Copywriting for Internet Marketing

Internet Marketing (IM) is a growing specialization. If you possess writing skills and want to make money online, you could use those writing skills to become a copywriter for Internet marketing. To become an IM copywriter, you need to understand the timeless differences between traditional and IM copywriting.

Traditional Copywriting vs. IM Copywriting

Copywriting for Internet MarketingTraditional copywriting is in direct connection with the print media. Most of the popular direct response copywriters you will come across belong to the league of traditional copywriting industry. Some of the greatest advertising minds in history belong to this field. Even if there is a huge possibility of learning a lot from traditional copywriting, its main drawback is that its a two dimensional medium.

In contrast, the IM copywriting field is multi-dimensional because words are not the only method to approach marketing. With the written words, you can add videos, images, interactive software and much more that makes the written words more effective and impact oriented. Furthermore, with new technologies coming on the market at regular intervals, the opportunities for an IM copywriter is immense, which is somewhat limited with print media copywriting.

IM Copywriting Guidelines

IM or non-IM copywriting is not about jotting down a 2000 word long sales letter. Every word written there should be meaningful, that is, call the readers to take action. Read the primary / basic IM copywriting guidelines below:

  • Copywriting should deliver value. You are not paid hundreds of dollars to sell junk products at inflated prices and neither you are indebted towards anyone to sell junk products. The secret success of any successful marketing copywriter is their ‘belief’ in the product/service. No matter what the remuneration is, if you do not believe in the product, the copywriting will fail surely.
  • When the sale of a product/service depends on copywriting, you must ensure that the perceived value of the product is equal or higher than the actual price of the product; otherwise, none of the potential buyers will become real buyers. For instance, in the mind of a buyer, the product price of the supposed product could be $39; however, the seller is asking $99. Will you buy it if you had been the buyer? NO, I am sure!
  • Copywriting is a semi-story because there you are using words to make the context interesting to the reader and also ensuring that the reader is convinced enough to ‘take action’ on the basis of the written text. If you can do this, you are a gem of a copywriter.
  • Should you persuade or manipulate? You will find copywriters divided on this topic – some marketers and copywriters believe it is right to manipulate the buyers with false information just to increase sales but ethically, it is wrong. Your copywriting should not manipulate the buyer with unethical means and selfish intentions. It should rather persuade the buyer with accurate information and honest feedback system so that the buyer knows they are buying a value-based product.

The trick to writing a killer piece of sales copy involves answering four essential questions:

1) Who you are?
2) What you have?
3) Why does someone need it?
4) How to get it?

Every sales letter you write should answer these four questions.

Should IM Copywriters use Greed?

You will agree that greed is a powerful motivator. Have you ever seen the way marketers are able to maximize their list building efforts by offering a product or two for free? – that’s greed working here; the greed to gain something without paying or paying a ridiculously low amount.

Many successful Internet marketers believe that greed, when delivered ethically, ups the conversion rate. Some say that this is an emotional hook which many con artists use but for many marketers, it has given them roaring success. In an industry where even 1% marketing conversion rate is considered good, there are several IM experts who get more than 10% success rate from this tactic…and they believe that using this method is good. The buyers purchase the goods ethically and after knowing all there is to know.

Whether you want to use the same tactic as an IM copywriter is entirely your choice altogether.

Five IM Copywriting Tips

1) Try not to use passive voice in writing. A sentence like “Dean taught me writing” is much better to understand than “Writing was taught to be by Dean.” Active voice works better in direct response copywriting.

2) Draw inspiration from popular writers like Stephen King and Seth Godin because their writing teaches you to talk to a wider audience…and as a writer, you definitely need that inspiration.

3) Word counts should not dictate IM copywriting. It is a myth that longer sales letter leads to better conversions; in fact, with shorter attention spans these days, no one wishes to read a mile long sales letter! Instead, the context and text should be relevant. Tell whatever the audience wishes to know and cut the hype!

4) Think thrice before using big words because a large percentage of the audience is comprised of layman. You are not dealing with hard-core professionals to use big and heavy words. It is better to use simple and easy to understand vocabulary so that the audiences can comprehend it in a better way.

5) Use native vernacular language. Vernacular language refers to the ‘native’ diction of any geographical place. For instance, the use of the word ‘pocketbook’ is the vernacular word in the US, which means purse, but in non-US countries, ‘pocketbook’ means a diary. This difference in meaning could create misunderstandings and a communication gap. Hence, it is prudent to use language native to that country.

Summary

To wrap up our discussion, copywriting for IM is a lucrative profession. Success does not come easy in this profession but when you learn the tricks of the trade, it becomes easier. Copywriting is all about selling products and services through your written words…make it relevant and convince the readers to ‘take action’…that is all you ever have to do!

10 Tips to Begin Your Start-Up Business Online

As promised, we are here with the follow-up blog story on 50 inspiring startups of 2012 with a handful of tips that will help you to start your online business. These tips could be a warning against mistakes people usually make or a guiding tip for online ventures.

10 Tips for Beginning Start-Up Business Online

Tip 1: You cannot copy businesses

Thinking of copying some ideas from the list of 50 inspiring startups? Yes? Because you think that doing so will give you the same proportion of success that the other person is enjoying. Right!

Start-Up Business Online You are very wrong. The reason that MLM businesses didn’t succeed after a certain level is because they were pulling the wool over people’s eyes saying you just have to copy the business model and wham, you are successful overnight.

It never happens that way. Whatever kind of business you want to do, it should be YOUR IDEA. Yes, you can take inspiration from others but the idea should be unique, something new.

If you want to do a start-up, you have to think from the mind of a consumer – the buyer. Would you buy product ‘XYZ’ if you were the buyer and not the owner? Think it yourself.

Tip 2: Don’t let go of employment

Start-up business is all about not being dependent on a boss to decide how much you want to earn. It is about becoming an entrepreneur. However, don’t let the excitement go in over-drive with wishful thinking.

