Presence at the Software Industry Conference in Boston

July 30, 2009 - 2 Responses

What a positive experience it was for the whole UpClick team to attend the show in Boston.   We were so pleasantly surprised at the warm reception we got from so many software vendors and we kept hearing positive feedback on both our business model and the ecommerce platform we had built.

We’re eager for our young company to start participating in even more such venues.

Increase your affiliate commissions and out-market your competitors

May 13, 2009 - Leave a Response

Performance-based marketing is one of the true gems of the internet.  That is, the marketer only gets paid when he delivers a sale.  No more guessing as to how much an advertising campaign might generate, you only pay for performance and you set the goals and rewards.

 Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular forms of performance-based marketing.  An affiliate is any third party that earns commission dollars (set by the merchant) that refers sales.  But how does the affiliate market your product?

Most affiliates are experts in a particular domain of internet marketing:  email marketing,  search marketing, natural search or they simply own domains and websites on which they drive traffic to.  All affiliates have to pay money to drive customers to your site (whether by buying those leads/impressions or as an opportunity cost for their labor).  An affiliate’s profits are derived from the commissions he earns minus any marketing costs of driving the traffic to your site.

Let’s say you pay a commission of $25 on a $50 product (or a 50% commission).  Now let’s say the affiliate has to spend an average of $20 to make that sale.  That $20 may have been spent on buying traffic on search engines (search marketing), renting email contact information (email marketing) or writing articles to drive organic traffic (natural search).

Your affiliate commission and product are usually driven by market forces.  That is, your pricing strategy is usually dictated by looking at what competitors charge (this is especially true for very competitive markets).  If everyone charges a similar price and offers the same payout, how do you beat your competition?

One answer is to increase affiliate payouts.  By giving your affiliates more marketing muscle, they can outbid your competitors.  It gets even better:   our internal research shows that there is a nonlinear relationship between marketing dollars spent and traffic acquired.  That means, for every extra $1 you spend on affiliate marketing commission, you get an exponential increase in traffic!  

If you make the payout low enough – then it’s easy to understand that the only keywords he will promote are the ones you are on already.

Many merchants complain that affiliate and search marketing is far too expensive. The rationale is that extra dollars being spent don’t correspond to increased profits. That’s why you need to innovate around this issue. 

So what are my recommendations for boosting your affiliate marketing campaigns?

  1. By boosting conversions, you have a direct impact on your affiliates Earnings Per Click (EPC) even if you don’t increase your payouts.
  2. By doing this, you allow smart and innovative affiliates to drive traffic to your site (at no incremental cost per sale to you) while still managing to make a profit.
  3. By leveling (to the top) the payouts – you make sure you always get the best marketers competing for the top traffic.
  4. Once they’ve switched (if you’ve performed well) – they might not want to switch back – which means you get to hold on to the traffic (which was the objective in the first place).
  5. Give them special landing pages that are better adapted to their traffic, special consumer promotions that will boost their conversions and much more. 
    The example below shows you that on typcal 35$ sale, your processing costs and affiliate network costs can represent 21% of your revenues!   That’s enough margin to boost your payouts by 10% and keep another 10% for you.

Affiliate-Nework-Fees-Have-An-Impact-on-Payouts

Improving Affiliate Tracking

May 1, 2009 - Leave a Response

This post is a little unconventional as it is both attempting to shed some information but also solicit information from its readers.  Read on…

We’ve been giving a lot of thought about how to create an affiliate tracking system that is both easy to implement for our merchants but accurate enough for our affiliates.

Tracking accuracy, we believe, is key to giving the transparency needed by affiliates to monetize any campaign.   Of course, we agree that even with inaccurate tracking a publisher could increase his commission per sale to compensate for any loss but that makes it very hard for affiliates to actually compare the real vs. published payout.

For example: 

If an affiliate is using Network “A” and sees a published payout of 50%/sale and gets a real tracking loss of 5% – then his real net commission is 47.5% per sale.   That’s pretty close to reality.

The same affiliate might be tempted to promote a similar product on Network “B” that has a published payout of 55%/sale but because of their reliance on third-party cookies or pixel tracking they will see a tracking loss of 17% – then his real net commission becomes 45.65%.   Not quite the same…

Of course, at UpClick, we’ve taken great care to only rely on first-party cookies to track our affiliates performance (and we’ve added quite a few tools which cannot be discussed here to increase this even further).   Our system, at its most basic, uses the following architecture:

Affiliate Tracking Diagram for UpClick

Affiliate Tracking Diagram for UpClick

This has the advantage of being able to track software sales through downloadable trials or many other avenues – all without adding a single script on our merchant’s pages.   The downside is that we have to redirect the user to a hop link that is on our server (there are workarounds but they are harder to implement).

