30
Nov

Whiny Brick And Mortar Retailers Behind Internet Sales Tax

In 1992 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a business without a physical presence in a state should not be required to pay that state’s sales tax. In the last couple of years however, critics of that ruling have begun to make more of a push for most online retailers to pay state sales tax. This is all based on the pretense that nearly 20 years ago online sales were minimal and made little impact on a company’s bottom line. Besides the fact that many states have been chipping away at huge retailer Amazon.com, forcing them to pay taxes in states where affiliate marketers reside (which they promptly fire), there is a consensus forming in Congress to end what some see as a tax loophole.

Unfortunately, this is being brought about by cry baby members of the Retail Industry Leaders Association in the name of fairness. They state that it simply isn’t fair that online retailers don’t have to pay state taxes while customers come into brick and mortar retailers, use up a salesperson’s time inquiring about a product and then, sometimes right in front of the salesperson, order that product online via their mobile device. While it is certainly rude of anyone to be so blatant as to order right in front of the salesperson who just helped them, and it is a bummer for a physical location business to lose a sale such as this, there are really 2 issues going on here.

First, this kind of thing will still go on even if all online retailers are taxed, because exclusively online business will almost always sell at a lower price point than a brick and mortar establishment. Why? They simply have the ability to do business cheaper with much less overhead. Do you ever even think of the tax savings when purchasing online? Isn’t it usually the huge price difference that incites you to make a purchase via the web? Taxing a business to be fair in this instance is absurd because it will do nothing to curb the actions of people looking for a better deal. You might as well make it illegal to use the time of a retail location’s salesperson when you really aren’t intending to buy from them (I probably shouldn’t have given you socialist legislators reading this any ideas).

Secondly, rather than build an online presence or do better marketing to get more online sales, the whiny Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and brick and mortar businesses want the government to step in and “level the playing field.” Below is directly from the RILA website:

“RILA also supports state action seeking to allow states collection authority by establishing nexus for online-only retailers through various means, or through direct state assessments of online-only retailers that have established facilities in a given state, as stop-gap measures until federal action to level the playing field can be enacted.”

Really? We have a completely out of control government in this country and in the name of fairness, you want to give them even more power? You want the federal government to make decisions for the states that are granted to them by the Constitution? Because brick and mortar retailers were not first or better at online marketing than companies like Amazon, they now demand that the playing field be leveled. Is anyone seeing the absurdity in this?

If you have never read Ayn Rand’s, Atlas Shrugged, this kind of leveling the playing field, cry baby stuff from misfit retailers and their industry organizations is a prophetic message right from the pages of Rand’s novel written some 50 years ago. Rand took the absurdities of this mode of thinking to its logical conclusion (which we are not far from these days) and her fictional society eventually destroyed itself. Do we not creep ever closer to that when we demand government action in the name of fairness?

While some see this as a big source of revenue for cash strapped states, it has hardly brought in but a trickle of revenue for states that have implemented an Internet sales tax. And if a national rule were to be implemented via a Congress that is in every aspect of our lives these days, that would impose an unfair burden on small business trying to comply with the multitude of different tax jurisdictions between states, counties and cities. While brick and mortar retailers would only have to be concerned about paying sales taxes in their local municipalities and or states, online retailers would have to be familiar with every tax law in every state, county and city. Mountains of paperwork would be required to comply with the laws of every state thus putting some online retailers out of business.

If there were even a chance of states being responsible with additional tax revenue, the idea of taxing online purchases might fly a little easier, but federal and local governments have proven over and over their complete incompetence when handling money that does not belong to them. States do not need more of our money. The more they take from us, the less we put back into the economy. Let’s keep out of state purchases tax free as they have always been.

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9
Oct

Taking A Maine Vacation

 The Ledges By The Bay

We’re off today, Friday 10-9-09 flying to Bangor Maine for a week’s vacation. We will be in Bangor for 3 days to visit my wife’s family and then it’s off to Camden, Rockport and Rockland, all picturesque towns on the rocky coast of Maine. We’ll be there for 4 nights staying at The Ledges By The Bay in Rockport. The picture above is the view we will have for those 4 nights and days.

