Friday, May 30, 2008

Link of the day - Free $50 Kmart card.

We've already written about both magazine and book publishers for the content-producing masses, but now a wiki-like site aims to leverage the wisdom of the crowds to create, rate and elevate into publication the best community-sourced content.

Founded last year, Maryland-based is a free online publishing platform that allows writers, editors, reviewers, illustrators and others to join forces to create great works of fiction and non-fiction, thrillers and essays, short stories, children's books and more. Using a proprietary platform designed specifically for group authoring, users of the site can launch a new book or add a sentence, review or grammatical correction to a work already in progress—virtually anything they're inspired to do toward the creation of a new book. New works can be made private or public, or shared with a group of the user's choice. WEbook keeps all of a user's projects, submissions, reviews, groups and friends collected and updated on their personal WEbook profile and homepage, and a live feed sends an update whenever a project has a new submission or a contribution gets new feedback. Live forum and research tools, meanwhile, are available to foster interaction with other writers, contributors and readers.

Once a book's authors deem their work ready for public opinion, they can submit it for a voting cycle to determine if it's worthy of publishing. Users across the site cast their votes, and the WEbook team chooses from among those with the most support which will be published under the WEbook imprint as books, eBooks and audiobooks. (WEbook may first employ a copy editor, typesetter and other professional to ensure the final product is top-quality.) Publication costs nothing for authors and major contributors, but they receive 50 percent of all profits generated from the sale of WEbook titles, which get distributed at, and select booksellers.

WEbook published its first book—a thriller titled Pandora—in February, with plans to publish another 3 to 5 books this year, including Xanthippe, a literary tale about Socrates’ wife; a children’s book titled Ten Things You Absolutely Should Not do with a Baby; and a range of anthologies on provocative topics. Beginning July 4, the WEbook community will begin selecting the lead candidates for the next publication cycle.

In the traditional publishing industry, the odds of an unknown talent securing a publishing deal are 15,000 to 1, WEbook says. With its wiki-like platform, on the other hand, the site hopes to do for books what American Idol did for music and what Wikipedia did for information. While some types of writing are likely better off with a single voice (fiction, for example—see A Million Penguins for more on that), others will benefit from a chorus of insights and opinions. One to watch and learn from!

How Come That Idiot's Rich and I'm Not?

Dressing Your Baby Like A Star

Money From 'Ex-cessories'

Still Think Hamburgers Are A Boring Business?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Post of the day - 10 Totally Stupid Online Business Ideas That Made Someone Rich

The human mind is a wonderful thing, capable of the most wonderful thought processes and ideas. Yet the brain is on automatic pilot for most situations. That allows the conscious mind to really focus. The drawback is that some people will use our conscious inattention to sneak one by us, like a fastball pitch to a hitter looking for a change-up.

Influence, the book, is very useful in this regard, because it uses interesting examples to help us be aware of our own tendency to let automatic pilot thinking take over.

Since I first read this book many years ago, I have been watching to see if the circumstances I see support or invalidate Professor Cialdini's points. By a margin of about 9 to 1, Cialdini wins.

Given that we are easily manipulated by our desire to be and to appear to be consistent with our past actions and statements, swayed by what the crowd is doing, and various other mechanisms, the only way we can be armed against unscrupulous marketing is to be as aware of these factors are the marketers are.

At the same time, I appreciated how the book explores the ethics of when and how much to apply these principles. Without this discussion, the book would come off like Machiavelli's, The Prince, for marketing organizations. That would have been a shame. By dealing with the ethics, Professor Cialdini creates the opportunity to educate us intellectually and morally. Well done!

I have read literally dozens of books about marketing and selling, and I find this one to be the most helpful in thinking about how influence actually works. Even if you will never work in marketing, you will benefit from reading this book in order to better focus your purchases and actions where they fit your needs rather than someone else's.

Duo tries to break world handshaking record

Not Your Regular Foreclosure Story - Man Loses Nine Houses

15 Dyed Dogs You've Got To See

Monday, May 26, 2008

Woman who knows what it means to be a 'mompreneur'

Link of the day - Free $50 Kmart card.

What does a mother do if she wants to stay home with her children as much as possible, but continue working the hours that accommodate those needs?

She could seek out an enlightened employer who allows her to work from her home office. Or at least find one that provides flexible hours.

Or, as a growing number of women are doing, she could start a small business.

It's the last category that a 35-year-old South Surrey woman is promoting through her Enterprising Moms Network (EMN), which is dedicated to helping working mothers navigate the tricky balancing act of being a mother and an entrepreneur -- or "mompreneur" as they're often called.

"I was a commercial broker and I asked for part-time work," recalled EMN founder Kelley Scarsbrook -- a new mother at the time in 2003 -- in an interview on how she came to start her business. "I was essentially shown the door, after putting a lot of time in with that company. There was no flexibility.

"I went home and shed a few tears and then realized that just wasn't for me. I worked part time for a year [and] then got pregnant with my daughter and decided I didn't want to work away from home at all. And there's a lot of smart, educated moms leaving the workforce because they're not getting that [accommodation]."

After making the decision to leave her job, Scarsbrook -- who has a background in corporate communications -- began to develop workshops focused on inspiring women to consider starting their own businesses to achieve a healthier work-life balance.

Scarsbrook said it became her passion to help mothers in similar situations, so she started writing on the issue before launching EMN [] in the summer of 2007 as a way to bring like-minded women together to share ideas and learn about starting or running a business. "I wanted a strong voice out there to let them know there's an option."

Scarsbrook said she now has 40 members in her White Rock chapter and will soon open two new chapters in Richmond and North Vancouver.

Members -- all women entrepreneurs -- pay an annual fee and can attend 10 meetings a year where they network with other business owners and hear a variety of experts speak on issues such as trademark law, work/life balance, or how to brand a business.

As well, up to 350 people are expected to attend EMN's annual business summit on June 8 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Vancouver, where there will be five speakers.

Scarsbrook, who also works as a part-time consultant, said that the number of entrepreneur moms is rising as women decide they want to spend more time with their kids. She said one of the benefits for many of the women starting businesses is that they discover new skills they didn't realize they had.

"This is huge, huge," she said. "This is a phenomenon that's steadily on the rise. We're talking thousands and thousands of moms who are going into business for themselves so they can be with their children and pursue their passion.

"Essentially, the main reason behind this is that corporations just aren't there yet with job-sharing, part-time work, offering flexible hours or daycare. And women need this. We've been in the workplace. We're educated. And now we're realizing we should do this ourselves."

According to Statistics Canada, the number of women entrepreneurs is on the rise, with women between the ages of 25 and 54 making up the bulk of the self-employed.

More than one million Canadian women are expected to run their own businesses by 2010, with 80 per cent married and more than half with children.

However, Scarsbrook points out that starting a business is not a cakewalk for women, especially with the increased stress due to being responsible for a business's success, for example cash flow issues, or having no one to rely on for business advice.

"I'm not saying this is an easy route. We face a whole whack of challenges. I'm saying that this is an option and we want to provide support and put [entrepreneurs] in touch with the right people."

One EMN member who likes the organization's message is Jennifer Bogart, who started Vancouver-based Goober Baby Designs Inc. with friend and business partner Melissa Krezanski in 2006.

Like Scarsbrook, Bogart and Krezanski decided to leave their regular jobs because they wanted to spend more time with their daughters, who were born just 12 days apart.

"We finished our maternity leave and we both returned to work full time," said Bogart in an interview.

"But we're both entrepreneurs at heart and once the clock started ticking, we realized we didn't want to go back to work, so we started putting ideas down on paper. We wanted to spend more time with our girls. We wanted more flexibility."

Bogart said starting Goober Baby Designs -- which features fashionable everyday essentials for moms, including baby change mats, tote bags and change purses -- has worked out well as their products are now sold in more than 100 stores and throughout the world.

"We have absolutely no regrets," she said. "I'd do it again in a heartbeat. We both have two days just for the girls that would normally have been at work."

Bogart said her EMN membership has worked out well.

"It's great to see other women doing what they love to do, no matter what it is. These are women going through the same things [we're] going through. And you can provide some mentorship to others, a little business experience."

Bogart sees a lot more moms trying their hand at small business ventures in the future. "There aren't the job-share options [at "9-to-5" workplaces], even though many companies are saying there are."

Knewsroom.Com - That's An Idea!

Profit From Bugs

One Sexpresso, Please

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Vegas Foreclosure Express Story

Hack of the day - Free $50 cards for Kmart, Chilies, Linens N Things, Etc.

You may not be able to beat the house in Sin City, but you just might be able to beat the housing market. At least that's how two real estate agents, Barbara and Marshall Zucker, are placing their bets.

As they watched the Las Vegas foreclosure rate skyrocket 169% from 2006 to 2007 - making Nevada the most afflicted state in the nation - they also noticed that 40% of all home sales were foreclosed properties. So in February the couple bought a 24-seat Ford (F, Fortune 500) bus for $40,000, named it the Vegas Foreclosure Express, and began offering locals and out-of-staters thrice-weekly tours of repossessed homes.

"As with any business, you have to change and adapt based on the market to succeed and survive," says Barbara, 48.

Essentially the Zuckers are offering real estate's answer to speed dating. They screen houses, select the best dozen, and then take prospective clients on ten-minute viewings of each property. The trip is free, but they require riders to sign exclusive-representation agreements covering any property included in the tour. Plus they offer onboard finance consulting and educational seminars on homebuying.
Slump-busting strategies

The Zuckers were inspired by Cesar Dias, who claims he was the first in the country to operate a foreclosure bus. Dias, who began his Stockton, Calif., tours in September, says he has closed on 38 homes since then, after not selling any properties for months.

"We were in a corner - the market was down," says Dias, 43. "We had to either do something or sink."

Other foreclosure buses have cropped up across the country - including a second bus that started operating in Vegas after the Zuckers' - but most are rentals. The Zuckers, however, bought their bus and, for liability reasons, incorporated it separately from their real estate agency.

Before the Foreclosure Express, the Zuckers brokered annual sales of $150 million, worth an estimated $4.5 million in commissions; they have since scored 120 new clients - first-time buyers as well as out-of-state investors - and anticipate netting an additional 15 to 20 sales a month as a result of the tours. Thus far they have closed on two homes and have 26 offers in process. The 3% in fees on those two deals should more than cover the first month's cost of owning and operating the bus.

"The boomers are coming to Las Vegas instead of Florida," says Barbara. "They can't afford the storm insurance there. Las Vegas will recover, and we will adapt."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Profitable Nagging

Link of the day - Free Sony Ericsson XPERIA Giveaway

Anyone who's ever tried to lose weight or improve their fitness knows that it can sometimes be tough to get motivated. For those who need a little extra help getting going, a new service called WeightNags will nag customers mercilessly until they get off the couch and get some exercise.

