Create an e-Course and Put Your Website on Autopilot

The following is an article I wrote that was originally published on in August of 2012.

Put Your Website on Autopilot with an e-courseI see it every day; entrepreneurs fighting to balance work, family and time for themselves while struggling to maintain a sustainable income. In fact, many entrepreneurs find themselves working 7 days a week in order to keep up. They work harder and harder telling themselves that one day it will pay off. You’ve heard the saying, “work smarter, not harder.” But how? How do you work less and still make enough to pay your bills and grow your business? Some will say outsourcing is the trick and they would be right to a certain extent. Outsourcing is a great way to put some balance back into your life. But outsourcing requires the income to hire someone to help – and what if you’re simply not there yet? There is another way. Put your website to work for you!

I’m not talking about just having a great website (although that is a definite bonus). I’m talking about literally making your website do your work for you by creating an automated educational product around your offerings. It will require some work from you to set it up, but once completed, you will be able to sell your own unique e-course without spending more than a few minutes from time to time working on it.

The first step is to determine what part of your services can in-fact be converted to educational material, or what kind of material your target market could benefit from and then create that material. Do you coach, counsel, educate, or sell a product? What service(s) do you offer that can be made into either educational written material, or videos? If you sell a product, look at your target market and determine what they might like to learn about. For example, if your company sells pet products, they might benefit from some dog training videos. If you sell food products, perhaps your target would be interested in a healthy living e-course, or a cooking e-course. If your business coaches entrepreneurs, create an e-course that will automate the coaching process with instructional emails, or videos, or both and offer it to entrepreneurs who can’t afford personalized coaching.

Next, install a membership program on your website. If you are using a platform such as WordPress this can be as easy as installing a simple plugin. If not, you may require someone with technical skills to help with this step, but paying for help with setup will pay off in the long run. Membership software will enable you to create areas of your website that are only assessable to members. You may consider creating a page for each chapter, or level of your e-course and the content can include, text, audio, e-books for download and/or videos. You can also make your membership program more enticing by adding forums or social networking groups so that the people that register can network and communicate with like-minded individuals.

Consider carefully which program you would like to use. Create a check list of what you would like your program to have – for example, you’ll likely need it to integrate with your payment processor or shopping cart and if you’d like to automate email deliveries, along with your e-course, you should be certain that it integrates nicely with the email marketing service of your choice.  Also consider your payment structure. Will people pay a monthly fee or a onetime fee to access your material? Will they pay per chapter, or per level?

Once completed, your program will act as a silent business partner working in the background increasing your income while you focus on other areas of your business. And guess what? You’ll be working smarter, not harder.

Your Role in Optimizing Your Website

Web DesignerThe most important part of getting a great looking website is of course, choosing the right designer. But once that designer is found there are things that you can do that will help your designer to create a website that not only fits your needs, but that suits your personal style as well.

Before you approach a designer about working on a site, the vast majority of your site content (i.e. logo, text and photos, if you’ve already selected photos that you’d like to have included) should be ready. “Why,” you ask, “why not just have the site designed first and plunk in the text and other content around that?” Well, that could be done, but there are 2 good reasons not to: 1) If a designer constructs a website without first seeing the logo, he or she may not leave enough space to properly highlight it. If you have a beautiful logo, you want the space it appears in on your site to be the optimal size, shape and color to fit it and display it properly. 2) If the designer has the text, he/she will better know where to insert images, icons, widgets, etc. to break up the text and make it more visually appealing.

Show your website designer samples of several sites you like and sites you hate. Tell them about elements of different sites that appeal to you and components that drive you crazy. Tell them about colors combinations you love and show them examples of these colors being used in a way you like. Doing this will give your designer a better vision of your personal style and will allow them to design a site that you will find irresistible!

Do you want a little bit of your personality infused into the site? Tell your designer about you! Are you fun, goofy, serious, grumpy? If you want your site to reflect a little of you, let your designer know.

While it’s all well and good to design a site that is visually appealing to you, in the end, if you are trying to sell something, you should always have your target audience in mind (along with your own personal preferences of course). No one knows your target audience better than you, so tell your designer about them. What do they like? What don’t they like? Are they young or old? Male or female? Married or single? Any details you can give your designer about your target market will help him/her design a site that will be attractive to that market.

