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Hi guys recently i discovered affiliate marketing throught a youtube video. I'm considering giving it a go. Cuz it seems to be paying good if you find a niche. My question is, how did you find out about affiliate marketing & what got you in to it,any tips & tricks for a beginner ?

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Overwhelmed with Keyword Research!

First off– I am not looking for any new services. I have used Ahrefs and Ubersuggest and now just use Keyword planner.

However, I STILL feel like I don't understand Keyword research. I know I picked a niche that is is too broad & the market has sharks– Home Design/Decor related. I have solid traffic and it is growing. Yet, when I think about my next posts– I spend HOURS doing keyword research and can never find terms that I think will rank.

Does anyone else feel completely overwhelmed with KW Research? Especially with all the "gurus" saying they can help.. Anyone know how a blog about home design and/or decor can actually be "successful" with KW research?

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Adding SMS to an Ecommerce Marketing Mix

Text messaging can help ecommerce marketers engage and retain customers, but it is not a replacement for email communication or mobile apps.

In 2021, roughly 280 million Americans will own a smartphone out of a total population of 328.2 million, according to Statista. Smartphones are ubiquitous, in other words.

Many smartphone owners are seemingly addicted to their devices, looking at them between 80 and 100 times a day, depending on which survey you read.

Text messaging — specifically, short message service (SMS) communication — is among the most popular smartphone applications. An often-quoted Gartner report from 2016, for example, found that SMS had an open rate of about 98 percent. And several other surveys estimate that many smartphone users will read a text message within five minutes of receiving it.

Photo of a lady on a subway looking at her smartphone.

Most American adults use a smartphone and check it regularly. Photo: Jayana Rashintha.

It is clear that folks like text messaging. Arri Bagah, a conversational marketing practitioner and the founder of Conversmart, a marketing firm, claims that something like 80 percent of ecommerce customers wants to receive SMS messages.

If, however, commerce businesses abuse SMS, it is likely that customers will start unsubscribing, blocking, and ignoring those messages.

So how does an ecommerce marketer strike a balance and use SMS communications in a way that is both customer-pleasing and profit-improving? Here are seven tips to help.

7 SMS Tips for Ecommerce

1. Start with transactional messages. Perhaps the most obvious use of SMS for ecommerce is with transactional messages. Many businesses are already using text to notify shoppers when an order is received, shipped, and delivered.

These sorts of messages are easy and informative.

During the checkout process, ask shoppers if they want SMS notifications. Then add them to your texting list accordingly.

2. Get a net promoter score. Use your company’s transactional text messages as a foundation to gain usable marketing information, such as obtaining a net promoter score from new customers.

An NPS is an excellent key performance indicator for monitoring the growth potential of an ecommerce company.

Many businesses regularly employ NPS with email messages. While text messages are not a direct replacement for email, there are some things that SMS can do better. Soliciting NPS responses is one of those things.

Merchants can automate the process, sending a one-question NPS survey via SMS shortly after a customer’s order has been delivered.

The survey result could trigger other actions, such as notifying a customer service agent or sending a follow-up question.

3. Use text for chat. Monitor your web analytics for the percentage of visitors from a mobile device. That percentage could be 50 percent or higher depending on your products and target audience.

With this in mind, some retailers and B2B sellers are using SMS instead of web-based chat.

Both experiences are similar for the user. A chat icon is shown somewhere on the page, often in the lower right-hand corner. When she opens the chat window, the shopper could (for text messaging) provide her name and a text number instead of immediately typing in a question.

Podium and SimpleTexting are examples of text-messaging-chat providers.

Screenshot of a text-messaging interface on a website.

SMS chat is similar to web chat. There is a familiar icon, for example, but the conversation is quickly moved to text messaging rather than chat.

It is worth mentioning that SMS chat can be used in a few ways. Some commerce companies show a web-chat service to visitors on a desktop computer and SMS chat to folks on a mobile device. It is even possible to offer both text- and web-chat and let visitors choose.

4. Ask for a review. SMS can be a good tool for generating reviews.

Here is a scenario. Imagine a shopper has been SMS chatting with a customer service representative at your company. The representative helped this shopper find a couple of products.

It would be perfectly reasonable to send an automated text message at the end of that conversation, requesting a customer-service review.

In the same way, if a shopper responded to an NPS survey with a high score, consider sending an automated text message, asking him to review the products he purchased.

5. Use RFM-based automation. The recency, frequency, and monetary value model can help ecommerce marketers identify and market to sets of customers based on their transactional history.

One of the ways to apply the RFM model is via triggered, automated marketing workflows.

For example, when a long-time customer has not purchased in a while — prompting that customer to move from a 555 to a 455 in a five-point RFM model — an automated workflow might assign a task to a customer service representative. That rep would look up the customer and send a personal re-engagement message via SMS.

6. Avoid excessive discounts. Some retailers and B2B sellers constantly put products on sale unnecessarily.

To be sure, discounting has its place in both retail and wholesale transactions, but it can be overdone. This is particularly true when a marketer is working with a relatively new promotional tool.

