Friday, July 29, 2005

22 Questions to Ask Before You Use Any Shopping Cart System By Tom Antion

Many seasoned professional speakers agree that you can make more money selling your knowledge in the form of products than you can speaking.

You can use traditional methods to sell products such as direct mail, catalogs and advertising. However, if you have a great online presence, the entire world is your marketplace at a fraction of the cost of most traditional methods. To easily sell to this worldwide marketplace, you need a great shopping cart system.

Choosing a shopping cart system is perhaps the most important single decision you'll make in your online marketing career.

This is because:

You're stuck with the decision for a long time.

If you buy into a system that isn't adequate, it can cost you money--big money- because it won't maximize the amount of money spent by each visitor.

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of off-the-shelf, free and alternative products out there vying for your money, time or both. And most of them are junk.

Don't suffer like I did I learned the hard way. When I started on the Internet I couldn't find a decent shopping cart program, so I took one that was highly recommended by my ISP (I now know the only reason they suggested it was because it made them the most money. They didn't care if it was the best one for me or not). What a headache! The system wouldn't do anything but take the order, but you had to have a PhD in computer science to work on it.

Here are 21 questions you absolutely, unfailingly must ask anyone trying to sell you a shopping cart. If you don't hear positive answers to the majority of these questions, put your wallet back into your pocket and evaluate the next option. Don't get stuck with a crappy shopping cart, even if they give it to you free.

If you have a poor shopping cart, get rid of it. I know that hurts, because you may have spent lots of time and money getting it going, but a bad one will cost you many thousands of dollars by waiting to replace it later rather than sooner.

Oh, and one more thing: if you hear the shopping cart programmer answer one of the questions below by saying, "Well, we could make it do that," run away even faster, because you're going to get stuck with a big custom programming bill with no guarantees that the cart is going to work the way you expected.

Every question below is very important when it comes to having a quality shopping cart system that gets more money out of the same number of visitors.

1. Will it calculate shipping and tax?

2. Does it handle specialized shipping like FedEx and UPS?

3. Will it automatically deliver hard goods and soft goods (e- books and other digital products) in the same transaction?

4. Does it offer customizable "Return to Shopping" pages without needing custom programming? This is important so you can send your customers to the most likely product they will buy next. Standard carts just send customers back to the main catalog, which forces them to search for related products. This is both irritating and time-consuming. Any delays in finding what they want could mean a lost sale, when they finally throw their hands up in disgust and move on to your competitor's site.

5. Does it offer customizable "Thank You" pages based on what the customer just bought? These are pages where savvy marketers put affiliate links and other offers specifically related to the customer's interests. When a customer clicks on one of these links and buys something from someone else, you get a commission.

6. Does it deliver receipt and confirmation e-mails automatically? The customer wants to know immediately that the order went through. If he or she is unsure, you are going to have to field many wasted e-mails and phone calls letting the customer know everything is OK.

7. Does it allow multiple order and dropship e-mails? In many cases, several different people in your organization and/or outside your organization need notice of an order. Again, you don't want to have to do this manually.

8. Does it have a Web-based administration page so you can work on your cart from any computer that has Internet access?

9. Does it include encryption technology and a secure server? Many companies make a fortune by sucking you in with a cheap or free cart and then make money on selling you an overpriced secure server.

10. Does it deliver easy output to your accounting software? You want to be able to import and export data easily between the cart and whatever programs you have that need to share the customer and sales information.

11. Does it have its own associate/affiliate program or is it easily compatible with other major brands of associate software? An affiliate program lets other people promote and sell your products on their Web sites. You don't pay them unless they sell something. When I tried to get an associate/affiliate program to work with my old cart, it cost me six months of down time and untold amounts of money lost because it wouldn't work. The associate program people blamed the shopping cart people and vice versa. But ultimately I was left holding the bag.

12. Does it have integrated up-sell modules? The ability to offer more related products to customers making a purchase makes me a small fortune each month. We call it, "Do you want fries with that?" If you don't have this ability, you are leaving many thousands of dollars on the table from people who would have spent more if your cart just gave them the chance.

13. Does it have an integrated sales and prospect database? In the old days I would have to print out orders and then retype them into ACT or some other database program. A good shopping cart system eliminates all this hassle and potential for error and gives you instant access to your sales reports and clients.

14. Does it have broadcast e-mail capability? Good shopping cart systems are able to manipulate your customer database instantly and send e-mails to any segment or sub-segment of your clients and handle unlimited e-mail magazines. Again, in the old days I would have to be genius enough to pick out segments of the database, export them to a file, import them into a mail program and then an hour later send the darn e-mail. Now this is all done in a few seconds.

15. Does it have mail merge capability? The e-mails sent are personalized to the recipients in any number of ways. Their names can be popped in to the subject line and in various portions of the body of the e-mail. You can merge "what they bought," "when they bought," "where they live" or just about anything that will make them feel the e-mail was just for them. Virtually all studies show that mail merge gets a much higher response than plain broadcast e-mail.

