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Michael Bendit - Is Affiliate Marketing Right for You?

Is Affiliate Marketing Right for You?

{3:17 minutes to read} My last blog post focused on the content producer’s side of affiliate marketing—those who generate income from their online content by redirecting readers to e-commerce sites where a purchase results in an affiliate fee for the publisher. This post explores affiliate marketing from the side of the marketer who pays those affiliate fees and addresses whether it might be a valuable part of your marketing mix.

Like most marketing tactics, affiliate marketing isn’t right for everyone. First of all, you need an online offering that leads to a transaction that’s easily traceable to the affiliate source. Your online sale also has to be sufficiently profitable to pay a commission big enough to be of interest to a prospective affiliate publisher. Finally, the product has to be one that enough buyers will research on the Internet to help them make a purchase decision.

Tennis racquets (covered in my last blog) are a great affiliate marketing candidate in that they meet all three criteria, whereas something like triple-A batteries, a price competitive commodity that people rarely research online, are not.

Assuming you have a product that meets all three criteria, how do you decide whether or not to run an affiliate marketing campaign? One way is to compare affiliate marketing to alternative online advertising models. Affiliate marketing is often described as CPA (Cost Per Action) or CPS (Cost Per Sale) advertising, because the marketer only pays when the prospective buyer either purchases a product, or performs an action of value to the marketer—like filling out an application.Michael Bendit - Is Affiliate Marketing Right for You?

This is distinct from CPC (Cost Per Click) or CPM (Cost per thousand views), which incur a fee when the prospective buyer either clicks on or simply views a digital ad.

CPA sounds like it might be a much better deal, but it’s usually much more expensive than either CPC or CPM, from which you might actually drive more conversions or sales per ad dollar. This MonitizePros blog post does a pretty good job of comparing these three approaches in greater depth.

If, after comparing these alternatives, you think that affiliate marketing could be a cost-effective way to drive sales, you won’t want to go it alone. As with CPC and CPM advertising, CPA advertising is made accessible to most marketers by advertising networks that match affiliate advertisers to publishers interested in monetizing their content. These networks also provide software platforms to help you manage your affiliate program.  

In choosing an affiliate marketing network provider, you might want to start with this list of the top 20 affiliate marketing networks. Not surprisingly, some of the biggest e-commerce networks, including eBay and Amazon, are on this list and are often a very good fit for smaller online stores because of the breadth of their e-commerce offerings.

Affiliate marketing isn’t for everyone, but if you want some guidance to determine if it is right for you, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Michael Bendit

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
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$4.2B of Cake Crumbs in Affiliate Marketing Commissions by Michael Bendit

$4.2B of Cake Crumbs in Affiliate Marketing Commissions

{2:43 minutes to read} Affiliate marketing is a lot like selling bonds on Wall Street and almost as difficult to explain. In Tom Wolfe’s classic novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, about the unfulfilling life of bond trader Sherman McCoy, the protagonist’s wife conjures up this unforgettable analogy to explain daddy’s job to their daughter:

“Just imagine that a bond is a slice of cake, and you didn’t bake the cake, but every time you hand somebody a slice of the cake, a tiny little bit comes off, like a little crumb, and you can keep that. […] If you pass around enough slices of cake, then pretty soon you have enough crumbs to make a gigantic cake.”

Although it’s not nearly as gigantic as the bond market, affiliate marketing generated $4.2 billion in fees and commissions in 2015. According to a Forrester Research study commissioned by Rakuten, one of the world’s largest affiliate networks, this figure is projected to grow 10% a year through 2020, to an even more gigantic $6.8 billion.

In the affiliate marketing world, the bond trader is the publisher who redirects a reader to an e-commerce site and collects a commission on any sale attributed to that initial redirect. To see this process in action, search Google for any product you might be interested in buying, followed by the word “reviews.”