WeightNags, which was just launched by Texas-based ConnectWorks Media, needs nothing more than a customer's email address to get started. In exchange, it will hound that customer once a week for free in the hopes of motivating him or her to exercise and lose some weight. Of course, we all know that emails can easily be ignored and deleted in the blink of an eye. Customers who don't trust themselves to take WeightNag's emails seriously can also request weekly nags by phone. All they need to provide is their phone number and first name; the cost is USD 4.95 per month.

Without a way to tell WeightNags when you do get some exercise in or have resisted every single calorie-laden temptation—and thereby win a respite from the nagging—it seems to us the effectiveness of the negative feedback could soon wear off. Nevertheless, it's an interesting concept that could be a nice micro-business opportunity for anyone with a Skype account and a talent for nagging. ;-)

Making Money With Credit Card Art

Spanx.Com Success Story

What Presidential Candidates Don't talk About

An E-Commerce Empire, From Porn to Puppies

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Nuts Are Good! Success Story

Link of the day - Free $50 Kmart card.

Jon and Dan Levy are definitely not nuts. Sure, they're passionate about nuts, but these no-nonsense guys don't let passion blind them from making good financial decisions. Dan, the founder of Nuts Are Good!, and his brother, Jon, who joined the company soon after it launched, started selling fresh-roasted cinnamon-flavored almonds from a mall kiosk in 1988. Business boomed, and that early success catapulted the company into volume distribution.

Roasting almonds was Jon and Dan's life--until the price of raw almonds more than doubled. "Prices started climbing in 2005 and they didn't stop until almost 2007," says Dan. "It looked like our sales volume was going to come to a screeching halt." As prices rose, Jon, 41, and Dan, 43, decided to explore more price-competitive snack items, like flavored peanuts and granola. "Granola--even with organic oats--is a lot cheaper than nuts," says Dan. "And with snack mixes, even if one ingredient goes up [in price], it doesn't shatter your profit margin."

Their new product line has reignited their passion for roasted snack products, and it fired up more than $3 million in sales of spicy buffalo peanuts, salty tamari cashews and crunchy organic granolas last year. "Almonds were always the biggest," says Jon. "But you start spinning off and seeing where the avenues to sell all these other products are."

Making Money With Credit Card Art

Spanx.Com Success Story

What Presidential Candidates Don't talk About

An E-Commerce Empire, From Porn to Puppies

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spanx This

Link of the day - A dirty little trick that gets you pretty much any DVD for 10 cents each.

The former door-to-door saleswoman of fax machines and office copiers, Blakely cut the feet off a pair of panty hose to fix her “unsightly panty lines,” and voilà, the idea for Spanx was born. Sales last year were $150 million.

Her secret to success: “My mother really encouraged me to trust my gut as a woman. She always told me that I have the answers within. I observed my friends’ mothers telling them things, giving them advice, thoughts, or recommendations. My mother didn’t do that. She taught me to trust that I had the answers at a young age. Even at 8 years old, I’d ask her what I should do and she’d say, ‘What do you think you should do?’

“I kept the idea for Spanx inside for one year. I trusted my gut the entire time, even though I had no background in hosiery. My intuition allowed me to listen to my voice to guide me in the entire process.”

Prisons For Profits

The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat

Making A Profit From Abandoned Brands Success Story

Monday, May 19, 2008

Making A Profit From Abandoned Brands

The coffee brand? Perhaps you recall its advertising slogan: “Fill it to the rim — with Brim!” Those ads haven’t been shown in years, and Brim itself has been off retail shelves since the 1990s. Yet depending on how old you are, there’s a fair chance that there’s some echo of the Brim brand in your brain. That’s no surprise, given that from 1961 to around 1995, General Foods spent tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to get it there. But General Foods disappeared into the conglomerate now known as Altria, which also acquired Kraft, maker of Maxwell House. With much smaller sales than that megabrand, Brim soon disappeared — except, perhaps, for a vague idea of Brim that lingered, and lingers even now, in the minds of millions of consumers.

What’s that worth? A small company in Chicago, called River West Brands, figures that it’s definitely worth something, and possibly quite a lot. The firm did its own research a year or so ago and claims that among people over the age of 25, Brim had 92 percent “aided national awareness.” What this means is that if you ask people anywhere in America if they have ever heard of Brim, about 9 out of 10 will say yes. If true, that’s potentially a big deal. Building that level of recognition for a new brand of coffee — or anything else — from scratch would involve an astronomical amount of money, a great deal of time, or both.

Marketers like to talk about something called brand “equity,” a combination of familiarity and positive associations that clearly has some sort of value, even if it’s impossible to measure in a convincing empirical way. Exploiting the equity of dead or dying brands — sometimes called ghost brands, orphan brands or zombie brands — is a topic many consumer-products firms, large and small, have wrestled with for years. River West’s approach is interesting for two reasons.

One is that for the most part the equity — the idea — is the only thing the company is interested in owning. River West acquires brands when the products themselves are dead, not merely ailing. Aside from Brim, the brands it acquired in the last few years include Underalls, Salon Selectives, Nuprin and the game maker Coleco, among others. “In most cases we’re dealing with a brand that only exists as intellectual property,” says Paul Earle, River West’s founder. “There’s no retail presence, no product, no distribution, no trucks, no plants. Nothing. All that exists is memory. We’re taking consumers’ memories and starting entire businesses.”

The other interesting thing is that when Earle talks about consumer memory, he is factoring in something curious: the faultiness of consumer memory. There is opportunity, he says, not just in what we remember but also in what we misremember.

River West is a young company, and few of its ideas have been directly tested in the marketplace. The revival of Brim, for instance, has yet to crystallize into a plan with real manufacturing and distribution partners. But River West is starting to bring some familiar names back into the consumer realm. It is thanks to River West that you can buy Nuprin again at CVS. The firm has also played a role in the return of Eagle Snacks to some grocery-store aisles. In late January, began accepting orders for Salon Selectives, which is also making its way into 10,000 stores, including every Rite Aid in America and grocery chains like Winn-Dixie and Pathmark. And by way of a deal with River West, Phantom, a Canadian hosiery manufacturer, is pushing a new version of Underalls to department-store and boutique clients in the U.S.

Whether these brand-reanimation efforts pan out as a successful business strategy or not, they offer an unusual perspective on the relationship between brands and the brain. By and large, examinations of successful branding tend to focus on names like Harley-Davidson, Apple or Converse, which have developed “cult” followings. Such cases are misleading, though, because they are not typical of most of what we buy. A great deal of what happens in the consumer marketplace does not involve brands with zealous loyalists. What determines whether a brand lives or dies (or can even come back to life) is usually a quieter process that has more to do with mental shortcuts and assumptions and memories — and all the imperfections that come along with each of those things.

River West’s offices, on the 36th floor of the Chicago Board of Trade Building, are sprinkled with the bric-a-brac of obscure products: a Quisp cereal box, Ipana toothpaste packages, Duz detergent bottles. On a wall of Paul Earle’s office is a framed, five-foot-by-three-foot sheet of uncut “Wacky Packages” stickers — those 1970s trading-card-size brand-parody images that rendered the word Crust in the style of the Crest logo, for example. Earle has a Midwestern everyman quality about him: he’s compact, with a big and friendly let’s-get-along voice and a penchant for deadpan jokes. Only his designer-eyeglass frames deviate from his overall demeanor.

Earle loves brands. They are not mere commercial trademarks to him, but pieces of Americana. He seems not just nostalgic but almost hurt about the fate of the “castoff brands” of the world. “If commerce is part of the American fabric, then brands are part of the American fabric,” he said to me on one occasion. “When a brand goes away, a piece of Americana goes away.”

Earle’s professional entanglement with branding began at Saatchi & Saatchi, where he was a cog in a gigantic ad agency working for gigantic clients, like General Mills and Johnson & Johnson. That was in the mid-1990s, and he saw what happened as conglomerates merged: brands that didn’t have the potential for global scale got squeezed to the bottom shelf, or out of existence. He was attracted to the idea of working with “noncore” brands, but when he figured out that big-agency economics made it impractical, he left Saatchi and went to the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and then took a brand-management job at Kraft.

At Kraft he observed the same mergers-and-consolidation process from a different angle, and he seems to have found it equally frustrating. “These are American icons with loyal consumers,” he says. “It’s not their fault a $40 billion company doesn’t like them anymore. Consumers like them.” He sees reviving brands as “a civic mission” of sorts. “If it weren’t my job,” he said, “it would be my hobby.” He says this in a way that sounds not just plausible but hard to doubt.

Even so, he has set out to make this particular civic mission turn a profit. While he recognizes that a given brand might not be able to survive in the portfolio of a multinational, different sorts of business models might work to sustain it. As surely as the ownership of brands has consolidated through one megamerger after another, the consumer market seems to be moving in the opposite direction, with an individualism-fueled demand for almost unlimited variety. Earle’s theory is that such demand means room for brands like the ones River West owns, and his idea is facing its most significant test to date, by way of the reanimation of Salon Selectives.

Helene Curtis began selling this line of shampoos in 1987, and sales shot past the $100 million mark within a year or so. It was, one Wall Street enthusiast claimed at the time, “probably the most successful hair-care launch in the history of the universe.” Heavily advertised, the brand was a pioneer of the sales pitch, now routine, of a “salon” product available for home use. Unilever bought Helene Curtis in 1996, acquiring a new batch of cosmetic, shampoo and deodorant brands that had to be integrated into those the conglomerate already offered.

It’s often hard to pin down the exact moment a brand disappears, because a product can linger on retail shelves for quite a while before it’s sold down or otherwise liquidated. But by the early 2000s, Salon Selectives had become a casualty of brand-portfolio consolidation. A few years later, River West acquired what was left of it: intellectual property like the trademarks and the original formulas.

River West’s partner in the Salon Selectives effort is called SSB, which has five full-time employees coordinating the efforts of various subcontractors (manufacturers, package-makers) out of River West’s offices. Selective Beauty is run by Gene Zeffren, a former top executive at Helene Curtis with a Ph.D. in chemistry. Earle and Zeffren are partly motivated by the belief that there is a core of Salon Selectives fans out there who miss their product and are eager to buy it again. You would think, then, that the goal would be to give those consumers their old brand back, just as it once was. And sure enough, when I visited Anne West, the chief marketing officer of the new Salon Selectives, there was an array of pink plastic bottle samples in her office, part of an attempt to match the old color as closely as possible. She showed me a video in which a surprising number of randomly confronted Chicagoans, asked if they remembered Salon Selectives, responded by singing the jingle.

