testing the new product, they will go back to the original. Keep checking back with the Clickbank marketplace to look at the popularity and gravity scores of products in your niche.

5. Note the % Referred Number

After analyzing the popularity and gravity, it’s time to turn your attention to the %refd number.

ClickBank Image

The % referred number shows the percentage of product sales that are coming from affiliates, as opposed to directly from the seller. A high percentage means that you’ll have a better chance of making money with the product.

These five steps are all it takes to find a profitable Clickbank product. Take note of which products you’d like to test out in the future and which products you will be promoting now. Once you find your product, you’re ready to put the finishing touches on your landing page.

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By Anik Singal
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This article was originally featured in Mike Filsaime’s print newsletter, “MDC Monthly.” You can get a free trial copy shipped to your door by clicking here.

Anik Singal is the Founder and CEO of Affiliate Classroom, Inc. and Lurn, Inc. Anik began as an Internet marketer and affiliate in 2001. In 2008, Anik Singal was among the top three finalists in Business Week’s Top 25 Best Young Entrepreneurs in the U.S.

Feb 10

MDC Monthly Preview – March 2012

By mikefilsaime | Uncategorized

What’s inside the March 2012 issue of MDC Monthly?

Customer Service – Satisfaction Guaranteed

  • 7 keys to dealing with an angry customer.
  • Why social media is a gift to quality customer service.
  • Why you should be ditching the “do not reply.”
  • 10 reasons why you might consider outsourcing your customer service.

“Work Less, Earn More” with Robert Puddy

  • Why you can and should outsource every element of your Traffic Exchange marketing.
  • How to calculate whether outsourcing is cost-effective.

“Five Steps to Cash: Step Two – Find Your Keywords” with Roy Miller

  • Two free tools that will revolutionize your keyword research.
  • Why “page count” is more important than “page rank.”

“What is Twitter actually for?” with Joel Williams

  • Why Twitter is still a crucial part of your social marketing strategy.
  • 9 simple ways to use Twitter to boost your business.

“Jams, Highways and Stop Signs” with Omar Martin

  • Why “traffic” is the perfect metaphor for Internet activity.
  • The key places you should be vying for attention.

Latest book reviews:

  • “The End of Business As Usual: Rewire the Way You Work to Succeed in the Consumer Revolution” by Brian Solis.
  • “Everything I Know About Business I Learned from the Grateful Dead: The Ten Most Innovative Lessons from a Long, Strange Trip” by Barry Barnes, PhD.

Additional features:

  • Internet Marketing News
  • Hype-Protector #3 (Sales Page)
  • Reader Revolution
  • “Free Advice and Worth Every Penny” with Dafydd Manton
  • Archive Bonus: Are you a Hoarder or an Implementer? with Stephen Pierce

Don’t miss the March 2012 edition of MDC Monthly!
You can get a free trial copy shipped to your door by clicking here.