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10 Time-Saving Tools for Busy Online Entrepreneurs

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busy entrepreneurAlmost every business owner has the same specific parts of a business to manage. It can be a lot to do for one person.

Therefore, it’s imperative that a busy online entrepreneur seeks out time-saving tools of the trade. A very small business can appear on the outside to be a very well organized large business with multiple moving parts with the right tools.

I’ve organized my 10 favorite time saving tools into what I see as the main “departments” a small business will need to cover in order to realize success. Now, of course, it’s true that it’s likely mostly you and a few contractors who are doing all the work, but it’s on you to ensure that everything runs smoothly. With these tools you can ensure that they do.

Management & Organization

Keeping your business organized and managing a team is an important aspect of building your online business so that it works, functions and earns like a much larger entity.

  • Basecamp.com — My favorite tool for business management and organization is Basecamp. I honestly cannot give it enough praise. Basecamp is an online, cloud-based project and task management system and so much more.

You can set up accounts for your clients, as well as for your contractors to all work together in harmony and organization. They have great tutorials and its user friendly and intuitive. It also integrates with other tools you may be familiar with through their API to extend the usefulness of the basic program.

  • Dropbox.com – I love using Dropbox.com to organize my client’s orders and I use it as a backup. Years ago, on April 27, 2011 we had terrible tornado outbreaks in my area. I lost power for several days and my external drive was destroyed. Unfortunately, I did not have Dropbox or any other cloud-based back up or file storing system set up yet. Lesson learned.

If you don’t have something like this, get something now. There are other options but these are the ones I like.

Accounting & Bookkeeping

Not much is more important in your business than keeping track of your cash flow. You should know how much you are making at any point in time. You should be able to create a report on the fly, if needed, to show your profit & loss, income and expenses easily. In addition, you should be able to, at a glance, see how much money you have coming in soon, and what already came in.

  • GoDaddy Bookkeeping — My favorite tool for automated, online bookkeeping is GoDaddy Bookkeeping. That may surprise some of you because you know I am not especially fond of Go Daddy. But, Go Daddy Bookkeeping started as Outright.org and was purchased by Go Daddy. I love it because it is super simple and automated. The paid version keeps track of contractors, taxes, and it even offers some invoicing options, although for that I prefer my next option.
  • Freshbooks.com – This is an excellent online invoicing tool that also allows you to do some rudimentary project planning, bidding, time tracking, as well as budget minding for your clients. Even though I have other options I still like to use Freshbooks.com for billing all my clients over any other program. It integrates with Go Daddy Bookkeeping too. I can easily see who paid me, when, how fast they typically pay bills and even set an automatic late fee structure. Clients can have their own sign in as well for each of these options.

Marketing & Advertising

Where to start with marketing and advertising? There are so many great tools that can help you with this aspect of your business. I’ll just list my top choices and you can pick from there.

  • Aweber.com – This is, in my opinion one of the best autoresponder services for small business owners that exists. I’ve tried others that are easier to use, but that offer fewer features for more money. I believe the value is good, and that for the most part Aweber does what I need it to do in a user friendly way that I understand.
  • Hootsuite.com – This is a social media dashboard that lets you manage multiple social media accounts. While I frown upon too much automation, the ease at which you can use Hootsuite to both schedule and use your social media live is unmet. It helps you watch your social media accounts easier, as well as plan campaigns and gather the reports you need.
  • Canva.com – This is a great free and low cost way to create many different types of graphics for all your online marketing needs. Many of the layouts are free, with images for as low as a buck each; this easy to use tool can’t be beat.

Innovation & Production

In order to be successful running a small business you have to always be creating something new and getting it out there. You already use WordPress, so I’ll avoid the obvious and move on past that.

  • LeadPages – This software is so easy to use and works with or without WordPress to create dynamic, converting landing pages within minutes. LeadPages also comes with all the bells and whistles with split testing, social media integration, potential to make digital downloads easier, and more.

This tool is probably one of the most important tools you can invest in, in terms of improving production in your business.

Sales

Sales are an essential component of an online business. You will either make sales selling your own products, or someone else’s. You don’t need a shopping cart if you aren’t going to sell your own products.

I use Freshbooks.com to bill my clients, and for the few products I currently have I use eJunkie.com to act, along with Paypal.com as my shopping cart. I will be implementing aMember.com soon, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

  • The one to go with depends on your needs, but most of the people I work with use either Amember.com or 1Shoppingcart.com. Something I’m seeing more often is ONTRAPORT.com. Essentially, you have to look at what you will be using the service for, and what your expertise is, and whether or not you can afford to hire someone to set things up or not.

While I am usually technically savvy, I don’t enjoy shopping carts at all, so I will be using an expert to help me.

Customer Care

When you first start your online business you can typically get by with using a contact form, and regular email to deal with customer care issues. However, as time goes by you’ll likely need to invest in a ticketing system.