I must admit, though, that I am still a little puzzled as to the numbers I see from some affiliate networks that rely on third-party cookies that claim 95%+ accuracy.   These doubts arose from our own internal testing that show close to 20% of untracked sales using 3rd-parties in the last few months as well as data from trusted sources such as WebTrends (read this…)

We would be happy to switch to third-party cookies (allowing our surfers to hotlink directly to our merchants’ pages) but are unwilling to rely on the new browsers increasing security defaults that block them.

Any ideas about how to solve this?  Please submit them…

Doubling or tripling your online business

April 4, 2009 - 3 Responses

Many small businesses typically have one to five employees – all with “product creator” backgrounds.  In my experience, the founders typically want to solve a significant pain point not being adequately addressed by the market. 

By creating a solution (in this case – by writing software) that addresses a clear problem, the founders have created value for their industry.  But in order to be successful, you need to both create and deliver value. In this case, delivering value means marketing your products by putting it in front of your target audience. 

In my experience, I’ve  found that many businesses are not as effective at delivering the value they have created.  In fact, I typically hear complaints along the lines of: “I can’t believe our competitor is doing so much better than us, have you tried their product? It’s full of bugs!”

Chances are, this competitor is spending at least half of their time on marketing activities.  Sometimes, this is not what you want to hear – because you love developing the product so much!

If you are looking to grow your online business significantly and this sounds like you, take the following actions today:

  • Outsource most of your marketing efforts by exploring affiliate marketing. Digital downloads is the hottest growth vertical inside e-commerce and there are excellent affiliate platforms (including UpClick) that specialize in this niche. 
    Affiliates will find the right avenues for maketing your products and in ways that are not always obvious to you (as the product creator).  They will also be very effective at finding the right sources of traffic at the right price. 
    Look at the commissions offered by successful competitors to get a sense of how much to offer your affiliates and remember to always leave enough for your affiliates to buy expensive traffic;
  • Translate your product into different languages to drive international sales. (Read my previous post) so that affiliates can monetize their traffic better for all of their international traffic. 
  • Create trial versions of your software.  If you truly believe in your product, why not give customers a sample? 
    You can then distribute your software to free shareware sites like www.download.com.  This is also a great way to get “free” feedback on your software and eventually develop more features that your customers would actually pay for.  
  • Explore product bundles or cross-selling opportunities with software developers in adjacent space.  End-consumers will frequently buy products in related verticals if they are looking for a broader solution. Better yet – sign up to UpClick and we’ll automatically match your product through our proprietary algorithm =)
  • Find the most targeted advertising channel possible and focus on it – you’re more likely to start finding success this way and expand from there (for example:  If you are marketing to a tool for architects, look for a well-trafficked blog in that niche).
    Resources like www.compete.com can help you distinguish what sites receive a lot of traffic

If I have more ideas, I will publish them shortly.  But for now – get on the above action items and grow that business!

UpClick 3.0 is now live!

March 10, 2009 - Leave a Response

As of today, the new UpClick 3.0 platform is available for merchants and affiliates to join and start doing business on via UpClick.com.

Not too long ago (October 23rd to be exact – under 100 business days) – a small team of developers, marketers and executives met for a few days in a hotel conference room and came out with a plan to drastically simplify our platform built on a business model that will change our customer’s bottom lines.

We all came back with a few sheets of scribbled paper and a Powerpoint document that we presented to the whole team and a vision to make it all happen.   I am quite proud to say that our whole team has developed an outstanding product that has been incredibly well-received by all of the preliminary customers & partners!

Merchants, as of today, are now able to start processing payments for Software & eBooks (more products to follow) through UpClick free of charge – instantly increasing their profit margin.  This is an industry first that we expect will generate a lot of buzz in the online retail space and bring us  many new business relationships with industry leaders.   Some of our launch partners include:  Uniblue, Avanquest, Ashampoo, BitDefender, RoboForm, SunBelt Software, Corel Software, Panda Software and many more to come in the next few weeks.

Through our cross-selling model of displaying complimentary products from other UpClick merchants on the checkout page, we intend to increase visibility and sales of products in our network.

