Monday, November 30, 2009

Understanding Your Strengths & Weaknesses

Good morning and for those of you in the States, I hope your
Thanksgiving holiday was relaxing and fun. I tend to get
especially introspective this time of year, and I want to
encourage you to do the same. Not everyone does a good job of
this, but it's an important part of your growth -- mentally,
emotionally, spiritually and even financially.

Today I want you to think about the things you try to do which
are not core strengths or talents. Things you have no practical
experience doing, that are a BIG stretch, and frankly a waste of
your time. Let me give you some examples.

I have no business opening the hood of a car.

When my car stops working properly, I can open the hood and
stare for hours. But I don't dare touch a thing because I am
clueless. I remember Jerry Seinfeld's old joke about seeing
people stuck on the side of the road, with their hoods open,
half-expecting to find a giant on-off switch set to OFF. That's
me. I lack the tools, the experience, and talent to fix my own
car. I am beholden to my mechanic. I don't understand what he is
talking about, but I trust him to do the job that I can not.

I should not be allowed near an iron.

No matter how hard I try, I can't get wrinkles completely out of
my shirt. I move wrinkles from one side of the shirt to the
other. I burn my cotton shirts. I melt my synthetics. I create
water spots with steam and stain things up with too much starch.
Try as I can, even with instructions from more experienced
friends, I just can't get'er done. I am a lost cause.

Likewise in business, I realize I am not a coder. I can write
and read code in a variety of computer languages -- all
self-taught -- but at the end of the day, I am not the guy you
want to pay to develop code. I may be able to fake my way through
it, but the result will not be pretty. That's why I pay an expert
to write all my software and web code. He went to school for this
and I didn't. This is what he does for a living. It's where his
gifts and talents lie. It's what he was born to do.

What were you born to do?

What are you wasting time trying to fake your way through?

For instance, some of us were not born to sell. This is one of
my strengths. I remember when a VP of Sales challenged me to sell
him a pencil. I told him there's a number 2 on it for a reason. A
pencil has a limited life span. It smudges and makes a mess. You
always have to sharpen it. There's no easy way to carry it in
your pocket without leaving marks or making holes. A pen is
ultimately the number one writing instrument. Then I took out my
Mont Blanc pen and demonstrated the quality of the fine writing
instrument. I sold him the pen.

Clint Eastwood once said, "A man's got to know his limitations."
I agree, but a man (or woman) also needs to know their strengths.
They must also seek balance in their lives, focusing on what they
do best and delegating what they do poorly to others. It's a
question of maximizing time and talent.

I'm not suggesting you don't try to acquire news skills and
challenge yourself to learn how to do new things. Not at all.
What I am saying is that I observe many, many people struggling
to launch a business online when they have no earthly clue what
they are doing.

I also understand the financial challenge of hiring others to do
those things you are weak in. However, it has been my experience
that those who claim they can't afford to pay a more qualified
person to do these tasks frequently wind up spending even more money
by having to hire someone in the eleventh hour to fix their
mistakes. There have been several times this year where people
asked for a quote to assist them in some online marketing
capacity, and then decided I was too expensive, so they tried to
do it themselves. Then after they magnified the problem and made
things worse, they tucked their tail between their legs and
quietly asked for my help again. And it frequently costs more to
fix a mess than to do it right the first time with outside help.
So finding and hiring the right talent to help you is actually a
form of cost aversion. Getting the job done right the first time
actually saves you money.

Here's another example. When I bought my first house, I bought a
lawn mower and grass trimmer. I mowed my lawn as a kid and didn't
think twice about doing it now for my first house. I soon learned
that I lacked the eye to mow my lawn and trim my grass. My
neighbors used to line up across the street, pull out their lawn
chairs and beers, and point and laugh at me as I tried in vein to
manage my lawn and edge my grass.

I wound up giving my new mower and trimmer to a young handy man
we knew, and I asked him to work it off by mowing my lawn for me
for a year. He jumped at the chance and he was very good at it.
Likewise, when I moved to my second larger house, I had learned
my lesson and hired a lawn maintenance company during the first
week. It was worth it to pay someone else to do the job because
they could do it better than I could. And it freed me up to focus
on other things I could do better.

It's the same for cleaning my house. I can burn through 8 hours
of my time cleaning my own house, or I can pay someone else to do it
for me so I can spend time billing for my time at $150.00/hour. I
can pay for the house cleaning by billing just one hour. I'd much
rather maximize my time and revenue than take the 8 hours to
clean the house myself.