$4.2B of Cake Crumbs in Affiliate Marketing Commissions by Michael Bendit

I’m an avid tennis player (currently on injury leave) and searched Google for “Tennis Racquet Reviews 2016.” Clicking on either of the top two organic resultswww.tennisracquetcenter.com or www.sportsgearlab.com/best-tennis-racquettook me to a page with reviews of the 5 and 10 “best” tennis racquets respectively, each with a prominent link directly to the product page on Amazon.com.  

Appended to the end of that link is a tag (e.g. &tag=tennisracquetcenter-20) that attributes the visitor to the publisher, who in turn gets paid a commission of 5% to 25% of any sale generated from that referral.

Sounds like easy money for the publisher, right? Well, if you are great at writing product reviews and driving those reviews to the top of the Google’s organic search results, then affiliate marketing might be a great way to make a living.

However, if you have to pay a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialist to increase your visibility on Google and other search engines, that will cut into your profits. The same is true if you decide to drive traffic to your review site via pay-per-click advertising.

What should you do if you are marketing a product or service and want to drive traffic to your site? Should you consider paying commissions to affiliates who send buyers your way? I will address these questions in my next blog post—so stay tuned.

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
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The Importance of Sketching Out Your Software Brainchild by Michael Bendit

The Importance of Sketching out Your Software Brainchild

{3:02 minutes to read} Helpful Techniques to Giving Structure to Your Software App Ideas

Designing software is a lot like writing a novel or painting a masterpiece. They all start with a blank page and an idea.

For me, sitting down to write a blog post is almost as daunting a task. Fortunately, over the years, I’ve learned some tried and true techniques for getting started. These same techniques are great for sketching out that brilliant idea you have for an internet business, website or mobile app.

Even the world’s greatest artists sketched out their ideas in notebooks before dipping their brush in paint. If Leonardo da Vinci had to draw a man on a grid in a circle to master the proportions of the human body, outlining our own software ideas on paper before starting to program can’t be such a bad idea.

Here are three ways to get started: 

1. Whoever created the bullet point list should have been awarded the Nobel Prize in simplicity. What could be easier than jotting down your ideas in a list of short phrases or sentences? Here is the bullet list I started with for this blog post:

•Da Vinci Man Sketch
•Outlining
•Who (users), What (data), How (functions)
•Mind mapping
•Wireframing

Once the ideas are on paper (or better yet on the computer), it’s easy to reorder them into a sequence that makes more sense. You can then start filling in details under each bullet and before you know it, you’ll have a complete outline for your masterpiece.

2. For those who are more visually oriented, mind mapping is an incredibly effective tool for structuring your ideas with shapes, colors, keywords and image positioning. The fact that all the different visual cues are embedded in a well-designed mind map makes it a wonderful tool for remembering and communicating your ideas.

The example below from Paul Foreman is particularly instructive as a mind map on effective mind-mapping!

The Importance of Sketching Out Your Software Brainchild by Michael Bendit

3. When you have finished outlining or mind mapping your ideas, it’s time to start laying out the user interface, i.e. what your screens will look like, assuming you are building a software application like a website or mobile app. These layouts are commonly referred to as wireframes because they are composed of simple outlined boxes along with some text and notes showing the placement of the different visual elements.

The Importance of Sketching Out Your Software Brainchild by Michael Bendit

Creating wireframes is now such an integral part of software design, that it has become a verb—“wireframing.” You don’t have to be a graphic designer to create your own wireframes, but if you want to jump in with both feet, I recommend looking into some of the more popular wireframing tools like those listed on Creative Blog’s 20 Best Wireframe Tools.

No matter where you are in defining or refining your software, website or mobile app idea, it’s never too early to give me a call. I’d be happy to help you accelerate the process.

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
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Use Your Imagination to Envision What You Want Before Asking for a Quote by Michael Bendit

Use Your Imagination to Envision What You Want Before Asking for a Quote

{4:25 minutes to read} It Will Save Time and Money for Everyone Involved 

Imagine that you run a successful luxury home design and construction business. You meet a prospective client who just sold her high-tech company and wants to use the proceeds to build a new home for her growing family. 