Knowing this information from the beginning of a project should get your designer on the right track to designing the best site for you as an individual, or for your business. While the designer knows design, you know you, your business and your target audience best. So share that information with them and have them create a website you’ll fall in love with.

6 Reasons Why Your Business Need an Affiliate Program

Why Your Business Needs an Affiliate ProgramIf you’re an entrepreneur, you are very likely on the lookout for low cost marketing ideas that work. An affiliate program is just such an idea, but many entrepreneurs don’t consider it because they believe it is too costly, or too difficult to set up and manage. Those entrepreneurs are for the most part wrong and here’s why:

  1. It’s affordable marketing done for you. The best reason of all to implement an affiliate program is that it’s an inexpensive way to market your business. Think about it; anyone who signs up will want to promote your business to their tribe. This means low-cost advertising in social media, on websites, in newsletters, on blogs, in forums and anywhere else your affiliates can post links online.
  2. If the affiliates are getting paid, it’s because you are getting paid. If you set up an affiliate program that pays an affiliate only when they refer a customer who buys a product, then it’s a win-win situation. You get paid, and only then will your affiliate earn his/her commission. If the affiliate doesn’t refer anyone who makes a purchase, then there is nothing for you to pay.
  3. You are in control of the program. You have the ultimate say on how much your affiliates earn – the more generous you are, or the easier the program is to sell, the better your affiliates will do in selling your product or service. You control whether affiliates get paid every time someone clicks their affiliate link, or they get paid only when a sale is made. You control whether an affiliate gets paid a percentage of the sale, or a flat rate. You control when and how affiliates get paid – monthly, or after each sale, and whether there is a minimum amount they have to sell before they get paid.
  4. It can increase your website traffic and boost sales. An affiliate program will enable you to extend your reach on the web. If you have enough affiliates marketing your program for you, traffic to your site should increase and along with increased traffic should come increased sales.
  5. It can be extremely easy to implement. Depending on how easy your website is to work with, adding an affiliate program can be as simple as installing a plugin and adding a widget. Platforms such as WordPress make it extremely simple and often do not require technical skills other than very basic WordPress knowledge.
  6. It can help you grow your tribe. Even if the increase in traffic for some reason doesn’t boost your sales, it can definitely increase the number of people signing up for your newsletter, e-zine, or opt-in list and as you likely know people on your list are more likely to buy your products.

An affiliate program is basically a done-for-you advertising campaign while your affiliates are your low-cost sales force.  There are very few downsides. You stand to increase your income and so do your affiliates. What could be easier than that?

So You Have a New Website, Now What?

The following is an article I wrote that was originally published on in July of 2012

So you have a website, now what?Getting an online presence by publishing a website is the first step in opening your business to a larger market. It takes you from a local market to a potentially global one. But, therein lies the problem. While your website may be accessible to people worldwide, it only has the “potential” to be visited by a global audience. The trick is getting people to know your website exists. This is where the real work begins. Publishing a website and putting no work into marketing it is basically the equivalent of opening a brick and mortar business on a desert island, which is isolated from the outside world and expecting to actually generate new business.

If your website sits there day after day, looking pretty, but not getting any results, and you don’t know why, here is your answer: right now your website is on such a desert island. Currently no roads or bridges lead to your site and no one in the outside world even knows your business exists. Your job is to build those roads and bridges and put up signs that not only direct people to your site, but that will also tell them why they should want to get there.

Building “Roads” to Your Business Online

Don’t worry, no concrete or asphalt is involved in building virtual roads and bridges. What you need to build are links and luckily it’s extremely easy to post links to your website and there are thousands of places to do it. If you don’t have links to your website published in various places online, the only people who are ever going to find it will be people that you give your URL to directly. Your business’ URL is the way that your customers will find you on the World Wide Web and it’s also the only way Search Engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo will be able to find your site and list it. Like with any brick and mortar store, the more people that visit your store, the more likely you are to convert your visitors to buyers, so the more bridges and roads (a.k.a. links) that lead to your store, the more visitors you’ll have and the more sales you are likely to generate.

