Archive for the ‘ Rants ’ Category

I came across a very interesting article in the Harvard Business Review the other day. (Full disclosure: I wasn't reading the HBR, but I was reading a PDF that made reference to that article!).

The key insight behind the article is one I had come across before. It is described with reference to organizations, and implicitly large organizations, but it also has great resonance to us individuals working on our IM businesses. It is about Technical problems vs. Adaptive Challenges

This is all about recognizing the complexity of our environment and understanding it in a different way than we may be used to. The whole idea resonates very well with my Internet Professionals Master Agenda approach.

And by the way – there is no simple "actionable step" that comes out of this post that you can do to immediately to improve your business. That would be looking at things as technical problems whereas this different way of looking at your business is itself an adaptive challenge.

The insight is this:

If something isn't working out right, we always look for "a way to fix it".

"I'm not getting enough traffic" => Get more backlinks

"My conversions are awful" => Improve your headline / video / bullets

"I can't focus properly" => Shut down your email / Facebook / Twitter

The issue is in the expression of what isn't working. They are expressed as "technical problems". And when you express them like that, you come up with "technical solutions".

Sometimes that's all well and good, and exactly what is needed. But more often than not, the whole "system" under consideration is very complex, and simply changing one specific "technical" thing is not enough: in fact, it may even be counter productive.

For that reason, it is much more appropriate to consider Adaptive Challenges, instead of Technical Solutions.

In the UK, a classic example of this is our National Health System. It is a huge, complex and constantly changing organization. Technical fixes to improve elements of it rarely work (see examples below).

But you and I, and our IM businesses, are ALSO complex systems. Not as complex as the NHS, of course, but complex enough, because:

  • You are not a simple resource that gets jobs done – you are a hugely complex being and you have to always take into account your psychology
  • Even if you have no employees, you very often have to deal other complex psychological beings, such as JV partners, outsourcers and customers
  • You interact with highly complex technical systems whose behaviour often seems as complex and unpredictable has human behaviour: the prime example here being Google's search algorithm, but there are others as well. And these technical systems have to interact with each other as well.

The examples below are copied from the paper I read that referenced the HBR article. At the end, I have included examples from the IM world

Technical Problems

Adaptive Challenges

1. Easy to identify

1. Difficult to identify (easy to deny)

2. Often lend themselves to quick and easy(cut-and-dried) solutions

2. Require changes in values, beliefs, roles,relationships, and approaches to work

3. Often can be solved by an authority or Expert

3. People with the problem do the work of solving it

4. Require change in just one or a few places; often contained within organizational boundaries

4. Require change in numerous places; usually cross organizational boundaries

5. People are generally receptive to technical Solutions

5. People often resist even acknowledging adaptive challenges

6. Solutions can often be implemented quickly—even by edict

6. “Solutions” require experiments and new discoveries; they can take a long time to implement and cannot be implemented by edict




– Take medication to lower blood pressure

– Change lifestyle to eat healthily, get more exercise and lower stress

– Implement electronic ordering and dispensing of medications in hospitals to reduce errors and drug interactions

– Encourage nurses and pharmacists to question and even challenge illegible or dangerous prescriptions by physicians

– Increase penalty for drunk driving

– Raise public awareness of the dangers and effects of drunk driving, targeting teenagers in particular


IM Examples

– Buy a “proven” step-by-step guide to setting up an IM business

– Change mindset and working practices to focus on, and efficiently follow, a strategic IM development plan

– Implement an autoblogging system because you have been told it’s the fastest way to develop a portfolio of multiple sites and you have limited time

– Develop your learning about IM so you can make your own judgement about the best business model for you and your circumstances

– Get 100 more backlinks to each of your sites because none of them ranks well

– As part of your regular review of all your business processes, consider improving your niche and keyword selection process to make ranking easier

– Change your headline to improve your conversions

– Constantly test and adjust each element within your funnel to improve overall EPC

It isn't easy to put into words exactly what constitutes an adaptive challenge: often the best one can do is provide examples – so I hope those above help.

Whereas subscribing to my Internet Professionals Master Agenda is a worthwhile thing to do (in my opinion!), getting into the way of thinking that gave rise to much of the content is even more worthwhile. This idea of technical problem vs. adaptive challenge is a key part of that.

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This sort of thing gets me annoyed, so this qualifies as a rant.