“We are expecting our 4th child, so it’s got to have at least 5 bedrooms,” she tells you. “I need to know how much it will cost to build because I’m speaking to a few other contractors and want to make a decision by next week.” She ends the conversation abruptly, gives you her business card and asks you to email her a quote by tomorrow. 

I get these types of requests—i.e., quotes to build custom software that my development teams specialize in—on a regular basis. Like our hypothetical homebuilder, I’m usually left in a quandary. I’d love to win the business, but how do I provide a quote for a client who only has a vague idea of what she needs? After all, how can I tell how much it costs when I don’t know what it is? 

I don’t want to be too aggressive with a low estimate just to win the bid if it won’t cover the costs of what the prospect is likely to really want or need. However, I also don’t want to scare off the prospect with a price that’s more realistic, but could well be higher than what competitors are quoting. 

Use Your Imagination to Envision What You Want Before Asking for a Quote by Michael Bendit

The problem for our hypothetical home builder, and for me, lies in the fact that our prospective client hasn’t used her imagination to really figure out what she wants. A savvier buyer would spend some time thinking about everything her new 5-bedroom house would have—like Tevye who sang about his dream house in Fiddler on the Roof

I’d build a big tall house with rooms by the dozen,

Right in the middle of the town.

A fine tin roof with real wooden floors below.

There would be one long staircase just going up,

And one even longer coming down,

And one more leading nowhere, just for show.

Granted, most of us don’t burst into song like Tevye, but jotting your ideas on paper or sketching out what your dream house or dream software application will look like is a great way to start. If you are still stuck, try answering the following questions in as much detail as possible, before you ask a software development team for an estimate:

i)  Who are my target users, and do they have different needs/behaviors?

ii) What are the most important reasons for each of your target customers to use your system?

iii) What are the best comparable or competing sites/apps and what about them do you find compelling?

iv) Who will be administering the system, and what type of management tools will they need?

With solid answers to these questions, you will be in a much better position to get what you really dreamed of from your software development team.

If you are still at a loss, don’t be shy about reaching out. I’d be more than happy to help you get started.

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
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3 Reasons Why Open Source Is Better Than Proprietary Software by Michael Bendit

3 Reasons Why Open Source Is Better than Proprietary Software

{3:28 minutes to read} In 1981, a small team of IBM engineers broke from the company’s longstanding tradition by launching the IBM 5150 computer, using industry standard parts and an open architecture instead of their own proprietary designs. The result, dubbed “The IBM PC” by the press, was the inspiration for a generation of explosive growth in the personal computer industry.

Years later, in 1998, Internet software pioneer Netscape followed in IBM’s footsteps by announcing the open release of the source code for Netscape Navigator, its flagship web browser. This meant that source code could now be extended and enhanced through an engaged community of motivated software users and developers. Thus began the Open Source Initiative, a group founded shortly thereafter “to educate and advocate for the superiority of an open development process”.

3 Reasons Why Open Source Is Better Than Proprietary Software by Michael Bendit

Even if you’ve never heard the term “open source software,” you’ve certainly benefited from it. WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system (CMS), started out as an open-source project and is now the foundation for millions of websites. The next most widely used CMS is Drupal, also an open source system. WooCommerce, an open source plugin module for WordPress, is the most widely used e-commerce platform, followed by Magento Community, which — you guessed it — is also open source. See a pattern forming here?

So why is open source better than proprietary software?

1. Well, first of all, it’s FREE, and most people like FREE.

2. Second, you can avoid predatory vendor lock-in, so you won’t get stuck with systems that become obsolete or are difficult to support.

3. Third, as there are thousands of developers who are experienced working with open source systems, you can always find a capable programmer for your project.

That last point provides a huge advantage should you need to hire a development team or decide that you want to replace the one you have. My company has rescued several software projects built on proprietary platforms that are either no longer supported or are so obscure that programmers with experience on the platform just can’t be found.

