The “smart people” always suggest that you should “think outside the box.”
And is “thinking outside of the box” even a THING?
I'll answer. But first, what is “the box?” I suggest it's conventional thinking.
If we start there, then thinking inside the conventional box is probably a good thing, 80 percent (or more) of the time.
Why? Because your customers ARE conventional, in most cases. People who buy soap, take out, and automobiles are mostly conventional thinkers.
They don't want something so different that they stand out in a bad way.
For example, do you remember the Yugo? It was an ugly car and screamed, “I don't have enough money to buy an actual car.”
I know, a car's purpose is to take you from A to B. But I'm not sure you could drive a Yugo from point A to B without breaking down and getting laughed at.
Now, I am the last guy to laugh at somebody's unfortunate choices. I get it – you bought a Yugo for reasons.
I have bought a lot of stupid stuff. Stuff that buck “conventional wisdom.” For example, I bought a “Super VHS” tape deck back in the day. It cost me $1,000 and lasted about two years (it broke and the repair shop could not fix it after repeated tries and $$$), which was about 730 days longer than the format lasted.
I also wanted a reel-to-reel tape deck. (Something about me and tape decks…)
In fact, I drove 40 miles multiple times to a little camera shop in Stockton, California, to finally buy the lowest-end Nakamichi cassette deck. It was three heads! That one cost me $700. This was about a year before CDs came out.
I'm lying. CDs were already out. But I thought nobody will ever put a CD player in a car!
Sometimes, though, when you're stymied, breaking the thought process away from logic and reason and conventional thinking can get you the breakthrough you need.
So it's not an entirely wasteful thing to think outside the box. It's just that most time, the box is alright. It's just YOU who needs some shaking up.
Now, if you've been with me long enough, you know I loathe Apple. But let me tell you a story.
Back in the '90s, I went to work (very briefly) for now-defunct CompUSA. Around that same time, they inked a deal with Apple where they'd build a special part of the store that was to be the beginnings of the Apple Stores we see all over the planet now.
And they're tagline at that time was, “Think different.”
I hated that slogan. It should have been “Think differently!” damn it.
But Apple's message was not lost on me. They did think differently. They invented the smart phone (I know some of you will say they didn't, but until the first iPhone, nobody gave a shit about a little brick you could hold in your hand, put to your hear, and have a phone convo).
The iPhone revolutionized the industry. More importantly, it put Apple on the map again. They are now one of the most successful companies in the world, ever.
They thought different (or differently).
I don't know if they thought outside the box, but they kind of abandoned how everybody else was designing phones and went down their merry path.
Now, about all you see in the mobile phone space is smart phones that look just like the iPhone.
The iPhone is, interestingly, a box. It's quite literally shaped like a box. It's the new box.
Who is going to think outside that box?
Time will tell.
Lots going on in the world today. Still fighting the COVID-19 pandemic (numbers are finally going down), Trump's second impeachment (will this be “must-see TV” – I don't know and I won't be watching), and it's FREEZING up here in the PNW. Could get a couple inches of snow.
Except the kids aren't IN school. They're “distance learning.”
Anyhoo…let's talk affiliate marketing.
Think of selling something. It could be something you make yourself or somebody else made it. If the latter, it's affiliate marketing.
Of course, I'm really simplifying this. Is a retailer an affiliate marketer? I guess, according to the definition above.
According to Wikipedia,
So a vendor makes the product and provides you with a tracking link such that if you market said link, and a customer buys the product from the vendor using your link, you get credit for the sale. This is most often as a percentage of the final retail price, but sometimes is offered as a “bounty” in whole dollar terms. Amazon does this a lot with their subscription-type services like Audible Plus (click the link to see what I mean).
If you sign up to Audible Plus, using the link above, I get $5 if you sign up for a free trial and $10 if you sign up to a paid plan.
You, as a customer, don't pay any more than you would if you hadn't gone through my link. Amazon pays me for referring you to their site, service, or product.
In the internet marketing world, there are plenty of ways to affiliate market. There are networks like Linkshare that have affiliate marketing programs inside. You sign up to Linkshare, find programs you want to promote as an affiliate, and then you apply individually for each affiliate marketing program.