16. Can it handle coupons and other discounts? You can make a deal with Joe Blow that everyone coming from his Web site gets an automatic discount -- either a percentage or dollar amount. This makes Joe look great to his visitors and makes more sales for you. Here's a secret: Joe is your affiliate and makes money on the sale too, so he's got a great incentive to keep your discounts and coupons in front of his visitors. Good shopping cart systems can automate all of this and also handle any quantity discounts you offer.

17. Can it work for multiple Web sites with no extra fees? When I first started I had to get a separate (and expensive) license for each site and a separate merchant account too. Not only was this a great deal of expense, the hassle with installation every time you wanted a new site to go up was enormous. Modern carts can sell bras on one site and bibles on another, and no one knows the difference. The carts run on their own servers so there is no expensive installation and set-up is immediate.

18. Does it have unlimited and fully integrated "sequential" autoresponders? This is one of the most powerful features when it comes to Internet marketing. This feature follows up automatically over and over again to your clients and prospects to provide them customer care and to sell them more products and services. You can even provide free or paid e-mail courses, and each part of the course is delivered automatically.

19. Does it have ad tracking tied into actual sales? Simple ad tracking can be had all over the 'Net, but it is pretty much worthless unless it is tied to actual sales. This is called the "conversion ratio." Your cart system should be able to tell you how many people clicked on a particular promotion and how many people bought. This is the only way you can determine if an ad paid off. Good carts will also automatically split test one of your sales pages against another and tell you which page sells more. You keep the page that sells more and get rid of the page that sells less.

20. Does it have a pop-up box builder? Even though many people hate popup boxes, they work. I use them judiciously to make all kinds of offers, and I have the sales figures to prove they get more money out of the same number of people. If you know how to use them properly, no one gets upset.

21. Does it have a printable off-line order form? Believe it or not, many people are still afraid to put their credit card numbers into a Web site. I still get lots of fax orders and phone orders. If you want to maximize your sales, your cart must take these kinds of orders easily.

22. Does it provide free training? You'll need training in both the basic set up of using your shopping cart and determining your online sales strategy, so that you maximize the amount of money spent by each customer.

You may not understand what all the above questions mean right now, but I can assure you they are important in putting more money into your bank account. If you want to know even more about this subject, you can download a free e-book, How to Pick a Shopping Cart System That Makes You Money at www.public- speaking.org/ebook.htm.

What shopping cart system do I use? I have my own private label called www.KickStartCart.com.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sales Exit Strategies By Tom Antion

Smart Internet marketers make money coming and going . . . That is when their visitors are coming and going. Obviously when your visitor comes to your site you want her to buy. Not so obviously to the new marketer is the fact that an enormous amount of money can be had from people leaving your site if you know what to do.
The beauty of many exit strategies is that the person has already decided NOT to buy and by using these techniques you get them to change their mind.
Here are some exit strategies:
a Sell down technique: I use this technique to offer a cheaper price when someone is leaving my sales page without purchasing. I actually call the pop up box they get a "Pick Your Price" deal, but in actuality I have pre-selected three cheaper price points for them to pick from. "Almost" everyone picks the cheapest price, but some lovable souls choose from some of the higher priced options. The product they get is the same. This technique is best for digital download products like ebooks because you don't really have any cost of goods sold.
A Finance option: This technique has meant several hundred thousand dollars to me. When a person leaves one of my sales letters without buying, a pop up box is displayed that gives them a chance to finance their purchase. This technique is best suited for more expensive products you are willing to finance for the customer. To automate the entire deal including the additional payments the customer will make every month, you need a shopping cart with "recurring billing". Http://www.KickStartCart.com has this.
I frequently test different selling methods for my big-ticket products so I can't swear you'll see an example of the finance option when you visit and then leave the page below, but you might: http://www.Antion.com/public-speaking.htm
a Thank you page selling: A thank you page is the page that pops up right after someone has purchased something from your shopping cart. What a great place to keep on selling! Remember, the person still has that old wallet out. You can have links on the thank you page to your other sites or products. This is also a perfect place to put affiliate links to others who will send you a commission if your customer clicks through and buys something from them.
Good shopping cart systems let you make custom thank you pages based on what the customer bought. This is especially great because you can customize the thank you page links to offer your customer something complimentary to what was just purchased. This is smart selling!
A Co-registration: Is a process of signing up ezine subscribers for other publishers. The other publishers pay you for each subscriber that signs up through your site (The opposite of this is how you can build your subscriber list fast by having other websites sign up subscribers for you.)
Basically you use an exit pop up that offers the other publisher's ezine and you track the subscriptions using your http://www.KickStartCart.com or some other mechanism.
A Confirmation page selling: I don't know whether this is technically an exit strategy or not, but I don't care. It works.
When someone fills out a form or signs up for your ezine a confirmation page usually appears that lets them know the information they put in the form has been accepted. This is another great time to sell something.
When someone signs up for Great Speaking ezine they get the confirmation page which says something like, "We've received your subscription. Your welcome letter and bonuses will be emailed to you shortly. In the mean time, read this special report on the business of professional speaking." This "special report" is my long advertorial type sales letter for my "Wake 'em Up Video Professional Speaking System."
The bottom line on all these exit strategies is to turn your visitors into as much money as you can. It costs you one way or the other to get visitors to your site, so you may as well get that money back and then some by selling them coming and going.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Picking a Web Host By Tom Antion

Here is a checklist of points to consider when selecting your web host.