Then she showed me storyboards for new Salon Selectives ads, which were not much like the original ones at all. She went on to explain that while the bottle color would be the same, its shape would be different. The reintroduced line also includes a number of new products, and the products are now more aggressively marketed as “customizable” (by hair length, thickness, texture, etc.) than they were in the earlier incarnation. Then there’s the apple scent. West said fans of the brand in its heyday frequently cited that signature smell as one of the things they missed most about the shampoos. So the new version will have an apple scent — but even that was being tweaked and “updated.” The bottom line is that Salon Selectives isn’t coming back just as it used to be, but sort of as it used to be.

West figures that fans of the brand who are nostalgic for their long-lost product just need to know that it’s back. But the real point now is to attract younger customers who probably never used the stuff. The name “Salon Selectives” might sound familiar to them, so the strategy must balance that familiarity with something that makes the product seem fresh and novel. Later West sent me the new Salon Selectives ads, now running on VH1, Lifetime and other cable networks. The spots do not announce the return of a favorite old brand, or even allude to the fact that Salon Selectives was ever gone. In one, a woman escapes from prison and immediately washes her hair. The cop who confronts her admits that she doesn’t look like an escaped con but (punch line) as if she “just stepped out of a salon.” This is followed by glimpses of the (pink) bottles and a quick “mix and match” pitch and then, at the very last second, a snippet of the familiar old jingle, rerecorded. West calls this snippet a “button,” and it clearly aims to function as the slightest mental nudge: this is something you know about.

Among River West’s various projects, this is actually one of the more conservative in testing the boundary between the positive associations of a familiar memory and the attractions of novelty. There’s less room to test that boundary because Salon Selectives hasn’t been “dormant” all that long: At least some fans of the old apple scent are going to have opinions about the “updated” version. Much will depend on specific associations with a product — which is not the same thing as a brand. Brands aren’t quite so tangible, so quantifiable. That’s what’s interesting about them.

One of Paul Earle’s professors at Kellogg was John F. Sherry Jr. (now at Notre Dame), who has devoted some study to “retromarketing” and “the revival of brand meaning.” In 2003 he wrote an article (with Stephen Brown of the University of Ulster and Robert V. Kozinets of Kellogg) on the subject for The Journal of Customer Behavior. “Retromarketing is not merely a matter of reviving dormant brands and foisting them on softhearted, dewy-eyed, nostalgia-stricken consumers,” they asserted. “It involves working with consumers to co-create an oasis of authenticity for tired and thirsty travelers through the desert of mass-produced marketing dreck.”

I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but Sherry turned out to be more straightforward in conversation. “There’s no real reason that a brand needs to die,” he told me, unless it is attached to a product that “functionally doesn’t work.” That is, as long as a given product can change to meet contemporary performance standards, “your success is really dependent on how skillful you are in managing the brand’s story so that it resonates with meaning that consumers like.”

The holy grail example of brand reanimation is the Volkswagen Beetle, which a few years ago rose from dormancy and became a hit all over again in an updated form that was both nostalgic and contemporary. The reintroduced Beetle layered “nostalgic reassurance” over modern functionality. “It’s a brand that’s memorable for a lot of different reasons,” Sherry said. “But largely because it evokes this past that never was — that was morally superior or simpler, an era of better craftsmanship. That kind of thing.”

Such abstract notions are much on display at the Licensing International Expo, an annual event at which the owners of cultural properties — TV shows, movies, cartoon characters — meet with makers of things and try to negotiate deals granting them a paid license to use the properties to add meaning and market value to whatever things they make. It is a good place to contemplate the business potential of “the brand” in free-floating form, unmoored to any product or company that may have actually created it. A surprising number of the symbols represented at the expo held last summer in New York were simply brand logos. Spam, for instance, had its own booth. IMC Licensing was there on behalf of its clients Oreo, Altoids, Dole and Oscar Mayer. At one point I encountered a person dressed up as a can of Lysol, which is represented by the Licensing Company.

Another firm that represents a number of consumer brands is the Beanstalk Group, which staked out a rather large chunk of floor space at the expo, complete with a coffee bar and about 20 tables. Owned by Omnicom Group, Beanstalk is the licensing firm for a wide range of cultural properties, from Harley-Davidson to Andy Warhol to the United States Army. None of these are dead brands, of course, but Beanstalk’s track record with converting brand meaning into revenue is the reason Paul Earle was at the licensing expo. Beanstalk was exploring strategies to revive the Coleco and Brim brands as, essentially, licensing fodder.

Michael Stone, the president and chief executive of Beanstalk, has a refined sense of the licensing business, and how consumer brands fit into it. He knows what many people think the business boils down to: I make plastic lunchboxes and you own the rights to reproduce images of Spider-Man. How about a Spider-Man lunchbox? Stone cheerfully explained to me that this is merely a “decorative” form of licensing, and that’s not his game. As a point of contrast, he told me about Beanstalk’s involvement with Stanley Works, the venerable maker of hand tools.

Stanley hired Beanstalk about nine years ago. Stanley conducted “consumer permission research” to try to determine where the Stanley brand could go. “I remember looking through the focus-group tests, and there was a guy who absolutely swore that he had a Stanley ladder in his garage.” Stone paused. “Stanley never made ladders.” This is an excellent example of what “brand equity” really means in the marketplace.

In contrast to the fanatical-devotion theory, part of the point of most branding is very specifically to circumvent conscious thought. Psychologists use the word “heuristics” to refer to the mental shortcuts and rules of thumb that allow us to resolve the various routine problems of everyday life without having to make a spreadsheet for every trivial decision. Brand owners want a way into your purchase heuristics. Often it is not so much a matter of, say, a Stanley Works fanatic seeking out all products bearing that trademark; it’s a matter of looking for a product and choosing one with a particular trademark that, for whatever reason, we find acceptable. This is not brand loyalty. It’s brand acquiescence.

We’ve all seen the Stanley name, for instance. And by and large, we trust it. We have a general idea of Stanley that fits into our hardware-store purchase heuristics. But there is a great deal of imperfection and vagueness in these thought processes, and that is good news for a licensor. It suggests that there’s potential — or “permission” — for the Stanley name to migrate onto new products.

What Beanstalk did not do when it took on Stanley as a client was recommend investing in a ladder-production facility and hiring a bunch of workers, plus a sales force to blitz potential retail channels. Stanley Works, as a company, has actually been moving in the opposite direction, closing factories and outsourcing its manufacturing since the 1980s. Instead, Beanstalk worked out a licensing deal with Werner, which was already the biggest maker and distributor of ladders in the country. “They needed another brand because they couldn’t expand the Werner brand anymore,” Stone said. So Werner started making and selling ladders with the Stanley name on them. This gave Werner a way to get more shelf space, reach more consumers and make more sales. What it gave Stanley was its name on a new product and a licensing fee. Beanstalk has worked out many such deals, hooking up the Stanley brand with manufacturers of work gloves and boots, power generators and a variety of other things that Stanley never made (and does not make now).

Too many such deals, or the wrong kinds, can boomerang: this happens with some regularity in the fashion world, when a famous designer name gets spread over so many products, with so little regard to quality, that the entire image of the brand sinks. Still, if you see a ladder made by Stanley, you may well think, Well, there’s a name I can trust. What you’re trusting, though, isn’t Stanley workers in Stanley factories upholding Stanley traditions and values under the watchful eye of Stanley managers. What you’re trusting is Stanley’s recognition that a badly made ladder with the Stanley name on it could be highly damaging to the Stanley brand. You are trusting Stanley’s recognition of the value of its brand and its competence in defending that value.

We circled back around to Beanstalk’s ideas for River West’s brands, particularly Brim. Stone mentioned White Cloud. White Cloud is a brand of toilet paper once owned by Procter & Gamble. P.& G. also owned the Charmin franchise, so eventually it let the trademarks on White Cloud expire. These were then acquired by an entrepreneur, who worked out a licensing deal with Wal-Mart to make White Cloud an exclusive Wal-Mart product. It became, essentially, a store brand, but infused with equity of mass-market familiarity. It’s very doubtful that the typical White Cloud buyer is aware that the product is available only at Wal-Mart. It’s also very doubtful that P.& G. (which would surely prefer that its Charmin didn’t have to compete against a brand that P.& G. itself created) will let anything like that happen again if it can possibly help it.

This is essentially the situation that River West brokered with the Nuprin brand, which was a dead line of ibuprofen painkillers (once upon a time backed by the widely known “Nupe it” ad campaign). Its trademarks were acquired by River West and sold to CVS, where it is back on the shelves as a stealth store brand. (And presumably enjoying better margins than it would if, like a traditional store brand, it competed solely on low price, not trustworthy-brand familiarity.) My read was that this is what Stone thought should happen to Brim — and that Earle had mixed feelings, believing, perhaps, that Brim could come back as something bigger. Even Stone seemed at least somewhat intrigued with the possibilities of licensing a brand that was familiar but dead. “With Stanley we have to be careful — this is a famous brand; we have to do everything right and mitigate all the risks,” he says. “But with Brim, the risks. . . .” He paused. “There really are no risks.”

This brings us to Earle’s ideas about the potential upside of faulty consumer memory. Maybe, for instance, you’re among those who remember Brim. But do you also remember that it was a decaf-only brand? That’s actually why you could “fill it to the rim.” River West’s research found that many who recall the Brim brand have forgotten the decaf detail.

The relationship between brands and memory (faulty or no) is a specialty of Kathy LaTour, an associate professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In one of her most interesting studies, she worked with Elizabeth Loftus, a memory specialist and now a professor at the University of California, Irvine, and a third researcher, Rhiannon Ellis, to take the issue to its logical extreme: What if, for example, an advertising campaign “implanted memories into consumers of things that never happened?”

The researchers found that subjects presented with a fake Disney World ad inviting them to “remember the characters of your youth: Mickey, Goofy . . . ” were significantly more likely to say they recalled that as children they had met “a favorite TV character at a theme resort” than those who didn’t see the ad. The fascinating thing was what happened when they repeated the experiment, tweaking the ads to include Bugs Bunny, who, of course, is not a Disney character at all. About 16 percent of subjects subsequently claimed that, as children, they shook hands with Bugs Bunny at a Disney theme park. Repeated fake-ad exposure apparently led to higher false-memory rates. In a separate study, Loftus asked subjects with Bugs in their memories what, exactly, they recalled about this incident; of these, 62 percent recounted shaking Bugs’s hand, and more than a quarter specifically recalled him saying, “What’s up, Doc?”