The weather has been a bit rainy, but we think we’ll get a few days of sunshine while we’re there. We are also getting there in time to see the height of the changing fall colors. I’ll be blogging about o the adventure on my vacation rentals travel blog if you’d like to follow along.

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4
Jun

Working Towards Unemployment – It’s A Beautiful Thing

Your goal as an affiliate marketer, should you choose to accept it, is to ultimately become unemployed. With that said, if Al Gore decided to flip the switch and turn the internet off, I’d be in trouble because I don’t know if I could ever go back to working in a cubicle again.

When you come home from working for someone else it will probably take some time to get used to all the things you have to do working for yourself. You have to do everything from taking out the trash, to figuring how much money to spend on advertising to making management decisions to being the one and only IT person to cleaning up after the cat. The multitude of things that need to be done every day can be a bit overwhelming until you get into the stride of your new gig. Once you get into that stride though, you then begin to realize how fortunate you are to be able to earn a living from the comfort of your home (or drinking coffee at B&N where I am now).

It also takes some time after you start working at home before you get to the the point where you realize how restrictive the job environment really was. However, at the same time you realize that, you kind of get a shock to your system when it dawns on you that you may not be able to ever return to that previous lifestyle. Congratulations, you are now totally unemployable!

While growing into your work at home affiliate business you will experience many a roller coaster ride when one month you are doing great and the next month you’re trying to figure out how you can afford to start your next ppc campaign or even buy a cup of coffee at the local Starbucks or Barnes & Noble. Over the more than 4 years I’ve been working at home I’ve made from $600 per month to $10,000 per month and literally everything in between. I’ve had so may sources of income dry up and so many others come from out of nowhere, it’s completely unbelievable sometimes to even contemplate how that has actually happened.

But that’s the way most affiliate marketers experience their business and watching things happen like this makes you much more able to see opportunity and capitalize on those opps that can make a difference in your business. All the while this is happening though you always want to be working towards those things that will provide you much more stability than some flash in the pan trick that you learned in the latest ebook you paid way too much for.

The shock to your system when you realize you are no longer job material I mentioned earlier makes you all the more an entreprenuer. Eventually, what was once a challenge to figure out where your next source of income will come from becomes a mode of everyday thinking. Seeing a ppc campaign dry up or not earning as much from your latest BANS site as you thought you would is no longer a big deal because you’ve already figured out how to do the things that can earn you a nice income. It isn’t like starting over, it’s just continuing down the path of being an entreprenuer. No worries, you’ll figure something out.

Having the determination to work through those days and extended periods in your affiliate business when things aren’t going that well will develop your attitude from an, “OMG what am I going to do?” minset to a, “No biggie, I’ll figure somthin’ out” attitude.

Set your mind on working towards unemployment, because it really is a beautiful thing.

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28
Apr

Paint What You See, Not What You Think You See

Paint What  You See“Paint what you see, not what you think you see.” Those were probably some of the most profound words uttered by a teacher in a painting class I was taking while working on a graphic arts degree. It helped me finally “see” what I was doing wrong in drawing and painting still lifes, people and landscapes.

The trouble us budding artists had was that we knew what an apple, an orange, a wine bottle, and a human face looked like close up, but from 20 feet away we were trying to draw in the detail that we knew was there, but couldn’t actually see. When we all eventually realized to just paint what we saw, the entire process became much easier.

If you think about what you do in affiliate marketing and especially how you work your paid search campaigns, sometimes doing the stupid simple things, or at least being able to realize what they are, can make a huge difference in your business. Taking a step back and examining what you really see and how you really get conversions, what makes people buy, or fill out a lead form and ends up making you money can be an eye opening experience. It will probably turn out to be different than what you may have been led to believe or thought you had your head wrapped around.

For the longest time it was like I was banging my head against the wall trying to figure out this ppc thing and just about 4 or 5 months ago it really began to literally “click” for me. The conventional wisdom for years was to throw thousands of somewhat related keywords into a few different ad groups, see what converted and then trash the rest. The trouble with that philosophy was that you could have hundreds or thousands of words that end up getting 1 or 2 clicks each and you continue to hold onto them while they get 3, 4 and 5 clicks, waiting to see if one of them may convert while they up costing you lots of cash (especially in a competitive niche) and valuable time watching them. I now never, ever use more than one keyword in an AdGroup.