You cannot make profits from Day 1. It takes usually about 3 years for a business to know whether it can survive of not. Year 1 is all hard work and struggle with little or no profits. Year 2 is break-even and Year 3 is when the business finally begins to make profits…generally.

So even if you keep 2 years margin to decide whether the start-up will work or not, how are you going to provide for yourself and your family? If you are employed, it’s best that you don’t leave it until you are stable enough in the business. I know that it means double hard work and leaving no stones unturned, but that’s the charm of being an entrepreneur. Isn’t it?

Tip 3: Find a support system

Your support system can be any of your family members or a mentor on a professional level. Start-up businesses cannot function alone. You need someone to guide you, motivate you in the lowest of low times, which you invariably will experience.

Whether you allow the mentor to take active interest in the business or just function as the creative / inspiring mind, is your call altogether. Moreover, if you are entering into a start-up with any family member, please ensure that the details of the partnership are clearly laid out to avoid problems in the future.

Tip 4: Research and expertise

There is no alternative to research and expertise which comes only through one’s personal experience and detailed knowledge of the chosen industry.

If your start-up is an eCommerce business, make sure that you are aware of your competition, prominent eCommerce brands, their investor relations, the product ranges and so on so forth.

You will see that a lot of your time is being spent on researching the business and it is good because the more knowledge you have, the better it is for your start-up business. To achieve this end, you can sign up with prominent business websites like CNN and Business Insider or buy niche market reports.

Do whatever you have to do for increasing your expertise over the select niche. It will definitely benefit you in the long run.

Tip 5: Convince the investors

If you had read the list of 50 inspiring stories, you would notice that I mentioned the name of many prominent investors backing those start-ups. How and why are they investing in these businesses?

First, the investors were shown a detailed business plan and/or a revenue model by the start-up founders. Second, they were impressed by the business, that is, its potential to make money.

If your start-up business plan can fulfill this criteria, you can avail a handsome seed capital to begin the business.

Can’t self funding work?

I remember mentioning the name of a gaming company who started with self funding and now it is a million dollar business but it doesn’t mean everyone can afford to. First, you need heavy savings for self funding. Second, if you have people dependent on you for sustenance, you cannot blow up all the savings.

Think hard before self funding. According to me, getting investors is a more viable option.

Tip 6: Sort out the taxes

A start-up should be a registered business; hence you have to take care of the taxes too. The tax system differs with each country but certain things are common such as employee welfare, taxes on goods / services delivered, and cost of registering a business and so on.

The kind of tax applied depends on the nature of the business. The taxes applying to LLC will be different from a Pvt. Ltd company.

You should never take chances with such matters. Get this sorted out while you are establishing the start up to avoid getting into problems later on. Consult a tax expert and draw up the mandatory tax payment so that you can include it in the start-up annual budget.

Don’t try to avoid dealing with taxes.

Tip 7: Get professionals on the team

A start-up business cannot be run alone – it is a fact. A business involves various aspects like marketing, accounting, sales, client relations, and administration and so on. Even if you are a multi-tasker, you will soon face burn out. In fact, when you add up the costs, you will see that you actually spent much more in trying to do all things yourself.

Hire a professional. At least, get a marketing, admin and product developer on the team at the earliest. It is believed that the first 10 people of any start-up business decide its fate in the long run. Therefore, be judicious in your choice.

We can tie this point to the self funding vs. finding investors issue. It will be extremely difficult to hire professionals and pay them salaries if you are self funding the business. On the other hand, if investors are involved, all the costs of running a company are shown to them when the business plan is presented; therefore, the employee salaries and other add-ons are well considered.

Tip 8: Begin networking ASAP

You cannot wait until the start-up business is up and functional to get clients and customers. In fact, setting up a pipeline of clients / buyers should be the primary agenda along with the business setting up process.

Marketing and networking are the backbone of any business. Try to get clients interested in the business from the start. Don’t waste precious time. It won’t come back again.

Tip 9: Concentrate on customer service

Some start-up businesses think that if someone is interested in their product or service, they will come back again and again. This is only partially true because if the customer service of the business is not good, there is no chance that it is going to get any first time buyers, least of all, second and third time buyers.

The way the support representative talks to the buyers, handles their queries, and sorts out their problem plays an important role in determining the image of the company. You have to agree that no matter what marketing strategy you use, the customers are the best marketing agents because they spread the word around.

Would you like to treat your customers – marketing agents badly? I surely hope not.

Tip 10: Be open to problems

A business plan gives a structure of the proposed business, it does not underline the problems you will face while actually running the business. Nobody can. Be ready to come across problems from Day 1. You have to maintain calm and patient to deal with them.

At the end of the day the problems might seem baseless but nonetheless, you have to deal with them. Be prepared, be open to problems – don’t be a complacent business owner. You will kill the business before it gets a chance to bloom.

Summary

I have tried to give you a lot of practical advice and tips. You have to have the psychology of a business owner before beginning a start-up. Business is a game and you have to become the master of it…

50 Startup Companies to get inspired in 2012 – Part 5

The rise in entrepreneurship in the last few years is overwhelming. The change from the popular mindset of becoming salaried individuals right after college to the mindset of becoming an entrepreneur, no matter what the education level is, is awesome.

Startup CompaniesThe guy behind kolakube.com confesses starting his first entrepreneurship when he was in grade 1. How? He sold Oreo cookies! Entrepreneurship is a vast world, which exists beyond your age, gender and race.

Anyways, after some different stories in the last few days, let’s come back to the last part of startup companies. Before that, you can peruse part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4.

Open up your mind and receive these new startup ideas.

41. eBuzzing.com

CEO: Pierre Chappaz

Business Idea: Advertising and social media channel

Estimated Value: $75 million

Our Take: Amid global advertising and social media platforms, you have eBuzzing.com that is on the forefront of the European social media scene.