For example, you could sign up to be a Microsoft affiliate. Whenever you sell one of their products, they pay you a commission.
As an affiliate marketer, you never have to hold any inventory, and you don't buy the product (or service) wholesale and then sell it for retail.
You simply refer a potential customer to the vendor site using a special link you get from the vendor or from the network. If the customer buys from the vendor, the vendor gives you a piece of the sale.
It's a great model to get started with because you don't need to create a product, which is hard. It really is. Imagine manufacturing an XBox. LOL. Not easy.
But you could easily sell XBoxes via affiliate marketing.
I suggest ALL budding internet marketers try affiliate marketing first, before ever trying to create your own product or service. You may find that you can earn quite the comfortable income from affiliate marketing alone.
Content distribution is simply publishing any content you create to your own website AND other websites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Why would you want to do this? Because those big social media sites have a much larger audience than you do. You can reach many more people using those sites than you could if you relied solely on getting traffic to your own website.
That's the WHY. Now for the HOW.
There are many ways. The easiest (and cheapest) is to manually post to each site. Take your link and a small excerpt and paste them into Twitter, FB, LinkedIn, and any others. Click “post” or “publish” and you're done.
You can also use a service like Hootsuite or Publer to semi-automate the work for you. You make one post and the service sends those posts out to all the social media sites you've authorized and they autopost them to the individual social media sites.
It takes you less time. But there is a tradeoff. Facebook, for example, gives a lot more “weight” to the posts you make yourself versus the posts those services make on your behalf.
Don't believe me? Do a test: Make one post manually to Facebook and them make a similar post using a service. You may be surprised at the difference.
In any event, you want to distribute your content to get as many eyeballs on it as possible. But don't go nuts. A handful of social media sites that you post to on a regular basis is better than nothing. However, trying to post to 17 different social media sites would offer very little incremental return.
Stick to the big guys like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. If you do video, include YouTube in your mix. (Video is HUGE and will NOT get smaller.)
You can also add in a couple niche-specific sites if it makes sense.
You won't get TONS of traffic doing this, but you will see a bump in traffic.
And that's a good thing!
It's so damned cold here. I have a relatively new house with great insulation and energy-efficient HVAC and water heater. I've set the thermostat down to 60. It runs a lot at night when it dips into the teens and twenties.
Snow is in the forecast. Nothing like what they are getting in the Midwest and East right now…but snow nevertheless. It's enough to really mess up the roads and cause the heating bill to run through the roof.
I don't want to talk about the politics of the impeachment, but I do want you to pay attention to the marketing of it. On one side, you have a team who are dedicated to punishing the ex-president. They will provide compelling evidence to make their case.
On the other side, you have a team seemingly dedicated to defending the ex-president. They will argue process.
There is a famous quote by Carl Sandberg. It goes like this:
If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell.Goodreads.com
Both sides could be right. It will be interesting to see how each side pleads its case. But you can bet they won't be debating anything. Both sides will tell their story. The stories won't even be remotely close. They won't even have the same theme.
And in the end, it won't matter. There will be no conviction. At least 17 Republican Senators will have to agree with the prosecution. That's IF no Democrats cross over.
It. Won't. Happen.
But it will be interesting to watch how each side plays the game. There will be marketing (i.e., persuasion) lessons here.
The above quote, my master business strategist Tom Peters, makes a lot of sense. But in business, especially at the retail, multi-employee enterprise, it's often forgotten. Heck, it's not even a thing any more for a lot of businesses.
Yet, it should be.
Rules are guideposts. Consider them like guardrails on a highway – they keep your employees from going off the side of the road and into the abyss.
But that's not what we're talking about when we say, “Encourage (or authorize) everyone to break the rules “a little bit.”
What we mean is, keep it human. If a customer makes a weird request, consider it. Also consider how to fulfill that request without giving the store away. Give your employees autonomy to bend the rules “a little bit.”
Doing so will not just satisfy (or impress) your customers. It may also encourage employee retention, which is a huge thing. You may have invested thousands of dollars and dozens of hours of time training your employees. Losing one over repeated “you broke this tiny rule” will kill motivation and some may seek other employment.
It's just a fact.
Well, what does this have to do with you if you are a solo entrepreneur?
In a word, everything.
