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Are Business Owners Looking At Affiliate Marketing Nexus Tax Issues?

NexusTaxI have been following the Nexus Tax.  Other names that have been associated with this tax are The Amazon Tax, Affiliate Nexus Tax, and The Internet Tax.  As you can probably imagine many, online merchants, online marketers and online affiliates are watching very closely as lawmakers continue to introduce bills for their states that would require businesses and digital store owners to collect taxes for sales made in specific states.  For an understanding of the tax, we would recommend your business contact your tax professional or legal tax representative for the best advice and how your company will be impacted by this tax or these new laws as they are passed in each state.

As a legal term, “nexus” has a meaning that the cases are connected or facts that come from the same grouping.  If you have a nexus of facts, those facts belong together or are categorized as belong or are connected.  As a term related in contract law and for the most part as it relates to sales tax, your business must be connected to a state for that state to collect sales tax from you.  A typical example of this would be where a business sells a product to a customer in Colorado and then must  collect the sales tax and pay that tax to Colorado’s Department of Revenue with the proper tax returns and forms.  As a business that might sell in each state in America, that could be a time consuming and costly measure.  There may already be businesses paying the nexus tax if they have brick and mortar stores in those states or if they have a part of their business located in that state, etc.

Right now there a a handful of states that require sales tax to be paid to them by merchants selling online in their states.  The states currently requiring this are listed out in the Performance Marketing Association’s website.  Here in our home state of Colorado, we have the Big Brother Sale’s tax Law that was passed and signed into law on March 1, 2010.  We have been following along with the progress of this bill and its impact on businesses in Colorado.  There are numerous reports and impact studies that have been created and published in this regard and to catch up on sleep I suggest reading through all of them.

As a business you need to be educated in all the issues related to the Nexus Tax.  Many of advocates of the bills being proposed see this as a way of leveling the playing field for brick and mortar businesses or the obvious conclusion of raising revenues for the state.  There are also many advocates against the Nexus Tax and they are still drawing the battles lines and may actually be losing ground.  Recently, Missy Ward, a leader in the affiliate marketing world and board member of the Performance Marketing Association published that the affiliate marketing world is in need of its industry to contribute to the fund fighting against the Affilate Nexus Tax.  If you want further information on how this might change how you do business in the affiliate world, we would be happy to provide you further information. Contact us today.

Twitter Changing TweetDeck To Fit Use

twitterlogoI was an early adopter of the Twitter application and social network.  I was on the site in early 2007 while they were still boasting of having “thousands” of users instead of the millions of users they speak of at present. Feel free to follow along while my Twitter handle speaks in 140 characters or less.  As part of the growth of Twitter, we have seen application after application come into the marketplace and then either transmogrify into another application, die for lack of use, or flourish as a big time player.  One of the early used applications for Twitter was TweetDeck. TweetDeck flourished and was later purchased by Twitter itself to offer as a third party application. I fell in love with the TweetDeck the web application early as it allowed me to read a number of Twitter updates from my hundreds of friends and later became a tool where I could track my thousands of friends and followers and the many different conversations.  Recently I noticed I had an older version of the application and tried to upgrade my own version of TweetDeck.  I was told after trying to upgrade that, in fact, my computer was too old and I needed a faster and more up to date processor to handle the upgrade.

TweetDeck announced (ironically enough on a blogging platform that is also being phased out) they will be,  “doubling down on the web experience and discontinuing our app support.”  They want to cater to the “power users” who mostly use the TweetDeck application on their computers and keep the regular Twitter application for those that are using it on their smartphones and tablets.  Of note, they also state that they are retiring the the older version of the Twitter API.  I believe this is a move in the direction of making Twitter a more advertiser friendly application to begin ramping up to make the network a powerful money making tool.  For the early years we saw Twitter without a business plan to make the company money.  This may be a change in that direction to allow it to become one the powerhouses such as Facebook and Google.  For now they are telling us it is to fit the user base.  Twitter has never been one to break to the pressure of being a “business”, but I think this is a change to make them better in the eyes of investors and businesses.  They need to compete for attention and more importantly, money.

tweetdecklogoI would consider myself a power user of Twitter and have been for some time.  I hope that the changes do not necessitate me changing applications to a more robust model.  I have never been a true fan of Twitter as a software application itself but they may have some changes in store for us that will make them more like the TweetDeck software.  We will keep an eye on the changes and will also be interested to find out if this will change the way online marketing works in this 140 character world where we seem to be residing. If you have a favorite Twitter client we would love to hear from you what you are using.  For now, it seems TweetDeck is headed to the land of the Fail Whale.