Earle says that this imperfection of memory can be used to enhance whatever new Brim he comes up with. This is “a benefit of dormancy,” he says. The brand equity has value on its own, but it can be grafted onto something newer and, perhaps, more innovative. “Consumers remember the kind of high-level essence of the brand,” he says. “They tend to forget the product specifics.” This, he figures, creates an opening: it gives the reintroduced version “permission” to forget that decaf-only limitation as well and morph into a full line of coffee varieties. “ ‘Fill it to the rim with Brim’ stands for full-flavored coffee,” Earle says, with a chuckle. “Fill it to the rim — it’s great stuff!”

Finding the deceased brands that consumers are likely to remember — sort of — is a process that can begin, of all places, in the library. Earle spent hours going through old issues of People, Time, Glamour and other magazines, “looking for brand names that sounded familiar but that I hadn’t seen lately.” This results in many, many possibilities that don’t work out for one reason or another. But every so often the process yields an Underalls.

Earle was intrigued with Underalls. Produced by Hanes from about 1975 to the mid-1990s, Underalls was once a prominent brand, advertised aggressively. (“O.K. America — show us your Underalls!”) It spawned “flanker” brands like Summeralls, Winteralls and Slenderalls. It was unique and memorable: a good brand. “You see the memorabilia on eBay,” Earle says. “That’s usually a good indicator.”

By way of MarketTools, a research company, River West asked 1,000 women ages 25 to 54 to answer an online survey about hosiery brands. About 850 did so, and among these, 72 percent had heard of Underalls. Among those who recognized the brand, about three-quarters remembered the “Show us your Underalls” tagline. Promising. But River West needed a partner to actually manufacture and distribute whatever the new version of Underalls might be.

It found that partner in Phantom, a hosiery maker based in Toronto. Phantom’s main product line is called Silks, the dominant hosiery brand in Canada. The company also manufactures a number of store brands. Phantom wanted to get into the crowded U.S. hosiery market, says Svetlana Sturgeon, vice president of sales and marketing for Phantom, and it made a certain amount of sense to leverage a name far more familiar to American consumers than Silks would be. Sturgeon jokes that, at first, she did not want to admit at meetings that she remembered the brand (“I’m much too young for that!”). But she did.

The point of the original Underalls was that they combined panties and stockings into one undergarment. (“They were the pioneers in the whole idea of eliminating panty lines,” is how Sturgeon puts this.) In early brainstorming sessions, Phantom and River West tried to come up with “the most expansive but credible definition” of the brand, Earle says. In this case that turned out to be “intimate-apparel solutions,” which means anything you wear under something else that’s “functional and fashion-forward,” Sturgeon says. This includes camisoles and bras and other things the original Underalls never sold. The San Francisco design firm Thinc came up with a new graphic identity and packaging ideas that referenced classic elements of the old ads, but radically updated them. New slogan: “Lovely underneath it all.” With the prototypes complete, Sturgeon has begun the process of meeting with boutique and department-store buyers, in the hope of getting products into stores, at least on a test level, in the fall.

Brand familiarity alone guarantees nothing. Sears owns several well-known brand names — Kenmore, Craftsman, DieHard, the Sears name itself — and is viewed by Wall Street as a basket case. Multinationals routinely go through cycles of acquiring and creating brands and then paring back when, inevitably, some underperform. A tiny number of hard-core loyalists not only doesn’t mean a whole lot when reviving a brand, it might be a problem because those people do remember. A number of the more cultish devotees of the VW Beetle, in fact, forthrightly rejected its reanimated version as a fraud. In that case, those consumers were marginalized by a far wider buying public who weren’t such sticklers.

And really, something like the Beetle is actually a special case: it wasn’t just a well-known product, it was a cultural icon on a level that very few products or brands ever achieve. River West is trying to reanimate brands that are sort of familiar but don’t have anything like a VW level of built-in cultural capital to draw on. If there is a cult of Brim out there somewhere, it’s pretty small and very quiet.

What River West really wants is to bring back these brands in a way that not only builds on their former popularity but also manages, via the skillful management of what we do remember and what we don’t, to transcend it. This would be quite a trick. A few months after he returned from the licensing expo, Earle more or less dropped the strategy of turning Brim into a glorified store brand. These days he’s talking about finding a “really innovative” coffee-manufacturing partner who could make the Brim brand an umbrella for groundbreaking (but unspecified) coffee advances that would work in the general market, not just one chain. He sounded almost protective of the Brim idea, and possibly a bit frustrated that he hadn’t hit on the way to bring it back. “Brim is, within our company, one of our best-known brands,” he said to me at one point. “In fact it’s our absolutely best-known brand. So expectations are high.”

Later he added: “The strength of a dormant brand is we can remake this however we want. The challenge is we can remake this however we want.”

Eventually, Earle introduced me at his office to Scott Lazar, chief executive of another River West partner, Reserve Brands, which is overseeing the revivification of Eagle Snacks. I’d never heard of the brand, but I was assured that plenty of Midwesterners knew it. Eagle had once been owned by Anheuser-Busch and was the beer maker’s way into the salty-snack market dominated by Frito-Lay. Its most well known product, it seems, was the honey-roasted peanut, particularly in tiny bags given out as snacks on airlines. Anheuser-Busch eventually pulled the plug, selling its equipment to Frito-Lay and the trademarks to Procter & Gamble in the mid-1990s. Lazar said that while the new Eagle has acquired those trademarks, the new and expanded product line consists largely of snacks that the old Eagle never made, with names like “Poppers!” and “Bursts!” These are rolling out in a variety of grocery stores across the country. Lazar tried to give me about six large bags of samples, but I demurred on account of limited luggage space.

I ended up with two bags, which Earle and I took downstairs to the bar at the Ceres Cafe. It was crowded and loud, filled with big Chicago men who in some cases had spent the day screaming on the Chicago Board of Trade floor and who in all cases were not shy. We found a place to sit, plopping the Eagle snacks in front of us. And one man after another leaned into our space and pointed at the bags and boomed, “Eagle!” Big hands reached toward the bags to get a scoop of snacks that the old Eagle had never made, and at the time were not in stores, and big voices declared, “I remember those!”

Rob Walker writes the Consumed column for the magazine. His book, “Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are,” will be published by Random House next month.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

When a rancher opens his bunkhouse to visitors, city folk from all over the world pay him to labor there

Rick Jarrett has lived in the foothills of the Crazy Mountains for all his 59 years, and he knows well their pleasures and perils. On a recent afternoon he allowed his flatbed Ford (F, Fortune 500) to creep near the edge of a cliff. "Don't worry," he said with a mustachioed smile. "The brakes still work."

I'd brought my 7-year-old daughter, Livia, along on a four-day "bunkhouse vacation" at the Crazy Mountain Cattle Co., Jarrett's 2,500-acre ranch about an hour's drive east of Bozeman, Mont., the nearest commercial airport. We enjoyed a horse-riding, cattle-herding,tagging-along-with-an-actual-rancher-while-he-worms-sheep adventure.

That first afternoon, Jarrett gave us a tour of the homestead. He wore his short-brimmed cowboy hat, which looked as though it had been run over a few times. He pronounced "creek" to rhyme with "slick," "corral" to rhyme with "hurl." We rumbled along a narrow ridge teeming with mule deer and muscular antelope trotting effortlessly along steep, rocky draws and gullies that drain (on the rare occasion when it rains) into Duck Creek. The creek, a long green finger flowing south to the Yellowstone River, is surrounded by sagebrush and wind - lots of wind, which, as Jarrett would explain later, is a good thing. To our north towered the Crazies, an extension of the Rocky Mountains. In the distance to the east, our cliff top fanned out into an arid square mile of Indian grass, prickly pear, and more sage. Jarrett leases 8,000 acres near Yellowstone Park and another 1,500 on the Boulder River for grazing.

"You see that big, flat-topped hill over there?" he said, pointing west. It was less a hill than a gigantic anvil jumping out of the mountain range. "That's mine," Jarrett said. "We've got a wind anemometer up there."

He pointed south across the Yellowstone River valley to a tiny dot of willow and aspen that seemed to explode in brilliant yellows against the backdrop of prairie tans and grays. "That's Jarrett Creek," he said. "And that over there is Mendenhal Creek."

The Jarretts and Mendenhals were his grandparents. They homesteaded the region in the late 1880s, before Montana became a state. His family has been raising cows and sheep for 100 years in Sweet Grass County, whose seat, Big Timber, was once a center of the American wool trade. Rick is the fifth generation of Jarretts to live in the Yellowstone valley. He may be the last.

Jarrett needs roughly $20,000 a month to run his ranch, which often exceeds his monthly revenue from all sources. He owns 300 heifers and 350 ewes and breeds about 250 calves and 250 lambs to sell each year. Livestock prices are rising, but not as rapidly as the costs of labor, electricity for irrigation, and liability and fire insurance. His bunkhouse vacations help defray the expense of two summer ranch hands. He charges $220 a day for adults, $175 for teens, and $110 for kids under 6.

"Unless they're too young to ride," he says. "Then I don't charge at all."

Jarrett hopes that Coyote Energy, in Great Falls, Mont., will push him into the black. The alternative-energy developer may someday make the wind that blows over his land pay handsomely.

But for now, as he approaches retirement age, Jarrett faces a common ranching predicament: His children can't afford to keep the land. Several of his fellow ranchers have sold to wealthy out-of-state buyers, many from California, who want a piece of Big Sky country. One of Jarrett's new neighbors is Whitney MacMillen, retired president of the agribusiness giant Cargill. Another is a Texas oilman who paid $44 million for 45,000 acres five years ago.

The rise of the part-time landowner has made ranching harder, not just lonelier. Cattle need massive quantities of grass and water: One cow consumes the equivalent of four acres a month.

"People say I raise cattle," says Jarrett. "What I really do is grow grass."

With the land so arid, he spends a lot of time tending to the system of irrigation ditches that run through the property. Back when most of his neighbors were full-time ranchers, they used to keep costs down by sharing equipment and manpower. But these weekenders aren't interested in working the land together.

"They don't control the weeds or ditches," said Jarrett, referring to irrigation. "They don't like it when cows go on their property. And they don't like hunters, so we can't cull the wolves attacking our livestock."

These days Learjets fly in from California on summer weekends to the small municipal airport in Big Timber (pop. 1,600), and drive-through espresso stands have popped up in Bozeman, the nearest metropolis, which some now call "Bozeangeles." Jarrett does his best to adapt. To compete with imported beef from other countries, he has assembled a marketing group of 80 ranchers dedicated to boosting the cachet of Montana Branded Beef. His bunkhouse vacations are another way to advertise Montana's ranching traditions.