Post links in as many places as you can think of. Your social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any others should have links to your website. If you are not involved in social media, get involved. Do some online research to learn how to best go about this and you’ll be glad you did. Other ways to get links to your website include article marketing, publishing press releases, guest blogging and joining clubs, forums or other membership sites where your target market will likely visit. You can also respond to forum and blog posts using a signature that includes your URL and post your link in numerous online business directories.

All of these methods have two further bonuses in addition to creating better access to your website. The first is that all of these methods optimize your website for search engines. The better optimized your site, the better you’ll rank when someone searches for keywords related to your business. The second bonus is all these options will allow you to demonstrate your expertise in your field. In other words, article marketing, social networking, guest blogging, commenting on blogs and forums and press releases are all great ways to position yourself as an expert in your field and to demonstrate to your potential audience why they should want to visit your website.  So put down your shovel and pick up your mouse. It’s time to get building!

Considering a Do-It-Yourself Website? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself First

The following is an article I wrote that was originally published on in June of 2012

Trying to save a little money on your new website isn’t something to be ashamed of. Almost everyone has some sort of budget and for some that budget is just smaller than for others. Lately I’ve been asked by more and more frugal business owners why they should have a website professionally designed when there are so many online “Build your own Website” services available.  It’s true, there are many such services cropping up all over the web, but whether you should settle for such a service depends entirely on what you want in a website. Here are five questions to ask yourself before deciding between a build-it-yourself service and a professional web designer.

  1. Do you want to own your domain? Your answer should be a resounding YES! You should always be able to purchase a domain via a different domain registrar and use it along with the service. If the company requires that your website’s URL be something like www.TheirDomain/, run away! If you want a website that will be found by search engines, do not go with a service that lists their own company name in your domain. You may come away with a decent looking site, but your decent looking site will scarcely by seen by a soul, because the search engines won’t find it.

    Another big thing to watch for here is services that buy your domain for you. You may think that it sounds like a good deal to get your domain purchase included in what you’re already paying, but be very careful, this could be a slippery slope. Read the fine print and be sure that YOU, and not the service provider, will be the owner of your domain. If you fail to do this, you could find yourself in the unenviable position of losing your URL. Imagine owning a company called ABC Florist and having a website on the domain, then when you decide you want to change your service provider, you realize you don’t own your domain. Your choices are to a) buy it off the company that owns it (the service provider for your do-it-yourself website) for a ridiculous amount, b) get a new URL and lose most of the repeat business from customers who have previously visited your website, not to mention you’ll have to change the URL on your business cards and all of your marketing material, or c) stay with the same service provider indefinitely. This could be a nightmare, but it does happen and it’s a critical consideration when contemplating these services.
  2. Do you want a specific look, feel or style to your website? If you don’t need anything specific, then maybe a build-it-yourself service would be a good option, but if you are very specific about the way you want your site to look and feel, then one of the cookie cutter templates probably is not going to be a good fit. For most of these services, you are quite limited in the styling changes for each template. You may be able to change the colors and have some layout and font options, but for the majority of cases those options are incredibly limited and will likely provide a website that will be disappointing to the discerning customer. If you need flexibility, you might be better off with a professional designer, despite the cost differences.
  3. Do you want your logo to appear on the site? Again your answer is likely yes, and most of the do-it-yourself services can accommodate this requirement. But, if your logo is irregularly shaped, or must encompass a precisely sized space in order to display correctly, then again, you may have issues with the flexibility of the do-it-yourself sites.
  4. Do you want analytics for your site? In other words, do you want to see how many visitors your site is getting and how they are finding you? If you answered yes (and you really should have answered yes), then you may want to go with a web designer. Some online services may offer you the option of analytics, but if they don’t you will have no way of determining how successful your website is at doing its job – bringing you more business.
  5. Do you want to include payment options, e-zine or newsletter opt-ins, portfolios, or any additional features? If you answered yes and you still choose to go with an online build-it-yourself service, then I would advise you to look carefully at what options are available for each service that you choose. Some will integrate with other services nicely, some will charge you an extra monthly fee for such additions and some won’t integrate at all. You likely don’t want to be stuck with a website that does not provide some or all of these services.

