A Friday the 13th Opportunity

or Through the “Looking” (Google) Glass

If you’ve been considering a new look for your website or are ready to build another site, let my weird week pay off for you big time.

What a strange week this has been. End of term drama with students, getting extra “Daddy days” while my wife nurses her mother back to post-surgical health, and fighting off some sort of cough-snot nastiness.

google-glass_techcrunchA couple more things that happened this week that are relevant to you: a client abandoned a project in the customization phase and Google invited me to play with their latest toy. These two together lead to an interesting opportunity for you.

I’m quite happy with the latest custom theme I built (that looks amazingly like the one you’re viewing now!). Intentionally pared down visual elements, easily customizable, and responsive/mobile friendly. Unfortunately, the client is no longer planning to use the theme due to a shift in their business internals.

I suspect this will develop into my latest boilerplate for future custom themes. And in the meantime, I’d rather get it out there on some more sites rather than languish on my hardrive.

Combine that with a time-sensitive invite to get my own Google Glass unit, and I start feeling like the Godfather (as well as sounding like Corleone with this sore throat!) — I’d like to make you an offer you can’t refuse.

This project was over $1000 and we cut the customization phase short. I’d like to pick up there and customize this WordPress theme for a few individuals and cover the costs of the Glass unit without disturbing the rest of my budget.

When you take advantage of my shiny object syndrome (or rather the commercialization of technology I’ve been drooling over and attempting to piece together over the last two decades!), you get the leverage of the core theme I just built ($1,000+) as well as an initial round of customizations ($500) for just the cost of the customizations — $500.

I will also include a .com domain name and cpanel hosting for a year ($100) and install and configure WordPress on your new site ($50). And if you have your content ready now, I will create up to the first 5 pages of the site ($250). (Including a “contact us” page with form that emails you and also allows you to browse all the entries within the WordPress dashboard.)

If you’re updating an existing site, I will install and test the new theme on a representative subset of your site to ensure that there are no conflicts with any existing plugins on your site that may not play nice with others ($300-500).

And, once you’ve paid, I have a wide library of plugins that I can install from other vendors that I have with “developer rights,” meaning I can install them on client sites as well as my own. These include plugins to run your own affiliate program, membership site, or appointment system (among many other things) — all within your existing WordPress site.

Now, I can only honor this for a very small number of people over the next two days (through 9pm Pacific on Sunday) because I have a limited time to order my Google Glass (my invite is only good for 7 days!) and I also have very little time for additional client work between now and the end of the year. If you order and my schedule is already full, I will have to refund your money and I can quote your project after the new year.

Secure Payment Options:


with Dwolla or

with Paypal

For this, I don’t have time (or interest) to put together a fancy direct-response salesletter or a bunch of compelling graphics. If this is something you want/need/find interesting, reserve your place now and you’ll have a new site or new look by the end of the year.

Either way, have a happy Christmas and create a wonderful new year!

P.S. What do *you* think of Google Glass? Freakshow, fad, or phenom?! Comment below.

Massive Action

Wordpress Instant Minisite plugin

It’s been a whirlwind of a month. I’ve gotten more done in the last six weeks than the last six months and I “blame” a few different folks for contributing to my high level of productivity.

In late July, I walked through a process called ISIS and set an intent to serve more people, leverage tension management, and create sustainable functionality. If that all sounds like gibberish, that’s fine, because going through the process (with a little guidance) kicked me into high gear.

The week after I started through the ISIS process I finished six client sites, had a breakthrough in my research, and started developing a new product in partnership with John Delavera. I was doing so much good work that one of my friends lamented “where’s the fun Wayne?” (Don’t worry, he’s still here, just resting during this half of the tension cycle.)

The month was rolling along, I get the product ready for testing, and as I start sending out review copies — disaster — one of the web hosting companies I use disappeared and took the new product site with it. Annoying, but no big deal, they should be back in a couple hours.

That’s when I made the mistake of waiting.
A week later, still no signs of the hosting company.
Two weeks pass, still no word and no hosting.

Fortunately, I caught myself in the hurry-up-and-wait mode and broke out of it.
Switched hosting providers, got everything set up again, and slipped back into hurry-up-and-wait for the reviewers. This time I noticed it after a few days (instead of weeks) and pushed forward anyway.