The Dreaded Inbox and Email Marketing

One of the things I do here at FiveCentShine is heading up the plans for direct marketing to existing clients, potential clients, existing affiliates and potential affiliates using email.  We also want to be seen as industry experts and have a plan in place for sending emails to potential brand ambassadors, and potential business referrals and all that comes from a great email marketing campaign.  I know that email marketing is effective.  My friends in that space do a very good job of making that apparent.  I have learned much of what I know in email marketing from people like DJ Waldow over at Waldow Social.  Give him a ring if you want someone to help you too.

EmailBankruptcyI hate email.  It is one of those things that makes me cringe.  I don’t hate the content, often I get great information in them. I don’t hate the concept of communication either.  I use email daily to communicate, and I get much of my information from friends and colleagues using email. I used to talk to my Mom on the phone everyday.  Now I get the occasional email from her.  It has changed communication in my family, in many cultures and certainly has changed the way we communicate in business.

There are many times I file for what I call Email Bankruptcy.  You may have an idea of what I mean by having a look at one of my email accounts (pictured at left).  This is a true to life screen capture of my dreaded inbox.  I will remind you I said only one account.  I have currently 6 different email accounts and in a couple of those I actually have what I would consider sub-accounts that re-direct to one of the 6 inboxes.  To say the least I am overwhelmed.  Much like the person who gets into debt and cannot dig their way out no matter what they do. This is what I mean by email bankruptcy. I merely hit that delete button and start over from scratch. I am currently email bankrupt in that account.

Some of you may be thinking as I do, “What if there is an important email in that inbox?”  I know exactly how that mindset works.  It’s like that pack rat personality that keeps the bread bag twist tie in a drawer for the thought that someday you may need to may a twist tie rope like MacGyver and climb down a building–another blog post for another time. Herein lies the reason for my not wanting to delete emails.  I might somehow need to refer to them in a legal brief to the Supreme Court. ( see how my mind works?)  If they are less than a certain age, they can be used in a Court of law.  Well that might just be my legal background influencing me, but you again get the idea.

Realistically if the emails were of that much importance we would have heard something from the sender in another medium.  Perhaps they might even pick up the phone and call!  Yes, I have been known to actually speak to people in my real voice at times.

The inbox can be a dreaded medium for many.  Some just don’t get the message. They believe that email is all spam.  Others make it almost a religious ceremony to make sure their email inbox is always at “0” unread emails.  Are you one of the people who want to keep your inbox empty?  Let me know.  Go ahead send me an email and tell me of your email habits.  I might just actually get to it, or it may end up in email bankruptcy court.

 

The Rokform Buying Experience

RF-Rokshield-bkip5-usa-BKGMThis is somewhat like the ever popular “unboxing” many of the tech gadget geeks out there perform when they receive a demo product to carry out a product review for their followers.  The only difference being from that given scenario is I am not actually demoing the product nor do I actually have the product in my hand.  This is more of the actual experience of buying the product itself. The product in this particular instance is the iPhone 4/4s case from RokformRokform as we have indicated is a company that is part of our list of clients we are very proud to have at FiveCentShine.

I should note that I actually have a product from Rokform.  I have the iPhone 5 case (pictured at left in black/black) in gun metal and black and I love the product and will perhaps at another point talk about my experience with having the product in hand.  The purpose of this post is to allow you to take the buying journey with me to let you know how simple and easy it was to order their product. I should also state that once I got my product, my wife and daughter also had to have theirs.

My wife has been using the iPhone 4s for a little less than a year after having the Samsung Galaxy.  She likes the iPhone but I think at times misses her Samsung for the features she was accustomed to using the in the Android OS.  My daughter is now using the Samsung Galaxy my wife was using before her upgrade, and is due for an upgrade a week from today.  She has already put in her request for the iPhone 4 since our Verizon plan allows me to obtain the iPhone 4 for “free” when upgrading (I still do not understand why Verizon charges $30.00 for the privilege of upgrading phones).  Rather than have a phone in a week without a protective case, we decided to make a dual order.  A case for my wife and one for my daughter.

I pulled up my laptop and I headed over to the Rokform site.  As I hit their landing home page, a form was produced and asked for me to tell them what I was interested in visiting their business. For the privilege of telling them some basic information I would be given a 10% reduction at checkout. A great offer.  This was a small problem on my laptop as the entire form was not accessible.  Part of the form was below the fold and I could not scroll down to submit the form to get my 10% off purchase price offered.  A small problem, but a great item to provide feedback to their IT team for a remedy. Always a good reason to test each of our clients shopping cart experience and perform our own due diligence or review.

orange-whiteThe case for the iPhone 4/4s is different from the iPhone 5 as it has differing specifications.  It also has some different selections when ordering from the folks at Rokform.  The case decided upon by my wife and daughter was the Rokbed v3 Custom. They were excited to have their own design and custom colors.  My wife chose the orange and black as her custom design colors (case at right).  Our local high school are the Tigers of Erie, Colorado.  She will be a proud supporter. My daughter, although not quite into the high school decided to go with her favorite college team colors and went for green, black and white. I think she intends to get the full line of custom cases for a different case to match her mood and perhaps to match the outfit she is wearing.  We played around with the application that allows us to see how our designs were coming together and finally ended the process with confirming our checkout.  I was able to pay using my Paypal account, their Express Checkout, which was nice since I had a small balance and it made the process simple.  Checkout was a breeze and I actually had “abandoned” the cart a couple of times without a hitch.  The reason for abandoning is I had to run find my 10% off coupon or coupon code.

Having a section for a coupon code or a promo code is a very enticing empty box for me.  I couldn’t possibly leave the box blank.  I had to find a promo code or at the very least a coupon to use. I went to Google and entered in the search terms for finding a “Rokform Coupon or Promo Code”(I’ll wait while you try to Google it yourself).  As you can see from the search, it is possible to get the coupon code.  Having already known that we have partners over at RetailMeNot.com, I decided to use their coupon code provided on their site.  They had the very same 10% reduction offer for adding in a special code designed for their use.  Now I was a happy camper.  I popped in the code and received my discount of $10.80 and as an added bonus I had “free shipping”!  The company would be sending my product FedEx Ground sent right to my door.

Overall the experience was painless and easy sans the issue with the opening form for the 10% off–feedback I plan to provide and perhaps a remedy with the company.  I can track my order on a link provided in my receipt and was able to see all the details in that email sent as a confirmation.  Transaction completed.

We like to do our own due diligence on all the companies we represent.  It is part of what we do here at FiveCentShine.  If you want us to perform our due diligence on your company, contact us and we will make sure the buying experience with your company is the best it can be for your customers.  The worst thing that could happen is perhaps we will buy one of your products.

Using Pinterest To Increase Sales and Business Growth

pinterest-logoI mentioned the FiveCentShine Pinterest account in our last post regarding the infographic and the affect social has on e-commerce.  Pinterest is relatively new to the marketplace of social networks, coming into play in about March of 2010.  I was one of the early adopters and beta testers around the time of the launch and have been watching them grow and prosper as a business. It appears they will be a long-lasting startup and I see them being acquired perhaps by one of the bigger players like a Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter or other behemoth.  If they hang on and become one of their own big time players they will make that transition well.

Using Pinterest as a marketing tool is becoming a “must have” tool for many companies.  Those that have done a good job of making it work are those companies that use images to help sell their products and services. Images have been used to sell for as long as we have had retail stores–I loved the Sears catalog.  If you are a business that uses images as a way to sell, this is a must have social network in your arsenal.  Those that are doing a good job are travel destinations with great pictures of their facilities and beaches.  Imagine the power of influence you have if you show a beach scene while in the Midwest they are being buried in snow and wind and bad weather conditions. Sound familiar?  If you have a restaurant and have well prepared dishes that look delicious, imagine the power behind posting those pictures?  People may show up with their smartphone, show you the picture and tell you they want to order that dish.  It has happened and I have seen it work.  I watched a customer at a hair care salon show the stylist the exact hairdo she wanted for her wedding. Powerful sales tool is all I can say. There are many more ideas that come with selling with images.  Need help coming up with a few ideas? Let us know.

Users are plentiful in this social network too.  I usually look around me for real world examples of use, and I don’t have to go further than the person sitting next to me on the couch.  My wife loves to sit and scroll through the different pictures of hair tips, of kitchen remodeling ideas and of course, pictures of those beach scenes I mentioned above.  One of these days I will be able to click through to that beach scene and book her that trip she so desperately needs! To expand on that thought, most of the users in my mind that make up the Pinterest community are women in the 18-45 age range.  If you want that man cave type of site there are other applications similar to Pinterest like Gentlemint, where you see manly stuff. Other sites that are using images and selling products are companies such as Fancy and Fab. All good ways to increase your sales and grow your business.

