Payday Loans

Archived Posts from Business Ramblings

When you’ve created a good product, other people will give them away for free.

Examples:

  • Free Starbucks if you check out our electronics store!
  • Subscribe to our magazine and you’ll get free iTune downloads!

These are worthwhile products to many people—not to everyone—but to enough people that other companies will consider giving them away to attract attention. They’re worthwhile enough that even other companies in other industries will recognize them.

That’s a pretty big deal.

The awesome part about having a product that people will give away is that they should be a nice tie-in to your other product lines. A cup of coffee from Starbucks may lead to trying out other Starbucks beverages; an iTune download may create interest to the many iPods available.

A product that’s good enough to give away requires a few things:

  1. Cheap production cost. It’ll be pretty silly if giving these things away will put a dent into your operating expense.
  2. Utility. Easy to say, difficult to execute. Your product’s gotta be cheap enough to give away but not worthless.
  3. Value. Even more difficult. Alright, so it’s free, but is it something with enough value in it that people will realize it shouldn’t be free?

Even if you can’t fulfill those requirements, even if it’s not in your interest to create such a product—you should still consider this point: are your products good enough to give away?

Yes, there are some stuff that people will want if it’s free (e.g. a car). Then there’s people that will take something just because it’s free. But then there are also plenty of picky people out there that won’t even look twice at what you’re offering—even if it’s free.

Let’s change the above example a little bit.

  • Free coffee if you check out our electronics store!
  • Subscribe to our magazine and you’ll get free mp3 downloads!

“Ah, it’s just coffee.”

“Uh, I can download mp3 everywhere.”

Change it back to Starbucks and iTune, and you’ll probably get a different result.

“Oooh, free Starbucks!”

“Sweet, free iTunes!”

When someone is excited because they can have your product for free, even though the product would have cost them very little to obtain—congratulation, you’ve successfully created a great product.

It’s really simple. If the employees at your company aren’t also your customers, then you’re doing something wrong.

Here’s an often heard story: Your friend gets a job flipping burgers at a nation-wide fast food chain. Upon actually working behind the scene at said establishment, your friend proclaims that he’ll never, ever, eat at said fast food chain again.

Replace fast food chain (McDonalds) with consumer electronics retailer (Best Buy), and you’ll get the same story.

“I’ll never eat at McDonalds!”

“I’ll never get my computer serviced at Best Buy!”

When that happens, you sir, have a problem.

Yes, in some cases it would be inappropriate for your employees to be your customers.

Fine.

But let’s say they can be your customers. In fact, they are your customers. Everything’s peachy.

What happens though, if you take away the employee discounts? Will your Bank of America tellers really bank with you? Will your installers actually buy that GM vehicle? Will your service representative actually fly on American Airline? Will your AOL retention consultants actually have an AOL account?

If, even with all those benefits and discounts, your employees still don’t use your service or products—still aren’t your customers, then you really, really have a problem.

Maybe they see the actual workmanship that goes into the products. Maybe they know what type of service they’ll really get. Maybe they don’t believe in the product. Maybe they know for a fact, that it’s inferior to a competitor’s. Shrug, maybe they’re just fickle.

Probably not.

Alright, if you’re high enough up on the chain, you probably don’t have a friend that flips burgers, so you probably never hear the complaints. Still, there’s a problem and you need to address it. Your employees aren’t your customers and the solution is quite simple.

You ask them why.

“Why aren’t you our client?”

If they ask why in return, tell them it’s because you want to know. Once you get the reasons, it will probably be a good idea to do something about them.

The lower you go down in the chain with your questioning, the more important the answers are. Seriously.

P.S. Let the response be anonymous, it’ll work better.

*But only when pigs fly.

I always wonder why companies bother to spend the time on an advertisement, only to ruin it with an asterisk. Whatever the actual footnote may be, just by having that little asterisk in the ad will make the message less effective.

Take one of the latest Apple commercial for example. The simple 30 second ad tells you that the latest Intel-based Mac can run Windows software. Cool, that’s good to know.

But then they had to go and throw in an asterisk.

this is the best blog post ever*

And you know, the ad is still true—but then there’s that footnote. There’s that exception.

What we’ve just pitched to you is true—but you will of course need this and that.

They had 19 other reasons why you’ll love a Mac, plenty of them convincing; but they had to go and pick one that needed an asterisk.

Smooth.

“I’m going to create the next big thing!” says entrepreneur #285, “Our service is going to have ____, ____, and ____!!”

“Uh. Isn’t that just another social bookmarking site?”

“No way! Didn’t you hear me? We have ____! Totally different and better!”

This isn’t a knock at “Web 2.0″ goodies, because:

  1. I’m not really sure what Web 2.0 is.
  2. Whatever it is, it seems to require lots of creativity and skills. I think.

Yesterday an old high school friend told me about a small business idea he has.

“Hey Cap, I’m going to sell mobile phones and accessories on eBay.”

“I think you’re a few years too late?” I replied.