So what are your three greatest strengths that you need to focus
on and exploit in 2010?

Likewise, what are your three weakest points that you have been
trying to do on your own, and now need to turn over to someone
else in 2010?

Remember, if you are not satisfied with the results you have
been receiving all these years, it's not going to change unless
you take a fair and honest assessment of your own abilities and
change the way you do things by delegating some tasks to others.

Exploit your strengths.

But know your limitations.

Let me know how I can help you.

Until next time,


P.S. Clicking the link below will allow you to share this with a

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Art of Disclosure

The turkey has officially begun to defrost in the frig, most of
the fixings are in various states of preparation, and we're just
waiting for friends to arrive with the sweet potatoes, rolls,
pies and cookies! I love Thanksgiving.

There's a lot being sold and published online over the past few
weeks about recent changes in FTC regulations regarding truth in
advertising. The center of the argument is on how transparent you
are with your efforts to make money through affiliate links and
testimonials. The FTC wants all of us to play nicely and clearly
inform our web site visitors when we are being compensated as an
affiliate, have reviewed a product we received for free, or
solicited or paid for a testimonial.

Obviously, this is a good thing. It's just a shame that it's
come down to this. I have split feelings on this one. If I run a
product review site, it should be implicit that I receive a lot
of free products and services. Heck, that was my goal when I
started 10 years ago. The fact that I am also
an affiliate of some of the products and services I review should
also be somewhat obvious by the nature of the URL. Of course,
ever now and then a lemon of a product comes out, and people
return to my review site seeking technical support. Those are the
awkward situations where I must try to help them and make sure the
commission is reversed and the buyer gets a refund. I do that
because it's the right thing to do. Unfortunately, there are many
who don't do the right thing, and that's what has driven the FTC
to take arms against us.

So you need to protect yourself. I am revisiting my sites and
adding simple language to indicate some of the products or
services I recommend may be paid reviews or I received free
products or services. I also make it clear that some of my
reviews use affiliate links and that I will receive a nominal
commission if they buy that product or service through my link.
You should do the same.

According to an interview I listened to this morning between Jim
Edwards and a high-ranking representative at the FTC, we should
be providing language on our sites that clearly discloses the
nature of our relationship with the companies whose products we
promote or recommend. Such language must be "clear and
conspicuous" near the affiliate link. The language is easy --
it's how to do this near the links that becomes intrusive.

Some online marketers are fearful of repercussions of following
this recommended procedure. They fear it will hurt sales. Hmmm.
Truth in advertising affect sales negatively? Interesting concept
but possible.

The FTC also wants to make sure there is adequate disclosure
between site content and advertising. If what you say and how you
present it could impact a product sale or a service's
credibility and influence a visitor to make a purchase, than you
need to err on the safe side and disclose as much as you can.

If you review and recommend products and services on your sites
as I do, the FTC wants to know if a visitor's purchase results in
your financial gain. If so, you need to disclose this.

Is there even a possibility of a potential bias of your
recommendation as an affiliate? If so, you need to disclose this.

Above all, transparency is critical.

Now there's two other areas not covered by this FTC call that is
important for you to consider:

1. Fat claims. If you can not substantiate something, it is a fat
claim. Example: Buy this ebook and make millions just like
thousands of others. Big old fat claim. The type of fat claim
that could bite you in the butt and cost six figures and maybe

2. Fake Testimonials. Are you asking friends to write kind words
about your products or services without them actually paying for
it or using it? If so, then this one could also land you in front
of the FTC or in court or in jail.

Now I know my subscribers operate above the line and are
law-abiding but these latter two infractions happen all the time.
Just last week I was reviewing a subscriber site and had to call
their attention to a very blatant fat claim that could get them
in trouble. Bottom line: if you can't prove something, then don't
say it. It's really that simple.

But what about the standard disclaimers such as "Your actual
mileage may vary"? Well, unless you are a car dealer I'd be
careful in how you verbally tap dance around your fat claims. It
is far easier to be truthful and downplay the possible benefits
someone may receive from using a product or service.

You can learn about the FTC's expectations and recommended ways
to stay out of trouble by visiting Jim Edwards free blog
(disclosure: this is not an affiliate link):

Now if you are interested in purchasing a kit from a law
firm that promises to clear all this FTC stuff up and provide you with
tools you need to protect yourself, then you might visit
these guys (disclosure: affiliate link):

See how this disclosure thing could work? Isn't it fun?
Oh boy ...