An initiative like this is beneficial because it helps the business to grow locally. No matter how much we become globalized or high marketing techniques we acquire to understand the global market, the novelty to understand and utilize the ‘home’ market does not lose its charm.

The reason why eBuzzing.com has made this list is because of its unique advantage – they are not offering advertising and social media globally, they are targeting a particular continent –Europe.

Gemini, GIMV and Light Speed are some of the investors in eBuzzing.com.

42. Lifebooker.com

CEO:Arnold Reichman

Business Idea: Health and beauty based daily deals

Estimated Value: $75 million

Our Take: In an era where health awareness and beauty preservation is at its all time high, a daily deals site like lifebooker.com becomes a necessity.

The makers of lifebooker.com offers discounted health and beauty appointments at very affordable prices. In the current turbulent US economy, this kind of service is a boon for people.

Perhaps if the economy hadn’t been fragile, their success would have been hard to come by but the situation is very different for them. This shows that the success of startups depends much on external factors too.

Steve Messer and Edison Ventures are the investors in this company.

43. Stack Exchange

CEO: Joel Spolsky

Business Idea: Q & A

Estimated Value: $80 million

Our Take: When there is a horde of free discussions and forum sites, what is the use of Stack Exchange and more importantly, why does it feature in this list?

Stack Exchange is a network of Q & A sites and in the past one year, it has become known for its network of quality question-answer segments. It is a highly maintained and controlled network, which is why thousands of users visit this site daily.

In 2011 March, they raised about $12 million and Business Insider has valued it at $80 million for this year.

Index Ventures, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures are its investors.

44. Shazam.com

CEO: Andrew Fisher

Business Idea: Buy and share music

Estimated Value: $100 million

Our Take: In the mobile savvy generation, Shazam.com is the haven for music lovers. Its novelty lies in its capability to buy and share music while you are on the move.

Why is Shazam.com so special? For instance, you are traveling on the metro and someone near you is playing a beautiful song. You want that song too. You use Shazam.com on your phone – activate the Bluetooth, the Shazam.com app detects all the songs playing near you and downloads the same for you! Isn’t this amazing?

Evidently, it works with Bluetooth enabled devices and most of the mobile handsets these days come with Shazam app pre-installed.

It is rightly called the music sharing and discovery mobile application.

DN Capital and Institutional Venture Partners are some of its financers.

45. Plenty of Fish

CEO: Markus Frind

Business Idea: Online dating

Estimated Value: $100 million

Our Take: Don’t get fooled by the name. It’s not about fish! Plenty of Fish is an aptly named online dating website for singles.

This Vancouver based site is rumored to earn about $30 million per year through advertisements. Good achievement for a free online dating site.

46. Pontiflex.com

CEO: Zephrin Lasker

Business Idea: Prompting user signups

Estimated Value: $100 million

Our Take: Small, medium and large businesses pay heavily to get people on their database – generate leads and increase potential revenue. Thousands of sites claim to deliver business leads, how many of them actually deliver?

Pontiflex.com expertly uses digital media to spread targeted ads given by advertisers and prompts user sign ups. Last year, they launched their mobile advertising service and it has been steadily growing.

In other words, this is an entirely lead capture site that delivers real time sign ups to the advertiser’s site…and going by the 2012 estimates and 2011 revenues, they are doing really well.

If you notice, this business idea is not new, thousands of others are dabbling in the same but there is no substitute for hard work and strategic marketing, which Pontiflex.com staff indulges in; hence, they are climbing steadily to the top.

RRE Ventures, New Atlantic Ventures and Greenhill SAVP are its investors.

47. Miniclip.com

CEO: Robert Small

Business Idea: Gaming online

Estimated Value: $105 million

Our Take: I mentioned a more popular online gaming company in the previous lists but this is included too because it is a ‘self-funded’ startup. The CEO invested whatever seed money was necessary in the beginning.

Given the kind of competition the online gaming industry has, self funding a startup would seem suicidal but miniclip.com has successfully survived and doing well, I would say.

They engage about 65 million players per month. Their revenue source is a mixture of virtual goods sales and advertising.

In 2011, they earned about $35 million in revenues.

48. Manta.com

CEO: Pamela Springer

Business Idea: Small business networking

Estimated Value: $120 million

Our Take: With the concept of small business catching on fast, the business model of manta.com serves this growing band of small business owners, giving them a place to create and list their small business profiles and network with other small businesses.

The business idea is good because it is tapping into a growing demand by small business owners for a platform to gain exposure and generate revenues.

In 2011, manta.com had about $30 million in revenues. Reservoir Venture Partners LP and Athenian Venture Partners are its investors.

49. Warby Parker

CEO: Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal

Business Idea: Discounted prescription glasses

Estimated Value: $120 million

Our Take: In 2011, Warby Parker sold about 100,000 prescription glasses at discounted prices.

What does this prove?

The Warby Parker founders have tapped into a market where the revenue for online prescription glasses might be less but they have negated this fact through huge sales globally. Marketing reports show that the demand for prescription glasses doesn’t seem to lessen, which gave Warby Parker their idea behind discounted prescription glasses.

This business model ensures repeat customers annually.

SV Angel, Davis Smith, First Round Capital and Lerer Ventures are its investors.

50. Thought Equity

CEO: Kevin Schaff

Business Idea: Video and licensing

Estimated Value: $120 million

Our Take: The online world is vulnerable because anyone can scrape or infringe on the written and/or video content of others and pass them as their own. Right?

Thought Equity protects your videos from copyright infringement with their footage licensing service. On the other side, they also offer video development services. Hence, if you are running a business and want to run some video promotional campaigns, get them licensed first.

It is a good idea because there is a huge demand of protection from copyright infringement.

In 2011, they earned about $40 million in revenues. Shamrock Capital Advisors is its main investor.

Summary

Thus, we finally come to the end of the massive list of inspiring startups. I hope the list of companies were inspiring to you.

The purpose of this task was to brainstorm you with 45+ new online business ideas and inspire you to start your own.

