How to Setup a WordPress Blog in less than 3 Minutes

One of the most common questions I get from my non-technical friends and family is “how do I setup a WordPress blog?”

Six or seven years ago setting up a website or blog was a bit more difficult.  But today, there is no excuse for that.  Almost anyone who knows how to use the Internet is now able to setup a blog with WordPress.

Below is a video I created to eliminate those fears once and for all for people; so next time I get asked, I can just point them here.

Without further adeu, I present: “How to Setup a WordPress Blog in less than 3 Minutes

Click to watch on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvtsfzgnUXY

Marketing is Like Dating

In recent weeks I’ve had a difficult time explaining to my engineering buddies how I could be into internet marketing now.  They tend to equate marketing with sales, and therefore think of it as a dishonest trade.  The other day I finally thought of an analogy that helped them see things from my (newly discovered) perspective.  I thought I’d do a blog post on it.

Marketing is Like Dating

Marketing is like dating because you can be the nicest guy in the world but if you are an introvert, your crush may never know you exist.

Lets dive deeper, shall we?

Women dig confidence.  Confidence alone is why the jock, the charming guy, and the random not-so-attractive dude got the popular girl in high school.

The jock was confident and fun.

The popular guy was charming and reassuring.

And the random guy simply had social proof in his corner.

So what sells?  Honest confidence in yourself and product.  A product that is fun and risk free.  Oh, and by the way others are using it too!

You see, these are critical parts of the sales process – all of which get people to trust and like you.

The problem is that most introverts are hard-wired to not think this way.  Engineers, for example, think in terms of quantifiable metrics, not the invisible stuff that builds relationships.

But you cannot quantify building relationships and trust.  They are too infinite and abstract.

You must build trust before you can ever ask for a sale.  That is why blogs are so powerful.

They allow you to build an audience and trust.  Regular readers like your stuff and trust you and eventually some of them might buy something from you.

But it is not about the money just like it is not about the sex.  It can’t be.  Even though you both want it, if you are too direct with either you will lose the date or in this case the sale.

And it is not that the jock, popular guy, or random guy are being dishonest.  In fact, they are being themselves.  The random guy could never act like the jock and vice versa.

They do however go at dating game with their own angle.  Do this in your marketing.

If your crush likes funny guys.  Show her your funny side.  If you are not that funny and that is what she is into, move on.  She is not the right customer for you.

If she likes security, stand up straight and beat on your chest – or not.

Accounting was boring.  Freshbooks made it less boring.

“Being yourself” is not the same as “being confident,” so it is important not to integrate the two.  Everybody has a weakness just as every product has a weakness.  Forget about it and instead focus on your strengths.

Find what your good at – your angle in marketing or in dating and you will find your customer or your soul mate.

Most importantly, be confident in whatever you are doing.

-E

 

Sales and Marketing Lesson for Introverts

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/h-k-d/3969908944/

“If you build it they will not come…”

It took me a long time to actually accept that phrase.  Coming from a software and engineering background, when someone would mention the word sales I would naturally think of a sleazy used car salesman.

“Who needs that?” as any good engineer would say.  “Why can’t these people see that the other product sucks and ours is way better?”

I always thought that I just needed to build cool product then I would have customers beating each other over to pay me money for it like on Black Friday.  After all, that is why I got into computers in the first place.  Build it and they will come.  I could hardly wait.

The truth is a product never sells itself.  Even Peter Thiel agrees.  People may get it and they may even love it, but IT WILL NEVER SELL ITSELF!

What about Google you ask?  They didn’t do any marketing in the early days.

Yes that is true.  But even though they didn’t market themselves it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t any marketing going on behind the scenes.  Google’s early users were marketing for them.  Viral marketing is still marketing.

Ok, so what is a honest guy to do? Marketing is not so evil after all; but I still feel like that used car salesman while selling my products.

Don’t think of it as being deceptive because that is not the goal.  In fact, if you are going to market a great product, you must deliver on that product as well.

Instead of thinking of marketing as shameless promotion, think of it as simply a pivot.

But instead of recreating the product, you are simply displaying it in a new light so others can better resonate with it.

Flickr, the photo sharing website (now part of Yahoo), originally started off as a online multiplayer game.  If the founders hadn’t noticed how people were actually using the site, and re-marketed it as something else, Flickr probably wouldn’t have been what it is today.