These are just five things to consider when making a decision about how to create your online presence. In reality, there are tons of other points to consider, such as the sometimes hefty monthly price tags, paying for each additional service, being stuck in a yearly contract, what happens if you want to move your website, and the list goes on.  Your goal is to have your business grow, your website should be able to grow with it. If you  can’t afford to have your site professionally designed or if you feel that the cost cannot be justified, then maybe a build-it-yourself service is the right option, but before jumping into anything, be sure to ask yourself the above questions and as with any agreement READ THE FINE PRINT!

Google’s Penguin Update: Is It Time to Google-Proof Your Business?

Google Penguin UpdateMuch to the chagrin of many website owners, in April of this year (2012) Google implemented an update of their search engine algorithm that has even Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Experts scratching their heads. The update, which according to Wikipedia, when launched was being referred to by users as “OOPs” and “Titanic”, before oddly being named after a cute little animal, the “Penguin” by Google, has stunned and dismayed website owners (not to mention penguin lovers) around the world. Many sites that have previously enjoyed a spot in the coveted page one positions of Google’s results have now been sent to search engine oblivion, and with them went their traffic and customers. The vast majority of the businesses affected negatively by the Penguin update have seen their revenues fall dramatically, and many business owners are not sure how they can possibly recover.

While these business owners scramble to make changes to their websites trying their best to conquer the dreaded Penguin update, it’s important to remember that Google isn’t trying to give penguins a bad reputation, or ruin poor unsuspecting business owners. In fact, the reason behind this update was to reduce the amount of “webspam.” In other words, it is an effort to do something good by reducing the number of sites listed that use frowned upon techniques to generate their search engine rankings. By attempting to promote high quality content, they inadvertently adversely affected some of the good guys.

But here’s the thing, if you’ve been affected and are now scrambling to make changes to your website to regain your ranking, while you may very well accomplish what you set out to do, who’s to say what the next algorithm update will bring, or even when it will happen? So, instead of toiling away, trying to beat the system, why not come up with some more creative ways of generating traffic? Here are a few ideas to get you started at Google-proofing your business:

  1. Use Social Media. Form relationships with your friends and followers and offer them value in following you. Getting people interested in you through social media is a great way to generate not only traffic to your site, but targeted traffic to your site – which is really the best kind of traffic to have.
  2. Create Press Releases. Launching a new product? Adding a new service? Lowering your prices? Announce it with a press release and publish it via online PR distribution companies. On top of publicizing some great information about your company, this also provides a great way to get out links to your website (in a way Google likes). Even better is the fact that although your site might not rank very well, many of these PR distribution companies are very well positioned in Google, and so too may your release if written well and with appropriate keywords in mind.
  3. Use Your Tribe. Building a list, or “tribe” as it’s being called these days in web speak, is one of the best possible ways to Google proof your business. If you already have a list, that is a list of email addresses generated from your website where people have given you permission, or “opted-in” to receive updates, news, or ezines, then you have a direct line to your target market. If you have a list, you need to start using it, and marketing it. If you don’t have one, then now’s the time to get started!
  4. Start Article Marketing. Like press releases, article marketing is a great way to generate links to your site. It is also a great way to position yourself as an expert in your industry. An article that is well written and distributed to popular and/or niche article banks can produce some great exposure for your business. Very popular websites often gather material for their blogs and ezines from these sites. Getting your article included on one of these sites could generate tons of traffic to your Google deprived website.
  5. Join Stuff. Okay, this sounds a little silly, but if you think about it, joining associations, groups and members only forums related to your industry is a great way to, a) get listed in their directories and get found at a place that people would frequently search for others in your industry and b) mingle with others in your industry to see what they are doing to get noticed.
  6. Get Creative. Who is your target market? Where can they be found? Is there a place that they tend to go online that you could also go and get noticed? Can you create an affiliate or referral program around your product in order to have others promote it for you? Brainstorm some creative marketing ideas and you may be pleasantly surprised what you come up with.

The ideas are endless. If you make use of your imagination and some of these suggestions, you will be ready for whatever fuzzy animal update Google comes up with next.

Our Latest Press Release Announcing the Introduction of Website Payment Plans!!

Web Design Company Introduces Affordable Payment Plans for Websites

Montreal, QC – Oomph Studios Website Design and Branding has just announced that they will begin offering payment plans to web design clients.

Oomph Studios, a Montreal area website design and branding company has just revealed their latest attempt at making getting online more accessible for individuals and businesses. As of June 1st, 2012, the company is introducing payment plans for all of their website design packages.