We will follow up this list with some important tips to begin your start-up business online.

When You’re At a Low Point…

Hi guys…hope all is well with you today.

Listen, this post will probably end up being a little dose of reality and more personal than usual…

Why? Because today, I’m feeling that I’m at one of my lowest points.

When You're At a Low PointWay too much has been happening around here, nothing major like the loss of a loved one or anything, but when a person is pulled in so many different directions, their time being completely controlled, manipulated and demanded of, it starts to take a toll. I feel lethargic – more of a drain than a fountain and just beside myself.

Now I might feel this a little more stronger than most; I have a few physical ailments that lends a hand in all of this.

But, no matter how strong of a person you are or how weak…it doesn’t matter. The results are the same. You feel misunderstood – taken advantage of – totally alone and boom…before you know it you’re overwhelmed with depression, panic and anxiety, second guessing yourself.

Well that’s me today guys. I’m broken. And I guess it’s times such as these that the people around you who you think you can talk to about it just don’t understand, making it that much harder.

Have you ever tried to explain to your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or a family member exactly what you’re going through and how you feel? And for some reason they look at you like you have a third eye, you’re talking a foreign language or they tell you that you’re feeling this way not that way?

I just don’t get it…Are we so self absorbed with our own lives and what we’re doing that the awareness of it all is hindered? We can’t even stop and just listen without being opinionated or judgmental?

So I’m starring at this computer screen wanting to post something motivational for all of you but I’m blank at this moment. In between getting terribly angry – although a bit subdued and bawling my eyes out because frustration has literally taken over.

Ya know, we all try to do good…at least I do. But it never seems like it’s ever enough. How much is enough? Why do some people place such high expectations on another person when they can’t meet those same expectations themselves?

Have you ever felt those insurmountable expectations? It sucks…You’re trying to meet them but you just can’t.

Now, I’m not wanting some kind of pity party… believe me. That’s not my style. However, what I do want is for you guys to know that when you’re at one of your lowest moments they do and will subside no matter what the circumstances are.

Here are the exact steps I’m going to take to get me out of this funk because I truly hate feeling this way. It makes you sick – unproductive and no good to anyone especially yourself…

1. Write down your feelings and vent (just like I just did)

2. You can get angry but just don’t hurt anyone or yourself

3. Cry and cry hard…it’s a stress reliever

4. Be nice to yourself…go do something fun or buy something if it makes you feel better

5. Spend time with your kids or pet…that love is always unconditional

6. Reach out to a stranger…they’re more apt to help

7. Do some soul searching…figure out where you might have gone wrong or didn’t give clarity or conviction to a certain situation

8. Talk to God, or whoever that is for you

9. Take time for yourself in a quiet place and remember all the good things you offer others

10. Get physical. Clean the house, get rid of clothes you don’t wear or get out into nature and cut the grass or something

After all of that, re-focus. Try and figure out what it is that YOU want out of life. Not by anyone elses standards, but your own.

I don’t know if you want to call this motivational, but it’s the best I can give you right now. I’m sure by tomorrow, things will be looking up. I’ve been through this kind of thing, as you, too many times. But the older you get the more gets thrown your way to bump you off track.

Thanks for reading this dysfunctional kind of post although I’m sure you all can relate.

Let me know what steps you take to overcome the low points in your life . . . it will surely help me and others.

Make it a great day . . .



50 Startup Companies to get inspired in 2012 – Part 4

Running a startup is too difficult especially when you don’t have the manpower. More than manpower, you need able hands to visualize what you’re thinking and help you take the right path. Best Startup Companies Alas! It is very rare to come across such guides and mentors.

If you already have one, consider yourself lucky! All the startups we are mentioning in this list have had some kind of guiding force, be it in the form of a mentor, a trusted friend, or a supportive family member.

Let’s continue with our list. In case you have missed the first 3 parts, catch up with Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of the series.

31. Zynga

CEO: Mark Pincus

Business Idea: Online/social gaming

Estimated Value: $11 billion

Our Take: Remember Cityville and Farmville? These are the top two online games designed and developed by Zynga. Even I was a Farmville addict for 2 years! Cityville receives about 100 million daily active users.

What I am saying is that the online gaming industry is very large and that there is a large market waiting to absorb creative and mind blowing games like the above. Truly, Zynga has established itself as a standalone leader in the social gaming industry. In 2011, its revenue was approximately $600 million and this year, it is predicted to cross $1.5 billion.

Zynga has close associations with social networking sites like Facebook on which they sustain and provide the users an enriching experience. Its virtual revenue model is surely giving them high returns.

32. Groupon

CEO: Andrew Mason

Business Idea: Online daily deals

Estimated Value: $10 billion

Our Take: Clearly, Groupon is the pioneer of the daily deals concept. It is an often used marketing strategy these days like classifieds and other marketing strategies. The concept became so popular that within a year, hundreds of Groupon clones have sprouted up all over the Internet.

The ‘Daily Deal’ revenue model has given the company tremendous growth in the past years. Even though certain experts feel that Groupon would begin to lose its novelty factor given the fact that its IPO stands on shaky ground, I, as a consumer, feel that Groupon has a longer path to tread.

In 2011, its estimated revenue was $3 billion.

33. Twitter

CEO: Evan Williams

Business Idea: Micro-messaging service and social networking platform

Estimated Value: $8 billion

Our Take: Who would have thought that 140 character messages would become so powerful of a business strategy, giving thousands of people the opportunity to earn thousands of dollars online?

Twitter continues to enlarge and spread its tentacles wide. Every small, medium and large business has a dedicated twitter accounts promoting its products and services. In 2011, twitter hit 100 million active users and about 250 million tweets are being sent out daily by users.

As with every other knowledgeable online marketer, we too feel that twitter has immense potential as a social media marketing platform and since the online business is booming even in this decade, twitter will survive and make its founders billions.