Pinterest has a great map of content that teaches and provides information on how you as a business can use their application.  They have a smartphone app that allows users to see it on the go, and it is an addictive application many use like a teenager with a new online game.  This is a  great tool for not only advertisers and merchants, but it is another example of how affiliates can get started on sales and commissions. If you think your business is ready to take the leap into selling with images using Pinterest or other applications, we can help you get started.  Check out Pinterest and let us know your thoughts.  In the meantime, happy pinning!

Infographic: How does Social Affect eCommerce?

We love infographics and the folks over at Monetate do a good job of publishing those. A picture is worth a 1000 words and infographics actually use words with pictures to impart the wisdom contained in them. Our very own Vincent Scatliffe predicted that 2013 would be the year of the infographic and I think it has some good logic behind the prediction. Infographics can increase traffic and are great for social networks like Pinterest! You can follow our firm on Pinterest too.

Take a look now at how social media is changing the e-commerce world of retail.

How Do Social Login & Sharing Affect Ecommerce?

Monetate Marketing Infographics


Brand Reputation and Affiliate Marketing: Does it hurt?

2LW03One of the things we get asked by businesses that have yet to dive into the world of affiliate marketing is, “Will it hurt our brand?”  It is a great question to ask as I know many businesses who should have asked that question before jumping into a new channel or new campaign related to their marketing.  The quick answer is “No”, with the catch-all small print that also says “Maybe”.

Branding is a fickle thing in the world of marketing. We can ask 10 people off the street, “What is the definition of a brand?” and 10 of the responses would be different. My definition is something along the lines of Seth Godin’s definition:

A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.

I am also of the belief that a brand is your identity.  When I refer to “your”, I refer to noun or a person, place or thing.  I believe we have a personal brand, a comp[any brand or cows in the pasture with the Rocking J stamped on their backside.  It is an identifier.

Whe I began this process of explaining brands, perhaps you had your own idea, like the golden arches of McDonald’s, the fancy script of Coca-Cola or maybe even the Twitter bird or the, Facebook icon.

In June of last year, Forrester conducted a study at the direction of Rakuten Linkshare, to answer the question of, “Do promotions run on affiliate sites degrade brand reputation?”

Screen Shot 2013-02-21 at 6.13.43 PM

Forrester found that not only did it not damage the brand but the commissioned study came to the conclusion, affiliate marketing improved on brand image, and in fact, increased brand loyalty.

You might be wondering why I mentioned the fine print above when I said “Maybe?”  If your affiliate program is not properly managed, if you are not watching how your brand is represented by publishers and affiliates or if you are not paying attention to the little things in your program, brand damage can occur.  Many brands do not take the time to see what is being done in their affiliate networks and they don’t take the time to be more proactive.  At FiveCentShine we pride ourselves on the idea that your brand is our brand and we do all we can to protect its identity. If you have questions about your marketing in the affiliate space or if you want us to analyze your current situation and provide you an audit of our thoughts, please take a moment to contact us.

 

Proven Growth Through Proactive vs. Reactive Affiliates

proactivevsreactiveDo you have proactive or reactive affiliates representing your company?

If you already know the answer, great! Let’s get started optimizing those proactive affiliates.

If you don’t know the answer to this question, you may not be optimizing your affiliate marketing program as well as you should. There are other questions to ask yourself about your current affiliate campaign, but this is a common question I have for our new clients with whom we invest our labor capital. Our clients see immediate and proven growth with the techniques we employ using this strategy in their affiliate programs and online marketing campaigns.

I will provide you with a little background and give a lesson into how to determine your answer to the question and how to get moving towards optimizing your campaign for realization of further sales and as I indicated, proven growth.

I believe affiliate marketing is a great tool for enhancing sales of your product or service. Affiliate marketing through established partnerships, is even better, and operating on a performance basis, online advertising on a revenue share or cost per action basis, are all top producing techniques for increasing and growing your bottom line.  The perfect storm of all these is online advertising, on a revenue share or cost per action basis, through proactive, responsible, affiliate partnerships.

The next question you need to answer as a business owner or the person in charge of online sales is–“How many proactive vs. reactive affiliates represent your company, within your affiliate program?”  Still not sure of how to answer this question?  Let me give you a hint, you probably have very little.  Still confused?  Let’s look at what we mean by proactive.

pro·ac·tive:  adjective/prōˈaktiv/ 1. (of a person, policy, or action) Creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened…

In fact, if you did an analysis of how much revenue came from “proactive affiliates” or “publishers”, it would probably consist of less than 5%, because frankly, you probably have zero partners that could be classified as proactive!

In 2012, I performed over 100 different analysis on different affiliate programs. Program sizes ranged from$ 0.00 in Advertiser revenue per year to over 60 million in Advertiser revenue per year. In all but 2-3, 100% of all existing affiliates were one of or perhaps a combination of the following:

  1. reactive in nature
  2. scalpers by trade; or
  3. breaking program terms and conditions.

More importantly, my analysis revealed the affiliates were damaging the clients’ overall program goals, the company brand and, most importantly, trust.

If you are still having difficulty grasping the concept, let me ask you this. How many of your affiliates are “creating” new demand on behalf of your company by “causing something to happen rather than responding to it after it has happened”? Let’s find answers to the following questions:

  1. Does your e-commerce trend from affiliates only increase or decrease based upon yearly or company trends?
  2. Have you seen a growth month from your partners (after the first 3 months) even when your company had a decrease in sales?
  3. Are your affiliates scalping your sales? Don’t understand the term scalper? Not sure how they could? You need help and fast!
  4. How many of your publishers talk to you? It’s hard to sell a product or company you don’t understand? (to new customers that is)
  5. How many of your partners use outdated creative?

Now, you may ask, why would this even matter? Well, it matters. IF THIS IS ALL YOUR AFFILIATE PROGRAM IS, THEN YOU’RE MISSING OUT ON THE BEST PARTS OF AFFILIATE MARKETING. Normally, in client programs with this mix, we are able to produce at LEAST 100% revenue growth within the first 12 months. The numbers don’t lie. It’s proven growth.

I do love affiliate partnerships.  I  love proactive ones more. The best of both are proactive affiliate partnerships that produce revenue increases on a performance basis paying out in a metric that fits my clients. Nothing tops it!

I can teach you many of these things and more.  Give me 30 minutes with you and your stats and I’ll show you what I mean. I’ll show you scalpers, reactive publishers, program breakers and trends that will very likely change your business outlook forever.  Then, I’ll show you where the growth can be found. Try me. Good, honest work.

Introducing Crossfire Gear, Another Company FiveCentShine Will Grow

crossfirelogoIt is not too hard to figure out in recent days, many companies are lining up to be considered as a client to have our company help them with their growth and exposure.  Crossfire Gear is one such company.  We are very excited about the potential of this company and our ideas for helping them grow.

Crossfire Gear began a little less than five years ago in Idaho.  It as the innovative idea of its founder and President, Jarrod Barr.  Jarrod began the idea of safety equipment many years ago as a young man.  His inspiration came from a firearm accident involving his father.  After college, Jarrod took his love of the outdoors, the thought behind making firearms safer, and his love of invention to form a very strong company.  This company is now Crossfire Gear and after establishing itself in the brick and mortar style sales, they jumped into the digital world in 2012.

One of the owners of the company, Terry Christensen, is also very excited about the growth opportunities of the company and his passion was realized after only a few minutes into our kickoff meeting with the company last week.  Terry knows that the Internet world will change forever the bottom line of Crossfire Gear and we aim to do just this year.

I had an opportunity to interview Jarrod and Terry on our FiveCentShine radio program that aired last Sunday night and I think after a short time you will also hear the passion in their voices as they describe their product line, the founding of the company and of course the involvement now with FiveCentShine. I invite you to have a listen to the show by hitting play below.

If you want to also get in the now popular line to become a new client of FiveCentShine, we want to hear from you!  Contact us so we can get started getting to know your company and opportunities for growth.

Happy Valentine’s Day From FiveCentShine

happy-valentines-day-2013

From all of us here at FiveCentShine, Happy Valentine’s Day!

If you have not remembered it is Valentine’s Day it probably is not too late to pick up those flowers or that box of chocolate!  We missed ordering you that special box of chocolate and the bouquet of flowers, but we still love all of you!

If you are a merchant or advertiser and perhaps missed a chance at getting a promotion started for this Valentines Day, it’s not too late to begin thinking of Lincoln and Washington and Presidents Day Sales!  Contact us now and we can help you set it up now!