There are certainly lots of ways to make ppc work, but what started finally paying off for me was when I realized that there is an entire group of impulsive individuals just waiting to pounce and spend money on the hottest thing or get the latest bit of information that’s important to them especially when it’s recommended by someone else or has the force of the all powerful media behind it.

Up close it looks like ppc is a huge chore with all the market research, keyword research, tracking, quality score issues, bid prices, conversions and everything else that goes with it. The right in your face view of ppc marketing is fraught with details, but once you step back and take a look at the bigger picture the fundamentals are really quite simple. The basics are no more complicated than: find a source of lots of cheap traffic and send it to a relevant offer that converts.

Whatever you think of the media, when it comes to identifying hot trends, hot products and niches relevant to us affiliate marketers, they are absolutely your friend. If you keep an eye on the Drudge Report, the morning shows, the nightly news and the extended news programs like Dateline, 20/20, 60 Minutes and others and then regularly check Google Trends, Insights For Search, Yahoo Buzz and anything else that keeps track of hot topics, everything you need to get gobs and gobs of traffic is right there.

The more familiar you become with watching trends, the easier it becomes to identify topics that could possibly be a successful ppc campaign or other affiliate marketing venture for you. It is becoming much more frequent that I get up from watching one of these news programs right in the middle of it, start a ppc campaign and and end up making money 15 minutes later. And the great thing about these hot topic campaigns is that no one else is bidding in that space, plus if they don’t end up working, the cheap traffic doesn’t end up costing you much.

You’ll probably have to run several of these type of campaigns until you get the hang of it and figure out what makes people react and buy and more specifically what works for you and the way you target your ppc efforts. For some of you, this will probably be fairly easy if you are already in touch with trends, popular culture and the like. It was an initial effort for me because I tend to shy away from trendy subjects so it was hard to identify what was important and would eventually be profitable.

The bottom line though is not to over-complicate the process because even if you are remotely familiar with the news and general happenings you already are in touch enough to make your affiliate marketing and ppc efforts work much better. You may just have to refocus, take a step back, and learn how to paint what you see, not what you think you see.

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13
Apr

Affiliate Intangibles – Attitude And Out Of The Box Thinking

Out Of The Box ThinkingWhile the skills of affiliate marketing such as figuring out ppc, building websites, basic keyword seo, content writing and many other things are vitally important and very basic to your online endeavors, you are more than likely going to make the biggest impact on your earnings by improving two intangibles that are somewhat hard to nail down. Once the skills are acquired, more than anything else, attitude and out of the box thinking will get you to that next level.

These two concepts could be discussed separately in different posts, but I believe they are related, so this will be a long post as I try to mix up some stew here and mash things together.

Attitude

Doesn’t Google just piss you off? Don’t you just hate it when you’re crankin on a CPA offer and they change the lading page and your conversions are cut in half? Doesn’t eBay make you mad when your sales stats aren’t making any sense? And what about this Obama guy, either you think the right wing republicans are trying to tear him down or you think he may be the anti-christ and is destroying the country. Man, there’s enough wrong stuff affiliate marketing and in the larger frame of things that you could probably spend your entire life worrying about it.

Now that you’ve probably thought about some of that above and may be thinking, “Yea, right on man! Google really is the evil spawn of a vast conspiracy by eBay, Oprah and Obama to lobotomize the world and merge our consciousness with a machine”, none of that is going to earn you one penny. In fact, dwelling on excuses, negatives and minutiae will seriously hamper your ability to focus, will hurt your motivation and it takes valuable time away from your business.

It all boils down to controlling your attitude instead of letting it control you. Because of the ever changing landscape of affiliate marketing, this business can certainly give you enough to complain about and as long as your complaints are pointed in the right direction they can benefit you, but the problem is, most times they aren’t. Complaints properly focused can change the situation or at least make others aware of a legitimate issue that needs to be dealt with, but complaining just for the joy of flapping your gums only makes you a better complainer, not a person with a better attitude.