Livia and I experienced one of those traditions on a high ridge at the edge of a cliff, in a truck driven by a man with a gleam in his eye. Jarrett put the truck in gear. I swore not to reveal what happened next (to surprise future guests), other than to suggest that a half-ton flatbed can be driven down damn near anything; that my life flashed before my eyes; and that we reached the river bottom in record time. After a fair amount of screaming, Livia looked at me and said, "Can we do that again?"

This sort of Montana icebreaker isn't for everyone. In general, Jarrett's bunkhouse vacation would not satisfy patrons expecting the trimmings of a fancy dude ranch. Nobody makes your bed at Jarrett's place, and the daily agenda is light on sing-alongs and cookouts. Instead, Jarrett provides a direct entrée into the unvarnished daily life of a modern working ranch. The immediate vicinity of the ranch house featured old tires, the burned-out chassis of a '50s-era sedan, the bed of a pickup truck, propane tanks, and a defunct furnace. We slept in a refurbished outbuilding that contained a bunk bed, a bathroom, and a wood-burning stove. But if you don't expect a hotel experience (it's just Jarrett in his kitchen, cooking French toast in the morning or his own Montana Branded Beef for dinner, and you, poking around his refrigerator looking for the half-and-half), the Crazy Mountain Cattle Co. offers a weekend filled with real wonder and high adventure.

On our first day Jarrett drove us into an alfalfa field, got out of his car, and instructed us to sit still. Within minutes, several hundred Black Angus cattle had gathered around us like some huffing bovine council meeting. Livia was transfixed. Later we walked to an abandoned silo. From the top rafter, a great horned owl swiveled its head to look at us. Jarrett told us about the pet owl he kept as a kid and about attending grammar school in a one-room schoolhouse, which still stands on the property. (I visited that schoolhouse one afternoon. It contained an old piano, its keys frozen by time, and a lone desk in front of a chalkboard.)

Jarrett also introduced us to his horses: Big Bill and the colt, Little Bill, as well as Big Enough, Knute, and Sadie. They trotted up to us when called. Livia held out a few apples, which the horses gently ate from her hands. Big Bill lowered his head to nuzzle Livia's cheek, much to her delight.

She later remarked, "Daddy, I still have horse saliva in my hair."

"That's okay," I replied. "It brings out the luster."

At noon the following day we joined Jarrett and his daughter Jami, 37, on horseback. Livia and I had skipped the day's previous activity - an early morning horse castration (you won't find that on the agenda of a dude ranch) - in favor of a ride along the Boulder River through grassy bottomland rimmed with aspen. We could have fished there too. Livia rode confidently atop Big Bill, while Jami gently offered suggestions from alongside ("Hold your reins in, honey." "Go ahead and give him a kick when you want him to go.") and pointed out the sights: a caboose previously used as a fishing camp; old homestead cabins from the early 1900s, little streams.

That afternoon we embarked on a four-wheel-ATV cattle drive. Some lump ATVs in with snowmobiles - noisy intrusions on the natural world. Maybe they're right, but not today, not when your young daughter is steering much of the time and yelling "Giddyap" as you herd cattle from the high bench above the Boulder River down to the rich, well-irrigated pastures below. Dinner was Rick's delicious Black Angus steaks and burgers of home-grown Montana Branded Beef.

The next day we herded about 50 of Jarrett's sheep from a remote pasture to a barn, where each ewe had her teeth checked and received a dose of worm medicine. As the sheep passed through a chute, I grabbed a few by their muscular necks and pried their mouths open for Jarrett to check. Then I watched his two grandchildren - Jordan, 11, the only girl on her school's football team, and Jess, 8, the sheep-riding champ at Big Timber Rodeo - hold on for dear life as they rode sheep inside the corral. For our last dinner, Jarrett served up chicken stew with biscuits piled high on a plate. Livia fell asleep in her chair, as she had each night before.

Who visits the Crazy Mountain Cattle Co.? Deer and prairie dog hunters. British tourists fascinated by the American West. A few years back, two young women from North Carolina flew out for the rodeo in Big Timber. "Cowboy hunters," Jarrett said with a chuckle. One Hollywood screenwriter visited by herself and then returned with her son. Lodgers aren't required to work on this ranch, but most pitch in anyway, swept up by the sheer excitement of an ordinary working day on the range.

A magazine photographer wrote in the guest book: "Almost being killed and then killing, by stoning a rattlesnake, was pretty damned primal. Unforgettable." A Taiwanese television crew wrote poems to Jarrett, gave him a ceremonial Indian hatchet, and said that he'd changed their lives. A young woman named Melanie visited, along with her mother, on a high school graduation trip. Despite being vegan, Melanie apparently thrived in carnivore country: "I've jugged a ewe," she wrote, "and tubed a lamb, sorted, cut, and chased cattle, rode a most affectionate mare, watched a horse get spooked by her own fart, drove a tractor ... and got some new family."

Before we left, I asked Jarrett if he'd ever considered selling the ranch. "If I did that, I'd be a rich man," he said with a laugh. But for now, the Crazy Mountain rancher would rather stay put.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Gold Is Back And Internet Knows It

Link of the day - the easiest way for creative folks to make a few extra bucks online

Oil tops a record $120 a barrel? Bad news. Gold reaches a stunning $1,000 an ounce? Potentially very good news indeed.

Especially to Paige Rhodes, 40, of Alexandria, who has heaps of unwanted gold baubles cluttering up her jewelry boxes. Rather than wait for bold gold to come back in fashion  return to the '80s, anyone? women are scrapping their unwanted gewgaws for cash or checks at wine-and-cheese "gold parties."

Think Tupperware parties, but instead of buying plastic, guests bring gold (coins, watches, necklaces, teeth) to be assayed (tested) for carat content and weighed. Depending on the ounce-cost of gold that day, guests can walk away with hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

The party host pays them with cash or a check, then ships the gold to a refinery, where it is melted down and recycled. The refinery then pays the host  at a price higher than paid out to guests, the host hopes.

"Everybody wins," says January Thomas, 29, of Royal Oak, Mich., who started this year shortly after she married into a jewelry-dealing family and found out what she could get for her unwanted gold. (A lot, because by late 2007 prices had tripled since 2001.)

In March, with the stock market swooning, oil prices soaring and the dollar falling, gold hit $1,000 an ounce for the first time.

Suddenly, gold scrapping for amateurs looked like good business, says Thomas, who has been traveling to promote and preside over gold parties while her website sells gold-party kits for $699 (includes a gold karat-testing machine, a scale, a jeweler's loupe and a how-to book she put together, My Gold Party).

Meanwhile, professional gold scrapping is booming, too. The largest gold buyer online,, which is owned by a Florida refinery, Albar Precious Metals, records 25,000 transactions a month, and "it's going up every month," says Albar CEO Jeff Aronson. He attributes most of the increase to the $2 million to $3 million in advertising he spends a month, but he says the steady climb in gold prices has helped.

Online entrepreneurs have responded. Besides the many websites that buy unwanted jewelry, there's a new site,, which allows people to sell, trade, auction or give away jewelry from an ex  as long as they share the story of the gift on the site.

Still, gold parties can be a fun way to monetize unfashionable jewelry, says president Howard Mosshin. "The economy is in the dumps, the housing market has hurt a lot of people, and people are looking for a way to find liquidity."

Thomas says many women don't like going to pawn shops. "At a party, they're less embarrassed about asking how much their jewelry is worth," Thomas says. "Besides, it's a form of recycling and de-cluttering."

Rhodes acquired a lot of gold jewelry in the 1980s, "but now I mostly wear silver," she says at a recent gold party here, where Thomas presided. Rhodes brought her doctor husband and a plastic food container rattling with heavy necklaces, bracelets and watches from her own collection and that of her late mother.

"We're not sure why she had six gold dolphin stickpins," Rhodes says, chuckling. But they are worth something, Thomas tells her as she tests and weighs and creates little piles of gold jewelry based on karat.

Gold is selling at $930 an ounce this day. Rhodes is thrilled to walk away with checks totaling $5,100. "Why not get rid of it if it's just going to sit in my jewelry box for 10 years?" she says triumphantly.

Besides, says her husband, Don, 49, "you can always buy new gold things, if it ever comes back."

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

For TreeGivers.Com, Money Does Grow On Trees

In a town in northern New England a small group was gathered for a memorial service for a family member. It was suggested that a tree should be planted as a living memorial for the deceased. That is how it started in 1981. Known as Lofty Oaks Association, the company grew rapidly representing the funeral industry nation wide. Shortly more and more companies and individuals alike were asking to have trees planted on their behalf for special occasions.

That is when the founders, Leslie Dreier and Bruce Hadlock started TreeGivers. TreeGivers was developed for a new market of businesses and for the public consumer. With steady growth it wasn't long before they out grew their location and needed larger accommodations. They found the answer in a century old farmhouse. In keeping with their conservation initiatives, Bruce and Leslie have carefully preserved the exterior of the 100-year-old farmhouse much like the original. The interior has been updated to contain the newest in processing equipment, while still maintaining some old New England charm including the original working fireplace.

Today this restored farmhouse contains the corporate offices and the dedicated staff of both TreeGivers and Lofty Oaks Association. We have planted hundreds of thousands of young trees on public lands in all 50 states of the United States and in the International Tree Planting countries as part of their reforestation programs. Since we began our program in 1981, we have always endeavored to find youth groups to be involved in the plantings. We have enlisted Scout groups and 4-H Clubs from all over the country in this effort. Naturally, experienced nurserymen or national foresters guide them in the planting. In other states, the trees are planted by professionals with special consideration concerning the species and best growing locations.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008 Success Story

PickyDomains.Com is a perfect example of how to turn one’s talent into a profitable business. With ever expanding Internet and tens of millions existing websites, finding an available domain name that’s not already taken by cybersquatters can be a real nightmare.

But one man’s problem is another man’s solution. Rather than to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for a domain name on the aftermarket, an increasing number of web entrepreneurs turn to professional “domain namers�?.

While most naming agencies charge a non-refundable fee that can be as high as $1500 for a corporate domain, one service that unites 17 professional domain namers from countries like United States, Russia, Australia and New Zealand, decided to offer a risk-free service that costs only 50 dollars per domain.

After 50 dollars are deposited, clients start getting a list of available domain names via e-mail for a period of 30 days. If they see a domain they like, they register it and notify the service about domain acquired. The individual, who came up with the name, gets $25, the other half going to the service. If no domain is registered, the money is refunded in full.