Then why would anyone use proprietary software?

One legitimate drawback of open source is that, because of its popularity and “openness,” it tends to attract hackers. WordPress sites, in particular, are frequent targets of attacks by hackers who seek out vulnerabilities in poorly designed or outdated plugins. Another reason is that some organizations just feel more comfortable using software that is supported by a private for-profit company rather than a consortium of volunteer, self-governed programmers.

If you think you should be using more, or even less, open source software, contact us. We’d be happy to provide guidance based on our experience with hundreds of open software development projects.

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
Contact

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The Transformation of Apple: From Underdog to Overlord? by Michael Bendit

The Transformation of Apple: From Underdog to Overlord?

{3:30 minutes to read} With my first full-time job fresh out of college, the first thing I wanted to buy for myself was a personal computer. I had my eye on one of the earliest “portable” IBM compatible PCs from a fast-growing upstart called Compaq Computer. It was at the Comp-USA/uPro/Shop chain store where I bought that “luggable” PC that I got my first glimpse of Apple’s trailblazing new Macintosh, with its ultra-cool graphical user interface controlled by an equally innovative device—the mouse.

With the Macintosh, Apple had broken free of the stodgy look and feel of its competitors who had all hitched their PC designs to the IBM-compatible bandwagon. To highlight the company’s brash defiance of the norms, Apple launched the Macintosh in 1984 with the famous Super Bowl ad depicting itself as the destroyer of an Orwellian Big Brother figure that had created and controlled a sea of IBM compatible users (depicted as automatons). Despite the company’s brashness and the superior usability of the Macintosh, it remained a niche product with never more than 12% market share for several decades.

Fast forward 17 years to Apple’s foray into the music world with the introduction of the iPod in 2001, which launched Apple into a period of meteoric growth from $6B that year to $234B in 2015. Although Apple’s Macintosh is still a niche player, with roughly 7% unit market share, the company controls such a strong market position in smartphones, music downloads, and apps that many consider Apple to be the industry’s new Big Brother–particularly since it retains its proprietary approach to everything it builds.

The Transformation of Apple: From Underdog to Overlord? by Michael Bendit

By making its PC designs openly available for other companies to build compatible AND competing products, IBM took a huge risk—and also catalyzed tremendous growth in the personal computer industry. For better or worse, Apple Computer stuck to its guns with its own closed architecture. In retrospect, this appears to have been the right strategy for the company financially, but it also means that Apple users are captive to the company’s products and services.

Techies refer to this type of proprietary system as a “walled garden,” which is well-tended, safe, and secure for those on the inside, but also somewhat limiting for those who, like the early Apple Computer, want to brashly defy convention. In the software development world, proprietary products like those offered by Apple do offer some advantages but also tend to be costlier and more confining than open-source systems that are now so widely used.

In my next blog post, I’ll discuss the pros and cons of open-source systems and why they are so popular. In the meantime, let us know:

Are you using a proprietary or open-source system for your software development?

Do you intend to stick with your current approach?

Contact us if you want to explore how to do just that.

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
Contact

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Can the Ghost in the Machine Replace the Writer’s Spirit? by Michael Bendit

Can the Ghost in the Machine Replace the Writer’s Spirit?

{3:25 minutes to read} According to the late artificial intelligence pioneer Alan Turing, a computer is “intelligent” if the program can convince a user that he/she is chatting with another real person. Eugene, a computer program designed to impersonate a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy, was the first to pass this Turing Test in 2014 — fooling 33% of the judges into thinking they were chatting with a live human being! Here is a snippet from just one of Eugene’s conversations:

Judge: My favourite music is contemporary jazz, what do you prefer?

Eugene: To be short I’ll only say that I HATE Britnie [sic] Spears. All other music is OK compared to her.

Judge: Do you like to play any musical instruments?

Eugene: I’m tone deaf, but my guinea pig likes to squeal Beethoven’s Ode to Joy every morning. I suspect our neighbors want to cut his throat … Could you tell me about your job, by the way?