Until next time,


P.S.: Have a great Turkey Day! Forward this to a friend:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Do You Need a Push?

Greetings, my loyal subscribers. I hope this day is filled with
nothing but good and exciting things for you. My business has
been picking up momentum over the past few weeks with lots of new
opportunities. All this without any formal promotion or
advertising. Friends ask how this is possible. My response is
simple: I have a silent partner in high places who sends me
opportunities. Then it's up to me to qualify them and close them.
If you want to meet Him, let me know. I'd be happy to introduce
you to Him!

I am continuing to update and expand my corporate web site to
reflect my growing diversity of services. The big thing now is
product launches. I understand you can actually pay a well known
guru who will teach you how to become a certified product launch
expert. Now I am getting contacted by people with zero experience
telling me they are certified product launch experts and they
would like to work with me on my next project. Typically, this
requires a sizable upfront fee plus a percentage of sales. A good
deal when you can find it, but would I really trust someone with
zero experience to help me with a product launch. I think not.

Last time I wrote to you, I discussed pursuing your calling and
listening for opportunities to help others. This is how we grow
and become our own certified experts. Let me give you an example.

Four years ago, when I returned to full-time consulting, I
was having a heckuva time getting new clients. I was more
expensive than everyone else out there, and people were reluctant
to pay for quality.

A friend of mine, John Hostler, asked me why I wasn't selling
copywriting services. I told him I didn't think I could sell
that. He laughed and reminded me I had a BA and MA in Creative
Writing, taught writing for three years at the university level,
published my own newsletters and books and ebooks, had been
director of marketing for three Fortune companies, and had built
my own internal ad agency at WilTel with 20+ designers, writers,
etc. And I had been writing for my employers for decades.

He had a point. I just never heard the calling to pursue it
before John suggested it.

John knew I was in a tough spot, so he advanced me some money
and sent me some sales letters and email series he had written
and told me to follow his examples. Then he started sending me
work. He coached me through the first project, and then started
sending me more and more work. I worked with John -- the best
damn copywriter on the Net -- for about a year on a multitude of
projects until he told me I didn't need him anymore and to go do
it on my own. Like a mother bird, he pushed me out of the nest,
and I discovered I could fly on my own.

Sometimes we need a push.

Since then, I've tripled my rates and business has been very
consistent. But without John's prodding and help, I would never have
heard the call or learned about my gifts, or put them to work for

You have to be listening. You have to be watching.

Nuff said?

If you need help getting started, let me know. I'm always here
for you. Sales copy, product images, web sites, and even product
launches. 918-810-5233 or, Monday through
Friday, 9am - 5pm CST. At your service. Visit
for the full story.

Until next time,


P.S.: Do a friend a favor and forward this email to him. They will
thank you for it:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is Someone Calling You?

Good morning. Today I want to share a few thoughts with you and
also tell you about a cool tool I think is going to be of great
interest to most of my readers.

Back in 1980-ish, a friend of mine, Meir Yedid, told me he was
going to make me famous -- relatively speaking, amongst
professional and amateur magicians. I'd been involved with the
art of magic and entertainment since I was five, so when Meir
said this to me, I smiled.

Meir reviewed my own magic trick creations and picked the one he
liked best, improved upon it, and started introducing it amongst
his professional magician friends. These included Harry Anderson
from TV's Night Court and David Copperfield. Both of these guys
liked my trick and offered to perform it and provide testimonials
for it. Meir started marketing it, and I've lost count how many
thousands of copies of this trick he has sold over the past 20
years. I've made a little change on it myself, but it's the
notoriety that I was after.

Meir then hired me to edit some lecture notes and books for him.
Over the next few years he published many publications, and my
name was always credited with the writing and editing. This led
to introductions to other magicians and magic dealers who needed
help with editing and writing. As a result of Meir's antics, I
was offered a column in a major magic publication, started
writing books for other performers and started developing some
level of status amongst my brethren. This led to web sites, too.

Recently, I had another friend ask for my help with managing
some church projects revolving around our hospitality ministry.
Our church is trying to become friendlier to guests in an effort
to bring people closer to their faith and to surround them with
loving friendship. It's a daunting task and I was asked to help
brand the effort. Somewhere along the way, I was asked to write
and ghost-write articles for our church publication. Then I was
asked to become a greeter. And now the church just voted me in as
deacon of the hospitality ministry for 2010. Imagine that. Business
followed soon after. Wow.

It's funny the way these things happen.

