Count Something.

A few days ago I started a post about about the book “Better”.  Today I’m going to finish that post.  At the end of the book was a “cheat sheet” of sorts for how to improve performance.  It was a good list.  And one of the items absolutely jumped off the page at me.  It was titled very simply: Count Something.

A few years ago when I used to work as revenue enhancement consultant for small businesses I used to really harp on the importance of knowing your numbers.  How crucial it is to business success.  And here’s what I came to learn after looking at the numbers of diving deep into the business operations of dozens of companies.

Results Never Lie

The first truth I learned is that results never lie.  That may seem ridiculously simple to you, but it’s a profoundly deep truth to really get in touch with.  Because every business owner wants to tell (and believe) a story about his/her business is where they are.  They have great reasons and excuses why right now is an aberration and tomorrow will be different.  But the results say otherwise.  Does that make any sense?  You’re far better off facing and dealing with the reality of your results than excusing them away and hoping/expecting them to get better when circumstance changes.  That probably deserves a post of it own… how people get tricked into believing that their results aren’t real, but their expectations are.

Another truth I learned is about the numbers in your business (internet or otherwise).  Numbers in business are an interesting thing.  I can look at the numbers in a business and tell you almost immediately what that business needs to work on and improve.  Now that’s another thing that when stated so plainly there’s a tendency to say “well, duh”.

So why don’t more business owners take their numbers seriously?  It’s shocking to me how few business owners even know their core numbers.  They are the pulse of our business and you can’t tell me your gross profit margin?  You can’t tell me, in internet marketing, your cost-per-visitor?  Revenue per impression?  Those are basic numbers.  What about when we get into more advanced, and more powerful, ones?

But here’s the interesting thing about numbers.  It’s also why I’m so fascinated by them.  By themselves they never give you any answers.  But they do tell you exactly which questions to ask.  And that’s powerful to know.

I think a lot of business owners feel like they don’t have the time or resources to track the numbers precisely because there are no answers in the numbers.  They think they are just for the accountants and bankers.  How wrong they are.

Knowing your numbers gives you incredible flexibility and creativity in your business.  When you know exactly which questions to ask and focus on you have freed yourself up to be ridiculously creative in answering only the questions that matter.  Most business owners spend an inordinate amount of time wandering around answerign meaningless questions their business isn’t asking.  Why?  Because they don’t know how to focus on the real questions their business has.

For example, let’s look at a typical internet business advertising on Google.  Just with the basics you can look at several levels of numbers.  Impressions, clicks, leads, and conversions are probably the most basic.  If you really look at those numbers, even their most basic and raw form they will begin to expose the questions you should be asking in your business.  If your impressions are lagging then you should be asking questions about keywords, targets and demographics, for example.  Clicks are good but conversions low?  That tells you what questions to ask.

And the human brain is so amazingly cool and powerful.  It absolutely LOVES questions.  It loves to know what to focus on.  Without the distraction of confusion you may be astounded at the answers you get when you know just what to ask.

And that (in a roundabout sort of a way ;-)) brings me to “Count Something.”

Want to make your business better continually.  Here’s an idea.  Count something.  Anything.  Here are the rules… it must be something you can continue to count.  In other words, you can’t count something that is static and doesn’t change.  And that’s the only rule.

Count Something!

And here’s what will happen over time.  Your brain will begin to ask questions about that something.  And you will start to have creative flashes about how you might influence that something.  And over time that something transforms from a external something into a malleable, pliable, shapable something that is internal to your circle of influence.

For example, there is a great story in the book about a doctor named Ingaz Semmelweis.  He started to count something in his hospital and discovered some radical answers that led to some unbelievable stunning medical improvements.  Read his story on wikipedia.  Seriously… go read it.

If you’re not counting anything right now you can start with something basic… like impressions.  Or conversions.  Or whatever.

Live that number for a period of time and you will be impressed with how much influence you begin to have over it.  You’ll be surprised at the insights you have into it.  And you may be shocked (and at times frustrated) with how many other things it shows you to count.

And when you get enoiugh of those numbers within your sphere of influence and creativity then the floodgates begin to open.  When you learn, within your own business, how to grow, shrink, or maintain a number you are learning to be master at business.

Try This…

So here’s a challenge for you.  Pick something right now in your business that you can start counting today.  In my own business (Site Sniper Pro) I might pick something like “how many of my customers are using Site Sniper Pro to sell their own products?”  Over time I can track that number and maybe gain some interesting insights in how and why people buy and use my software.

The neat thing is I don’t have to start out with answers.  I don’t know what that number is or what it means yet.  But I do know that if I keep counting that number eventually my brain will have a question about it.  And as soon as my brian starts asking questions it simultaneously starts answering them.  And just in the process of counting I can open up new avenues of business or improve my existing one.

What if I discover I have a high percentage of customer who are promoting their own products (as opposed to affiliates)?  Might that lead to changes in my sales copy?  What if it’s a low number?  Could I target them more?  Do I need to increase my affinity with that market?  You see, right now it’s a number that is entirely outside of my control because it is unknown and undiscovered.  Once I bring it into my consciousness I begin the process of influencing it and uncovering what it influences.  Makes sense?  There’s a web of intrugue there that I could follow for a long time… with constantly improving results in my business as the evidence left behind of me uncovering that web.