While the idea is brainlessly simple, it appears that PickyDomains.Com has no competition with its risk-free business model. But that is almost certain to change as more people find out that finding available domain names for other people can be a profitable business.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking

I recently finished Andy Sernovitz's new book, "Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking". Actually, I finished it a while ago, but haven't had time to do a full blog review.

The book is a quick read - 4hrs total, give or take, and it's packed full not only of WOM theory and a bit of history, but also with some concrete ideas from real WOM marketers and a checklist or two to boot. I love checklists!

The really "shocking" thing about this book, is that it's not one of those "wow, wouldn't it be cool if our company could do that" like "Blue Ocean Strategy, but rather, a book about WHAT EVERY BUSINESS SHOULD ALREADY BE DOING WITH THEIR MARKETING. Seriously, let's look, at what the book tells me to do.

You need the Five Ts. Talkers, Topics, Tools, Taking Part and Tracking.

* Talkers: Find people who will talk about you
* Topics: Give people a reason to talk
* Tools: Help the message spread faster and farther
* Taking Part: Join the conversation
* Tracking: Measure and understand what people are saying

Andy has another tidbit that worth the price of the book (or a visit to his site). The Word of Mouth Marketing Manifesto:

1. Happy customers are your best advertising. Make people happy.
2. Marketing is easy: Earn the respect and recommendation of your customers. They will do your marketing for you, for free.
3. Ethics and good service come first.
4. UR the UE: You are the user experience (not what your ads say you are).
5. Negative word of mouth is an opportunity. Listen and learn.
6. People are already talking. Your only option is to join the conversation.
7. Be interesting or be invisible.
8. If it's not worth talking about, it's not worth doing.
9. Make the story of your company a good one.
10. It is more fun to work at a company that people want to talk about.
11. Use the power of word of mouth to make business treat people better.
12. Honest marketing makes more money.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dave Novak - The Reluctant Millionaire

Dave Novak was just 21 when he started his eBay business in 2002. A recent graduate of the Art Institute of Phoenix, his first job had been as a graphic designer with large Internet company. After the company floundered and he got laid off, he got another corporate job, but soon rumors began circulating of a merger and more layoffs.

About that time Novak's first daughter was born, and he decided he was sick of the whole corporate scene. "I wanted to be home around my family, and so my wife and I invested $2,500 and opened up our eBay store," he said. Because he was a bit of a handyman, and knew something of home improvement, he did research on emerging trends in that industry sector. He decided to go into the business of selling high-end steam showers. "And we've been riding this wave ever since," he said. was profitable right from the beginning, and has grossed over $1 million for the last three years. Novak is the only employee. He manages the Web site, answers the phone, responds to e-mail inquiries, and provides after-sales support.

Not having any e-commerce experience, eBay was the easiest place to start an online business, he said, because the technology infrastructure was there to do everything from listing the product for sale to communicating with potential buyers to accepting payment. He started small, and cautiously: buying only one steam shower unit at a time, and only purchasing another one after he had sold that one. "We kept our overhead very low," he said.

But success brought its challenges. Two years ago, Novak made a difficult decision. Because his business had been growing so fast, he had been having trouble handling it all himself. So he had begun hiring employees. Soon he had four workers on payroll, doing everything from helping him in the warehouse with shipping and handling, to answering the toll-free number, and providing customer support. "I can't say I loved it," he says now about the experience of being a boss. "It definitely took a load off me, and allowed me to ramp up and start selling a lot more. But everything got more chaotic, and I had to spend time managing employees. I just decided, in the end, that it wasn't something I wanted to do."

So Novak laid off his employees, and made the deliberate decision to scale back. "My priority is my family," he said. "I want to keep it simple." He had the opportunity to open a retail store selling steam showers, but declined for the same reason. "People said, 'Just get it up and running, and hire someone to manage it for you," but it doesn't work that way," he said. "I could be making a lot more money today, but I decided it wasn't worth it."

Naturally, Novak couldn't do what he's doing without leveraging a broad range of technologies. There's his Web site -- now independent of eBay -- that is set up for e-commerce with an online catalog, shopping basket, and checkout. He has an 800 number and fields quite a few calls. Although most of his sales come from the Internet, he's found that because it is a relatively large purchase -- units range from $2,000 to $4,000 -- many people like talking on the phone before handing over their credit cards. He's also incorporated live chat into his Web site, which he says is a popular feature, and allows him to be very efficient at both sales and support, as he can monitor multiple chat sessions at one time.

He purchases Google ad words as his primary vehicle for getting the word out about his business. He's also been lucky enough to have been featured in local television and radio spots, and in specialty home and bath magazines. "I've never placed a traditional advertisement," he said. "It's either been free, because someone has done a story on us, or it's online."

Sometimes it helps for people to know he's a small business, sometimes it hurts, he said. There are clearly people who would prefer to deal with a large, established firm. "I rarely come out and tell people it's just me here," he said. "But a lot of people like the fact that they are talking to the owner of the company, and feel they are getting personal attention they wouldn't get at a bigger firm."

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Vacations With A Higher Purpose

More than just a time to renew body and spirit, vacations can also be opportunities to learn something new or try out different careers, as we've noted before. For guests at Ritz-Carlton hotels worldwide, they can now also be a time to give back to the local community.

Last month Ritz-Carlton launched its Give Back Getaways program, which gives guests the opportunity to volunteer their time to improve and assist the local community in which they are vacationing. At The Ritz-Carlton in Cancun, for example, guests can join a biologist from the Cancun Department of Ecology for hands-on experience protecting mother sea turtles during nesting and helping them return safely to the sea. Through a program employees have already been participating in for more than a decade, guests will head out at night to search for nesting turtles, gather sea turtle eggs and bring them to a safer location. Visitors to Berlin, meanwhile, can roll up their sleeves and accompany hotel staff as they launch a spring clean-up of the SONNENHOF facilities for children with serious illnesses. Additional Give Back Getaways include cooking and serving meals at the North Texas Food Bank; restoring homes in the ancient water town of Wuzhen, China; planting native Cyprus trees in the dwindling wetland forests of the Florida Everglades; and building homes with Habitat for Humanity in Jakarta and New Orleans. Costs vary between roughly USD 50 and USD 150 per adult participant.

Simon F. Cooper, Ritz-Carlton's president and chief operating officer, explains: “We have come to recognize the interest many of our guests have in becoming more involved in the region where they are spending their vacation. Many of them are active volunteers in worthwhile activities at home, and want to continue this spirit of giving when they visit other parts of the world. We believe Give Back Getaways is a unique way for our hotels to partner with guests to provide an experience both memorable and personally enriching.”

Experience, of course, is what it's all about, as the hotel goes beyond furnishing a purely functional place to stay to give guests a lasting, potentially transforming experience they'll remember forever. Long live the experience economy—and the companies that make it happen!

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

AdsSpy.Com Success Story

Great ideas for startups are often quite accidental. When SEOQuake tech guys indexed most sites in the internet, they were stuck with a load of information. Among them, whether or not a site runs any contextual advertisement through Google Adsense, Yahoo Publisher Network, Chitika or Amazon.Com. This was easily determined by presence or absence of code that had a Publisher ID for one of the networks.

So, what’s so special about that? Well, first, each publisher gets assigned a specific ID. Most contextual advertisement networks, like Google, explicitly prohibit same publisher from getting more than one ID (the only way around is to register another business entity).

You could use the data to match publisher ID with all sites where it’s displayed. Essentially, if you know one site where Google Ads are displayed, you can know all sites that belong to that particular publisher and display Google Ads.

Is this important? You bet. First, since AdSense publishers are forced to use the same publisher ID, you can ‘spy’ on any publisher. You can see what other projects are online. You can compare ad layouts. You can uncover the secrets of successful webmasters, and learn some tips and tricks based on years of their practical experience.

Another handy application of the service is independent assessment of network quality. It’s no secret that people create websites specifically for making money with AdSense. These are known as MFA (made for AdSense) and generally provide lower ROIs than genuine websites that display ads. Google claims to combat them, but it’s always an uphill battle.

For heavy AdSense spenders, identifying and staying away from MFA sites is a big deal. With this tool, it’s brainlessly simple. First, MFA publishers generally have A LOT of websites (some over a thousand under the same ID). First, those MFA sites tend to have ‘ugly’ designs than force people to click, this inflating CTR and hurting advertisers.

There are other applications, too.

The service was launched on April 11 and got $800 dollars in subscription fees right away. Some SEO stars, like Aaron Wall of SEOBook.Com stopped by to comment about AdsSpy’s unique capabilities.

The fees are fairly reasonable, although by no means cheap – from $29.95 for seven day access up to $199.95 for 180-days premium access. A single report used to be sold for $4.95, but I don’t see the option available at this point.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

How To Make A Huge Profit Selling Books By The Chapter

When Charles Dickens was writing his serialized novels, crowds used to gather at the docks in New York whenever a new chapter was due to arrive by boat. Today, Random House, the world’s largest publisher, has brought the practice back in electronic form, starting with the business communications bestseller ‘Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.’ Each chapter of the book, which had a hardcover print run of more than 200,000 copies, costs USD 2.99 and can be downloaded as an Adobe Digital Editions file, a format that is itself readable via a free download from Adobe.

Random House, a US subsidiary of German media giant Bertelsmann, explained that the chapter-by-chapter sale was intended for those who only need to glean one or two lessons from a book. The Wall Street Journal noted that the experiment follows the music industry’s success selling songs individually, and that it’s an attempt by the company to discover how modern consumers might want to receive publishing information, particularly at a time when cell phones, PDAs and other digital devices such as Amazon’s Kindle make it easier for them to read electronic documents anywhere and everywhere.

Other publishers have launched similar experiments with downloadable chapters. In January, for example, Springwise looked at DailyLit, which makes classic texts available free via email and RSS, and modern texts at prices roughly in line with those of paperbacks. Indeed, that relatively low-tech approach could be easily emulated by book-publishing entrepreneurs. Choosing the right content will be key, of course. And while the chapter-by-chapter niche might seem best suited to business books, irresistible fictional stories or tales or real-life scandal and intrigue might also become piecemeal best sellers of the future, bringing together crowds of readers, just as Dickens once did on those New York City docks.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Minneapolis scrapyard got wired and sent sales through the roof

When Michael Zweigbaum took over as CEO of Alliance Steel Services in Minneapolis three years ago, the 40-year-old scrap-metal company had grown rusty.

Prices were rising, thanks to increased Chinese and Indian demand for recycled metal from the U.S., but Alliance wasn't equipped for growth. The former owners had controlled the company using pencil and paper, says Zweigbaum, 34. "There was no evolution - it was a legacy business."