Think about that, do you really want to be better at complaining? World class complainers may be great at what they do, unfortunately, the pay isn’t that great.

The next time you run across something that really makes your blood boil, instead of dwelling on the issue and complaining to your spouse or writing one of those long ranting blog posts, immediately refocus your attention on your next task or larger project. If you are like most affiliate marketers, you should at least have a mental list, written is best, of the next 25 or so projects or ideas you’d like to work on. Don’t wait, when you feel like wasting time complaining, immediately get busy doing something on your list and focus the energy you’d be wasting complaining to a more useful endeavor.

The better you control your thinking, the more likely you will be able to adapt to changes and be able to think outside of the box, which of course is the next subject in this post…

Out Of The Box Thinking

Can you think of a single famous inventor, technological pioneer or great leader that didn’t think radically different than the status quo of their time? Probably not, because big change comes from big, and most importantly, different thinkers. Fortunately, affiliate marketing, though it is a different way than most people choose to make a living, doesn’t require the innovation of putting a man on the moon. But to reach greater and greater heights does require a mode of thinking that leads to a path most are either unwilling to take or don’t realize you can take.

Why doesn’t the average affiliate marketer make $300,000 per month? The simple answer is, is that they haven’t figured out a way to do it yet. It may come as a shock to you that in he whole scheme of things, affiliate marketing really isn’t that hard. Most of us in this business probably possess the pure marketing skills to be doing much better than we are already, but the fact is, we aren’t doing better. Why is that? It’s because we become comfortable with the systems we have in place or the training we’ve received because they are working at some level for us. Congratulations, you’ve learned how to follow directions.

Learning how to think outside the box involves learning how not to follow directions! The directions are in place to teach you the system only. Directions for putting together your computer desk allow you to build a nice desk, that’s it. They don’t tell you what kind of computer to buy, what kind of software to put in your computer or what to use the computer for.

I see this in PPC Coach where there’s a system and how to exercises in place to teach members the ins and outs of pay per click marketing. Every month there are more involved lessons and ideas on how to better your ppc efforts and some follow those directions to the letter. What some forget though is that there aren’t any rules that say you must continue to work the lessons on a monthly basis. They are simply guidelines to get you to think about ppc differently than you may have in the past and that’s exactly what they were for me. Expanding on the lesson learned in PPC Coach has helped me go on to earn thousands where I had previously lost hundreds.

Right now though I’m still in a box though. It’s a $10,000 per month box, but it’s still a box. Others think in a $30K, $50K or $100K per month box. They learned to see beyond the $10K per month box and expand their “what if” thinking to a whole new level. And that’s one of the secrets for us as affiliate marketers that will help us see beyond the normal, learning to always ask “what if”. What if I did this backwards? What if Google didn’t matter? What if you didn’t follow the rules (I’m not advocating black hat here)? What if offer xxxx was only paying half of what it is, how could you still make money with it. What if I offer legitimate stuff to customers instead of rip-off gimmicks with recurring monthly charges? What if I bid on concept keywords instead of specific keywords in my ppc marketing. What if Google Quality Score didn’t matter, and on and on. It’s good to sit down from time to time and make a list of “what if” scenarios and meditate on them for a bit to see what you come up with.

It’s also important to get outside of the realm of affiliate marketing on a regular basis to get your mind thinking in a different direction. Go to your favorite book store such as Barnes & Noble and read up on the economy, find out how finance and economics works, read about how designers developed the latest Ferrari, the challenges the latest software packages are helping 3d modelers overcome, what people are doing to make due when they lost their job and so on. A constant refreshing of your mind with new ideas will help you see beyond your current mode of thinking into an ever expanding box that someday will expand large enough to encompass your ultimate goals and desires, whatever they may be.

Using all their skills wisely, the average affiliate marketer will have an average business and make average money. Marketers that take those same skills and reverse engineer the rules by thinking out of the box with an attitude of finding solutions instead of complaining, will succeed wildly. Never forget that the rules are put it in place to tell you what you can’t do, they rarely, if ever, tell you what you can do. It’s up to you to put on your thinking cap and figure that out.

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