Marketing is simply discovering that angle that resonates the most with your target market.  Some businesses know it immediately.  Others search aimlessly for it.

So if you are like me and look at marketing and sales as deceiving.  Look again.  Marketing can and should be honest.

Marketing is necessary.  Learn to embrace it.  Zero users equals zero dollars.

 

How to Launch a Niche E-commerce Website

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So the month of July my wife and I worked hard on launching a niche e-commerce website that sells baby shower diaper cakes.  Following the advice of Tim Ferriss, Store Coach (Affiliate Link), and Andrew Youderian, I evaluated and selected my niche, found drop ship companies to purchase products from, and optimized my site.

Now on to the marketing.  But first, why diaper cakes?

Selecting a Niche

Well, I evaluated many niches from tattoo equipment to gun accessories but only diaper cakes ended up fitting my criteria. Here are the major ones:

1) Be able to add value to the niche you select.  Thanks to Andrew for this one.  I’m a web/mobile developer by trade so I know how to build e-commerce sites and I know what good design looks like.  Most of the websites in the diaper cake niche look like they fell out of the 1990s.  As a bonus, my wife is pretty crafty and has built several really nice diaper cakes for friends and family, so she knows what products look good and what doesn’t.  With both of us I felt we could really add value.

2) Select a price point of $100 or more.  I had heard this before from the Four Hour Work Week, but to recap: $100 – $200 products give you maximum profitability (20% – 50%) while minimizing customer service problems.

3) Find the right type of customers.  Our goal is to appeal to both the female and baby boomer demographics – two groups that are really starting to buy a lot of stuff online (in the past it has been mostly men).  Check out this infographic (thanks again Andrew!).

4) Sell products that are difficult to find locally.  While selling stuff online, it is important to niche down and find something that is difficult to find locally.  For example, I would never considering selling screwdrivers online.  Your local hardware store probably has a great selection.  However, a great “niched down” subset might be a special type of screwdrivers for working on oil rigs or large machinery.

Product vs. Marketing Mindset

Marketing has been my achilles heal for sometime now (hence why I blog about it now).  It is not because I don’t have the ability to market, but instead because it is difficult to know what you don’t know.  And I always thought the term “sales” was a dirty word.

Most engineers would agree with me though.  I’ve heard statements like “the product should sell itself” and “sales and marketing are not necessary.”  But in actuality the best product in the world won’t sell if nobody knows it exists.

Although Google’s walls are full of engineers, without marketing (be it word-of-mouth), we’d all be using Ask Jeeves – Ok, maybe not.  But you get my point.

So step one for me was just getting over thoughts of a used car salesman when somebody talks about marketing.

How to Market an E-Commerce site

As I am discovering from the various Internet marketing experts, most online marketing strategies are the same, no matter the product.

The things that do change, however, are what strategies work best for a) the type of site you have and b) the niche you are in.

It all boils down to 2 things.  In order to rank high in search engines you must have:

1) Relevant content related to your topic.  This makes sense if you think about it.  What are people looking for when they search the web?  Information primarily.  So if you are selling widgets, you’d better have some useful information about widgets such as “how tos” and information to solve widget-related problems.

2) Relevant backlinks pointing to your website. Think quality and relevance over quantity here.  This is how most search engines tell if your site IS ACTUALLY useful.  It is a basic voting system.  A backlink is essentially a vote for you.

I will be talking more about the specific strategies for marketing websites in upcoming posts.  But as you’ll see all of the strategies and methods are based on one or both of those underlying goals.

Stay tuned as I spend the next few months building traffic to my baby shower site OhBabyCakes.net and report the results.

To evaluate your own e-commerce niche, check out my notes that I used to select my topic.

 

Install SSL Certificate in OpenCart

Installing a SSL certificate is a breeze in the open source e-commerce system OpenCart.

  • First make sure you purchase a SSL or Secure Certificate and that it is activated for your domain where OpenCart is installed.
  • Next, login to to the admin section of your OpenCart site at http://www.example.com/admin/.
  • Then go to System > Settings, Click the Server tab, and check the radio button to use SSL.
  • Next you will need to connect to your domain with an FTP program such as FileZilla or access the config.php files in your cPanel.
  • Edit the config.php file and change the “http” to “https” on the following two lines.  Then save the file.
define('HTTPS_SERVER', 'https://www.example.com/');
define('HTTPS_IMAGE', 'https://www.example.com/image/');
  • Next open the /admin/ directory and edit the config.php similar to the previous step. Then save this file.
define('HTTPS_SERVER', 'https://www.example.com/');
define('HTTPS_IMAGE', 'https://www.example.com/image/');
  • That’s it! SSL is setup.