Kelly Sims, owner of Oomph Studios explained this move, “My reason for doing this is quite simple: With the economy in the shape it’s been in for the past few years, more and more people who can’t find work are opting to become self-employed. Being self-employed myself, I think that this is a fantastic move, but I also know from past experience that start-up companies struggle financially. Offering payment plans so that these businesses have an easier time getting online means that they’ll struggle less while gaining access to a much larger market than they would without a website.”

The company who previously introduced a low-cost, non-custom design service for businesses on a budget is now looking to monthly payments as a way of assisting business owners to get online and get access to more customers. Oomph Studios currently offers packages ranging from fully customized websites, to their affordable, non-custom Website-in-a-Week package. The new payment plans will apply to all Web Design packages and payments will be taken from their client’s credit cards on a monthly basis.

“We will offer 12, 6, and 3 month plans depending on the web design package chosen and the client’s payment preferences of course. I’m really hoping this will encourage businesses looking to get a web presence, or looking to change their current website to take the plunge and know that it can be done painlessly with installments,” Sims explained. “You can buy just about anything with a monthly payment plan these days, so why not websites?”

Oomph Studios provides website and graphic design services to clients worldwide. To learn more about the company, or to view their portfolio, visit their website at

Marketing Visuals: You Really Do Need Them

I had an odd experience the other day that prompted me to do a little research. I joined a group on Facebook and was reading the rules of the group which basically said that members were able to post links to their business’ Facebook pages and websites, but they were not to post photos and in fact, they were to erase the thumbnails that are automatically generated when you post links on Facebook. The reasoning for this according to the site’s admin, is that people would be less likely to click the link if there were photos there distracting them. Being a designer, you can rest assured, I couldn’t disagree more strongly with this assertion, which has absolutely no basis in fact.


To see just how wrong this view is one need only look at the latest social media craze, Pinterest. Pinterest is basically an online pin-board; you like an image and you pin it to your board (with credit to the author), which in turn means you’ve shared it with your followers. It’s a great way to share your interests, things that you find cool, or funny and/or your products if you are a business owner. If you haven’t heard what all of the fuss is about, then head over to Pinterest (after you’re finished reading this post of course!) and I dare you not to become addicted. That site alone is a perfect demonstration of the power of using effective good visuals. And, if I’m going to get very picky, I doubt Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg do anything for kicks; when they added automatic thumbnail creation, I’m fairly certain they had good reason for it.

Still not convinced? Fine, here are some hard facts: A study conducted by the Poynter Institute comparing the way that people read news in print and online found that:

  • Alternative story forms (including Q&As, timelines, lists and fact boxes) helped readers remember facts presented to them in a test of six different prototype designs of one story;
  • Alternative story forms also drew a higher amount of visual attention, compared to regular text in print;
  • Short text, especially with visual elements, is accessible and attractive to readers.

The Poynter Institute 

When I design a website I know that certain things will be more visually appealing than others. What is 100% not visually appealing is a website that has a ton of text and no eye candy. People have short attention spans, especially when browsing the web. If they don’t find something visually appealing they are more likely to click away and leave the page, or the site altogether.

A good graphic can provide information quickly and easily and is usually more memorable than mountains of text. They can allow website visitors to see at a glance what your blog post, website, article, etc. is all about. It can grab the reader’s attention, reel them in and entice them to read your content. Without great graphics, the web would be a dreadfully boring, colourless place. Luckily for us, most people see the value fantastic graphics bring to their website and their social media profiles.

If you’d like to learn more about how great marketing visuals can help you keep your website visitors engaged, be sure to pick-up our free 5 day marketing visuals e-course.

Take Control of Your Website!

Take control of your website with WordPressIt wasn’t long ago that when an individual or a business purchased a website, they were at the mercy of their Web Designer or Web Master to make any kind of modifications to it. If that Designer wasn’t an employee, you were either extremely lucky to have a Designer that would respond to your requests quickly, or you had one that took weeks to make even the smallest changes to your site. Back then, if you were in the latter situation, your choices were to either find a new designer, or sit and wait until the changes were made. Today, if you are in such a predicament, there is a third option: Have your site re-designed using the WordPress platform and manage it yourself.