Someone sees something in you that you do not see for yourself.
And through their encouragement they bring the best out of you,
to benefit others, but also to prove something to yourself.

Some say it starts with a calling to do something based upon
your own unique talents and gifts. Others might say it is just
being open to lend a hand with something when a friend asks for
your help.

If you are stagnating in some part of your life, I ask you to
consider carefully if your friends have asked for help with
something, and you may not have responded to their call. This
could be the pivot point to finding your own "sweet spot" -- to
reversing a downward trend in your life -- to launching a new
career or exploring a hidden talent you never even suspected was

Think about it, my friends. There's good stuff waiting to be
done, and you may be the perfect person for the job.

OK, nuff said. Now to the cool tool. I know many of you are in
need of a new web site for yourself and can not afford to hire a
pro (me) to design it for you. So here's a new tool called the
Amazing Mini Site Template that comes in several different
designs and colors, is fully customizable, and can transform your
present lackluster web site into something you can be proud of: mini site template/

You may need to copy and paste that URL into your browser but go
take a look at it. For $27.00 you really can't go wrong and it
will positively make your site shine.

Until next time, listen to your friends when they ask for help.


All my best,


P.S.: Forward this to a friend by clicking the email below:

Friday, November 06, 2009

Scam Alert: Facebook and Award Company Scams

I usually don't write to you more than once a week unless I have
timely information to share with you. I need to tell you about
two scams that I've come across.

The first is a fake Facebook update email. The email looks legit
but it is an attempt to steal your Facebook login credentials and
eventually your identity. Do not click on the embedded link in
this email. The subject line will state: "New login system" and
then the body of the email will inform you of a new login
experience but you need to click the embedded link. If you view
the source code of this link, while it looks like it is going to
Facebook, it is actually going to a European hackers site with a
fake Facebook login screen. I am betting that once you land on
the web site it will also try to load malicious software to your
PC. Be forewarned. Similar emails are circulating for fake Outlook
updates. Don't click the links. Delete the emails and tell your
friends about them, too.

The second scam I came across is an attempt to sell you an award
for your business. Like Who's Who Worldwide, these types of
companies try to pass themselves off as legitimate companies
claiming to perform market research on individuals and
companies and then nominate you for an award. You are then
offered the opportunity to order a plaque or crystal award or
both. This week I received a "Best of Tulsa 2009" award for
Marketing Consulting. Yeah,right. The plaque was $79.00 and the
crystal award was $179.00 and I could buy both for $199.00. While
these types of artificial plaques and awards may give your
business some credibility, eventually someone, somewhere will
question it. The email accompanying my nomination was very well
done and included links to a mock-up of an award with my name on
it and a personalized press release with my company's name in it.
Very clever. All automated. I bet they make a mint. And they are
located in D.C. to help pass themselves off as a legit non-profit.

So watch out. There's folks out looking to rob you blind under
the auspices of being helpful. If something sounds too good, it
usually is.

Until next time,


Thursday, November 05, 2009

I Got You Covered!

Hey there! Today I want to focus in on the importance of image
-- specifically product image. I get asked to look at a lot of
web sites, and most are geared towards selling an ebook or software
product. In the majority of cases, there is either no graphical
representation of the product or a very poor one.

Now you need to put yourself into the buyer's seat for a moment.
Would you buy an ebook or software tool for $67.00 or even $27.00
(both popular prices) when the seller doesn't even show you what
the product looks like? Of course, not. You'd want to see a
picture so your mind you could see that the product is "real".

Now if the site did have a product image but it looked rather
amateurish, you might think twice before plunking down your
credit card. We like to see what we're getting before we buy it,
so while even a bad picture is bad, it's a step in the right
direction. Still, a bad picture fills the minds with doubts.

I am surprised, too, by how many software products or web-based
services rarely show a screen shot of the product or service.
It's only normal to want to see how easy a product or service is to use.

Well, over the years I have researched and purchased many
different graphical design tools for the creation of ebook
covers, software boxes, etc. Here's a new favorite. It's called
Box Shot 3D and you can read all about it and see a new design I
recently created for Shakeeta Winfrey (Oprah's cousin) right

Box Shot 3D does things no other product image design tool does
like create a stack of hardcover or soft cover books among other
things. It creates very high resolution images you can use for
print projects, too.