Important Notes:

  • It is important to remember that OpenCart does not require that all pages use “https” in the URL like most e-commerce solutions.  It does, however, force it when a user signs in or during the checkout process.
  • Also, if you get errors that say something about “unsecured content” then somewhere on your page you have a hardcoded url to images, CSS files, or other content of “http.”  To solve, view the source on the page where you are receiving the error and search for “http”.  You’ll notice that most are “https”.  Fix all the occurrences that are not “https”.

Writing Inspiration

I mentioned the past how I wasn’t a big fan of writing.  Getting over this is a difficult challenge because I basically am forced to re-learn all of my existing opinions and habits as they pertain to writing.  But writing on a regular basis, and in this case blogging, is more important than I ever imagined.

For one, I believe the Internet has kept its promise in allowing people to reach almost anyone else in the world.

How to blog consistently

Ever notice how sometimes you can just buckle down and accomplish a ton of stuff in a short amount of time?  Yet other times it takes you exponentially longer to do similar tasks?  It comes down to know when (time of day) you are most effective and achieving a state of flow.  In high school and college, every term paper I procrastinated on or forgot about until the night before it was due, I seemed to do better on than the ones that I dragged out for weeks. This is because I was both more efficient and effective at writing late at night and while deadlines were staring me in the face.  In other words, I had no choice but to finish.

Why is this?  It is because a task grows in scope and complexity the longer you are given to complete it.  If you are given 2 hours to go to the gym, stop at the bank, pick up dinner and get gas then you MUST get started on it right now.  Whereas, if you are given a week to complete the same 4 tasks, it is quite possible that one or more of them wouldn’t get completed.  Given short deadlines forces one to drop all the garbage and focus on the task at hand.  Tim Ferris talks about it a bit in his book Four Hour Work Week.

So if you simply SAY you are going to blog instead of sticking to a firm deadline of “2 posts this week, one on Tuesday, another on Friday,”  chances are it won’t get done.

Also, since writing by itself often requires a certain state-of-mind and clarity in order to do effectively.  Another strategy that has helped me is writing multiple posts in the same sitting, then scheduling them a few days to a week apart.  In fact, this is the second article I’ve written today, and the fourth this week.  I’ve learned that it is a lot more difficult for me to allocate time every day to write a post.  I’d rather just take care of it once or twice a week when my mind is in writing mode.

The trick is to figure out your rhythm.  For example, if I check my email first thing in the morning, my day is off.  The morning and late at night are my most productive times, but  when I check email that early I can’t help but reply to everyone and put out fires.  Subsequently, I get none of my tasks done.

Lastly, you’ll probably notice that once you start writing and achieve a state of flow, the act of writing becomes a whole lot easier.  You’ll even start thinking of more things to write about and ways to make your writing more effective.

The trick is getting started and staying consistent.  Try writing once per day for 21 days, even if you don’t actually publish what you write.  Writing will become easier during that time.

What to Blog About

If you are like me you are not keen on writing. Coming from an engineering background, I can say first hand that the importance of writing is almost de-taught in the computer science department.  In fact, it is not a major that requires a lot of term papers or essay writing.

Programming is an interesting bird, in that, productivity is measured by how much has been built, not necessarily the abstract, long term effects of building something.  In fact, when I was in school it was common to hear phrases like “write less code.” If I got 8 straight hours of coding in, that is considered productive – what a great day!  On the other hand, if I spend the day making calls and re-fostering relationships, it is considered unproductive. There is no tangible result at the end of the day.

But what if one of those contacts becomes a customer, or knows someone that becomes a customer, or knows someone that knows someone that becomes a customer.  It was not so much a waste of time now was it?

It took me a long time to realize this (in fact, too long). I wish someone would have slapped some sense into me back in high school or college.

Blogging is very much the same high-value, low immediate gratification thing.  Although you may not see the value immediately of connecting with other people or writing something of value.  It does far more for your long term karma than having 8 hours of productive “programming” ever would.