“No, let me explain dammit.”

And so he did. Turns out, it seems viable enough to me. He’ll be selling phones from a small market niche, imported ones that you can’t find in the US, popular amongst a small group of [young] people. A few minutes of searching on eBay and online revealed that although there’s already some established retailers, the barrier to entry is still relatively small and the startup cost is straight forward enough—buy inventory at low wholesale cost (from his contact) and sell at competitive market price.

How long will his business work? I’m making an assumption that since he already works in the mobile phone industry, and seeing as how he knows about these phones that I’ve never heard about, he can probably keep up with future product trends.

Sure, he won’t make a fortune, and no one is going to buy out his sole-proprietorship for millions, but if he puts the right amount of work in, he’ll make plenty to support himself and then some. Still pretty cool in my book.

See the thing is, everyone I’m talking to lately seems to be looking at making the next big thing online, which is totally cool and fine with me—because I’ve learned long ago that a product doesn’t have to be tangible to be marketable—but what ever happened to good old fashion non-Web 2.0 stuff? Heck, what ever happened to anything that’s not web-dependent?

A week ago I was talking to a stranger in a book store. He told me he was going to open up a pool hall in the local area.

“Awesome!” I clasped his hand in excitement.

The local billiards were getting a bit too shady for my taste.

“Yeah, the initial cost is going to scare me to bits,” he continues, “But it has always been my dream to own a pool hall.”

“Well, when it does open, I’ll bring a few buddies along.” I shook his hand again.

One less bastard to compete with online.

Say hi to part one of “Monetizing the Internet.”

Part One: Hi.

You: Sup.

Will I be showing you amazing secret tricks on how to be an Internet baller, making hundreds of thousands thanks to the explosive growth of the web?

Uh, no.

I’m the last person that knows anything about making money—not to mention making it online. Having said that, what this series will cover is some of the interesting ways other people have utilize the web to make money—whether as a simple side income to supplement hosting fees for their hobby site, or a full-fledge stepping stone to a viable career. In the process, I hope to also highlight some interesting websites I’ve come across through the years.

Now, Let’s take a look at our first case…

Clicky click dammit

Laurie’s Crazy Aunt Purl, without a doubt, is one of my favorite blog. Though I’m not as avid of a reader as her many subscribers, her personal diary/knitting blog continues to entertain and humble me throughout the year. Some important life lessons that I have learned from reading Crazy Aunt Purl:

  1. In-N-Out goes with everything, even wine.
  2. Cat’s aren’t so bad after all.
  3. Men are pigs.
  4. Aut Purl’s hot.

Check out one of her recent post for a taste of the goods.

It’s no secret that you can make money online by blogging, though obviously the amount varies from blog to blog. Frequent reader of Crazy Aunt Purl would know that Laurie’s blog has been ad-free since 2005, and some of her readers enjoy the blog because of the ad-free environment. However, that’s not the case for this reader! When I saw the BlogAds appeared on Crazy Aunt Purl recently, I was ecstatic.

Mmm.. The Million Dollar Cat Fund

Why? Because it’s pretty cool to see someone making money from something they enjoy doing, whether the amount is earth shattering or not.

Although this is an assumption, I’m fairly certain that the majority of Laurie’s readers don’t mind the BlogAds too—especially since they’re tastefully implemented and has a high level of relevancy towards the blog’s content.

As Laurie’s readership continues to steadily grow, with feed subscription numbering in the thousand, the popularity of the blog is ever more evident with readers leaving behind first post comments. When do you know you’ve stumbled onto a popular blog? When it contains an Internet phenomenon or two.

The reader’s testimonial below, I believe, best sums up how many readers of Crazy Aunt Purl feels about the blog:

“I started reading Laurie’s blog about six months ago and, like so many of her readers, have come to feel like she’s one of my very own girlfriends, even though she lives on the opposite coast and we’ve never met. She’s one of the very few bloggers that can make me laugh long and hard out loud at her hilarious experiences and turns of phrases. And the next day, she’ll bring me close to tears when she so openly bares the pain of her recent divorce. We (her devoted readers) continue to beseech her to write a book, and before too long some publisher will wake up and smell the marketing potential of this truly lovely and entertaining girl.”

If you would have told me years ago that I will be reading a blog about knitting by a lady with four cats, I would have thought you were crazy. Today, I’ll go crazy if I miss my monthly horoscopes from Crazy Aunt Purl.

____________

Coming up next in the series: “From Architect to Online Doodler”

Have you ever shop for something online, only to find horrible pictures of the products on the store’s website?

They have something stupid like, “click here to enlarge picture,” so you click on it expecting a larger picture with more detail – but what do you get instead? The same stupid small picture. Here’s an example, even though I don’t need one:

Am I a regular SE or a Pediatric?
Click to enlarge

Now do you see what I’m talking about? I mean, come on. With such a small picture, how can you tell which type of Littmann Classic II Stethoscope that is?? Is it the S.E., the Pediatric one, or the Infant one!? Argh! *Smashes monitor*

So your site has the best price I’ve found for that stethoscope, but your picture sucks. You could have just steal some picture from 3M but you didn’t do that… so now I’m not buying your stuff. Even though your price is hot like flaming hot cheetos.