Now the other product I really like is Quick Cover 3D. Like Box
Shot 3D you can create many different product images but it can
do it in batch mode. This means you choose a category like books or
boxes or DVDs and with one click it will generate 20+ variations
in under a minute. Quite an impressive feat. Read about it here:

You can also create excellent looking screen shots for those of
you marketing or promoting online services or software. So if you
are thinking about ways to spark your own sales, consider
purchasing one or both of these tools to create new and improved
product images for your web site and promotional materials.

Until next time,

Steven Schneiderman

Monday, November 02, 2009

Finding Your Sweet Spot

How are you, my friend? I hope this email finds you and yours
well. Last time I wrote to you, I talked about planning for 2010
and I asked what you were going to do differently next year. Have
you given that serious consideration, and if so, please write
back to me at to share those plans with me.

You know life happens -- it goes on around us whether we engage
life or not. So many people I meet are down-trodden and beat.
They are walking through life like zombies. In fact, I watched
Night of the Living Dead this weekend for Halloween with my wife
and son, and those zombies looked a lot like people I know. Empty
stare. That strange gait in their walk. People just stuck in a
rut, not achieving what they set out to accomplish, trampled,
ruined financially -- spiritually, emotionally, mentally,
socially dead.

If that's you or you know someone that sounds like, then let me
tell you there is hope.

That hope does not come in the form of an instant get-rich-quick
scheme. It is not about quick fixes and band-aids. It's not about
day dreaming or fantasizing or even visions.

It starts with finding the sweet spot -- or spots -- as the case
may be. Let me explain.

What turns you on? How would you prefer to spend your time? What
makes you happy? These are very important questions that need to
be answered in each of our lives. When you are able to answer
these questions honestly, you will be on the right path to
finding your sweet spot.

For me, it's spending more time with my wife and children. I
realize I am happiest when we are together laughing and having a
good time. If I could do nothing more than play rummy or Trouble
with them all day long, I'd be happy and content. Life would be good
if we could play Monopoly all day while eating munchies. Walking
though the park holding hands and sharing smiles would be
ecstasy. Flying kites, riding bicycles, doing school projects,
helping them to study before a test, going to a jazz concert,
working at church. All of these things are what make me happy so long
as we are doing them together as a family.

Now this is very different from the Steve of 20+ years ago. Back
then, young and single, I spent all of my time working, trying to
make as much money as possible, working by day as a director of
marketing and working by night and weekends as a marketing
consultant. I lived for the almighty dollar. I was good at this
and acquired wealth over time.

But it sure was lonely. Money does whisper secrets to you. Money
doesn't smile at you. Money doesn't hold your hand. Money doesn't
dig holes in the backyard with spoons.

Years later, even after I was married and started to create a
family of my own, I still was a workaholic and hell bent on
acquiring wealth and dying with the most toys. I would bet there
are times when I still seem this way to my family. They
frequently remind me I spend too much time on the computer. Shame
on me.

I hear some of you saying, "But you are just trying to keep a
roof over your family's head." And I suppose some of that is
true. But at the end of the day I am a workaholic. And I need to
be more focused on finding the sweet spot.

For me the sweet spot is a place where I am focused on one thing
and one thing only: what makes me truly happy and satisfied. And
for me, that place is with my family. It's a place where I can
let down my guard and be myself, be accepted and loved, and not
worry about anything else.

Getting to the sweet spot is quite another matter. It means
understanding exactly what I need to survive -- not what I want
or wish for. It means settling -- perhaps working less, doing
with less wealth -- so I can spend more time with my family.

Now this is not unattainable for me or you. It requires a
strategic plan with detailed tactics you will need to follow to
get to your sweet spot and be happy. It means recognizing what
you need vs. what you want. It means settling. It means staying
focused on the end goal and not all the little things that get in
the way along the road to searching for and attaining your sweet

So for me, it means understanding exactly how much money I need
to pay my average monthly bills, and working just the right
number of billable hours to pay those bills. For years I thought
I needed to die with the most toys. But now I realize none of
that is truly important to me. After all, I can't take it with

I am now focused on trying to fill a half day -- 4 billable
hours -- every day. This is actually a much more attainable and
realistic goal than what I first imagined. It leaves me time to
get involved in my kids' school and after-school activities, it
leaves me time for the occasional lunch with my wife, a chance to
be involved with my church and community, and a chance to
breathe, relax and enjoy my family.

So there you have it: that's my sweet spot and my plan for 2010.

What's your sweet spot and what's your plan?

Do you need help figuring any of this stuff out and making it
happen? Maybe I can help. Email me at

Next time we'll talk about tactics ...

All my best,


P.S.: Please, please, please, forward this email to some friends
by clicking the link below: