Filling In Blanks

(This update was sent to readers on 27th March. I appologise for the delay in posting it here). All I want to do today is to fill in a few blanks based on reader feedback. These are…

* Mailing List Management
* Finding & Working with a Ghost Writer
* What To Do if you Cannot Afford Product Development

…so here we go…

  >>>>> Mailing List Management <<<<<

One reader following along with our project has asked if I was going to show the actual workings of the mailing list management application I use.

I thought about this but decided not to simply because the technical side of setting up the mailing list is irrelevant to the marketing techniques being used in the project. That of course is the main focus of sharing the project with you in the first place, so you can emulate those techniques.

Because all mailing list management applications pretty much function in the same basic manner (although not all are created equal) I thought what I would do instead was let you know what I use personally, and give you the next best alternative. I’ll also talk briefly about the pro’s and con’s of each.

I personally used “Autoresponse Plus”…

This is a stand alone mailing list management application which I have installed and working on a dedicated server. It will work fine on a shared hosting account. I simply have it on a dedicated server as we lease 4 dedicated servers for use within our company.

I have used “Autoresponse Plus” for many years now and am pretty happy with it. It can handle unlimited mailing lists, with unlimited follow up sequences and can send out many thousands of emails per day. This includes automated follow up sequences, and/or one time mailings to specific mailing lists.

For example, putting out this newsletter each week. Depending on the size of the email being sent, it can take anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours to send out the newsletter to the 32,482 current newsletter readers.

“Autoresponse Plus” has all of the features an online business needs in terms of mailing list management. To cover a few briefly…

* Unlimited mailing lists and follow up autoresponders.
* Unlimited subscribers and leads contained within the database.
* Tracking abilities. Including link tracking & lead capture form tracking (useful to test different lead generation methods).
* Subscription and unsubscription via web form and email.
* Text, HTML, and Multi Part (both HTML and Text) email options.
* And heaps more…

I wont go into them all as this isn’t a sales pitch, I simply wanted to let you know what I use. You can see the complete feature list here…

The main advantage of owing the application like this is that you have complete control for a one time investment. Again, you have basically unlimited “everything” and can do what you like without volume restrictions. The only real restriction is based on the “power” and specifications of where you are hosting the application. Better servers will allow for faster performance.

However the major disadvantage relates to hosting compatibility (mass/broadcast mailings and spam complaints) and email deliverability.

You need to have a very solid hosting company if you want to run your own mailing list management application like this and plan to be sending a lot of emails on a regular basis. You need to explain to them it is used for permission based email marketing only (and of course ensure you only use it for that purpose).

Any spam complaints you will receive are traced back to the hosting company which of course impacts them, forcing them to take action. You can run into serious issues if the company doesn’t understand that spam complaints are an inevitable result of email marketing, even when you are strictly using only opt-in leads.

This usually results in the company denying you the ability to continue to use your mailing list management application. In more rash cases, taking your site offline entirely.

Of course, the simple solution to this is to run with a hosting company that understands these issues and is quite happy for you to maintain your own mailing list management.

If you do have a dedicated server, which I understand might be out of reach for many at this point, you will face far fewer problems in the above respect in comparison to using a shared hosting account. This is because almost everything you do on a shared hosting account will have some impact on others sharing that some hosting account.

The second disadvantage to running your own mailing list management application relates to email delivery rates.

You’re probably aware if you’ve ever had a, Yahoo, or email account, that many messages you receive are sent directly to the “spam” folder of the accounts. Sometimes even if you have requested to receive these emails.

This is because free email providers (and many paid services such as AOL etc) have SPAM detection devices in operation which score an emails probability of being SPAM based on a number of key factors. We’re not going to go into those, but it is inevitable that often legitimate email such as a message you might be trying to send to your list will end up in such SPAM folders.

This can result in some of your messages simply not making it to the inbox of the person you’re trying to contact. And of course, if a legitimate email is classed as SPAM on one account for example, then you can be sure it has happened to literally all of your subscribers.

Worse still if this happens too often you can have your IP address blacklisted so all future messages are also flagged as SPAM until the blacklist is lifted. Again this can result in a large number of your leads and subscribers never reading your email messages.

That is probably the biggest issue with running your own list management application. Of course the best way to minimize the risk is to ensure you only ever use pure opt-in permission based email marketing. I would also recommend that if you ever use a pay-per-lead service to generate newsletter readers or email leads for whatever purpose, use that company’s list management features for those specific leads.

The alternative to this is to have a mailing list management company manage your lists for you. Perhaps the most reputable one out there is Aweber…

…it has all of the features of “Autoresponse Plus” but without the above potential headaches. It also claims to have a 99.34% email deliverability rate which is very high. I can’t confirm this, but given they are reputable, have been in the market place since I can remember, and have formed many relationships with major email service providers, it I isn’t a big surprise.

So the main advantage here is that you have the company focusing on your email deliverability so you don’t have to. The main disadvantage is that you need a continual monthly or annual investment to use their service (which given their deliverability isn’t really a disadvantage at all) and there are volume restrictions in place.

These restrictions are across the board.

The price you pay depends on the number of mailing lists you’re allowed to setup, the number of follow up messages allowed, the number of emails you can send each month, and the number of total subscribers you can have stored in your account. Of course you can scale up to greater volumes as your email marketing becomes more frequent and as your mailings lists grow…

So why do I use “Autoresponse Plus” instead of Aweber?

The primary reason is because it was the first stand alone application I purchased and it proved to meet and exceed all of my needs. I don’t even use 1/4 of the features available most of the time. Having started using it so long ago and overcoming the associated hurdles mentioned above, there isn’t really any need to switch.

I only ever had one major problem when AOL blacklisted me for no appropriate reason whatsoever. This was only temporary and I have not had any major issues since.

However if I was just starting out now, I would probably run with Aweber simply because I could start small and scale up as the business grew and I required more email marketing capabilities. That way I could simply focus on the marketing and leave the technical stuff to the professionals.

So now you know what I am using for the lead generation, follow up sequences, and newsletter publishing for our Worm Farming project.

  >>>>> Finding & Working with a Ghost Writer <<<<<

I wasn’t sure when the best time to write about this would be, and I’m not sure if now is that time, but here goes anyway as I have a little to share at this point. I guess I should mention a few things as the Ghost writer started on the Worm Farming project when I started sharing it with you about four weeks ago.

If I leave anything out I’ll come back to it in the future.

First some people have asked me what a Ghost writer actually is. To keep it basic, a ghost writer is employed to write a book (or report, article, manual etc). Depending on the contract with the write, you then end up with the complete rights to use the book as you see fit. You can put your name on it if you wish too.

You are paying for their service to research and write the content only.

In our case this is a one time fee for a set amount of work.

In some cases, particularly with very experienced & in demand writers, you may be required to pay a set amount, plus a royalty on any sales made. Obviously the first case is a little more attractive in terms of affordability and independence from continued royalties.

The trouble with finding a decent Ghost writer online is that there are a lot of people out there who think they can write. Sure, these people may be able to write well, but they might not be able to put together an entire manual or book well.

Heck, I’ve been told I write extremely well, but I had little desire to sit down and spend a month writing a manual about Worm Farming. Structuring, writing a draft, finalizing and the whole process that comes with producing an information product is not easy. I struggle to do this many times. So It was better for me to outsource this process to a professional.

Where did I find the writer we’re using for this project?

I jumped into a few popular marketing forums and posted a message seeking recommendations. I received around 40 individual private messages from writers offering their services. In my post I asked for examples of their previous work stating they were essential to my decision. I culled any responses that could not or did not provide this for me.

I reviewed their examples, their websites, and their writing style.

Culled a few more after that.

That narrowed down the list to a few potentials. I then sent them an email with a very basic outline of the project keeping it kinda vague. I wanted to see what sort of response I would receive from them in terms of how they would see such a project moving forward.

I wanted to see their initiative, not an “ok I can do that”, “yes that is part of my service” kind of response.

The replies came in. One of the people on the short list even took some time to write a little about the topic we were discussing, in this case worm farming, which was impressive. It was this person I decided to run with.

I was further impressed when, before we had even agreed on a structure, he had independently discovered that there was a worm farming convention coming to his town and had already arranged some “face time” with one of the presenters. I knew I had made the right choice at this point in time.

Something interesting I want to share you also is how I went about creating the product structure to pass onto him. I didn’t.

I obviously had a fair idea of what I was looking for when researching the information already available in the market. I had my own draft structure prepared. However I wanted him to show me that he had what it took to do this.

It made him get out into the market and conduct his own research in order to create a decent structure. This was another “initiative” test. Sure enough, it came back extremely close to the draft structure I had put together and we proceeded to move forward with the project once agreed.

The only other thing I provided for him was the initial research material I had collected from the web. When initially researching the niche market, I found a lot of research papers, PDF documents, articles etc. I saved all of this to a folder and passed this on to the writer for his use. I also purchased a few other paid manuals and sent these also.

I have had little contact with the writer since, other than a few project is progressing well emails and schedule updates. And of course we have been keeping in touch in relation to additional “information finds” and the outcome of his meeting at the worm farm convention etc.

The first full draft is due at the end of this week.

BTW – I will not be sharing the writer I am using at this point so please do not ask for his contact information.

  >>>>> What To Do if you Cannot Afford Product Development <<<<<

If you recall at the start of the project I mentioned I had budgeted $2,000 for product development, of which $500 has been paid as a down payment. At an agreed upon $0.02 per word that will work out to be a very in-depth manual (approximately 150-200 pages). And this is for the primary product only, the core content of what is to become the worm farming secrets membership website.

A few people have emailed me asking what action they should take, that is how can they follow a similar plan as the project plan I am outlining here, if they simply cannot afford that sort of investment at this point in time.

Two options here.

You can create the product yourself. I do not recommend doing this unless you have experience.

Promote a product as an affiliate.

This is a lot easier and can still produce excellent results using the exact same techniques I am using for this project.

Obviously you will only earn commissions and will not be able to begin your own affiliate program, however you can use the revenue obtained to invest in your own product development in the future.

The important thing here is to use a similar lead capture process as to what I have working on the…

…website. Capture those leads for future follow up and further promotions.


Duncan Carver