So does Eugene’s ascension mean computers will soon be capable of writing high-quality content?

Can the Ghost in the Machine Replace the Writer’s Spirit? by Michael Bendit

I was recently introduced to Yseop (pronounced “Easy Op”), a French company that claims on its homepage to offer “Easy-to-use artificial intelligence software that writes like a human being.” The software does an impressive job turning formidable amounts of data into a narrative report, resulting in something similar to what you might find in the financial explanation section of a corporate SEC filing. It is some great reading — if you are having trouble falling asleep. Yseop could, however, serve as a solid foundation to which an editor can add a human touch. It also demonstrates tremendous progress in computer-generated writing, but it’s not yet up to snuff for compelling marketing content.

If you are looking for tools that can help you generate quality marketing content NOW, don’t despair. There are a number of emerging products from innovative companies to help you do just that.

Open Topic, founded by serial entrepreneur Christian Jorg, is taking advantage of the billions of dollars invested by IBM in its Watson artificial intelligence program to help marketers both generate and distribute relevant marketing content.

Mike Moran, a former Distinguished Engineer at IBM and a text analytics expert, is now a senior strategist at Solo Segment. His company’s products use digital markers to predict each website visitor’s interests to automatically serve up the most relevant content and keep them engaged.

At Oz Content, CEO Matthew Lovett and his team have developed a tool that uses sophisticated content analytics to help editors identify current topics that are most likely to capture the attention of their target audiences.

If you believe in the power of compelling content, then it may be time to see how these and similar technologies can enhance your content strategy and boost production. Contact us if you want to explore how to do just that.

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
Contact

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Is this Blog Quality or Trach by Michael Bendit

REmember the Three RE’s for Content REsults

{3:30 minutes to read} Is this blog and corresponding newsletter of high quality, or not worth the space in your inbox?

The question of content quality came up at recent marketing discussion group. The writers in the room tended toward defining quality in terms of writing style while the marketers had a broader perspective suggesting that content quality is measured by its impact on achieving objectives.

The difference is akin to comparing Hamlet to Harry Potter. Shakespeare was no doubt the better writer, but J.K. Rowling is now a billionaire. Since I’m more of a marketer than a writer, I hope my blogs are judged by whether you take away something of value.

The key to successful content marketing lies in the three RE’s – Reach, Relevance and Reliability.

Think of the RE’s (or Re:’s) as the subject line in an email – the most important piece of information.

Reach is what gets your content in front of the right audience. You certainly can’t benefit from my “pearls of wisdom” if you never receive my blog/newsletter.

Relevance answers the question: Why should I care? If you do not care, you won’t open the email or read the blog post.

Reliability is a measure of how much credence you place in the source of the content. If you don’t trust the writer or her motives, you aren’t likely to accept her message.

REmember the Three RE’s for Content REsults by Michael Bendit

The three RE’s apply to every piece of marketing content but may be weighted differently by your audience depending on whether it’s owned, earned, or paid media.

Owned media: content that you write and distribute via your website, email list, etc. It may not have the broadest reach, so to be effective it must be both relevant and reliable – i.e., from a credible source, your company.

Earned media: what others write about your company and its products. It has the greatest impact when it hits the RE Trifecta — imagine a sports ticket provider with World Series tickets landing an article in the New York Times sports section about where to buy World Series tickets just after the Yankees (or Mets) win the pennant.

Paid media: i.e., advertising, tends to score low on reliability. As the sales-motivated vehicle, it must excel in terms of reach and relevance to be effective.

In my next blog post, we will explore how smart content marketers are using technology to squeeze the most out of the three RE’s.

How would you define content quality? What can you do to guarantee the success of your next marketing blog?

Michael Bendit

 

Michael Bendit
Managing Director
Software Development Resources Inc.
888-447-1591
111 Eighth Avenue,
Suite 1500
New York, NY 10011
Contact

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