During this waiting time Marlon Sanders sent out an email recommending a book called The 10x Rule by Grant Cardone. Grabbed a copy, read it over the weekend, and kicked back into gear. The major premise of the 10x book is that success isn’t something optional or nice to have, it is our duty and obligation to be successful. The title comes from Cardone’s suggestion for reaching success: make 10x bigger goals and take 10x as many actions.

The funny thing is, I’ll give Cardone credit for making a better meme, but I’ve taught the same principles that drive The 10x Rule before! It’s the “shoot for the moon and even if you fall short you’ll land among the stars” method of planning with what I call MnM goals.

Anyway, I kicked back into 10x high gear and leveraged the “do 10x as many actions” mantra, and my commitment to Delavera, to crank out my first product release into a particular marketplace (something I’d been considering for way too long without having committed). I found myself using the 10x mindset unconsciously, then realizing that the three solid reviews I got in time to release the product were the result of having given out 20+ review copies and if I’d given out the half a dozen I’d started with I would have been lucky to have any reviews!

This past weekend Marlon sent out another email with a challenge that meshed nicely with the 10x factor. The challenge was to implement two time blocks a day for 7 days, one for producing and one for promoting. I took him up on his challenge and set aside two blocks each day.

Again, time blocking is something I’d heard from Paul Evans and Derrick Franklin, but hadn’t thought to label them with core activities. (Thanks for that prompting Marlon! You really are the best at breaking marketing down into simple pieces.)

From all of this, I created a cool product called WP Instant Minisite. It released on Tuesday, and is already in the black and poised to pay a nice return.

Lessons (Re)Learned This Month

  • Clarity from setting strategic intent generates lots of free energy.
  • Having a solid goal that is beyond what you’d normally set pushes up the activity level.
  • Thinking in terms of 10x actions generates enough action to reach those solid goals.
  • External accountability, commitment, and feedback remove hesitation points (thanks John!).
  • “Release early, release often” takes “80% done” into the marketplace for real feedback and iterative improvement.
  • Knowing your core activities and blocking time around other commitments gets them done everyday.
  • Faith without works is dead, no one is justified by the law; have faith and take action!

Basically, it’s the same few lessons repeated on different scales: trust, set an intention, take massive action, get feedback often, iterate quickly.

How are you going to apply these this week?
Leave a comment and leverage that public declaration!

CookieMonster-plus update (1.3.6) — CF7 integration

Just a quick announcement that I updated the CookieMonster-plus plugin (since I realized I hadn’t announced the last minor update).

The new features include a config option for setting the cookie duration (default is 30 days) and integration with Contact Form 7 to allow pre-filling text and email fields based on cookied values. I’m considering the same feature for hidden fields, but I ran out of steam just getting the visible fields to work properly.

In case you missed the significance, you can use CM+ to pre-fill people’s name and email address in contact forms so you can pass them from, say, a squeeze page to a survey page. CF7 has lots of flexibility in configuring forms and can be easily setup for surveys. When combined with the Contact Form 7 to Database Extension you can get something akin to the Ask Database survey functionality but self contained within WordPress.

CM+ 1.3.6 added CF7 shortcodes text+, text*+, email+, and email*+ to pull values from cookies or other parameter string values. They behave just like the non-plus versions, they just check the cookies and parameter string for default values to pre-fill the form.

As always, feel compelled to download CookieMonster-plus and sign up for my plugin announcement list below.

Google heatmap

While talking with one of my web design clients, the question of where to put certain design elements came up.

I made this numbered image so that we could talk about regions of the Google heatmap image while working on his new site. The cool feature of this heat map is that it is based on the big G’s extensive Adsense data to recommend placement of ads for the most clicks (darker is higher click density).

Google heat map Adsense

Are you keeping these sorts of test results in mind as a starting point for your own tests on new sites?

Update (May 10, 2011): through “random” connections this evening I just ran across Michael Campbell’s Ultimate Heatmap report which overlays the major advertisers’ heat- and clickmaps to produce his “ultimate” map. The report also includes the main ad sizes to consider and 9 heavily tested templates for advertising on blogs. He makes the same suggestion of using his results as a starting point to run your own tests.

Enjoy!

Facebook Fan Page “Forced Like” Ethics

I recently dove into a project to set up Facebook Tab Manager, a cool plugin from David Carr that feeds a Facebook fan page it’s content from your WordPress install. There are a couple cool features of the plugin for turning off certain WP filters that makes it especially nice. Otherwise, you can create your fan page content just like you create your blog content — same interface, editor, and plugins.

The challenge I set up for myself was to get the much touted “forced like” feature integrated for my friends and clients. I let a few people know that I was looking for testers and my friend @ShelHorowitz sent a DM on twitter mentioning that he boycotts any pages that use “forced like.” This got me thinking.

So here was my question: is having more content available to those who “like” your fan page on Facebook any different than sending exclusive content to those who subscribed via an email capture page on a web site?

For those that don’t know, the idea of a “forced like” is that in order to see the content on a Facebook fan page you would have to click the “like” button and become their “fan” first. I’ve seen people selling poorly thought out schemes for collecting a bazillion fans overnight that rely on the curiosity factor around this hidden content as the only reason to become a fan.

I suspected that the reason Shel found that objectionable is that the reason it is named forced like — it is typically done with such hype and strong language that it is assumed you won’t be able to see anything unless you are a fan. In the extreme cases, where the only content on the fan page is the single piece of “hidden” content, it is probably true that you’d have to “like” it before seeing anything. The funny thing is, if that’s all there is to see, it’s probably not worth the time/energy/attention to like it.

There are many legitimate uses for splitting publicly viewable content from fan/like/subscriber-only content. Rewarding those who “join the tribe” is a great thing, you just need to make sure you’re giving other reasons to join besides just the “bribe.”

Personally, I intend to use this splitting of content in much the same way that Seth Godin suggests we use cookies — giving those who have not opted-in and “liked” the fan page useful information that A) they may need/want before deciding to “like” the page and B) they probably won’t need after they have opted-in because they’ll be a part of the tribe. Then, and only then, I would consider a bribe if deemed necessary.

You shouldn’t need the landing tab to include things like contact info because that is always visible on the “Info” tab, and with congruent activity the wall posts should give people a good idea of what to expect in their news feeds as fans. Depending on the level of tech-savvy of your audience, you may need that landing tab to include explicit instructions for a visitor to browse your other tabs and/or click “Like” to receive future updates and describing how they’ll get those updates.

It turns out that not being able to see much content was only a minor part of Shel’s objection, which he elaborated to me later in the day. The main issue around liking pages, forced or not, is that of implied endorsement in a public arena and the reputation management that goes along with that Like/endorsement being spread across your friends’ news feeds.

This adds a new twist on the old aphorism:
Now you need people to know and trust you enough to “Like” you!

With all that in mind, if you’d like to be notified when I have my updated version of that plugin ready for a wider audience, go ahead and enter your name and email in the form below and opt-in.

(See, that wasn’t so hard to do — a little relationship building, sharing some good info, and then suggesting the next action for those who are interested. Go do the same thing on your Facebook fan pages and you’ll be just fine.)

More Business = EAT during the holidays

Doing business on the Internet is “easy” — you just put up a web site and collect the moola, right?
Um, no.

Or at least not any more than doing business offline is as simple as setting up an office and getting paid.

So, what’s missing from this overly simplistic idea of business?
People for one. Interacting with those people for another.
An exchange of value for a third.
And online there is the small issue of wrestling with technology.

I think a better model of business than thinking in terms of location (web site/office) is to think in terms of the actions required for business to occur. I’ve got it down to 3 actions.
Business is about being able to EAT.

Exposure -> Action -> Trade

Your business needs to expose the right people to its message, that message needs to generate some action from those prospects, and they become leads or actual clients when they trade value with you.

This same model works for online or offline, first time buyers or repeat customers, and across industries.


How does each of the pieces of this EAT model play out in an online business?

Exposure

Getting your message in front of the right people is the first step.

Don’t mistake “message” to just mean the words you use. Non-verbals often count for more than the “verbal” content of the words. I’m not discounting the power of well structured verbal patterns using the “right” words, just accentuating the often neglected non-verbal component.

Your content and the non-verbal “framing” of its appearance is one of the biggest ways to expose people to your message online. Whether through your website, your facebook profile/fan page/group, your twitter page, your squeeze pages, or your sales pages you want to expose people to the message in such a way that it generates the desired action — not that just looks cool or pretty!

There are many courses out there teaching “traffic generation” but few address the idea of exposure driving action. Not to mention the fact that every exposure to your message should be congruent and consistent.

And then the (often unasked) question becomes:
“What am I supposed to be congruent and consistent with, their frame of mind or my message?”
(Hint: you need to do both at once!)

However you get people there, you’ll have done some promoting, connecting, and “pre” exposing (even though it’s all exposure — good, bad, or ugly).

Hopefully that exposure is driving our next component — action!

Action

There are countless actions your web site can generate. Some of those actions, when taken by your visitors, get you closer to your goals. Others take you further from those goals. Knowing the difference leads to focusing on new actions (or new goals).

There are many more actions when people hit your web site than “buy” or “leave”. One exercise I use to get clients clear on this step is to list 50 to 100 actions people could take when exposed to their message (primarily on their web site, but also extending to all other exposure channels they are planning to use). If they don’t automatically get the bonus points by doing it themselves, I’ll often help walk them through the sorting of resulting list by type of visitor or traffic source.

(I wonder how you could use that info to create high converting landing pages, promotions, and content. Hmm…)

What’s that you’re thinking so loudly: “Why list 50-100 actions? I just want them to buy my product or service!”

Every time I run this exercise we come up with smaller actions than the huge the initial exposure direct to sale jump that many people expect from their site. It can be as simple as “continue reading”, or “click on a link to learn more”, or “call for a consult” — but going for the sale straight away is the equivalent of asking for a pre-nup on the first date. “Courting” your prospects with smaller commitments and smaller actions that lead to your larger actions is part of the dance.

Whatever the scale of the commitment, you need exposure to your message to generate some action on the part of the hearer. That leads into our final step — trading.

Trade

Like the action step, trading is more than just collecting money and delivering a product or service — it is about trading value in whatever form.

You may want to start by trading some of your valuable content for their valuable time. Or trading a report for an email address/facebook like/retweet/blog post.

Again, it is valuable to brainstorm what sources of value you have to offer and what value your perfect client would have to offer. When you have that info and your sales stats like the value of an email subscriber and lifetime value of clients, then you can decide how much you are willing to give in return for what it is you want.

Keep in mind, that a “fair” or “even” trade is not a “good” trade in the long run. If the client doesn’t feel like they’ve gotten back 10 to 100 times their “money”, then you are almost certainly hurting future sales and therefore lifetime value of a client.

The easiest sale is the repeat sale, and the easiest repeat sale is to a customer that knows/likes/trusts you, and the easiest way to know/like/trust you is by having such a spectacular return on investment that spending more time/money/resources with you is a no brainer.

So, what happens after you’ve exposed a new prospect to your message, generated an action on their part, and traded value with them — are we done?

Of course not.

Hopefully, as part of that trade, you got contact info so that you can follow up with your new lead/fan/follower/client.
Oh, look — follow up is another exposure and another chance to generate an action leading to a trade.

And the cycle continues!


Now, this post was an exposure in and of itself.
The actions that you must have taken to get here include clicking a link and continuing to read.
And I’ve traded a model that can generate significant ROI in return for your attention.

Let me expose another opportunity for you to take action and get a 10-100x return on your next trade with me.

While many non-retail businesses slow down this time of year, I’m among those who are ramping up and gaining momentum to drive next year into being a spectacular year. If that sounds good to you too, keep reading — you’re in for a treat!

Initially, I was going to offer you my services as contractor — things like building custom WordPress themes, setting up web sites and facebook fan pages, or establishing affiliate programs for a few lucky clients. But I didn’t want to limit people to just the likely tech tasks.

Then I realized that before I did any of those sort of jobs I’d have an initial consult (to establish how best to serve you in exposing your message, generating actions, and facilitating trades). Rather than offering the technical work directly, I’m offering the consult.

Click to reserve your Lightning Coaching/consult session

The more I thought about it the more excited I became — I’m continually amazed at the breakthroughs and clarity that I get in short consults with my existing clients! And that meant I will be able to assist you in unlimited ways — more than just the technical tasks I could generate off the top of my head.

My current price for a single 20 minute “Lightning Coaching” session is $75. I’m not just giving away my time (I have plenty of my own projects to work on), but I know that it’ll feel like it was a “no brainer” once you’ve had your session and start receiving the returns on your time invested.

The best part — we can talk about whatever actions you need to generate in your business. (And since your “personal” life impacts your business we can work on that stuff too — typically without me knowing the details.)

NLP is some powerfully quick “medicine” for mindset and marketing ailments, and 20 minutes is plenty of time to talk through and plan solutions for nearly any technical issue you may have. In either case, if you need further work done outside the 30 minutes, I’ll credit your initial investment in the quote.

Reserve your Lightning Coaching session here

Whatever your technical/mindset needs, I’m here to help.

Updated CookieMonster-plus to 1.3.4

Just a quick note to let you know that CookieMonster-plus has been updated to allow use on all pages (even ones using a template that doesn’t include a call to get_header!) and I found and squashed the pesky foreach() bug I couldn’t seem to replicate until today.

Grab the CookieMonster-plus plugin directly or check out the main CookieMonster-plus post for more details.

BTW, the reason I found these bugs is because I was putting up a new freebie for a giveaway event. I’m also working on a report that explains more of what CM+ can do. If you’ve got questions, comments, or suggestions to share let me know!

CookieMonster-plus

This started as a quick update to the CookieMonster WordPress plugin to allow default values.
It has morphed into a nearly complete re-write to add more functionality than the original.

CookieMonster-plus takes incoming parameters like http://mercs.net/cookiemonster-plus/?example=NotDefault and puts the values in a cookie so that WordPress can then replace [example] with the value passed (and cookied) within any page or post they may visit.
(more…)

The Many Heads of Social Media

Social media is like the mythical creature Medusa. Besides the fact that if you go in unprepared you’re likely to get stoned, social media has many slithery heads.

I’m beginning a new experiment. In the past, I was following the usual advice to pick one or two platforms and concentrate on those. I fell into that mode automatically because of my current time constraints.

Watch what happens when we take the higher intent of that platitude and balance it out with the higher intent of social media in general. The reason to pick a few is so that it is more convenient for us to stay on top of the communications and to interact fully on each platform. The reason social media is so popular is that it is about what is most convenient for each user as far as interacting with their circles of influence.

Here’s my new take: be regularly active on a few platforms, facebook and twitter in my case, and maintain a presence on as many other platforms as can be easily automated. I plan to make it clear on the other platforms that I’m checking in sporadically, or at least not daily, and will continue the conversation then. This allows people who do not happen to choose facebook or twitter as their primary platform to receive information from me in a timely manner on their preferred platform(s) while still maintaining my own time considerations by not having to keep up with dozens of platforms multiple times a day.

I’d been formulating this plan for a while but a wordpress plugin came across my radar today that helps to automate this plan to a great degree. It really caught my eye because the plugin is currently 80% off and the proceeds are going to fund asthma research. (I’m a sucker for a good deal and a bigger sucker for a charity!)

Go check out the WP-Syndicator plugin and see if it fits with your own social media plans.

Pacing and Leading for Web Site Development?

One NLP technique is called “pacing and leading.”

Pacing and leading is about meeting people where they are (pacing) and after you’ve started building rapport you shift (leading) and check to make sure they follow your lead.

What does pacing and leading have to do with web development? An obvious choice for people who know the pattern would be to apply this sort of rapport building to the sales process.

A less obvious time to use pacing and leading is after the sale has been made. This is especially true when doing any sort of web work.

People have existing web sites, or a look and feel that they want to maintain independent of how much they claim to the contrary.

Pacing allows me to suspend what I want and be open to what the client wants to achieve with their web site. Once I’ve gotten a clear idea of what they want and developed some level of rapport, I can begin making technical suggestions and leading them towards a feasible solution.

Where in your own service offerings could you use pacing and leading with your clients (and not just your prospects)?