This is why I have decided to rekindle my love for blogging.  I come across problems all the time that I struggle to solve and from now on I plan on posting my solution on my blog so that I can help others out.  I challenge you to do the same.

What problems do you face each day?

How do you solve them?

Did you have a good or bad experience with a new restaurant, mobile app, shop, etc?

Blogging becomes a whole lot more fun when you stop talking about the tricks your cat can do or what you ate for breakfast and instead start telling others about your experiences and how you solved your problems.  You’ll quickly notice that you’ll never need a new idea for a blog post again!

– E

Sync Gmail Contacts with iPhone

If you’ve ever owned an Android device and recently switched to an iPhone or iPad, you may notice that your contacts don’t sync with Gmail as they did with your Droid.  Bummer, I know.

What this means is that when you get a new device, or if you were to break your old one, you may lose contacts (as I did while going from Droid to iPhone).

The good news is that there is a quick way to get your iPhone or iPad to sync your Mail, Calendar AND Contacts like your Droid did, or as though you had Microsoft Exchange.

 Step 1

Tap the Settings icon on your iOS device and then tap “Mail, Contacts, Calendars.”

iPhone Mail Settings

Click on "Add Account"

Step 2

Under Accounts, tap “Add Account..”, then select “Microsoft Exchange” from the list.

iPhone iCloud, Exchange, Gmail, Yahoo, AOL

Tap "Microsoft Exchange"

Step 3

Enter your email login information: Email, Leave “Domain” blank, username is just your email address before the “@gmail.com”, password, and description.  Then tap “Save.”

Add Gmail Account Details

Step 4

On the same page, a field “Server” should appear.  Enter “m.google.com” (no quotes, of course).  Tap Save and you should get to the toggle screen that allows you to sync Mail, Contacts, and Calendars with your i-Device.

Mail, Contacts, and Calendars iOS

Toggle on Contacts

Closing Thoughts

Considering that Exchange will set you back a minimum of $708 plus hardware.  This is a nice little hack.

 

Launch Chrome in iOS (iPad, iPhone)

Chrome for iPad and iPhone was released less than 2 weeks ago and it has been all the rage.  One problem is people face is when they click on a link in other apps, such as the Mail app, it opens the link in Safari by default.  Apple doesn’t have a way to allow you to switch your default browser (as they would rather you use Safari).

However, there are two workarounds, one if you have a jailbroken iOS device, and another that allows you to launch Chrome from any Safari page.

Jailbroken Method (From Redmond Pie)

To get the tweak on your device, you have to add Ryan Petrich’s repo rpetri.ch/repo to Cydia from Manage > Sources > Edit > Add. Then you just search for BrowserChooser and install the free tweak, it’s really that simple.

Launch Chrome from Safari Method (from JonAbrams )

javascript:location.href="googlechrome"+location.href.substring(4);

Install instructions:

  1. Copy the bit of code up there.
  2. Bookmark this page.
  3. Open the Safari bookmarks, click “edit”, and edit the new bookmark.
  4. Rename it to “Open in Chrome” or something like that.
  5. Delete the URL that’s there and paste in the above code.

ChromeMe Method ( From ChromeMe)

This is similar to above but like the first option, requires a jailbroken device also.

How I Got 12,963 App Downloads in 8 Hours

Today our Coupon Policy App is 9 months old and continues to bring passive income month-after-month.  What started as a problem, then into a weekend project has grown into an actual product with over 25,000 users.

Summary

  • Unique downloads to date: 25,000+
  • Emails sent: 40 (November), 12 (July)
  • Google posts on websites posted during launch week: 346,000
  • Cost of gathering and listing coupon policies: $30
  • Hours spent developing API: 10 hours
  • Hours spent developing the app (version 1): 12 hours
  • Hours spent uploading policies: 4 hours

Background

Coupon Policy (iTunes) is a mobile app that allows consumers to quickly reference coupon policies on their phone.

The idea sparked after watching an episode of Extreme Couponing on TLC with family when my sister-in-law mentioned how annoying it was that she had to print store coupon policies when she went shopping because clerks, and often managers, did not know their own store policies.

After validating the idea with a few more friends and family who also shopped with coupons, we went to work.  We already had a mobile app platform for rapid development ready to go, so other than creating the interface and modifying a few features to fit the context of the app, all we needed to do is gather the coupon policies into a central database and create an API to access with the app interface.