This is not a joke, you can actually manage your website yourself, and by that I mean, that you can change pictures, add text and even add entire pages to your own website and you won’t need to learn any new technical skills to do it. WordPress is an extremely user friendly software that enables even those without the technical knowledge to set a PVR timer to add content to their website.

Back in the day of HTML websites, updates, even seemingly tiny ones, were often tedious for designers and impossible for site owners to accomplish themselves without some technical knowhow. This knowhow usually included knowledge of HTML and CSS, not to mention familiarity with FTP software and the need for often expensive programs such as Adobe Dreamweaver to make these changes. In addition, paying a designer to make changes to a website isn’t cheap, causing some business owners to put off making important updates, or not making them at all. The result of not making these changes or updates is often lost revenue. For example, if your business wants to advertise an annual event, or sale, your website is a wonderful place to publicize it, but if your designer is too busy to get the information on to your site on time, or if you opt not to have him post it to “save” money, your website visitors will be unaware of your sale, or your product launch, or your award, or whatever other piece of information would be useful for them to know and you will likely lose money in the long run.

Today, once your WordPress website is set-up by your designer, she just needs to provide you with the login information for your site and you have total control of its content. If you’re not familiar with WordPress’ Dashboard (admin panel), a simple Google search of “Wordpress Dashboard Tutorial” should result in several brief (and I do mean brief) tutorials that will walk you through updating your site step by step.

Your business should not be at the mercy of your designer. Switching to a website on the WordPress platform will save you money on costly updates and give you back control of your business’ online presence.

Ready, Aim, Design! How to Make Your Site Speak to Your Target Market

Website Design for Target MarketBuilding a website without first deciding who you are building it for is a lot like skeet shooting while blindfolded – you’re not very likely to hit your target. While you may have an impressive looking site, that alone won’t lead you to convert visitors into customers. And while your website text plays a very big role in converting clients, so too does your website’s design. So how do you design a website that appeals to your target audience?

First, there are a few givens when designing a website that sells:

  1. Your most important content should be above the fold. Meaning that your most important message should be visible when you land on the page without having to scroll down or click to another part of the site.  After all first impressions are what either gets someone to stay on your site, or leave it.
  2. Your site should be clean and easy to navigate. When a visitor lands on a website that is so busy and jammed packed with content that they don’t know where to look never mind click, they will often just leave the site rather than waste any time trying to figure out what the site owner has to offer.  On a clean site, your message will be more evident to your visitors, “Join my list and you’ll get an incredible free gift,” “Buy my product and it will change your life,” “Look at these great examples of my work and imagine what I can do for you.”  No matter what the offer, visitors need to know what it is without having to wade through tons of ads and content to get it.

Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty: how do you design a site that speaks to your target market? The first step in this process is of course, to determine who your target market is. You might already know this information, but if you don’t, just think about what you are offering. Who are the people that will love (or already do love) your product. Are they businesses or individuals, women or men, parents or childless couples, young or old? Then, if your product requires it, go even further, is your target health conscious, animal lovers, introverts, sports fanatics? Think of any other specific categories that might characterize someone buying your product or service. For example, if your business is sells hearing aids, you can assume that your target market is women and men who are seniors, or at least approaching their senior years. This market is quite general, they won’t specifically be into animals or cooking, but we can assume that they are either retired, or approaching retirement and since they are interested in a hearing aid we can assume that they are concerned about their quality of life.

Next, think about the things that your target market would like to see in a website. For example, if your company sells women’s jewelry, you probably don’t want a masculine website with lots of pictures of men. You need a site that a woman in your target market can relate to. Going back to our hearing aid example, since you are catering to both men and women, the site should have a gender neutral look. Your audience is older, so your theme should have a mature, professional look. Since your focus is on seniors who are retired, or are approaching retirement and who are concerned about their quality of life, your images can reflect this by portraying happy seniors living well. Additionally along with being a senior comes a reduction in eyesight. An older audience needs text that doesn’t make their head ache. Sitting white text on a dark background makes a site more difficult to read, as does using small text and cursive fonts.

Put yourself in the shoes of your target market and surf the web. Take notes on elements of websites that you think your audience would like. Get creative and have fun! Before you know it you’ll have a website that converts more visitors into buyers.