There seems to be a trend of internet marketing guru's inviting would-be internet marketers to "work with them" in a sort of partnership. It works something like this (there are variations on the theme):

  • YOU act as a lead-generator for them. Get the traffic and convert it to a lead. (You are given a website, a back-end system etc.)
  • You can earn in initial income by selling the entry-level product and keeping 100% of the profit.
  • THEY convert the lead who buys a high-ticket product – usually some form of 'coaching'.
  • YOU get a good commission on those sales.

In itself that is all fine, and in the "real world" it could be a great business venture. But the internet marketing world is all too often one step removed from the real world.

In the real world, you would be selected to be a partner on the basis of your skills, experience and track record etc. Here, you're selected to be a partner based on your ability to pay for the privilege (e.g. $497).

In the real world, you would expect to be shown something of the product being upsold so that you can be comfortable with and confident about what is being promoted to the lead which YOU generated and with whom you now have a business relationship. In the internet marketing world, you're not expected to be interested in that – or you simply assume the IM guru is above reproach.

Here are some things to think about with this business model.

Firstly – the upsell product costs several thousand dollars (perhaps $3,000-$5,000), which means that the client is going to expect to be coached by an expert in the field and to receive personal attention.

Secondly – because there is no limit on the number of leads which each partner can generate, the whole operation needs to be able to scale up potentially quite significantly. The only way to achieve that on the sales side is to employ hard-pressure telephone sales agencies. And these agencies charge a hefty commission on each sale: which is on TOP of the commission paid to you.

So – where does that leave the client?


For one thing, although you can relatively easily scale up the sales operation (you don't need a lot of training to switch from selling product A to product B), how can you scale up the delivery of the coaching if you are going to use people who are true experts in the field? You wouldn't expect there to be an unlimited supply of people who are true experts in a field that justifies charging $5,000 to learn about?

And for another, how are you going to be able to afford to pay those coaches given the two lots of commissions you've paid out AND make a profit yourself?


It seems to me that the only way this works is to minimise the cost of delivery. On other words, don't use experts for coaches, and minimise the personal interactions.

So the client gets nowhere near $3K – $5K of value.


I know that in the past, high-cost internet marketing coaching – sold through telesales – has been delivered by "coaches" who simply read to the client from a manual. That is certainly a way to keep the costs down and allow indefinite scale-up of delivery. I thought that practice had ended, but perhaps not.


The chess player here is the owner of the whole operation. He/she has two collection of pawns dancing to his/her tune: the lead generators and the clients.

Don't be either of them.

Be your OWN chess player (but play with a different strategy!).

Or, as I would usually put it: work to your OWN Agenda – not to someone else's.



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The internet marketing world is choc full of guidance and blueprints and advice and step-by-step how-tos.

Ignoring the 90% that is almost content-free search-engine fodder or list-building reports whose purpose is to withhold the valuable information, that still leaves a substantial amount of material that genuinely aims to help the reader in some way.

Nearly all of this material is created by people who (hopefully) are experts in the domain, but who have very little understanding about how best to provide such guidance in a way that properly meets the users' needs. And sadly, it is often the case that such guidance is created in a form that is the most convenient and easy to create; the author decides that his or her convenience is more important than the user's real needs.

But let's start with an optimistic scenario where the author takes care to structure and organize the guidance properly, and to ensure it is complete, consistent, clear and logically organized.

Unfortunately, that is not enough.

To fully address the needs of the user, the guidance need to have the same shape as the user's problem.

The following example will explain what I mean by "shape".

Suppose there are 10 steps to follow in the blueprint or how-to guide. Most likely the careful author will have created a guide with 10 sections – one for each step. The 'shape'  of the guidance is simply "10 steps" and the user is going to assume that all steps are more-or-less equal to each other in complexity and importance.


In reality, however, the 'shape' of the problem is very different. There are concepts to learn and become familiar with; skills to acquire and become proficient at; and probably a lot of simple procedural actions to take where there is very little learning or conceptual understanding needed.