  • Basecamp.com works fine when you work directly with clients, as does email, but if you sell products you will want a help desk of some sort like ZenDesk.com. You might even want to completely outsource customer care once you sell more than a couple of products.

The questions to ask about about any product or tool that you want to use for your business is, will it serve the purpose that you need it to serve, and is it an accepted tool by your audience? Will your audience trust it enough to use it? If so, you can use any and all of these tools to save a lot of time running your online business.

BlogCPR.com

This is WHY: Exposure and Profits – Toronto – May 2014

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Exposure and Profit Panel Discussion

Well, that was a great weekend. It was so great, I didn’t want it to end and that’s probably the reason I stayed up until 3:30 in the morning yesterday when I had to be at the airport by 6. It was a tough morning, but I got plenty of sleep on the plane and then when I got back home. Now, I’m all refreshed and ready to get back at doing amazing things in my business.

While I don’t attend as many conferences as I used to (I prefer to focus on DOING over hopping from event to event), I still know how important it is to make these important connections, brush up on my knowledge and gather new ideas. So when I used my time, energy and funds to get to Kelly’s Exposure and Profit event…I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. Kelly was paying attention to all the little details to ensure that this was an amazing event all around.

I could probably go on and on about everything, but I’m going to keep this at just three key takeaways I got from the weekend.

#1: Accommodate Your Audience to Be Awesome!

I mentioned that Kelly paid lots of attention to little details and that’s no exaggeration. She did have a great event planner, Margaret Binns, but it was those details beyond seating, timing, equipment and food (ohh…the food was amazing) that I’m talking about.

Kelly promised this to be an “introvert-friendly” event and she wasn’t kidding. She encouraged all participants to speak up and share their great message, but she did in the safest environment as possible. For example, she asked participants to share a 90 second introduction about themselves. They were asked to come up to the microphone to do it, but if they weren’t comfortable with that, she would read the introduction for them. But what was so wonderful that even if they didn’t want to read their own, they willingly came up on the stage beside Kelly while she read their introduction.

Slowly, but surely, people were becoming braver because of the safe environment that Kelly created.

The whole event ran like this. There were opportunities to stretch our wings, but if we needed to step back we could…but because it was so safe, most people chose to stretch. Heck, this even includes me. This was my first real conference speaking engagement, but I was pretty darned nervous about it. Kelly asked what I needed to make it easier and they even rearranged the whole stage area, so I could feel as comfortable as possible. First, I wanted a stool. Then, I said I wasn’t sure. Then I asked them to move the podium and they did everything I needed to calm my worried self.

Kelly asked us to leave a note about how we felt about the event and this is what I told her:

Alice Seba LOVES Exposure and Profit

This makes me think about how we can do the same with our audiences. There’s always something that will hold people back from achieving what they want to achieve and how can we, as their guides, make it safe for them to do so?

#2: Stories Are Amazing Marketing Tools

I think many of this know this on some level, but we don’t always take the time to connect the personal with our business. We may share personal stories and anecdotes, but we don’t always take the time to connect those to key learning points for our audiences.

Some of the most powerful stories from the weekend came from Darrel Eves. He shared a lot of stories, but the most powerful of which was one about the fundraiser he created for his brother who needed a kidney replacement where they raised over $250,000. I am pretty sure there were few dry eyes when he was done, but not only because it was a great story, but because it showed the power of YouTube and how we can make an incredible difference in the world with our own marketing skills. He connected his story with the greater message of his business and that’s how to use the power of storytelling.

Make your stories make a difference.

Derral Eves, Speaking at Exposure and Profit

I also told a story about my son that had some meaning for the audience members, but I’m going to save that for in a couple of days. I’ll make a post about it soon.

And before we move onto the next takeaway, we just (totally coincidentally…Mel planned it a while back) released a PLR package about Marketing with Stories. If you think your readers could benefit from it, go check it out.

Now moving along, let’s ask…

#3: What Would Awesome You Do?

Nicole Dean - Be Your Awesome!In another message that was shared through a great story, Nicole Dean encouraged us to be the most awesome version of ourselves possible. She told the true story of a man who had lost a lot of weight, saved his marriage and grew his business exponentially in the short amount of time because he would simply ask himself:

“What would the awesome me do?”

…each time he had to make a decision to do something in the day. Little by little, if you do the things awesome you would do, your life becomes awesome all at the same time.

So, keep this in mind, as you work and do all the other things in your life.

What Would Awesome You Do?

 And speaking of being awesome and connecting with others, our Competitors into Profits students know this. Don’t hide out anymore and try to do this online business thing all by yourself. It’s just so much darned work and it stifles your awesome.

Thank you so much to Kelly and her staff for putting together such a wonderful event. Thank you to the speakers and all the attendees for sharing such great information and for being an inspiration to do even better in the future.