For example, I’ve seen a YouTube video where an enthusiastic marketer suggested putting a banner on an ecommerce checkout page that read, “Text [phrase] to [number] to receive jaw-dropping VIP deals right now.”

That idea makes little sense. It encourages an interruption of the checkout process and a “jaw-dropping” discount that is not likely required to close the sale.

7. SMS and the hammer. Finally, there is the old saying that when you are holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

SMS can be a helpful marketing tool, but it is not a direct replacement for email or a native mobile application.

Here is an example. Say an ecommerce company desired to share a few discounted items with customers. Which would be better: a text message or a push notification from a mobile application installed on the shopper’s phone? What if that company wanted to communicate links to five marketing articles. Should it use an email newsletter or SMS?

A text message probably makes the least sense in both cases. Instead of forcing it in every marketing situation, use text messaging only when it’s most effective.

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Affiliate marketing website

I just purchase a program and they sent me a link to my website. I just don’t know what to do with the website. There’s no instructions or guide on what I am supposed to do.

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Where Can I Apply My New Digital Marketing Skills?

So recently I was on the verge of losing my business and ended up buying a digital marketing course in the hopes of saving it. Fast forward a few weeks later and I actually ended up getting my business ranked on the first page of Google and generated 8 more customers. But now that my business isn't struggling month to month I want to apply these newfound skills to other forms of business. So what can I use my new digital marketing skills on? I've heard suggestions such as dropshipping, Amazon selling, and even just selling straight-up leads. What do you guys think?

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Can you really have YouTube success from using Vidnami?

I was looking at this online software, Vidnami (used to be Content Samurai), which "automates" video creation. And it seems not bad. But from the demo I have seen, the video(s) created layout or template is kind of generic. Maybe I am wrong because I haven't tried it myself. And also I have seen certain reviews that showed there are YouTube channels using Vidnami and are having high subscribers count and not too bad ads revenue based on Social Blade.

So is it really possible to achieve success on YouTube using Vidnami? Anyone here used this software?

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Does the Afflift Forum work the same as STM (Stack That Money) Forum?

Hi guys,

I'm a bit curious if the Affift Forum works the same as the STM Forum?

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Niche product: Romantic, causal, gifting, selling 8-12$ per flower, anyone interested in affiliate partnership?

Hello, we run a website that sell preserved flowers, very niche but people usually buy 2-3 flowers costing them 40$~. We’ll do 15% off coupon and a 15% commission after the coupon deduction. We are also consider raising prices as we are niche. If you have any questions or interests dm me or post. Ty.

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Unboxing Web Personalization: How Can You Create Customer Experiences That Convert?

Imagine a world where your website displays images and text that speak directly to the person visiting. A world where one size doesn’t fit all, and each customer feels like your website truly gets them.

Well, imagine no more! Today I’m unboxing ActiveCampaign Web Personalization, a tool that enables you to create uniquely personalized experiences for your website visitors by customizing text, images, and links. These experiences are powered by the contact information stored in ActiveCampaign and work on any web property.

I made an unboxing video to explore Web Personalization and how it will help your business. Hope you enjoy!

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DecksDirect, a Pure Retailer, Thrives

According to many industry pundits, the future of retail is brands, manufacturers, and marketplaces. But don’t tell that to Blair Budlong. His company, DecksDirect, doesn’t own a brand, manufacture a product, or sell on marketplaces. And it thrives.

“We’re a pure retailer,” Budlong told me. “We don’t make any products. We buy from manufacturers and brands. Most of the products we sell you can buy someplace else.”

DecksDirect targets folks who want to build a deck. It provides plans, materials, and expertise to complete the task. Since its founding 12 years ago, the company has grown to an eight-figure (revenue) business, with designs to become even bigger.

I spoke with Budlong recently about the company’s launch, operations, and hiring methods, among other topics.  What follows is our entire audio conversation and a transcript, which is edited for length and clarity.

Eric Bandholz: When did you launch DecksDirect.com?

Blair Budlong: About 12 years ago.

Bandholz: You’re killing it. Eight figure business all online, right?

Budlong: Well, 99-percent online, all through our own website. We have a few local customers.

Bandholz: Give us a rundown of the business.

Budlong: We’re a pure retailer. We don’t make any products. We buy from manufacturers and brands. Most of the products we sell you can buy someplace else — through a lumberyard or a Home Depot. We’ve built a business that focuses on the higher end of architectural finishes. You might look at a backyard deck and say, “Hey, that’s super cool.” We sell the products that make it super cool.

We don’t sell lumber and commodity type stuff. We don’t get into foundations. We sell primarily higher-end composite decking, metal railings, specialty fasteners, and related items. And we stay exclusively to the deck. We don’t get into landscaping, or lighting, or house wraps, as examples. Everything we do is focused on deck construction.

So we bring in products and redistribute them. Our saying is, “Help people build better decks.”

Bandholz: How did you find this opportunity?

Budlong: I was in the industry before. I came out of college with an architectural degree. I worked in architecture for a while. After a few years, I started working in a family business that manufactured and sold a product related to deck construction, mainly through Home Depot and Lowe’s. So my two main customers were those stores. The product was a concrete pier block called Deck Block.