Please, for the love of Yoda, break out that digital camera your teenage daughter has and take some pictures.

To see a great example of great pictures for online stores. Head over to Newegg.com and browse around.

Take a look at this example here, a Geforce blah blah something.

Wow! Pictures at different angle! Pictures of the product’s box. Picture of the stuff inside the box. Genius!

I mean, I don’t know what this thing is, but just looking at the pictures makes me want to buy it. Hey, it’s only $199! (After mail-in-rebate).

Good pictures of products equals better chance to sell crap. You’ve already spend the money on advertising to increase traffic to your site, give the customer a chance to browse and see the products in detail. As that fake chinese poverb goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

It’s bloody brilliant.

Uh.

I mean I hate it.

It’s one of my nemesis. Every time I head into a Target store, I give the $1 Spot a good hard stare. Show it who’s boss and all.

But seriously, when I first saw it awhile back, I was blown away at how effective the $1 Spot in Target was. It’s the ultimate “I don’t need it but it’s cheap so I’ll buy it” strategy.

If you pay attention to the Targets in your region, you’ll notice that the $1 Spot has a lot of depth behind it. At first glance it may look like just a messy pile of discounted items – but don’t let that deceive you.

The items scattered in the $1 Spot are organized mess. That is, they purposely made it look like that. It gives a neat “treasure hunt” effect to shopping. People will dig through the items, hoping to find a “bargain.”

“Hey look what I found!” exclaims one victim shopper.

“Oh wow, I can’t believe they have that for only $1!” says another.

And where’s the check-out aisle? Yup, right next to the $1 Spot.

As mentioned, upon closer inspection, you’ll also notice that each Target in your region may be carrying different items in the $1 section. Simple reason is to effectively gauge how well a certain type of product may sell in a particular area. They throw in a different product mix and see how well it’ll do in a particular week. Eventually, they’ll be able to dump the right products in the $1 Spot with the right quantity.

The products offered are carefully selected too. They’re generally those things that you don’t need at the moment, but might need later on in the future. Office supplies are a great example. Notebooks, pens, and pencils for $1? Don’t need them? Already have them? Who cares, they’re cheap, grab them now because you might need them later.

Never mind the fact that a pack of pens and pencils further down the aisle will be of comparable price (or cheaper).

Discounted price strategy may not be anything new, but among the things mentioned, the $1 Spot utilize atmospheric strategy too. It gives a lot of effect to the entire shopping experience. If you found something you need for such a low price, it might have made you feel a bit better. It might make you want to shop more. Even better, since its a dedicated, localized section, it doesn’t affect the rest of the store’s atmosphere. The bargain store feel should be in that section, and that section only.

Let’s not forget the placement. Where do you first see the $1 Spot? Right when you walk in. It’s the first thing you see when you enter, and the last thing you see when you leave.

Every time I go to Target with another person, I’ll hear “Ooh, the $1 Spot. Hold on, let me see if I can find something.”

Bloody brilliant, I tell ya.

Sometimes I’m too easily impressed, and it clouds my judgment. Big time.

I didn’t realized that this could be a problem untill recently.

Case in point. I was trolling around in Barnes & Nobles, browsing through the business/marketing section. Picked up a book. I flipped it around, and went to the “About the Author” section.

Wow. This dude went to an Ivy League, did a buncha start-ups, consulted for buncha big names, wrote a buncha books, has been nominated and won blah blah awards, and all this before he’s in his late 30s!

Establishing some creditability and authority is always important, but it’s also important to keep some perspective on it. I was going way overboard – before I have even read the book, I had already established in my head that the author’s words are gold.

As I start to read the book, that impression grew stronger and stronger. The author was throwing lots of cliche statements and phrases at me. It looks like he did a good job of selling the book to the publisher, and it looks like I’m about to be the next target.

The smart guy in me (yeah it’s in there somewhere) woke up and asked myself, why are you so damn impressed?

Huh. Who said that?

You have a point, stranger. I feel like my thoughts are being influenced a wee bit.

Yeah dumbo. Look at this stuff, none of it is practical or applicable to you, he’s just writing what you want to read.

Oh my, you’re right! You sure are smart. How come you weren’t around more when I needed you?

I tend to do this a lot. Not just in books, but in many situation when I make a decision. I get impressed by someone’s action, someone’s status, and I follow along like a sheep. (Holy crap, that’s how this blog started).

There’s nothing wrong to be inspired, encouraged, or motivated. The problem I think, is being influenced by the wrong reason. Like the book I was reading – I should only buy it if it’s useful to me, not just because the author may be some authority in the category, or some best seller (he wasn’t).

Young, stuipd, and impressionable. Good times.

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