Zweigbaum had a bold vision for changing that: Acquire other local scrapyards and create a regional network of recycled-metal providers.

"Every town in Minnesota with at least 1,000 people has a scrapyard," he says. "I wanted them to work in conjunction, and I mapped out new locations for us."

There was no way Alliance could manage multiple yards without entering the Digital Age. But the company didn't merely upgrade to a couple of PCs and a business-software suite. It made a great leap forward with a system that weighed, tagged, and snapped digital photos of every batch of scrap metal that entered the yard. Customers could buy in confidence - and Zweigbaum was able to grow his revenues 500% in three years.

For that, he can thank one key hire: his father, Larry, a 30-year veteran of the software business. (Alliance is a family affair: Zweigbaum bought it from his father-in-law and hired his sister, Marly, as CFO.)

Larry, 60, was about to retire when his son asked him to be CTO. But he couldn't resist the chance to transform an industry.

"We used to vie with other small businesses, but now we're going against huge conglomerates," Larry says. "We had to gain a competitive edge."

The Zweigbaums hunted for a system that would let them oversee their stock in real time. They chose Recycling Operations Manager, created by 21st Century Programming, a small business in Long Beach, Calif. Similar systems from ScrapWare in Rockville, Md., and BuyBackPro in Woodland, Calif., were considered, but ROM was the cheapest one that used digital photos.

ROM starts working the moment a truck enters Alliance's yard and dumps a load of metal onto a trailer-sized scale. An employee eyeballs the load and selects one of 80 grades of metal on a touch-screen. The software notes the weight on the scales, and a camera transmits a picture, which reveals any contaminations (because the metal is recycled, it's rarely perfect).

All of that information is filed in a database from which the Zweigbaums can also access their trade receivables, shipping and billing documents, and inventory. The management system does more than streamline internal operations - it enables Alliance to run the business transparently.

"There's always been a great deal of distrust in the scrap industry," says Zweigbaum. "Manufacturers depend on how the scrap vendors weigh the metal, how they value it. We wanted to eliminate that subjectivity."

Since Zweigbaum bought the company in 2005, annual revenues have jumped from $18 million to $100 million. Alliance now owns five yards throughout Minnesota.

Much of that growth is due to rising commodity prices and shrinking steel supply. But Zweigbaum credits the new system's precision for allowing Alliance to sell more nonferrous scrap metals, such as brass, copper, and titanium. Demand for such metals in developing countries has soared in recent years. Their contribution to Alliance's profits has risen 50% since 2005.

Because nonferrous metals are more valuable, Alliance used to have to sell them through a middleman. Today buyers trust the company enough to purchase nonferrous scrap directly from its yards. Complaints about contaminated shipments can be dealt with far more smoothly than before.

"We always have visual evidence," says Zweigbaum.

Alliance was an early adopter of Recycling Operations Manager. At an implementation cost of $300,000 across all the Alliance yards, that could have been a risky bet. But Zweigbaum says he effectively recoups the investment every three months in profits. Now 21st Century Programming's system is spreading to scrapyards across the country.

The Zweigbaums aren't standing still. They've dropped another $200,000 on two new trials: a software dashboard displaying the company's two leading indicators - how often and how efficiently they move inventory - and a website that gives Alliance customers limited access to its database.

"They'll have the ability to go online and see their metal's movement," says Larry. "If they have a load coming, they can look up its price and weight - even to the point of seeing where it is in the yard."

Adds his son: "The scrap-metal business has always been 50 years behind corporate America. But we're ready for change."

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Friday, May 02, 2008

What Is The Quickest Make To Start Making Money Online?

Get this – even if you don’t finish reading this post and don’t click a single link, I’ll still make 10 cents off you. That’s because the post has eCPM of a little over $100, meaning I get hundred bucks for every 1000 impressions (as long as most traffic comes from US). I’ve actually tested this post for two weeks on my other blog that deals with weird business ideas and eCPM there was in the $96-$112 range. When you are done reading this post (it's rather long), you'll know more about making real money with blogs than most so-called experts.

It all started when I read that if you make money with AdSense, you can make 10X as much, if you add affiliate links. This blog makes me $20-$30 in AdSense revenue every day, so 10X would be $200-$300 a day. That ain’t bad, considering that this is just a hobby blog and my other online businesses (PickyDomains.Com, Deprice.Com and a few others) are my primary income source.

So I started reading some books on affiliate marketing. I’ve read Online Marketing Success Stories: Insider Secrets, from the Experts Who Are Making Millions on the Internet Today, Street Smart Internet Marketing - Tips, Tools, Tactics & Techniques to Market Your Product, Service, Business or Ideas Online and Affiliate Millions: Make a Fortune using Search Marketing on Google and Beyond.

The good thing – these books are awesome. The bad thing – for some strange reason the act of reading a smart book about how people get rich online did make me all that smart or rich for that matter. More over, after some testing I found out that the traditional affiliate marketing model doesn’t work all that well. The traditional model says – here, sell this crappy e-book for 100 bucks and we’ll give you 50. The problem is that nobody buys all that crap. People are reluctant to buy even good things from trusted vendors. Fifty percent from nothing is still nothing.

So, if you want to make good money as affiliate marketer – don’t sell stuff. Confused? Great. Here, click this link called Shawn Casey's Business In A Box (if you live outside US, you’ll be rerouted, sorry about that – there is nothing I can do).

As you see, it’s a free e-mail course on marketing (pretty good one, too). While most people probably not very interested in internet marketing and don’t know who Shawn is (a marketing genius), my site is about internet marketing, so my opt-in rate is very high. One in very eight people who click the link do register and I get $1.30 for every registration.

So here is your first lesson – do find affiliate offers that don’t require selling but pay per lead (lead is usually free sign up or registration) that match the topic of your blog. Here are some other examples of what offers convert well on blogs similar to the one you are reading – how to turn $60 in $1000 flipping domain names and the list of low cost franchises (guess how much this one pays per registration – over six bucks, because it’s so specialized, and this one pays even more - $35). Another example of getting paid for not selling anything is this - I get $25 for every person who becomes publisher or adversiter.

How do you get access to those affiliate campaigns that pay for NOT selling stuff? I’m going to tell you shortly, but I first want to stress the difference between getting paid for lead and getting paid for sale.

Merchants who pay you a percentage of the sale are lazy. They don’t want to take any risks. Essentially, they are saying – if you bring me 10 bucks, I’ll let you keep 5. Let’s say a person is selling 20 dollar widget that costs $10 to produce. So his or her profit is $10, right? So your affiliate commission is likely to be $5 max. Otherwise, there isn’t much profit left. The risk is all yours. If you drive good traffic, but the offer is bad, you get nothing.

Lead based commission works differently. Let’s say a person is selling that very same $20 widget. Let’s say it’s some iPod accessory. Lead based marketer knows that a customer is his major asset. So he sells that accessory and puts the customer on his mailing list. He knows that, statistically speaking that customer is likely to keep buying for two years, make X transactions and generate Y dollars in profit (much more than $10 made in profit from the very first transactions).

So lead-based marketers make more money, they know what their customer is worth to them and they can pay you more. He knows that just a name on the list is worth $3 to him, so he'll pay you $2 per name and address of any person who owns a particular model of iPod. It’s a concept pioneered by Jay Abraham and described very well in Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, so my advice is to stick with campaigns that pay for lead, not sale (be careful, some merchants label their campaigns as pay-per-lead, when they really pay for sale). There are some exceptions to this rule, as you'll see in this post.

Ok, so where does one go for pay-per-lead campaigns? CPA networks. I’ve worked with a number of them and the two I am working with right now are Copeac and MaxBounty. Not all CPA networks are created equal. For example, Commission Junction hasn’t made me any money, while it’s probably one of the most famous and well respected CPA networks. Copeac made me over $10K right away. Why the difference? I have no clue. CJ just doesn’t convert. Amazon pays measly 6-8% (my monthly Amazon earnings are just a little over $150 a month, even though I do promote their books heavily, since I am an avid reader myself).

A rule of thumb is that you should be able to make money with CPA network within the first week, after trying 30-50 different campaigns. If you don’t – move onto a different network. I highly recommend that you only join CPA networks that have referral programs (also known as two-tier programs). Both Copeac and MaxBounty do, one 2%, another 5%.

Referral programs are very important. Currently, 50% of my affiliate income comes from actual leads I generate and 50% comes from referrals (it does take a long while go get to that point, it took me almost six month). The way I fight referrophobia (avoidance of clicking ref links) is that I help my affiliates. If they register with the links I gave, I’ll see their ID. So they can send me a question with their ID and I’ll give them the answer. The only change that I’ve made after getting several hundreds affiliates to register under me is that I require people to first do some testing on their own. I do, however provide a list of tested offers that convert for me.

Now, I’ve earlier given you examples of affiliate campaigns that make money on blogs that write about making money online. How about generic blogs? For generic blogs two types of affiliate campaigns work well – contests and free giveaways.

My two contest winners are getting paid for playing Scrabble online and $1000 prize for writing the best short poem.

As far as freebies go, my money makers are 250 free business cards, free $500 grocery card and free health product samples.

So, if anyone asks you if it's possilble to have $100 eCPM for a blog page - this blog is the living proof that it is. Sure, I had to cramp in a shitload of affiliate links and put in several weeks worth of testing which pay-per-lead offers work best. But honestly, I'm proud of myself.

What’s a big deal about $100 eCPM? There are people who sell Rolls Royce’s on the Internet and their eCPM must me astronomical. 100 arab sheiks visit the site, 2 of them spend half a million dollar each – boom goes eCPM into the stratosphere.

Here is the difference (you’ll appreciate it, if you do business online). If you are a Rolls Royce guy doing online advertising, you have to bid only on certain keywords that are directly related to Rolls Royce. There is just no way you can bid on ‘Britney Spears’ and make sales. Not gonna happen. But suppose you did? You’d be just burning your cash, essentially. Wasting money.

This isn’t the case with this very blog post that you are reading right now. I’m going to make 10 cents from every reader no matter what (statistically speaking), so as long as I buy traffic for less then 10 cents, I make profit.

This is a very important difference in two advertising models. The more money Rolls Royce guy spends on his ads, the less profit he makes. The more money I spend on ads the more money I make.

Let me give you a quick lecture on PPC ads. Just to be fair – all I know about making money from PPC ads I learned from Perry Marshall. There is a lot of free information on the subject on his website scattered around – or you can just buy his book on Amazon, it’s less then 17 bucks and has more information than $200 PPC training courses that some of you may have bought. The only thing that I did not learn from Perry is the three cent secret which is the PPC Coach thing (it’s a company that specializes in PPC ads for affiliates – essentially they show you how to stop losing money with PPC ads and start making money with PPC ads).

