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Bright Mind Shines Light On Affiliate Mystery

You keep hearing about “affiliate” programs and you wonder, does this have any meaning for me? Well, it might, but you need to understand the ins and outs before you can make an intelligent decision. Fortunately, there’s an ebook that lays it all out for you–clear, simple, and fun to read. It’s called Blogs to Riches and it’s by a marketing guru already helping companies make money on the web.

The cool thing is this isn’t just for companies–Joe and Harry and Sally can learn to use affiliate programs to make a little extra money every month–and who the heck doesn’t need that?

Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll learn from Blogs to Riches, by Jim Kukral. It’s basically about how to start making money with affiliate programs—which are programs in which you sign up to sell someone else’s products on your website. The benefits are that the maker gets sales from your visitors that he or she would never have gotten otherwise, and you make a few bucks on something you didn’t have to create. It’s a cool concept.

Kukral states unequivocally that you can make money from affiliate programs—mostly not a lot, you understand, just some. But the tips in this book are also good for doing effective research on the web—use some of these tips and you’ll be an ace web researcher.

So where to start? Simple, he says—applies to the company you want to sell for and place their links on your page. Of course, there are a few details that need to be filled in. And he does a pretty good job of that—in clear, easy-to-read writing with a nice clean layout. His professional marketing background shows…

First, in case you don’t already have one, you get simple instructions on how to create a weblog, the quickest way to get a place to post your affiliate links. Then he suggests what you should do to make your blog interesting—and hopefully, therefore, draw lots of visitors who might be interested in buying your cool affiliate merchandise. One valuable pointer: Gives lots of references for people to search on the web.

Next, the Kukral gives a list of sources to learn about affiliate marketing and affiliate networks. He talks about the yellow pages of affiliate marketing—which put you and vendors and customers together. Then he gives a quick review of a few (The top 50 list comes free with the book).

Interestingly, the author advises you to “see what others in your market are doing and do that, too.” He gives a lot of hints and some more good marketing advice, like:

• What to sell – and what to avoid
• How to find the companies whose products you’ll want to sell
• How to evaluate affiliate programs—what to look for and how to demand it if you don’t get it
• And lots more

He says it pays to put some thought and effort muscle into your affiliate efforts…and proceeds to give you some more excellent hints, including why text links work better. Kukral is doing a brain dump of his knowledge about affiliate stuff—and you get a treasure trove of useful and valuable information.

This book covers a lot and tells you where else to look. Can’t ask for much more than that. So if you have any interest in using affiliate marketing to make a little extra cash, buy it.


Credit Card Company Scam-A Short Story

Ever get one of those little flyers with tiny, tiny printing that come in the mail sometimes saying that you are one of a class of people who will receive point-oh-six-seven-and-two-tenths-percent-of-a-dollar sometime next century to compensate you for the overcharging that Credit Card Company X did while you were a cardholder? I get them on a fairly regular basis. Here’s a little story that might be a model for the beginning of one of those little episodes…

Suppose you own a credit card company. And let’s say things are a little slow, so you want to come up with a little revenue-generating idea. Try this one on for size…

You send out letters to all your current cardholders. You offer them a really attractive rate–let’s say 3.99%–for the life of the balance if they use one or more of the checks you send (up to their credit limit, which you have just conveniently raised).

Okay, sounds good so far. Now you do tell them there’ll be a fee (up to $50) for each check they write. Okay. Then you tell them the check “must post to your account” no later than November 30, 2004. (Now, in case you’re like me and you’re not sure what “post to your account” really means, I checked with my bank and they said “posting” is when the check clears from the issuing party–i.e., the credit card company that’s making you this offer pays on the check.)

Okay, let’s see. We get the checks in the mail sometime around the second week of November. Thanksgiving week is the week before November 31, meaning all bets are off for anything being “posted” for sure anytime that week. So you got the checks maybe around November 15; you want to think about this for a little while, look at your situation, and discover what balances you might be interested in transferring. If you take a few days to think about it, that brings you to November 19–the last day of the week before Thanksgiving week, which means your credit card company can righteously say, well, gee, we did the best we could, but you know this is a holiday time so we couldn’t promise to get this cleared. Hmmm.