As a third method of selling, UpClick will offer a scriptless affiliate tracking solution.  Easy integration of affiliate links and direct contact between affiliates and merchants make UpClick a unique solution for this low cost marketing method.

A great team effort went into brainstorming, designing, and developing the new UpClick 3.0 platform and I wanted to extend a big – no, a HUGE thank you for all your hard work in contributing to this next phase of UpClick!  For the programmers incredible persistence and hard work even during the holidays, for the tenacity of the sales team in bringing on board some great partners, to the marketers who have made our product, our site one that we can all be proud of and to the rest of the team who have made all of this happen.

Increasing your international conversions for your e-store

February 18, 2009 - One Response
A Smart Button from UpClick automatically provides the right language and the price in the right currency to any consumer.

A Smart Button from UpClick automatically provides the right language and the price in the right currency to any consumer.

Increasing your international conversions for your website can make a huge difference in your bottom line.

Chances are you already have visitors coming from other countries (if you don’t know – I encourage you to setup an analytics program like Google Analytics).  And if you dig the analysis further – you will find that the sales that you are getting from other countries probably underpace your local conversions.

A few items (ranging from easy to harder) can dramatically improve your conversions to those countries, here are a few sure ways of significantly boosting your international sales:

  • Simple:  present a price in the local currency of the buyer. Make sure your cart software has the ability to automatically display the price in the purchaser’s currency.  Most modern carts do this now.
  • Simple:  present a checkout page in the language of the purchaser.  The checkout process is probably one of the areas where you can have the most impact on your conversions.  Selecting the right one can make a huge difference to your bottom line.  Ensure they support all major international languages.  Customers will feel reassured and more likely to complete their transaction.
  • Simple:  Have localized pricing.  Instead of letting your cart software do the translation, provide it yourself!   Don’t let your customers see a translated price of £20.54, but rather a more marketing friendly £19.95.  The few cents you lose on a per transaction basis will be more than made up by much higher conversions.   Again, some cart providers give you this ability (of course, UpClick does too).
  • Simple to Moderate (depending on who you use) Present a price of your product in your catalog in the currency of the customer.  If you have to, build a catalog (read store or product page) for each major region (I would start with US, UK, Europe) with each associated currency.   There are several ways to do this:   a)  some shopping cart softwares can handle this using the current exchange rate.  b) if you have a simple product catalog, then set up an IP detection service and automatically redirect customers to the right page (one in each of the currencies).  c)  if you are selling digital goods, then UpClick has a Smart Button feature that will automatically translate the button and present the price in the customer’s regional setting.
  • Easy but time-consuming:  Getting your website translated in each of the major languages will drive up your conversions significantly. 
    Lots of companies offer translation services on the web – just make sure you get a service that is capable of delivering a good marketing pitch (so that it doesn’t feel like a dry translation of your website).   Refrain from using automatic translation services – it just doesn’t work!  (You may as well not translate your pages).
    Furthermore, you may be able to launch country specific marketing campaigns where your cost per conversion will be much lower than in the saturated US/UK regions.   Get a language detection script (recommend a Javascript) on your pages and automatically redirect consumers to the right set of pages (but also give them to ability to override that choice with a drop down menu).

I will write follow-up entry on this piece in a subsqequent submission to show you how to further optimize your conversions.   But the items above are what are going to get you the best bang for the buck!  So go ahead… do them (all if you can) and see your profits soar.

Welcome to my new blog

February 17, 2009 - 6 Responses

UpClick Home Page

Hi, I’m Daniel – CEO of UpClick.com.

UpClick is a simple payment processing service for digital good merchants (read:  software and ebooks) that offers a simple checkout, an affiliate marketplace and a cross-sell engine that generates extra revenues on every sale for our merchants.

Best of all…  it’s free!  That’s right, UpClick absorbs the cost of processing credit card transactions (for a value of up to $40 per product). 

The business model is quite simple (yes – we actually want to make money!).  Every time a trans action is sent to the UpClick Checkout, we offer other complementary products at the time of sale.  Whenever we’re successful in getting the consumer to purchase a cross-sell, all parties (the merchant, the cross-seller and UpClick) get to share in the additional revenues.

This way – everybody benefits:

  • The consumer gets discounted products that he wants to purchase;
  • The merchants gets free processing and net new revenues on each order;
  • The cross-seller gets a new way to distribute its products without a marketing expense.

We’re quite excited about our launch (scheduled on March 3rd) when we launch this new FREE platform for all of our merchants to use and I look forward to receiving your feedback!

To visit UpClick, go to:   http://upclick.com

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