34. 360Buy.com

CEO: Liu Qiangdong

Business Idea: eCommerce in China

Estimated Value: $10 billion

Our Take: We know how the Chinese government has imposed red tape over the Internet, which is why websites like Amazon, Twitter and Facebook are inaccessible there. However, given the fact that eCommerce is a booming industry and also because they didn’t want to lag behind their western counterpart, you have Liu’s 360Buy.com, an eCommerce site solely dedicated to China.

Wal-Mart and Digital Sky Technologies are its investors. The eCommerce site is known as the Amazon of China.

Clearly, this initiative is feeding a huge demand by online shopper and thus, it is likely to sustain itself very well over this decade. As we know, business is all about the niche and it’s USP. The niche and USP of 360Buy.com lies in its geographical restraint imposed by the government.

35. Dropbox.com

CEO: Drew Houston

Business Idea: Document, image and video sharing

Estimated Value: $4 billion

Our Take: The reason behind Dropbox success is its unique service – you get to upload and share your documents, images and videos with anyone you want, and store the same in a dedicated cloud server from where they can be recovered anytime and on any device! This is a compact service and that too is free. Yes, it has a premium membership account but you get so much with the free account and people love it – it’s the Dropbox success.

People think that since the cost of cloud computing is getting cheaper, the revenue of Dropbox will take a back seat too but they are very wrong. With decreasing cloud computing prices, Dropbox is also lowering their costs, and in the process, their revenue margin is soaring higher and higher.

Dropbox has immense growth potential as a repository of saving and storing important documents. Think of yourself – won’t you feel like paying for such a private service? Of course, you would!

36. Living Social

CEO: Tim O’Shaughnessy

Business Idea: Social daily deal site

Estimated Value: $3 billion

Our Take: Living Social is an example of selecting a niche within a niche. It is similar to Groupon, which is catering to a niche market. Now within this niche market, Living Social has built a business by zeroing in on a niche within a niche. How?

Living Social is a social daily deal site, which means that it brings promotional codes and discount offers from places which are good places to socialize in your city or town. Its like bringing a group of people together, allowing them to socialize without spending too much.

In 2011, it received $400 million in funding and most likely, it had revenue of $1 billion.

37. Palantir Technologies

CEO: Alexander Carp

Business Idea: Data analysis

Estimated Value: $2.5 billion

Our Take: The Palantir Technologies is an analytical platform, hiring the best minds in the industry to analyze financial data and government information.

The platform is much in demand by large organizations, which is why Business Insider has given it $2.5 billion valuation. In 2011, they earned $100 million approximately.

38. Hulu.com

CEO: Jason Kilar

Business Idea: Online video service

Estimated Value: $1.6 billion

Our Take: It is not big as YouTube but Hulu.com has its own niche market. It is an online video service provider that offers a selection of movies, clips and TV shows.

This shows that in startups, you must never get intimidated by your competitor, YouTube in this case. If you have a strong belief in your idea, go ahead by any means.

In 2011, Hulu.com generated about $500 million, keeping the fact in mind that the website keeps a maximum of 40% in revenues. It came as no surprise that media moguls like Google were trying to buy off Hulu.com but it hasn’t been acquired yet.

39. Airbnb.com

CEO: Brian Chesky

Business Idea: Local accommodation available locally

Estimated Value: $1.3 billion

Our Take: The idea behind airbnb.com is one of the best I have heard to date. Suppose you are visiting Singapore for 10 days and you want to rent an apartment. You have no clue about it because it is your first time visit. What do you do? You contact airbnb.com and give them the task of finding a local apartment on a short term rental at your affordable budget. Sound interesting?

Airbnd.com is an innovative service that will look for apartments on a short term rental basis and their services are available globally. If you don’t want to be put up in hotels, this is an alternative option. Quite creative…eh!

In 2011, they had about $500 million in gross merchandise sales. Impressive!

40. Trulia.com

CEO: Pete Flint

Business Idea: Real estate listing giant

Estimated Value: $700 million

Our Take: Trulia.com is speedily taking over Zillow.com and becoming one of the biggest real estate companies in the US. Here, members can buy and sell properties conveniently.

Real estate is another business that never goes out of vogue; hence, if Trulia.com takes their steps right, they have a lot of potential…

There is no report of how much revenue it generated in 2011, insiders say it was more than double from 2010 revenues.

We come to the end of today’s list. While writing this, I noticed something interesting. Almost all the startups are based in California,USA! Hmm…Why? No idea…

Watch out for the final list, followed by some tips to begin your startup business online.

Startup Companies – Part 5

Super Tuesday – Take-away for Internet Marketers

If you’ve been following any of the political candidates running for President here in the last several months like I have, (although much is extremely negative) you may have noticed some of the more positive aspects if you looked hard enough…

Super TuesdayJust by observing these guys, it showed me that they all have the “live your dream” vision down pat while displaying what it takes to be successful. These attributes conveyed will actually give you what you need to start or continue an online Internet business.

The more I watched and studied President Obama, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, the more I realized how similar they all are ONLY in correlation to pursuing their dreams.

Take Super Tuesday for example. Many people thought that by now, Mitt Romney would be the Republican candidate of choice and the rest should take their licks and go home. But not so fast…each of the candidates came back from the trenches at least one time throughout this campaign. Why? They don’t give up for one. Their shear determination to keep pressing forward has gotten all of them where they are today.

It’s their dream – vision and purpose…

Can you say that? Have you been so determined to start or continue your online business with as much zeal as these guys?

Listed below are some of the characteristics they all share and that you can use for your business blueprint. If you can master these six attributes, you’re well on your way too not only being successful but also living a truly awesome life . . . or maybe even running for President someday!

1) Passion:

“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.” – Benjamin Franklin

This is one of my most favorite words. Just the sound of it packs a punch! If you have “passion” for something, you know how strong an emotion it can be. It drives you crazy – you crave something – your enthusiasm shoots through the roof . . . passion is the main driving force behind any successful person. When you want something so bad, you’ll do just about anything to get your hands on it or accomplish it.

2) Vision:

“Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.” – Napoleon Hill

Most if not all successful people literally map out their unique vision of what it is they want to accomplish or where they are headed both personally and professionally. By creating a vision statement, not only can you clearly see that line you’re running toward – but it locks in your focus and motivational abilities to finally reach it.

Deep down, we all have a dream . . . something we’re extremely passionate about. This is your personal blueprint in helping you reach your desired destination.

3) Goals:

“In absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily acts of trivia.” – Author Unknown

Without listing or writing down specifically where you want to go or what you want to accomplish, you’ll be lost and probably headed in the direction of “no-where-land.”

Setting goals gives you the opportunity to change whatever you don’t like and to improve yourself, whether its changes in your business, your current job or simply yourself.

Setting goals is a great way to strive to do more – to do more better and pump up that enthusiasm to carry you forward.

4) Dedication:

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”– Harriet Beecher Stowe

Devote everything you have in you to achieve the purpose you’ve set for yourself, no matter what it takes to get there. With your life running on warp speed, this sometimes can be difficult. But if you truly believe in yourself and your goals, dedicating the time and energy it takes to become successful in accomplishing whatever it is you want, should manifest itself pretty easily.

5) Persistence:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” – Calvin Coolidge

You must be determined to continually work on your goals and toward your business every day if you truly want to make it. It is a lot of hard work but if you keep gnawing away, piece by piece, this soon will become a habit, a part of your life.

Conclusion:

If you’re looking for the keys to success, this short list is a must to unlock your dreams. Sure, it takes a hell of a lot more but without them, you’re taking a stab in the dark.

So the next time you get to see the candidates in action, try and recognize the positive features within each of them. It’s amazing what you can learn no matter what position you take politically…

Apply them in your personal life and business and see what happens!

What other ones would you add to this “must have” list?

5 Tweaks in Your Online Marketing Producing the Most Change

By now, everyone has heard the story of how Target uses predictive analytics to better target their customers. So why does Target engage in predictive marketing? Is it worth their time and money?

Online Marketing SuccessAs an outsider, you can only measure their success through company growth. Understanding how much of that growth is attributable to analytical efforts is known only to those inside the company.

I have seen small changes in ad copy increase conversions by 50%. The fact is that every company has a set of marketing levers they can tweak to improve performance. Target may have the resources to become optimal, but small businesses can make use of powerful yet simple tools and tactics and still achieve higher results.

Below is a consolidation of channels and improvement guidelines where I have seen the most potential for growth.

Update Your Email Marketing

Email marketing commonly becomes a routine to the marketer. Therefore the offers and driving content usually becomes boring and repetitive.

According to this study by Exact Target, the 2nd most important reason people unsubscribe is that the content becomes repetitive.

To avoid falling under this trap, marketers should consider creating various types of offers to each of their customer segments, at different times during the relationship.

A,B,C testing all the offers, imagery and content helps you understand what works and what doesn’t so you can disregard those without much success and continue to use the most popular ones. Small changes in click-through rates can significantly increase sales and conversion rates.

Check Your Frequency

The problem of mass email is twofold. Consumers are bombarded with emails and retailers cannot capture well the consumers’ attention. Opting out of newsletters and offers has become a common practice and it is estimated that 15% of people once on your list will opt out.

According to the study cited above, the top reason is “email came too frequently.” You have data on how often people purchase and what content drives engagement.

A simple segmentation exercise based on last customer interaction, products purchased, and response history can provide insight on the ideal frequency for each customer.

Ad Placement is Key

The websites your ads appear on and page placements are the two main factors of click-through success. It’s been found that ads that appear above the fold and seven times more successful than those delivered below the fold.

Frequency turns out to be very successful. Ads shown 5 or more times to a user are 12 to 14 times more successful than ads shown less than 5 times.

I personally witnessed significant increases in click-through rates as a database marketing consultant. Simple tweaks in messaging and location improved our conversions and lowered costs. Trial and error is key in understanding what drives people to your sight.

Keyword Selection

Keyword research is more of an art than science (although everything can be measured online.) Search is becoming very specific when people look for a specific product for their needs. Many of these keywords go unnoticed by vendors. These are likely to be cheaper, drive less traffic, but provide higher conversion rates.

There are many analytical tools to measure keyword success so there is no gut feeling. If you clearly see that a keyword drives more that 85% away then one would want to adjust.

By continually adjusting, you will find the right set of keywords and messaging needed to position yourself in a stronger position than your competitors.

Content is Still King

What you put on your email newsletter, offers, website, blog, and even ads is the most important aspect of any campaign. Companies like Target cited above understand this concept very well: “The right content at the right time.”

In the article it said that Target even purposely sent offers about un-targeted products so it didn’t concern the shopper of privacy issues.

The secret to good content is adding value first. A coupon or offer can be helpful when one is in the market for a specific product and the coupon has the right price and ease of purchase.

Other times, marketers need to engage the customers by sending important and useful information. This is where you develop your customer life cycle campaign.

Content and messaging directed at increasing trust and engagement in a brand in pursue of a purchase at a later stage.

Marketing is about execution, trial and error, and value creation. Big ideas come from creative minds and having a high quality product still triumphs, but there are various levers to adjust and improve results. Continually study your online measurements, try new ideas, and be flexible to adjust.

Jaime Brugueras the CEO of Mineful – a customer retention and analysis software. Jaime writes frequently about marketing analysis, customer retention, and email marketing. He has been published in several industry publications including eCommerce Times. Follow Mineful on Twitter for industry insight and conversations.

Social Networking Making a Positive Change

In earlier days, the computers were hailed as ‘world changing technologies’ and it was hoped Social Networking that email would bring about a revolution in communication.

Some said that the Internet would eradicate any form of national boundary. All these took place and there were some partial changes, but the world did not change overnight, it only became a little bit different.

In hindsight, all these things did bring about a change but it was never that catalyst that would actually transform the face of the world.

However, it seems that social media is actually changing the world. It helps to connect people and brands, empowers consumers and brings about revolutions in countries where it is needed.

Politics Re-invented

Recent studies have found that social networking is actually encouraging young people to get involved in politics.

Twitter had good impacts on the Iran elections and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. More and more people are getting involved in politics and they feel that they can make a difference.

The Huffington Post is one of the most popular blogs on the web and is mainly political in nature. Social media is enjoying a growing influence in politics and the same sentiment was echoed by the UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

News Travels Fast

People are no longer interested in passive messages. They now get news through the social network and then this news is passed onto others. By this the others understand – what we are interested in and what is important to us. You may call this gossip but this is news to users on social networking sites like Twitter, Digg and Stumbled Upon.

Marketing Flux

Marketing and advertising have embraced the power of the consumer and makes a serious attempt to engage in conversations.

Earlier these two aspects were part of the mass market channels that the industry relied on. It had a more wider reach but very repetitive. Now marketing and advertising have a smaller reach and engaged in people-centric activities. People say that advertising is dying but we believe that it is only changing form. The consumers today have more power and more choice.

Child Literacy

There is no denying the fact those children who have reading habits are usually better at reading and writing. Believe it or not, they do get motivated to read and write by participating in online blog posts and putting up status updates.

A recent survey has established a correlation between the child’s involvement in social media and his overall literacy. To put it more bluntly, social media has helped our children to become literate.

Influence on World Events

Social Media is associated with many world events. The overthrowing and subsequent removal of the dictatorship in Egypt was only possible due to Facebook groups and large scale online protests.

There have been many instances when important world events had broken out on Twitter even before it has been announced on CNN or reported by respectable papers like The New York Times.

Social Media will continue to be a driving force. As long as it is being used in the proper way, Social Networking will strive to change the way the world functions.

Margaret is a blogger by profession. She loves writing on technology and gadgets. Beside this she is fond of books. She recently bought a gaming chairs. These days she is busy in writing an article on steam support.

50 Startup Companies to get inspired in 2012 – Part 3

You can read the first and second startup companies list before you read the third one. As you must have noticed by now, you don’t need an insane amount of personal capital for any startup business.

All you need is the zeal to convince investors and sooner or later, they will be flocking to invest in your business.

Anyways, let’s now see the next 10 inspirational startups to join this list.

21. Bleacher Report

CEO: Brian Grey

Business Idea: Sports news website

Estimated Value: $120 million

Our Take: Who says you cannot get free content? The Bleacher Report is one such example where Start-up Companies a website with 20 million active readers has been created solely on the unpaid contributions of its voluntary writers!

The Bleacher Report is an analytical sports editorial and is now one of the topmost web based sports journals. In August 2011, the company received $22 million in funding and this year, their valuation is $120 million.

Oak Investment Partners and Crosslink Capital are some of the investors in the Bleacher Report startup.

22. Right Scale

CEO: Michael Crandell

Business Idea: Full scale cloud management services

Estimated Value: $110 million

Our Take: Every small and big company online wants to use cloud management services for data storage and maintenance. Right Scale is one such company that provides a slew of cloud management services.

DAG Ventures, Benchmark Capital and Index Ventures are some of its investors. Since there are many other cloud management services, this company has been valued at a modest $110 million.

From our perspective, if anyone were to start a cloud management service, its best to target the local businesses before going global as it will get better exposure and brand value.

23. S.B Nation

CEO: Jim Bankoff

Business Idea: Sports directory cum local sports community

Estimated Value: $75 million

Our Take: People at SB Nation created a directory of sports blogs available in the US. They focus on both the national and the local levels; they create community based sports news across the country.

This is a new kind of initiative for sports lovers. Such kind of directories can pull in a lot of traffic, especially when sports are such a favorite topic with everyone.

In 2011, it had an estimated revenue of about $20 million and its expected that with proper guidance, the revenues will soar higher this year.

24. Better Works

CEO: Paige Craig

Business Idea: Creating work environment for businesses

Estimated Value: $100 million

Our Take: This is a new business concept; at least we haven’t heard it previously. Here, businesses can set up and create a rewarding work environment for their employees. Of course, I think the business needs to be completely online regulated to make use of this initiative.

Here, the employees are encouraged to use Better Works as a rewarding social platform because they are rewarded regularly for their collaboration. Better Works has potential this year and hopefully, in the coming years as well, because they are trying to create a congenial and stress free working environment which not every business tries to provide.

Red Point Ventures invests in Better Works.

25. Instagram.com

CEO: Kevin Systrom

Business Idea: iPhone photo sharing tool

Estimated Value: $100 million

Our Take: Investors love businesses which has a wider user base. This is the reason why industry insiders peg Instagram.com at $100 million even though it DOES NOT have any revenue model yet!

Instagram.com is a tool used by iPhone users to share images with other iPhone users mainly. In less than a year, it has managed about 9 million active users and the traffic on its site is growing very vast.

I guess they are waiting for the right time to monetize the site.

26. Rent the Runway

CEO: Jennifer Hyman

Business Idea: Renting dresses

Estimated Value: $105 million

Our Take: Rent the Runway is the ideal solution for people who cannot afford to buy expensive dresses but can surely afford to rent them. This company manages to rent selective dresses at a fraction of the cost when compared to the real value of a dress.

The renter chooses a dress, wears it and then returns it. It is perfect if you are looking for high-end dresses for special occasions. In 2011, Rent the Runway had approximately $20 million in revenues and $6 million in 2010.

With better online marketing and inclusion of more geographical areas, the business can reach a wider scale of renters and increase their revenue scales.

27. Clickable

CEO: David Kidder

Business Idea: Software for SEM

Estimated Value: $100 million

Our Take: Perhaps this could be an alternative to Google AdWords? Clickable software manages online PPC (pay per click) campaigns for small, medium and large businesses. It is easier to use and customize for advertisers and deliver on select platforms.