 

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Swipe Files: Why You Need Them & How To Create Them

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Ideas ConceptKeeping a swipe file is an important part of always being ready for the creative process of creating content for your website or blog.

Essentially, a swipe file is just a collection of ideas that have been shown to work to provide inspiration, improve writing skills, and increase overall productivity. To create a swipe file simply identify and find material that is working and save it to a file to refer to later.

Swipe files have been used as long as marketing has been in existence. Copywriters, marketers and advertisers kept a box of paper files, usually copies of ad copy, sales pages, headlines, interesting ad pictorials, bullet points and so forth, that they used as inspiration as they sought to create better marketing materials for their clients and themselves.

Today, it’s easier with the advent of digital files. Now you can keep all your swipe files organized digitally on your computer. If you use the right technology your swipe files can be accessed from any location as long as you have access to a computer and the Internet. This will make your creative process move faster to a finished and polished product.

The Benefits of Keeping Swipe Files

Keeping swipe files should become as natural to you as breathing. If you want to be able to create persuasive marketing copy that gets results, the best way to do it is to study what other people have done, as well as keep handy successful attempts of your own.

  • Easy Access — You can use your smart phone to take pictures of ideas and inspiration you see wherever you are. Like the layout of a billboard advertisement? Snap a picture, and save it for use later. 
  • Instant Inspiration — When you look at the swipe files you will generate new ideas for your own subject lines, sales pages, viral videos and more. Looking at successful copy, sales pages, and so forth will provide a great starting point for your own original work. 
  • End of Writer’s Block – If you have created a never ending list of potential starting points, you will never have writer’s block. You’ll be able to churn out headlines, sales pages and more easily due to tapping into and leveraging experienced copywriter’s work. 

Swipe files are an easy way to keep examples of effective work, your own or others. Having them at your fingertips will keep you from ever lacking inspiration or having writer’s block.

What to Collect  & Add to Your Swipe Files

You should spend time collecting swipe files for anything that you plan to create in the future. But, you can just focus on one or two. Ask yourself where you normally get stuck when creating advertising or web copy and start saving files regarding that one area. For example, if you get stuck on creating effective subject lines, start collecting subject lines that stand out to you.

  • Ad Copy
  • Sales Letters
  • YouTube.com Videos
  • Calls-to-Action
  • Promos
  • Headlines
  • Sub-headlines
  • Subject Lines
  • Bullet Points
  • Graphics
  • Opt-in Forms
  • Tweets
  • Facebook Messages
  • Postcards
  • Flyers
  • Brochures
  • Bylines
  • Post Scripts
  • Closings
  • Power Words & Phrases 

Collecting great examples of any of the above will help get your creative juices flowing and give you a place to look anytime you need inspiration. Here is a collection of Swipe Files to get you started.

Saving & Organizing Swipe Files is Simple

You can use different software programs to create and keep swipe files such as Evernote and Dropbox. There are also other programs you can use such as Simplenote and Google Docs. What you use depends highly on your own preferences for each tool. If you don’t currently use any of them, I recommend trying Simplenote as it’s really easy to use.

Organize your swipe files by category, for example save all subject line swipe files in a folder called Subject Lines. You can even further separate them by being specific about what type of subject lines they are such as “Email Subject Lines“.  The more organized you keep your swipe files the easier it will be to get inspiration from them later.

Using Your Swipe Files

There is a lot more to using a swipe file than lifting the words and phrases from them to use in your own marketing. In fact, using swipe files wrong can cause problems for you and make it impossible to have a successful promotion. Swipe files should be used for inspiration but you always have to keep in mind, your market, why you’re using particular words over others, and how they affect your audience.

Remember to always hook your reader in, define the problem, solve the problems, overcome objections, promise results, show proof, reduce risk, and build your credibility while closing the sale (or other call to action) using the words that mean something to your audience. Swipe files are only as good as your understanding of your audience. So, as you use them, don’t forget who you’re doing it for and the benefits you can offer them.

As you test out new subject lines, promo copy, sales pages and so forth, keep adding ideas that work to your swipe file collection.

How to Develop Successful Email Marketing Habits

A big part of email marketing success, comes from making it a regular habit. The more you work on growing and nurturing your list, the better your results. To ensure you develop those great habits, be sure to join Alice for the 30-Day Email Marketing Challenge. She’ll whip you into shape in no time.

BlogCPR.com

Your Questions: How Do I Get People to Click on My Links?

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questionsHere’s a question Gordon. He asked about getting people to click on your links. There’s nothing worse than creating content, driving traffic to it and nobody clicks any links.

