by Dana Blankenhorn
Volume IV, No. IV
For the Week of January 31, 2000

This Week's Clue: The Abraham Experience

This Week's Clue: The Abraham Experience

SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)

Re-evaluating Affiliate Marketing

The Last TV Election

West Coast, East Coast Code Clash

Clued-in, Clueless

Last week I attended the best Internet marketing conference ever. The host doesn't use e-mail.

Jay Abraham comes from the direct marketing business. He has hosted three, four and five-day workshops on that discipline for 20 years, workshops that cost up to $15,000. When he launched a $5,000, four-day long Internet seminar, with Jim and Audri Lanford, veterans of this business were suspicious. We read his pitch letter and it just looked too much like hype. The price looked too high. (Heck, I was a bit skeptical, and I was a speaker!)

In fact it was the most "powerful, actionable" (his words) experience of my life. I stood toe-to-toe with a dozen other experts, most of them independent contractors (David Fiedler, who works for Internet.Com, was the exception) who each spent hours covering major topics like affiliate marketing , pricing, branding, and selling . We joined panels and on the last afternoon answered specific questions (I offered 60 strategic concepts in three hours - my head still hurts) from attendees. Most of these folks were, like Abraham himself, veteran marketers trying to find their way in this brave new world

Abraham admitted he was looking for enlightenment as well. He wasn't pushing his own genius, or that of his magazine staff, and he wasn't hosting celebrities or billionaires. (With me, certainly, he missed on both counts.) He was looking for people who "got it," and relied on the Lanfords to identify them. He also didn't buy this idea that those who spend money at a conference aren't there to work. Most days started at 8 AM (Ralph Wilson, a pastor by training, held service Sunday, so we started at 9). We went until 11 PM (OK, we finished early Sunday, too - about 9 PM). He could have gone around-the-clock - most attendees I talked to had their brains too stuffed to sleep anyway. 

A highlight of the week was an unannounced guest speaker - Drew Kaplan of the DAK catalog. He's coming online  and he told us all about writing great sales copy. Believe in the product, use it until you're an expert in it, get across your enthusiasm, edit ruthlessly, then test, test, and test your copy with real people. These are basic direct mail techniques that can work like a charm online - it's great to see people like him joining the Web. 

The point here isn't to say "nyaah, nyaah, nyaah, you missed it." The point is that Internet commerce is becoming commerce, Internet marketing is becoming marketing. All sorts of disciplines are piling into this space, and while they have much to learn, they also have much to offer. When it's offered respectfully, such intelligence provides give-and-take everyone in this space can benefit from. When it's thrown down like a threat (as it has by broadcasters) it's laughable. 

SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)

I write daily for ClickZ, and appear on TechEdge Radio. I write monthly columns for  NetMarketing, Boardwatch, and  Intellectual Capital. Once every other month I'm in CLEC Magazine. The lead item here is also the Monday e-commerce column of Andover.News. You can still buy my book . Subscription instructions are at the bottom of each issue.

Remember that it's still journalism that keeps the Clues coming. Give me a call at 404-373-7634. (Yes, I do some commercial writing.) Now back to the show...

Takes on the News

Re-evaluating Affiliate Marketing

Regarding last week's Clue, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I was looking at the elephant of affiliate marketing from the rear end, seeing only fecal matter, and concluded nothing worthwhile was going on. (Silly me!) The rear end, in this case, was the software - outfits like Nexchange, LinkShare, BeFree, etc., etc.

The front end (with the gorgeous hair) is Declan Dunn. The "Billion Dollar Internet Strategy Setting Summit and Custom Marketing Makeover Process" was my first chance to hear him at length, and he was worth the $5,000 all by himself.

"Affiliate marketing programs are a channel management strategy," he said. Dunn has a system, which he works from Chico, California. "Affiliates are revenue partners. Revenue is what this is about."

Dunn finds affiliates by looking at DirectHit and eTour, then encourages honest, no-hype recommendations. "See what people are paying for your keywords at goto.com. This tells you how much the lead is worth. DirectHit searches the engines and hits based on time spent on the site. Take it with a grain of salt, but it's a good tool."

Once you know the value of a lead and which sites have traffic, enter a keyword at deja.com, at Liszt.com and bestezines.com to find people talking about your product. "I want to go to the person who has passion for this subject. Respect that. Respect the credibility they have. They have the traffic. They earned it." Other ways to find effective affiliate partners are to find out how many incoming links a site has from Altavista.com, and to see how people rate sites they've visited at Alexa.com.

One other important point is what to do with affiliates who don't work for you. You start a buyer's club, Dunn said, offering half the affiliate discount not just to the site manager, but to anyone else he wants to recommend your product to. The bad affiliate may no longer get commissions, but you maintain their goodwill.

Oh, two more quotes from Dunn, just for fun. "If you are not creating customer ecstasy, someone else will." And here's one more. "Banner ads suck. Free banner ads suck for free."

The Last TV Election

This just in - the Internet is not going to make the difference in the year 2000 elections.

I may be wrong (I've been wrong before) but this looks more like the last TV election. People are too rich, and Internet users still buy the assumption that government is an enemy they can duck. Since no one sees government as an ally against evil software (Larry Lessig is ahead of the curve there) it's the voice of big business that's heard.

The Internet industry, however, is not the Internet. AOL and Microsoft and Cisco are not the Internet (although they play it on TV). The Internet is you, dear reader, and until you get mad as hell about something, unwilling to take it anymore , other people will make your political decisions for you.

I don't know which of several issues - privacy, law enforcement, spam, or access - will define your anger. (I'm guessing it will be Ipv6.) But when the national blood pressure does rise over an Internet issue, and the Vitamin C of rhetoric doesn't bring relief, then the game will begin.

West Coast, East Coast Code Clash

The battle between what Larry Lessig  calls "East Coast" code - law - and what he calls "West Coast" code - software - has now been fully joined. The Motion Picture Association of America, using the Digital Millenium Copyright Act , wants to suppress DecSS , which allows the copying of DVDs.

So far East Coast code has gone entirely the way of the MPAA . Injunctions were won with astonishing speed in both New York and Santa Clara. Letters demanding that even links to the program be removed are now being sent . The author of the program, a Norwegian teenager named Jon Lech Johansen, has been arrested along with his father and his computers have been seized .

"What happens next is everyone else in the universe mirrors DeCSS..." wrote Declan McCullough of The Well to a shared list run by FCC advisor David Farber. That is the assumption of West Coast code advocates. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which supports West Coast advocates on the East Coast, said the case threatens the entire open source movement . The idea is that, if the MPAA wins, then maybe MP3 can be put back in the bottle and the pending Time Warner-EMI music merger will make sense.

How can West Coast code lose? There's one way. Most people prefer to be law-abiding. Without George Bailey Bedford Falls became Pottersville.

Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is Jay Abraham . By listening first, by admitting his ignorance, and by seeking intelligence (rather than credentials) he provided great wisdom and proved he has what it takes to make it in this field.

Clueless are the owners of Direct Hit , who agreed to be bought by AskJeeves in a $507 million stock deal. Jeeves is marketing standing behind nonsense. Its engine is rapidly becoming a punch line. Direct Hit could have gotten a much better deal, later or from someone else.

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