Happy Leap Year To You

 

Today is my birthday. Tomorrow is Leap Year Day. As a celebration, I’m knocking down the prices of all my products by 50%.

This means:

These prices will remain until sometime on the 29th. Then they will disappear again, maybe for another 4 years, just like the day itself…

3 Ways I Create Unique Products

I’ve heard Freud based his studies of the human psyche almost entirely upon the characters in Shakespeare’s plays. The foundation of modern psychology based on fictictious characters! These are make believe, enhanced images of what people might be like.

Modern politics does a very similar thing with it’s classifications like: soccer moms, values voters, … Do these groups represent reality? Not at all.

It’s just a lazy way of classifying people so you don’t have to think too hard. And one thing political pundits (and Freud, apparently) want to avoid is thinking.

Have you classified your target market into a faceless, ownerless group? Then you’re making a huge mistake and are leaving money on the table. Here’s 3 ways to design a product with pizzaz and will generate evangelicals.

1. Design the product for yourself. This is the simplist and easiest way of developing products. Find out what you want to accomplish, figure out how to do it and then offer it to others. If you are designing a product for yourself, it’s much easier to take an iterative approach to development. Get the product pretty close, test it, refine it until you are satisfied. The problem with this approach is if you do it without one of the other ways, you may end up with a product the market doesn’t want.
2. Pick a random group. Conduct a survey and get input from a variety of people about what they want. I use Willmaster to conduct my surveys. While this might get you into the ballpark of the type of product you should develop, it won’t get you to the heart of designing a product that will create evangelicals. You’ll end up with a gooey mess of a product if you try to incorporate everyone’s ideas into a product. Which leads us to…
3. Pick someone you know and you know is having difficulty with something you are able to solve. Put a name to your customer. For example I might design a product for Terry Dean. I might ask Terry exactly what he wants the product to do and how it would work. I get the details from that person and then build a product that solves their problems. If this specific person is having a problem, then it’s just more likely others will be having the same problem.

I actually prefer a combination of all 3. I want any product I product to be something I would use myself, so I need to meet my own requirements. Next, I check out what a group of others might want from a product in a broad category area. If they’re having some of the same problems I’m having, it tells me others might be interested in a product addressing those problems. Next, I choose a single person from the group and work with them on the product. When they and I are satisfied with the product… it’s time to launch it!

If you’re looking at outsourcing some software development work, a great resource to help you:

Manage Contractors & OutSource Software Development

GrandCentral Open For US Users

For those of you living in the US and who are looking for a GrandCentral account they’ve opened it up to Blogger users.

GrandCentral is a way of consolidating your phone numbers into a single line. You then give out one phone number and determine how each call is routed. From my understanding, I could have my parents home phone route to where ever I am (home or mobile) and when I give the same number to business contacts, those calls are routed to my work phone only.

It’s a great idea and I would love to join in, but they are limiting it to US only right now. I’ll have to wait… For the rest of you – you can check out a review of GrandCentral at Lifehacker.

Sign Up To Grand Central Beta through Blogger Invite

Picking Sides For Winning Products

Have you ever used a program that was designed as an every man’s type of offering (MS Word comes to mind) and then switched to another piece of software that had less features and fewer abilities? It probably came as a breath of fresh air to be able to perform the tasks you needed to with minimal learning and interference. In order to have winning products, you will need to specialize your own software or information products.

The basic idea is to do 1 thing and do it very well. If you are developing a product about article writing, don’t cover writing a novel. If you are developing a piece of software for novelists, only provide features that are usefull for novelists. Purposefully exclude people. This is counter intuitive, as we want the product to be right for the greatest number of prospects. True enough, but I find that the more generic a product is, the less remarkable it is. The less remarkable, the less sales.

The second thing to do is to pick a side. If you are providing a tutorial on how to write software, give your own views on how software should be developed, don’t cover all 15 different ways of managing a software project just to make sure no one is offended. Your product needs to have a bias. Controversy sells and you should leverage this in your product. Some people will love your product and tell their friends others will hate it and tell their friends. The good thing is they are telling their friends! Their friends may not have the same needs as the person who hates it and their friend may find it suits them perfectly!