In the past year, its revenue has grown 200% and it has immense growth potential in 2012.

28. Break Media

CEO: Keith Richman

Business Idea: Men centered content network

Estimated Value: $120 million 

Our Take: It is a content based media company that produces both publishable and video content centered on men only. It is a humor based content network that also has gaming groups and editorial groups.

The USP behind its success is “entertainment.” They managed to earn about $60 million revenue in 2011 solely because of their humorous entertaining content. Isn’t this what all blogs seek to achieve? Well…here is your inspiration then.

29. Café Mom

CEO: Michael Sanchez

Business Idea: Social networking community for moms

Estimated Value: $130 million

Our Take: In barely a few years, Café Mom has become one of the most popular social networking sites for moms – where moms can join the community and share their experience with fellow moms.

This site has targeted a niche which is very active online and gives immense income potential. In 2011, they generated $35 million approximately in revenues.

30. Xirrus.com

CEO: Dirk Gates

Business Idea: Wi-Fi connectivity

Estimated Value: $140 million

Our Take: In a world becoming connected with the Internet exclusively, a service like that of Xirrus.com is necessary because it provides high performance Wi-Fi connectivity for individuals and businesses.

In 2011, it generated about $70 million in revenues.

In the next series, we will see another 10 inspiring startup companies. Go through these 30 startup companies again – Part 1, Part 2 – and think about your next winning business idea!

Startup Companies – Part 4

Traveling Your Way to a Better Blog

Chances are, you enjoy blogging. At least you did at the start. While some people blog as a profession, most of us start them out of passion. Why is it, then, that blogging often turns into a chore? After a while, at least for some bloggers, it feels like something we have to do, rather than something we want to do.

Has the passion really dissipated?

Better BlogNo, in all likelihood there are a number of factors that go into blog dissatisfaction that have nothing to do with passion…

It might be the staleness of comments discussion, or even a traffic plateau. Most commonly, though, we grow bored with our blogs because it feels as though we’re spinning our wheels.

Nothing feels fresh any more. Thankfully there are ways to combat that feeling.

A change of scenery

I’ve found that some of my freshest content ideas come immediately following a vacation or business trip. That is, those are times when the juices flow.

I can usually bank a few weeks’ worth of content on all of my blogs. The ideas sometimes come while I’m on the trip, sometimes while I’m on the airplane, and sometimes immediately afterwards. But whenever they came, they coincided with times that I’d been on the road.

Changing the scenery, apparently, did change my mind. Being away from familiar dwellings inspired something in me. That is, it seems as though my blogs had grown stale, because my environment had grown stale.

After talking to many more people, particularly work-from-home types, I found many similar stories. Getting out of our comfort zones apparently gets the creative juices flowing after they’ve gotten stagnant.

The great news is that traveling doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. Simple trips can suffice. You can also find useful purposes for travel, so you can combine your best interests. Here are the two ways I’ve traveled, much to my benefit.

To the surprise of some, none of them involve a tropical beach…

Traveling to get away

A vacation? Perish the thought. There’s too much work to be done. While many of my office dwelling friends get three, four, or even five weeks of vacation per year, I’m lucky to get but one. It’s one of the few drawbacks to working for a start-up, and working from home. With constant pressure to grow our sites, it’s tough to get away even for a week. Yet, as outlined above, getting away is still important. The best way I’ve found to reconcile these issues is to take frequent mini vacations.

The key here is to completely change your surroundings. I live in a mostly urban area, so these mini trips are to the land of small towns and trees. Lots and lots of trees.

Friends of mine who live in small towns like to take their trips to New York City, Boston, Washington D.C., or other fast-paced, populated areas.

The overall point, though, is to find stimulus that you simply cannot find at home. That will get the creative juices flowing again.

Of course, over the years it has become more difficult to create an all new environment. After a while, vacationing in small towns gets stale, too. Still, there are all sorts of adaptations of this. For instance, I’ve taken to seeking out a car rental as far in advance as possible (as to keep the cost as low as possible — you don’t want to book a rental car just a few days before you need it). You can also choose an uncommon destination. Have you ever been to a beach town in the winter?

It’s surprisingly relaxing.

Again, the overall idea is to take a day or two off work, overlap with a weekend, and completely change the scenery. The new stimulus will inspire you and get you back on track.

Traveling with a purpose

While traveling with the sole purpose of changing the scenery can be helpful, it’s even better to combine this with a professional purpose. As I noted above, it didn’t matter whether I was vacationing or traveling for business. Either way, the ideas would start flowing. So why not take the opportunity to grow professionally?

For anyone who works on the Internet, there are dozens of helpful conferences every year. Affiliate marketers have a number of conferences that have long track records and are run by successful people. There are general blogging conferences, and there are niche blogging conferences. There are also industry conferences – tech bloggers will find plenty to their liking here.

Conferences give us a chance to expand our social networks. Surrounded by people with similar interests, it’s hard to walk away without a ton of new address book entries.

Conferences also provide a great opportunity for a face-to-face meeting with people we’ve met online. Twitter can be great for conversations, but there’s so much more to a physical connection.

Additionally, conferences provide many educational opportunities. Panels and keynotes feature material from some of the most successful people in any given field. These speeches and panels can give us ideas that we can apply to our own sites. That is, conferences provide a veritable treasure trove of ideas. Those ideas spur the mind, which helps us keep things fresh.

Time was, traveling was an expensive, time-consuming process. But now, with the Internet and travel agencies, it’s quite simple. We can use cheap travel for many purposes. While going to a conference or other industry even helps reconcile our professional and personal needs, a simple trip away from home can do the same. There are plenty of opportunities to do so. When things are feeling stale and you need new stimulus, a short weekend trip can provide weeks, even months, worth of solutions.

Joe Pawlikowski edits several blogs across the web, including his latest project, A New Level, which addresses issues for at-home workers (and whatever else he’s thinking about).