Avoid freebie hosting and hosting offered by your ISP (they do too many things and have too much demand on their bandwidth to do a super great job at web hosting). Get good solid hosting because you will be crying big tears if your site loads as slow as molasses or never loads at all.

If you are using Microsoft Front Page to create your website, do they have Front Page Extensions installed to make all the different parts of Front Page work?

Do they give you auto responders? (Available in the shopping system http://www.KickStartCart.com )

Can they handle multimedia and CGI scripts (common gateway interface) :? Do you have full access to the cgi-bin? You may want to have things like Real Audio and Real Video. Or you might want to put some custom functionality in it, like a 'recommend me form,' or something like that (also available in http://www.KickStartCart.com ). If they can't handle it, you can't have it on your website.

How about backups? Do they have a reliable system? How often do they back up? How long will it take to restore your site from backup if something goes wrong? [NOTE: This doesn't relieve you of the necessity of doing your own backups.]

What statistics packages do they make available to you? Do they just have a bare bones package, or maybe none at all? Do they make really advanced packages available? Do they have "real time" statistics? Is there a monthly cost for the advanced packages? Do you have access to the "raw server logs"?

What kind of connection do they have to the Internet? Do they have superfast T-1 or T-3 lines or something slower?

Are there limits on file transfers? Will you have to pay more soon after you sign up and your site starts getting busier?

Do they have secure server capability for your e-commerce efforts? [NOTE: This may not matter if you have a top notch system like http://www.KickStartCart.com that provides you with the secure server.]

How much space do you get? How much does extra space cost as your website grows? My site has grown to nearly 200 Mega Bytes in 2.5 years.

Do they provide web-based administration. This allows you to operate your server from a webpage with no technical experience.

Do they have complete email services like Pop 3 mailboxes and the newer IMAP? Do they give you unlimited email aliases?

Do they require a long term contract. Avoid them if they do. What will you do if their service is poor?

What is their uptime? A good web host should be up and running 99.9 to 100% of the time.

Is their tech support any good? They should have support by phone and email 24/7. . . .You might want to test them out on this before you sign up.

Watch out for ripoffs. You should never pay extra for autoresponders, email aliases, CGI bins, statistics and POP mailboxes

Here's a directory of web hosts: http://www.webhostdir.com/

Friday, July 15, 2005

How to Create and Distribute an E-Course By Tom Antion

E-courses are credibility tools and they are also great sales tools. You can easily create a course in your field of expertise and either sell it as a product, or give it away as a give-before-you-get sales tool.
If it's a free course, you give good information, but you don't give all the information. It's designed to be helpful to people and not a blatant sales pitch, but if you gave them everything, there would be no reason to buy anything from you. If you are selling the course, make it very comprehensive and don't hold back. You want the recipients to really feel like they are getting value.
E-courses are even easier to create than E-Books. You don't have to do any fancy formatting or heading tags or conversions or anything. You just create it in plain text E-zine Fashion.
Here's a checklist to create the course:
a Pick your topic.
A Gather your material into related sections. Each section will be one lesson in the course. Five sections means five days to the course. If your material is complicated, you could do one lesson per week, but on a free course I would recommend against it because it will take you too long to get people to buy.
A Write a welcome and introduction to the course along with a list of all the upcoming lessons.
A Don't skimp on any of the lessons. People can unsubscribe from this and either ask for their money back, or just disappear from your list and then you won't have a chance to sell them anything.
A If it's a free course, you should weave subtle hints into the course that make people want to know more.
A Once the course is written, set up an account with one of the sequential autoresponder companies. If you have http://www.KickStartCart.com you can do unlimited numbers of these courses with no extra expense. Each company will have its own set of instructions for setup, but basically you'll cut and paste your email after it's created into their system so they can send them out upon request.
Don't forget what you learned about putting hard returns at the end of each line of your course or use an inexpensive program like Text Pad to do it for you. If you don't, you will likely have a lousy looking E-course.
A Now, promote the course to your distribution list, put it in your handouts, mention it at your programs, and put a notice about it on your website. Generally, tell people about it anyway you can. I put it out to a list of about 11,000 and got over a 10 percent response in the first three days. Those 1200 or so people spent about $7000.00 with me after taking their "Free" course.

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