Essentially, there are two ways you can set up your PPC ads when it comes to affiliate marketing. Let’s say your niche is adult dating (my winner here). You bid on keywords like ‘adult dating’, ‘adult personals’ may be some brand names like, Ashley Madison. And your ad reads something like:

Adult Dating
World’s Biggest Adult Dating
Community. Join Now For Free!

Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

You make $2.50 per free registration, your conversion rate is 1 to 10, your keywords are really expensive, so pretty soon you start losing money. Why is that? Because your ad is keyword dependent. But after you get coached by PPC Coach you get smart. You write an ad that says

One Night Stand Only!
No Marriage, No Relationship, I Just Want
“It”. The More Kinky The Better.

Now you can run this ad on the content side of Google. You can bid on names of country music singers. Your ad will appear on sites where men are. Or you can bid on Nascar racing related terms. And your ad will appear on sites are. All of a sudden, you don’t want to be found on search engines, because your ads aren't very relevant to the keywords you are bidding on. Now you want your ad to be run on AdSense network. People will read it and the ad, not keywords will be the qualifier. If it resonates with them, they'll click. If it does not - they will not.

This is a rather critical distinction because now you understand that the ability to make money comes from your ad writing skills.

By the way, if you are totally new to ‘Google Cash’ way of making money (promoting affiliate offers via PPC), let me tell you what’s going to happen to you. First, you’ll read about it and you’ll be excited. Then you’ll try it. You’ll be writing dumb keyword-dependent ads and losing money. Most of you will give up here.

Some will get smart and learn to write keyword independent PPC ads and use Google’s contextual side (AdSense) to its full potential. All of a sudden, your ads will be breaking even and – get this – EVEN MAKING YOU A LITTLE BIT OF MONEY!

Then ‘It’ will happen. You’ve added 100 new PPC campaigns. 90 of them generate no traffic whatsoever. Two or three makes you a few bucks a day. Some lose you a little bit of money. And then one campaign starts making you over a hundred bucks a day (for me, it was this campaign from Omaha Steaks which now produces less then 5% of what it used to. It's one of the few pay per sale campaigns that worked great, probably because Omaha Steaks is such a great brand).

You start jumping. Holy shit! Google Cash does work! I’m going to get rich! I’m going to get rich. You can see yourself making six figure income online. Maybe even a million dollars. Or more. But then all of a sudden, you start getting less and less money and then it your winner campaign stops working at all.

Sorry, such is life. If you have a working ad, doesn’t mean that you have a working business. By no means do I mean to discourage you from using Google Cash method. I still use it. But it’s kind of like Forex. There are successful Forex traders. And they make money. George Soros made over a billion dollars with Forex in a few months, when he crashed British pound. But that was a one time event.

It’s the same thing with your ‘winner campaigns’. They’ll make you money (sometimes a lot of money). But when something changes or campaign is cancelled – that’s it, you are screwed.

Don’t sweat – there is a solution to this as well. Just like it’s possible to make your ad keyword independent, you can become independent or lesser dependent on particular affiliate campaign. This very post is an example how this is done.

There are some advantages to linking your PPC ad directly to affiliate campaign, skipping your own landing page. Conversions are usually better. However, you don’t have any control over other people's landing pages. Offer stops producing and you no longer make any money. The solution is to create your own landing page (like the one you are reading right now).

Listen carefully, guys. The only reason for creating your own landing page is TO MAKE MORE MONEY and become OFFER-INDEPENDENT. That’s it.

This page is 100% under my control. That page isn’t. Let’s say I run a PPC campaign with ‘make money online’ theme. Can I increase profits from this page? Sure I can. I can add more affiliate links. Or more AdSense blocks. Or a new service that I created. I could start selling links. I could start promoting some sort of guru consulting services, like Brian Tracy's. Sell real estate related products. And if one offer suddenly stops working, I could easily replace it.

Not so with that page. There is nothing I can do with it. It’s not under my control.

When you create your own landing page, you should be OBSESSED with the idea of making it more and more profitable. And it’s not because of greed. This page makes me 10 cents per visitor. So I can pay Google 5 cent per visitor and still profit handsomely. But if it made 15 cents per visitor (and believe me, I’ll tweak the hell out of it so it eventually does), I could pay Google 10 cents. That would mean a hell of a lot more traffic and a lot more profits.

That’s how the game works. After you learn how to make your ads keyword-independent, you start learning the art of creating profitable landing pages. Let me give you a few pointers just like I did with pay per click ads.

You’ve got to understand that NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, 90% of folks who read your landing page will do NOTHING. It’s the same for this post as well. Heck, this far into the post, I’ve lost most readers. And it’s not my fault or anybody else, for that matter. It’s just the way it is. The profitability of your landing pages that you create in the hands on the 10%. Remember that.

So the first thing that you should do is duplicate your best converting links, like I did with Shawn Casey’s free internet marketing course. You might have noticed this on your own – sometimes, when you come across the link, you don’t click it. But if you see it again, you decide to click it for some reason. It’s weird, but it’s true. I told you that I have several online businesses. My first one was Deprice.Com – selling downloadable shareware online (I could tell you about that business as well if you’d like). You’ll see that I have two Download and Buy links for each product. Why? Because sales increase by 12% if I have two links.

The second important concept is pre-selling your links. Pre-selling is simply explaining your reader what’s going to happen when they click the link or what the offer is about. Let me give you an example.

There is a site called e-Poll Surveys. It’s rather old and well-known. What they do is they pay with Amazon coupons and free prizes for you to take surveys. You’ve really got to be bored out of your mind, because it takes several dozen completed surveys to get a free book or a free CD. But unlike other survey sites this one is real, legitimate, proven and has great reviews from Epinions.Com.

I’ve promoted e-Poll on MadConomist.Com with and without explanations (pre-selling). Difference in conversions – 400%. It does pay to explain.

If you want to be a successful marketer, you need to learn the art of ‘long copy’. Get a hold of every book on direct mail and copywriting you can get (especially Dan Kennedy’s stuff), read John Carlton’s Blog and most importantly, read salesletters and one page websites for expensive products sold online – here is a great example that you can use as a blueprint.

The long copy concept is very important and it’s based on results, not theory. A long time ago direct-mail copywriters noticed a weird thing – a two page sales letter had twice the conversion of one page sales letter. And four page salesletter outperformed a two page sales letter by a factor of two. It doesn’t double forever, usually it stops at doubling at eight pages, but some very well known copywriters have written thirty seven page sales letters in order to get best results.

Clearly, it’s not just the length of the text. As David Ogilvy said “You can’t bore anyone into buying”. And it’s truly so. The reason those sales letter are long (as well is this page) is that they have to be that long. When you analyze the structure of all these different long sales letters, they are remarkably similar. It usually starts with a big promise, then there are details, then there are examples and proof and then there is closing.

Equally important is what happens behind the scenes, so to speak. If you are going to become a serious affiliate marketer, make it a rule to study business models of various merchants whos offers you are promoting. Why are they paying you a buck thirty for simple e-mail registration? Why are they selling a six dollar item and give you a nine dollar commission – that makes no sense? What happens after people fill out forms?

The best way to study various business models is to buy stuff (if you have money) and if you don’t, sign up for free offers and learn first hand what’s done to recoup the costs and make some profit.

Here are some frequently used business models.

Model one – Free Gifts.

Click this Boca Java offer. As you see, if you purchase 4 packs of coffee for $19.99, you’ll get free TimeMag. (And I’ll get $24 in affiliate commissions). How is this economically feasible? You get 20 bucks from a customer and you pay 24 to an affiliate?

Boca Java uses membership model (pioneered by Columbia House). A person pays $19.99, gets his coffee and a free mug. He is now a member of the club. Each month he’ll be billed $19.99 and get more coffee. Some people will cancel their “coffee subscription” right after they get a free gift. But others will stay members for months or years. The lifetime value of a member is easily calculated and is probably in the low hundreds, guessing from my experience.

Model two – The Drip System For Sales.

This is a fairly popular model among internet marketers. If you want to get a great marketing lesson for free, go ahead and enter your e-mail here (you may not want to use your primary e-mail but do use a real e-mail address, as you’ll need for free activation).

This is how the drip system works. It is highly unlikely that a person will make a purchase right away, unless that person came to a website already planning to buy. So marketers try to capture e-mail addresses of people who visit their site. In order to do that, they usually give away free e-mail courses (some courses are outstanding, by the way). When you register, you start getting the material you requested every day or every other day or once a week. Beside study material, each course usually contains a mini-ad for a product or products. This is called ‘the drip system’ and it’s based on the fact that people are much more likely to buy from you after several contacts. It’s not uncommon to triple sales right away, when you switch from “if you want to buy it, click here” to e-mail drip system. Oftentimes sales pitches that come with free courses are so effective that you can learn more about sales and copywriting by subscribing to these courses, rather than reading a book on advertising.

Model three – Email Flip.

How do you flip e-mail address? First, you create an outlandish offer, something like, if you want a free $1000 Mexico vacation for two, simply enter your e-mail. After you enter the e-mail, almost the very same second you start receiving what’s basically legal spam (other offers).

A regular person would never want to leave an e-mail address, but a marketer should (just make sure you create a special account, don’t use your primary e-mail). Why? Because you’ll learn about the world of ‘co-regs’ and there is very little information about it.

Co-reg means co-registration. When you entered your e-mail for that free Mexican vacation (which you’ll never get, because there are so many conditions you have to meet to be eligible), you’ve agreed to receiving e-mails from “partners”. The co-reg company paid once to acquire your e-mail and now it keeps reselling it to its clients over and over again. You have to understand that it’s perfectly legal. Everything is CAN-SPAM compliant and you’ll stop receiving messages when you unsubscribe. However, by the time you do that, co-regs will already make their profits. Because of CAN-SPAM act, the legal lists of e-mails are hard to come by and co-regs is one of the few venues where you can get them.

Why do I recommend getting a separate e-mail account in order to sign up for co-reg offers? You see, for spammers e-mails are basically free. You can buy a database of millions of e-mails for 50 bucks. Spammers don’t care about conversions.

Companies that sell through co-reg channels do pay every single time they rent a list and they pay a lot (it’s their single biggest spending item). So the most profitable, best converting offers often show up in co-reg channels first. Basically, if you have an e-mail account devoted to co-reg emails exclusively, you’ll always know what’s hot in advance. Here are several co-reg offers from the biggest and the best players in this niche (one, two, three).

(to be continued).