The Plan

With the holiday shopping season kick-off (otherwise known as Black Friday) approaching in less than a month, we quickly set a drop dead date.  Our goal was to have a soft release then a more official release the weekend before Thanksgiving – when we would reach out to to several popular coupon blogs.

The Build

I’m a big fan of utilizing open source software.  So we put up a Drupal site to use as a backend so my non-technical partner could start uploading policies in a WYSIWYG editor.  We came up with a list of about 100 stores we wanted in the app at launch, outsourced the gathering of the selected coupon policies to India for $30, and my partner started uploading them as fast we received them.  In between uploads he also started making a list of the top coupon blogs to reach out to when we were ready to rollout our marketing strategy.

While he was working on the policies, I built a custom API to pull the content from Drupal into the app, allow searching, and clean up the content – all of which were not possible in the built-in RSS feeds.

Next, I moved to creating the actual app interface and functionality.  Our goal was to make it as simple as possible so we went with two tabs (“Stores” and “Favorites”), a simple retailer search, and the ability to share the policies via email, Twitter, or Facebook.  Using Best Buy’s infamous yellow price tag logo as inspiration, we settled on a yellow color scheme…plus both our wives like the color yellow (which was the actual reason. The truth shall set you free).

The Launch

Lay-people assume that when you release a mobile app (or a website, whatever) you automatically get lots of downloads, make lots of money, quickly flip the product and retire on the beach of your choice.  This is a highly unlikely scenario.  As expected when we launched not a whole lot happened.  We got a few downloads trickling in but nothing to brag about.

It did, however, give us the ability to get the product in front of real customers, and very quickly they found a couple of bugs that we didn’t.  While I worked on ironing the bugs out, my partner started planting seeds with the coupon blogs we had prioritized.  Once I pushed the fixes out, I joined him by emailing our list of blogs.  Our message to the blogs was not a sales letter nor was it the same for each blog.  We tried to cater to each publisher and relate it with the focus of the individual website, or even an article we might have read on their blog.  That being said, we used the same call to action in each email which basically stated: “We’ve created an app for referencing coupon policies.  Do you think your users might be interested?” and “We are running a special the weekend before Thanksgiving so people can make use of it in time for the holiday shopping season.”  We also used up most of our free promo app download codes that Apple so graciously gives to their developers.

Notice how both statements above cater to the website owner and their readers?  We didn’t just say “hey look at this cool thing we did, feature it on your homepage for us!”  Likewise, while reaching out to each website, we didn’t just give them false flattery either.  Everything we said or complemented them on was true:  “We like your design” or “this article was really useful the other day.”

The (Actual) Launch

Up until then we had only received replies from a handful of blogs; maybe 5 or 6 out of 50.  Even so, most of those wanted some “cut of the action” or “exclusives”, both of which we explained that we couldn’t do because “Apple and Google already take 30%” and “that we can’t track downloads from a specific source right now.”  So we didn’t really know what to expect.  The first day of app discount came and not much happened.  I signed off, had dinner with my wife and went to bed.

When I woke in the morning I did a couple of odds and ends then opened my email as I normally do.  The first page of my inbox was full with feedback from the app.  Page 2 – full. Page 3, 4, 5, and 6 all full.  I immediately logged into my Apple iTunes Connect account to check my stats.  Dammit! I’m on the east coast and Apple doesn’t update the numbers until 10 or 11am EST.  So I called my partner and asked him if he had checked his email.  He said no but that he had to turn off his cell phone in the middle of the night because it kept beeping.  I told him what had happened and that I didn’t yet know how many downloads we got but I received close to 300 emails from app users in 8 hours.

I checked iTunes Connect a few more times that morning with little luck but when I finally saw our download metrics I must have been smiling from ear to ear.

I called my partner and told him the number.  12,963 downloads.  He said “so thirteen-HUNDRED downloads isn’t bad.”  I said “no, thirteen-THOUSAND. Add another zero.”

The Present

– Few more iterations

– Slight redesign

– Adding more coupon policies

– Updating existing polices that have changed

– meetings with a few major coupon and marketing companies

– much requested offline mode (and cached mode for faster loading)

Being a web developer by trade I have “built” lots of things.  However, it is amazing the power of building something that actually solves a problem.  So many times people get stuck on the “idea” instead of the “problem” and subsequently first build a solution, then try to find a problem that it would solve.

Lesson learned.

-E