And through that, I had a lot of communication and contact with end consumers. Our marketing strategy was to bypass the stores and offer support and information directly to consumers, who would buy it through the stores.

That product and company were eventually going away due to the patent expiring. So the natural transition for me was to launch DecksDirect with a whole bunch of products that you can’t find in big box stores.

I love working directly with homeowners. And so I started DecksDirect. I didn’t have a big business plan. It was just another guy and me putting together a Magento store that was free at the time.

Our plan with DecksDirect was to get into Home Depot and Lowe’s stores with our marketing material to drive consumers to our website. From there, we would give away free deck plans. We had free technical support. So homeowners all over the country would call in and ask, “Hey, how do I build this deck?” Or, “What materials should I be using?” Or, “Do you recommend something?”

Bandholz: So you sell directly to homeowners?

Budlong: Yes. We have three types of customers: the do-it-yourselfer, the do it for me, and the general contractor, such as a remodeler who might build three to four decks a year.

Bandholz: Can you expand on how you attract customers?

Budlong: We do a lot of advertising. We typically don’t market to somebody that’s thinking about a deck. We target folks that have decided to build a deck. We do a bit of content marketing, and we spend a fair amount on search engine optimization. We don’t have a YouTube channel like Beardbrand. We’re more about the aesthetics and the how-to.

Bandholz: How has Covid impacted DecksDirect?

Budlong: We’ve grown a lot during the pandemic. That’s the best way to describe it. A lot of people across the country are working from home and looking outside. So we had a lot of volume this past year. It was hard to catch up, to keep employees safe. Hiring labor this year was very difficult. Our warehouse is in Indianapolis. We’ve struggled with getting everything out the door.

Bandholz: Your company is based in Minnesota. When did you move your warehouse to Indianapolis?

Budlong: About two years ago. We outgrew our warehouse in Minnesota. We looked at a couple of locations. We opted to be closer to the East Coast, where a large percentage of the population is, with a plan to look at a West Coast facility in a couple of years. So far, moving to Indy has been a great decision. Our administrative offices remain in Minnesota.

Bandholz: What’s your vision for the company for the next five, 10 years?

Budlong: We want to be big. We have 800-pound gorillas in our industry: Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menards. We’re not going to catch them in five years. But our goal is to be number four behind those big three — the fourth largest decking dealer in the country.

It’s a huge market. Every house in the United States and Canada is a potential customer. Our product typically lasts from 10 to 20 years. So they deteriorate and need replacing. And most folks that have a deck will replace it versus taking it down and throwing it away. So we have repeat customers.

Bandholz: You and I met several years ago. You told me, “I love our ERP.” How does that happen?

Budlong: We’re on NetSuite, and I love it. Does it have problems and faults? Absolutely. But I love that it ties into our financials, our inventory, our human resources functionality. We can see everything that’s going on. And now that we have years of data and information, we make better decisions.

We use NetSuite as our main repository of data and information. Everything goes in and out of it. Again, I love it. It’s been invaluable during the pandemic.

But we still use Magento for ecommerce. Again, we’ve used it since the first day. It works really well for us.

Bandholz: How have you built your team out? You must have a data person, an analytics person, and warehouse leadership. Then there’s marketing. What’s your strategy for hiring?

Budlong: We are sales focused. So our largest department, outside of warehousing, is our sales team. They’re handling phone calls, working with customers. I try to keep our sales team happy. Nothing happens without a sale.

We have an operations team that’s responsible for purchasing and inventory management. We have a marketing team, but we outsource ad-network and pay-per-click management. We do photography and a bit of video internally. We do a lot of our content internally. And then we’ve got a finance department.

Bandholz: How’s it been to find knowledgeable talent and sales personnel?

Budlong: Not too bad. Our focus since day one has been helping customers. So bringing people in, getting them trained on the products, and then letting them loose. Hire the right people, and they figure out how to make it work.

We’re pretty good at hiring sales and customer service people that can fit in and help customers. And our customers are happy. It makes for a good culture.

Bandholz: I’m a former salesperson. Do you look for someone knowledgeable about the industry, or do you focus on sales ability?

Budlong: We focus on sales and people skills. I don’t think we’ve ever hired a salesperson that had building-material or construction experience. We want folks who can help customers.

But whether it’s sales staff or other departments, we’re looking for folks that hit our five core values. After that, we start diving into how they might perform.

I was once a terrible hirer. I did terrible interviews. I didn’t understand how to evaluate people. Somebody tipped me off to book “Traction.” At first, I thought it was gimmicky and looked like corporate stuff. But once we put together our five values, they’ve stuck.

They are: “Do the Right Thing,” “Service the Customer First,” “It All Begins with Self,” “Deliver Excellence Every Day,” and ” Maintain an Edge above the Rest.”

So the first thing we do in an interview is to evaluate the candidate against those values.

Bandholz: How can our listeners follow you and your business?

Budlong: Our website is DecksDirect.com. On Twitter, it’s @budlongblair or @decksdirect. Facebook is Blair.Budlong or DecksDirect. Instagram is @decksdirect.blair or @decksdirect.