Obviously, this means you’re going to lose out on some customers when your product doesn’t cover all of their needs. Most likely their business would have cost you money anyway – in support or post sale interactions. You’re better off without these people as your customers anyway. The definite upside is that you will create some evangelical customers that will spread the word about your product. When people can accomplish a task with minimal fuss, they tend to tell people about that product. Focus on solving real, simple problems first and foremost and you will end up with an army of people talking about your product. These are recommendations and exposure that cannot be bought.

Limit the scope of your project, allow people to accomplish exactly what they need to accomplish, take a side, create detractors as well as evangilists and you will be on your way to providing people with a product that is remarkable. And remarkability is always good for your bottom line.

Stop Procrastinating

Good Housekeeping has an interesting article about procrastinating. It covers some of the causes and steps you can take to stop. How does it suggest you stop? Here’s the highlights:

  • Replace The Finish Line With The Start Line – stay focused on beginning.
  • Run A Dash – do a task you’re putting off for just 5 minutes and then stop.
  • Skip Grandiose Goal – only focus on the little steps to a bigger goal to prevent the bigger goal from overwhelming you.
  • Keep Distraction At A Distance – Crackberry and Email anyone?
  • Schedule Fun First – put fun events like sport and meeting your friends into your schedule first and then schedule work after that.
  • Defang Your Fear – work out how you’d cope if the worst happened to you on the task being procrastinated. It essentially eliminates that fear.

I especially like to plan sports and social events first. There’s no reason to put off living!

Good Housekeeping – Stop Procrastinating – Right Now

Article Submission Testing Results

One of the most touted ways to generate links and traffic to your sites is by submitting articles to websites and ezines. 6 weeks ago I set out on a mission to see if there was an article submission program that would produce link results. I choose 2 vastly different programs, one I suggest in my intern program and the other one was simply as trial. Here are my results.

I only submitted 1 article using each program. I used the same article but the pen names I used were different. The pen names at the beginning of the test had no results for them in either Google or MSN. These results only show the ability of each program to generate incoming links and results for the search engines, traffic and sales are beyond what I am willing to cover.

The first program was Artemis Pro using PostCast Server as the smtp server, since my host limits emails to 50 per hour. Artemis Pro submits unique articles via email to an external self built list and to a hosted network of Munius (an article listing program from James Brausch – you’ll have to find your own link) sites. I had an external list of around 1,300 addresses. The pen name I used to submit was "Bert Sandan".

The number of results on Google or MSN when I search for that pen name today? 0. Zilch, Nada. There weren’t even any results from the internal publication list for Munius directories.

The second service I used was the Content Spooling Network from Chris Crompton. This service also uses a way of generating unique articles for each submission. I had to set up an article directory for 3 of my sites that I wanted to promote and then submitted the article. CSN submits articles over a long period of time and this article hasn’t been submitted to all the sites that CSN says it will be submitted to. The pen name I used was "Ernie Sandan".

The number of results on Google at the time of this publication is: 320. I expect this number to grow a lot as it looks like the article has only been submitted to around 50% of the sites currently available for the topics I choose.

Now, even if I completely screwed up the external publication list of Artemis Pro, I would have expected at least 1 result from a Munius directory. The fact that I got nothing from it was stunningly shocking. 

Let’s just say that I did it right as Jim Sansi recently reported and I got 60 some results for submitting under 10 articles a few weeks ago. The difference is still drastic. 1 article, 320 results (with only 50% of submissions) with no need to build an external ezine list. Compared to several articles, time spent building an external ezine list and the end result is somewhere between 0 and 60.

Can I say that the result makes the choice a no brainer? I think you can safely say that I’ll be removing my suggestion of using Artemis from my intern program. Lesson learned. I’m still exploring submitting unique articles to a self built list of ezine publishers and have a solution that is currently being tested to ensure it produces results. Same list, different pen name from the Artemis Pro submission above. I’ll let you know how it goes.