Here's why. You get to make your own rules (not your own laws). You get to decide if your offer is limited. I mean, we sell digital products that NEVER run out of stock. Bits are free, for all intents. But you can say, “This item is for sell only until tomorrow at midnight” or “until 100 are sold.” You get to make that rule.
You can also have a “no refund” policy.
And you can break those same rules. You made them. You get to break them.
Now, I don't suggest you do this “rule breaking” indiscriminately or often. Make them exceptions to the rule. Otherwise, if you break said rule all the time, it's not really a rule. In fact, breaking the rule makes it the rule.
Any way, don't get too caught up in your own rules. Use common sense, logic, and emotion to guide you.
Is it best for your customer? Does it harm your business in the short or long term? By enough that you really shouldn't break it?
You know what to do.
In other news, the Tampa Bay Bucaneers appear to have won decisively over the Kansas City Chiefs. I didn't watch the game nor did I watch the Halftime show or the commercials. I'm kind of done with football and have been for years.
But just in case you hadn't heard, there it is. LOL.
Did you know? Yesterday was “International Start a Blog Day Class of 2021.” It's not too late to start.
To come back full-circle to my original point above (breaking the rules), here's one of my favorite marketers, Seth Godin, on being nimble. It's kind of the same concept.
From time to time on the blog, I want to highlight something new that I learned or discovered. Today, it's copywriter Tania Dakka.
I found her in a Facebook group, headed over to her site, and found this. I love it!
Tania has her own FB group about writing copy – you can find it here.
I read an old article today from Seth Godin called, “In Defense of RSS.” It was written in 2011, but the message still rings true today.
RSS is how I consume a lot of information. It's a part of my strategy for providing my weekly roundups (Once a Week Newsletter).
I'd like to consume ALL of my sources through RSS. And I can. I just haven't done it yet. Yes, you can even add email newsletters to your feeds!
What do I use for my RSS feeds? Inoreader. It's the best. It has a ton of features and you get even more as a Pro subscriber (which I am).
I mean, if you haven't already. He writes a blog post every day. And every single one of them has good stuff. He should be in your feed reader!
This post says it all. I've harped on this for years. Hell, decades.
Sure, your webhost can shut you down. But if you make regular and frequent backups, you won't lose a thing. You can move your site to another host and you're back in business.
Plus, if you keep your site security up to date, you won't suffer huge outages like when AWS goes down. Or twitter. Or, ahem, Parler. LOL
Of course, your host could fail. Your server could fail. Lots of things can go wrong. But you can always move. I use UpdraftPlus. IF, for any reason, I want to move from one host to another, I can. Within minutes.
Late last year, my twitter account was permanently suspended. ALL twenty thousand tweets. Gone. All the people I follow and who followed me. Gone. All the blog posts I tweeted about. Gone.
(Don't worry. You will NEVER hear me cry foul about how twitter took away my First Amendment rights. They did not. It's their platform. They get to set the rules, even if those rules are silly, stupid, inconsisten, and arbitrary.)
Sheesh. Can you believe January is already over? I can't. It flew by, but then again, so did last year.
In fact, it feels like with each year that passes, the next one passes by even faster. It's like the Earth is spinning out of control and pretty soon, we'll spin out of orbit.
That could be BAD.
But hey, maybe that will kill this damned virus. I'm DONE with this pandemic. But it ain't done with us. We don't have enough vaccines to go around…and now, the variants are beginning to proliferate. Like we needed that.
Speaking of viruses, what do you use nowadays for antivirus? I used to pay for Norton (back in the day), then McAfee, then Trend, then ZoneAlarm…the list goes on.
Now, I just use the built in and free Microsoft Defender. It's good enough.
Got anything better? Let me know in the comments.
Any self publishers in the house? Heck, you could even be a real, live publisher with an agent and book deals. Want to share your experiences, skills, wisdom? Join my new Facebook group here.
What's the point of it? Frankly, I'm not sure yet. The idea is to share our collective knowledge within the group and see what happens.
I'm currently building out a book series that will be semi-factual under a pen name 😛
We'll see how that goes! If you want to get in on the ground floor of something (and this is something, right?), then join at the link above.
Well, that's about it for today. Let me know what you want to hear about in the comments. Take care and make it a great day!