For example, guidance on using PPC for affiliate marketing could be put together as a 10-day course (say): that is the implied 'shape' of the guidance. But actually, the REAL issues, where the REAL guidance is needed, are something like:

  • Choosing a niche (a skill that requires judgement – needs practice to get it right)
  • Selecting appropriaqte keywords (a skill that requires judgement – needs practice to get it right)
  • Crafting an effective ad (a skill that requires judgement – needs practice to get it right)
  • Understanding the relationship of all the concepts – Ad Groups, Campaigns, CPC, Ad positioning etc. (a conceptual model – needs to be carefully explained, needs time to absorb it, needs to be seen in practice several times to consolidate it).

Those four issues need to take up most of the time during the course. It needs to be made clear that they need to be practiced; that getting it right will take time; that you should EXPECT to lose money and make mistakes whilst you are developing those skills.

AND – there are ALSO many other steps which are very different in nature. Probably they can be explained simply by giving step-by-step instructions (e.g. opening a Paypal account, setting up an autoresponder account, registering a domain name, getting hosting, creating a squeeze page based on a given template, etc.). Those steps should not be put alongside the others which are of a different order of complexity.

So – the 'shape' of the problem is:

– Three issues that need skill and practice to get right

– One issue of conceptual understanding that needs a diagram, examples and time to be absorbed

– Many small administrative tasks that can be performed by following simple instructions (no learning or skills development needed)

And the 'shape' of the guidance should reflect that.

I know I'm asking for a much higher standard than most people can provide, and authors are going to question the business case for taking that much care about the structure of the material in their guidance.

What do YOU think?

  • Am I asking too much? Am I setting too high a standard?
  • Do you actually find that most guides DO fulfill their purpose – even without the idea of having the right 'shape'?
  • Do have any examples of guidance whose 'shape' clearly fits the shape of the problem?
  • … and examples where there is a serious miss-match?


I know that the route to maximum profits comes from having a better-converting website than better-quality guidance, so that's where most marketers will focus their efforts. So perhaps this idea has to remain a longer-term wish!

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I’ve just been invited to join an affiliate program from Jimmy D Brown called Affiliatenaire.

Jimmy’s business model is remarkably profitable. For Jimmy.

He’s offering to teach complete newbies how to do affiliate marketing in 52 easy lessons. He will send out one 5 – 7 page PDF each week for a year and charge the customer $27 per month.

Think about it. He’s offering to sell a 312 page e-book, sent in weekly instalments, and charge $324, payable in monthly instalments.

It seems to me that this business model is designed with Jimmy’s profits in mind rather than the customers needs. How many newbies will have the patience to wait 12 months before they get all the information they need? Why should they? And $324 for 312 pages of information is exceptionally poor value for money when that information is simply basic internet marketing knowledge.

I won’t be joining Jimmy’s affiliate program.


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Twitter Auto-Direct Messages tell you a lot about people. And too many cannot see the world from the other person’s point of view.

Here is one of the types of question that proves my point:

“What’s your single biggest question about…..?”

These sorts of questions are less than helpful. The questioner thinks people’s lives and problems can be simplified into “a single big question”.

It ain’t like that!

Leastways, not for me, and probably not for anyone that thinks about things even a little.

The reality is that life is complicated. There are many inter-connected issues contributing to any problem – and if anyone is going to offer any help, they need to take the time to understand that complexity and unravel it – and THEN they can start offering advice and wisdom.

Asking “what’s your biggest question?” is like saying

you do all the hard work of unravelling the complexity around your problem and formulate it into a nicely-packaged single question. And then I can give you a pre-defined, canned answer. I’m not going to bother doing any of the hard stuff.”


“What’s your single biggest question about creating high converting, big selling websites?”

Nicely packaged answers to questions for which there are easy, canned answers are: How can I get more Traffic?”, “How do I increase Conversions?”, “How do I track my visitors and sources?”, “How to I find/develop a Product?”, “How do I find a profitable Niche?”

But the real issue for most people is more like “All of the above”. Or a little bit of lots of things, such as “I can’t stay focussed” or “I don’t know HTML” or “Time Management / Time Availability”. Or the problem may be one they aren’t even aware of, such as “No goals, no vision” or “No accountability” or “No-one to brainstorm with” or “No confidence” or “Not organized enough”.

You get the picture.

Another style of question is:

“How can I help you…?”

Same issue here.

Actually, that annoys me even more because it assumes I need/want help, and that YOU are in a position to help me. What do you know about ME to take that stance? Perhaps I’m in a better position to help YOU!


“How can I help you increase your wealth?”

I have my answer ready for next time:

“Send me $10,000”


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