So if your check(s) don’t clear by the 30th, not only do you have to pay your credit card company the $50-per-check transfer fee, but you’ll start getting billed the normal, much higher interest rate on the balance you just transferred. Hmmm.

Now go back to the letter bringing this exciting offer to see if maybe you can do it over the phone so it’s faster. You look hard… You keep looking… You turn it over and look all over the other side… And then you realize, for some reason, there isn’t a single telephone number on there. Hmmm.

Do you know how most of these balance transfer offers come with an 800 number and invite you to pick up the phone and make the transfer right now? Well, not this unique letter. There is no way at all to contact the credit card company about this offer. Oh, yeah, you can go to a strange unbranded (no bank name at all) website address they give you–but it contains no useful information at all unless you register–a painful process that many of us simply choose not to bother with.

Then you begin to wonder. Why doesn’t the web address have a bank name? Why isn’t there a phone number to call? Why does it warn you multiple times over? “These checks must post to your account no later than November 30…if these checks post to your account later than November 30 you will be charged regular interest rates… Don’t try to use this money until you’ve checked with your bank to make sure the funds have cleared. Remember, these checks must post…”

You know, I’ve heard of credit card companies getting in trouble for falsifying the date of receipts of customer payments and such to charge late fees and higher interest. This couldn’t possibly be something like that, could it?

Hmmm. I got such a letter this month from a credit card company. The company name on the letter is a bank name I think of as okay. But funny, the checks have a different name–the name of a credit card company I swore many years ago I’d never do business with again–because of a dispute over just such an issue. Hmmm.

I seem to remember some years ago FirstUSA bought out Bank One. I always thought it was pretty funny that suddenly the materials that came in the mail said “Bank One” and if you looked close you could just barely make out the “FirstUSA” in teeny, tiny print.

So I guess that might explain how a letter could come from one credit card company/bank and the checks have a different company name on them.


Seth Godin Gives Away Secrets Of Success

A powerful force is loose in the marketing world, and his name is Seth Godin (former Yahoo employee and now contributing editor at Fast Company). Godin contacted me to see if I’d be willing to review his newest book. I agreed and I’m glad.

“Free Prize Inside!” was a pleasure to read. Even more, it was a joy to see someone expose–in simple peppery language–the secrets of how to get your ideas adopted in a corporate environment. Writing from his own experiences in high-visibility organizations, he gives solid hints on who, what, where, when, and how. I love this one: “Let them pee on your idea.” Frankly, this is a book I’ve long wanted to write myself (with someone else giving the actual tips of course because I’m notoriously bad at corporate politics), but couldn’t get past the first tongue-in-cheek outline. If you are serious about being a successful–even outstanding–corporate employee, with lots of promotions and plenty of mentors, this book has some excellent suggestions.

The crux of Godin’s book is the idea that you–and all of us–are capable of and should be making “soft innovations” (changes that result in improvements) in your company and thus charging up your work-life–creating your own “free prizes” as he calls them. Arriving packed in a mock cereal box, the book is titled “Free Prize Inside!”

The point, Godin says, is that you can always do more with what you have–i.e., invent new ways to use it, make it better, faster, easier, more fun, etc. And that every single person in the organization has the creativity to do that–no matter what their role in the business. This is sound philosophy for any area of work, and it’s based on the continuous improvement principles espoused so long ago by Deming.

As for writing style, Godin follows the age-old advice to address himself to a single reader–he uses “you” liberally and writes as if he were speaking to you (the single most powerful way to make your writing compelling). Easy to read.

And then the book goes on to give you suggestions on how to do this soft innovating. “Go to the edges” of an idea, says Godin. For example: “Make a product that is very safe or very dangerous: antibacterial wipes for kids…helicopter skiing.” Go extreme, get “purple” (a term he introduced in an earlier book called Purple Cow). Please do go and read the book as it is a good book.

There are lots of big names in the advertising and marketing business–just wrote about Saatchi and Saatchi in New York a couple of posts ago. In Northeast Ohio just look at the attendee list for the upcoming NOCA event (Northeast Ohio Communications Association) and you’ll see some of the big and medium-size local lights. And then there is a shortlist of a few legendary gurus.