So count something today.  Then count it again tomorrow, or next week, or whenever it seems right.  And allow yourself to question that number.  And experiment with that number.  And learn from that number.  And your influence will be expanded.

Then count something new.

Tags:

Laser URL Tutorial Videos are Ready

Last week I privately posted some new free software that I wrote.  It started off as a small utility to help me target certain URLs for advertising.  Think of it as a different form of site targeting that doesn’t rely on AdSense placements.

Well, the software kind of took on a life of its own.  It became a far larger and far more detailed project than I originally anticipated.  For such a seemingly simple tool there are actually a lot of options and needs.

So I’ve created a 5–part video tutorial that explains most of the features (every one that I can remember).  If you don’t understand why anyone would ever need this software then that’s okay… just keep walking… this isn’t for you.  If you know what this software is used for then you’ll likely find it to be a very valuable part of your arsenal.

If you don’t already have the Laser URL Targeting software you can download it here.  It’s free.  These videos use Laser URL 1.0.4.8 so you may need to update to the latest version to have all these features.  To update your copy just download the setup and install it over your existing version.

The videos are broken into 5 parts according to the user interface of the software.

Video 1 covers building your URL targets through the search engines (Google, Yahoo and Microsoft).  Click here to watch Part 1 (opens in a new window).

Video 2 covers the URL target list and how to manipulate and work with your results.  Click here to watch Part 2 (opens in a new window).

Video 3 covers building your URL target list through Alexa and Quantcast.  Click here to watch Part 3 (opens in a new window).

Video 4 covers analyzing and exporting (using) your targeted URL list.  Click here to watch Part 4 (opens in a new window).

Video 5 covers filtering your results for the best results.  Click here to watch Part 5 (opens in a new window).

P.S.  I don’t usually pimp my free software much, but I’ll take this opportunity to do just that.  If you haven’t tried it yet you’re missing out 😉

All software runs on Windows computers (even though I’m making this post from my Mac).

Marketing Related:

Download Laser URL Targeting

Download Laser Keyword Targeting

Download Link Hopper (redirect tracer… click here for a better description)

Download Site Sniper Pro (Google placement targeting automation – trial version)

Other:

iTunes Library Mover

Amazon Grabber (desktop edition)

Follow That Link!

One of the small things I occasionally want/need to do as an internet marketer is see what’s happening behind the scenes of an http redirect.  It doesn’t happen often… but when I need it, I need it.

Originally I would open up a command prompt and manually telnet in to the webserver and issue raw http commands.  There was a variety of problems with that method.  First, that makes me a *huge* geek (not ashamed to admit).  Second, it was slow.  Third, If the page author was tricky and used any sort of redirect cloaking I would have to either give up or manually translate the cloaked javascript… not fun.  Fourth, the method isn’t very portable from one time to the next.  Each time I needed to track a redirect I would have to start over from scratch.

And if you know me at all you know I don’t like to do anything from scratch.

So several months ago I finally broke down and wrote a web-based PHP script that would do the dirty work for me.  It simply used cUrl to request the page and tracked any redirects.  Although it took a little debugging, it was fairly simple in the end.  With one problem… it could only track server-side redirects.  Since cUrl doesn’t do any content processing it missed client-side and javascript redirects.

Well, today I solved that challenge as well.

I needed to use my web-based utility again today.  Only I couldn’t track the link because it involved a client-side redirect.  So I broke down and wrote a full-featured redirect tracker.  It’s client side (runs on Windows) and can track both server-side and client-side redirects… including javascript redirects.

What Good Is It?

As I mentioned… this isn’t a tool I use often.  It’s an occasional tool I use mostly when I’m trying to deconstruct another marketer’s campaign.  Every once in awhile I’ll see an ad or campaign that intrigues me.  If the marketer is smart he/she will at least be using basic link cloaking (through redirects).  If I want to see where an offer comes from or goes to I often have to track the individual “hops” in the redirect.

Probably the most common use, however, is to get at a ClickBank or PayDotCom vendor ID.  All the time I get emails or promotions for a particular ClickBank product.  Often the affiliate link is cloaked.  For example, check out the following affiliate link:

http://www.sitesniperpro.com/Keyword_Elite.html

If you click on it eventually you’ll end up at the Keyword Elite home page.  But what if you got that link and want to know the ClickBank vendor ID to promote the same product?  Or frequently I’ll get a promotion that I like and want to buy.  If the promoter hasn’t given me a compelling to buy using their link I’ll often swap it with my own.  That, of course, is one of the reasons marketers use cloaking.

But now I can just type the original URL into my Link Hopper software:

Link Hopper URL Redirect Tracker Step 1

Click “Check Redirects” and get the results:

Link Hopper URL Redirect Tracker Step 2

Now you can see that this is a cloaked redirect for the bryxen4 ClickBank vendor.  How easy is it now to either promote the same product or switch the affiliate ID?

One other thing to notice about this particular redirect is that the first hop happened on the client.  A cUrl-based link tracker wouldn’t work with this link.  You have to process the client-side page in order to get the entire redirect sequence.

Ok, so now that I’ve created it I can’t see any reason not to let you use it as well.  I suppose there are a lot of reasons why you would want to track a redirect.  And now you can, simply and easily.  I’ve found it to be a great tool when I’m trying to deconstruct another person’s marketing campaign.  You can use it for anything you want.

Download it Free…

Click here to download Link Hopper.  Requires Windows (tested on XP and Vista).