There are so many factors involved in whether or not someone clicks on your links and for the most part, we have no control over any of it. However, you can increase your chances of getting clicks by keeping the following in mind…

Remember It Has a Lot to Do with Volume:

There’s math involved here. If only 15 people read your content, it’s quite possible that no one will click your link. I know it kind of sucks, but it’s true. To maximize the chances of getting clicks, make sure your content is viewable over time and repurpose it so it can be seen more often.

So please, don’t be discouraged.

If you published your content today and only 15 people saw it, there will be more visitors over time. You can increase your chances of getting traffic over time by ensuring you have a good navigation structure and optimizing your content for a highly-targeted keyword phrase. You can also promote it on social media, get affiliates to share your content and employ other strategies.

If you published your content as an article, repurpose it into an autoresponder message, bundle a bunch of articles into a report and distribute. You can take the information from the article and make a short video. In short, you can do TONS of stuff with the same piece of content to ensure it’s seen more often.

Be Relevant:

The links you include in your content should be as relevant as possible. If you’re helping a reader solve a problem through a blog post, the link you provide should be a further solution.

If you’re loosely relevant, they’ll be less interested. For example, if you write an article about reducing cholesterol levels and then link to a healthy eating video, you may get some health-seekers clicking through…but it’s not as relevant as a product that specifically helps reduce cholesterol levels.

Be Interested:

Now you don’t have to be an over-the-top used car salesman, but you should be passionate about your topic AND what you’re linking to. Tell them why they should click…not just that there is a product available on the other side of the link.

Be Direct – A Keyword Link is Not Enough:

Publishers want better search engine rankings, so they link to their products and offers using keyword links. For example, they’ll make a link like this:

This gluten-free cookbook has a lot of recipes.

Search engines respond to keywords (but note, this is only a tiny part of a comprehensive SEO strategy)…humans don’t always. While you can include keywords, it’s important to tell your readers what you’d like them to do. Even though we might want to deny it, humans do respond to being told what to do. So instead, try something like this.

I found some great recipes in a gluten free cookbook I found at my local bookstore. It has some pretty scrumptious baked goods and my kids have always gobbled everything up. Click here to see the table of contents and get a copy…it certainly changed my way of thinking.

In the first example, we’re just talking about the cookbook. In the second example, we’re talking about it and encouraging the reader to click through. Big difference.

Practice & Track:

Figuring out what works is learned over time and you can’t get get discouraged at the beginning. The more you write, the better you’re going to get at this. And don’t forget to track your links and see how things are going. Do more of what works and none of what doesn’t.

If you’re starting to improve your click throughs, I’m sure these tips will provide some immediate difference. But remember, it’s something we learn to do better over time…so keep at it. You’ll get it!

Now What? 

We’re also here to help you with your persuasive writing techniques. Just join us for our Persuasive Writing Training. We’ll show you how to get your readers excited about clicking your links and responding to your calls to action. Go here to learn more.

Give Your Readers What They Want - WITHOUT All The Hard Work - Pre-made fully-illustrated step-by-step tutorials make it easy to sell your products, build your list and grow your business. Click here to learn more.

Freelance Sites vs. Hiring All Custom Content

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Hope your week is shaping up to be a good one. It’s been a busy week working with our clients and gearing up for all our new monthly service clients.

When we started planning our money-saving service, we asked for feedback from our clients and potential clients. Here is a question we received about that.

Q: “I’ve considered transcribing my teleseminars but was going to go through Elance or Odesk — so one question I would ask as a prospective client is ‘How is your service going to be different than what I can get through Odesk or Elance’?”

—————— START ANSWER ————————

There are plenty of places to find freelance transcriptionists and some of those places include job sites like Elance or oDesk. If you’re not familiar with these sites, they are places where businesses like you can post projects and people seeking work can bid on projects.

There are few things to consider when working with freelance sites:

* It’s time consuming to go through responses and decide who is the right one for the job.When you choose us, there are no applications to review. We make sure our team of transcriptionists get your jobs done. It’s that simple.

* While there are some great people working on these sites, you can bet there are plenty of bad apples. There are unqualified people applying for projects and plenty won’t bother to complete the project.

With All Custom Content, you’re dealing with a company that has reliably provided transcription service to our clients for the past 4 years.

* It’s not always easy to find people for ongoing work. We know that oDesk tries to put its focus into ongoing work, but there is no way to guarantee that. Many freelancers working this site are placing their work bids low, just so they can get the job and then realize they can’t afford to keep working at that rate, so they are off looking for the next best thing.

Again, we’re an established company that continues to provide this service on an ongoing basis. Sure, we have transcriptionists come and go, but our ultimate responsibility is to make sure YOUR project is done. We put our clients first…period.

Overall, you’re going to save time and money. Plus, you can rest assured that your projects are completed month after month, without the hassles you might get elsewhere. Of course, you have to weigh the pros and cons for your own unique business, but we think you’ll be pretty happy with what we’re cooking up and will have more information for you soon.

—————— END ANSWER ———————–

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