But for now, check it out  (there’s 21 day trial available and the service after that has a monthly fee):

Content Spooling Network

Sweet Plugin For WordPress Update

If you’re like me (hopefully not) I’ve been procrastinating on upgrading my version of WordPress. It’s a bit of a hassle to download a the new version and then upload it to the server… It’s not hard, it just takes time. Time I’m happier spending on other things.

Well, there’s a handy new plugin that makes upgrading WordPress simple! It took me less than 5 minutes to install AND upgrade 2 sites.

Here’s a video showing how it easy it is to use.

Check out the InstantUpgrade Plugin. Recommended!

(Hat tip to: Jim Sansi)

 

Business Opportunity Affiliate Program

I’ve updated the affiliate program. I have bumped up the commission rate on my software and affiliate programs to a whopping 51%. You end up making more money than me on every sale you send me… period.

Plus, you can now earn 40% recurring commissions on my services. Currently, that’s just the Auto Submit Blog Carnival Service, which is regular priced at $100 per month – so you’ll end up earning $40 per month, every month on each one we sell!

You can check it out here:

Druid Video Affiliate Program

Creating A Job You Love

I’m not a big fan of creating a business that doesn’t allow you to take time off from it, but I was talking with one of the members of my Aikido club and he just created a job for himself that I would be perfectly happy with. In fact, I would be ecstatic to have it.

He’s a web designer and php guru. He just built a site called Happy Camping, it gives camping reviews on campsites in New Zealand. There’s nothing filled in right now, but he has plans to go to New Zealand and fill in the reviews of the campsites himself. How cool is that?

He doesn’t have any bosses, minimal expenses, moves on when he wants to and writes reviews when he wants – all while doing something that he loves to do! Did I mention that I love this idea?

It looks like he’s going to be monetizing the site with AdSense, OK, not crazy about that. I would look at making a video at each campsite and then offering those videos for sale or download. The users could compile a selection of videos for DVD delivery using Customized DVD Production service from AccuTrack.

 The best bit is that you could branch out into other related areas – Happy Skiing, Happy RVing, Happy Hiking, Happy Surfing, Happy Rafting and on and on. The upside is endless – merely limited by your ability to get to do all these things. Can you make money doing it? I would say so – if you’re passionate and knowledgable people will respond to that positively.

Schedule Repetitive Tasks

A while back a reader was asking me for suggestions on planners for repetitive tasks. At the time I couldn’t recommend any because I wasn’t using anything for those types of activities. (Writing blog posts, writing articles, create a new product, vacuuming, etc…) I’m terrible at doing repeatable, repetitive tasks and will put them off forever, if I can.

I went searching and I found a very simple, intuitive, cheap program for those tasks that you need to do periodically. It’s called Sciral Consistency. I’ve been testing it out for the past couple of weeks and it has proved to be all that it claimed to be. It keeps reminding me of the things that I need to do.

There’s no frills or bells and whistles for planning in the future. You just go Task->New Task to open the New Task window. Enter the task name, the minimum number of days before you need to perform the task again, the maximum number of days that you can let the task go for you and the start date. The task appears color coded and sorted according to priority in the main window. Tasks that were supposed to be done in the past are sorted to the top followed by those that need to be done now and on to the ones that will need to be done in the future.

It’s really simple to setup. The hardest part would be figuring out how to get it to come up automatically whenever you start your computer, which I would recommend so you don’t have an excuse for ignoring it. It’s not annoying, it doesn’t cause pop ups to appear or disrupt your other work.

All in all, I give it a thumbs up. If you need reminders to do certain tasks in your professional or personal life, then give Sciral Consistency a try. There’s a free trial version that is limited by the number of tasks you can have in a single file (you can have many files though) or you can have unlimited tasks per file for $25.

Sciral Consistency