Online Marketing


I’ve just stumbled across (and no… I did not actually find this on a new Tell-A-Friend service that I feel has the potential to take the marketing world by storm. 

This is not the standard TAF system like you see on many sites.  You know the ones:

  • Enter your name and email address
  • Enter The names and email addresses of up to 5 friends
  • Customize the note (if you like)
  • Hit send and the page if shared.

 There are a few systems out there that add a few more bells and whistles to this basic concept.

Paul Galloway offers a fantastic application called Tell-A-Friend-Pro, otherwise known as TAFPro, that has a little advertised "Advanced" version.  This special version of his software adds a number of contest features that can be used to further entice prospects to share your product or service with their friends.  There are also some nice data passing aspects of this version that bring it up another notch in functionality.  We’ve used TAFPro (Advanced) for a number of clients in the fashion industry and enjoyed excellent results, growing their lists very rapidly.

Now, things have come a step even further as the coding wizards and the creative marketers have joined forces to create a whole new generation of the tell-a-friend concept.

If you’ve been involved in any of the major social media sites (i.e. FaceBook or LinkedIn) then you’ve seen this new technology in action. 

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about all it takes is popping into your FaceBook account and looking into adding more friends.  One of the options you are given is to log into one of a number of free email accounts and invite friends.


Once that is done, the system will pull in all of the contacts in your address book, identify which of them are already on FaceBook and ask you which you want to befriend, and then ask if you want to invite all contacts NOT yet members of FaceBook.

I don’t know about you, but I have a VERY large list of people in my address book.

Hmmmm, could a system like this be a contributing factor to how rapidly FaceBook’s membership has grown?

My friend, earlier this year this same TAF technology came out in the form of a number of software products that give anyone with a website the same Tell-a-friend capabilities.  OK, so that is great, but here is the downside… if you want to take advantage of this new technology to build your own lists, you’re going to have to cough up $147 to get your hands on it.  This one is called ViralInviter and is the current king of the hill in terms of features.

Ah, but my headline said FREE didn’t it?

Yes it did and the reason is that I have found a new product that does most of what these other more expensive products will do… and it’s free!

te!! a friend.jpg

This is an awesome, free, viral, list-building tool created and distributed by Social Twist.

The interface is super easy to use, has some level of choices and customization and is also about as easy to install on a website or blog as it possibly could be.

I configured and installed it on this blog as a plugin, designed for WordPress.  Take a look around through my posts here and you’ll notice that there is a cool looking tell-a-friend button at the end of every post.  If you want to see how it works, feel free to go ahead and share any of my posts that you feel others would want to know about.

That button you see there is not the only option either.  You get a variety of design and color choices as you see below.

te!! large.jpg

I could go on and on here as you do get even more customization, including the look of the TAF form (which comes up in a very cool light-box), the email messages, which channels you want to offer, and more.  There is even a great stats reporting area.

On a final note, there are 4-5 different paid versions you can get if you have some specific commercial applications for this tool.  These different versions add some additional customization and abilities.  At present, the only way to get the pricing info is to email them and then have a phone call with one of their reps.  I’ll be on the phone with them tomorrow.

I recommend you give Social Twist’s Te!!-a-Friend a try and see what it can do to expand your business.

Now before you leave, I would like to ask you to do two things:

1. Leave a comment below and share your opinions on this post, TAF products, the evolution of TAF, etc.

2. Go ahead and click on the TAF button at the end of this post (just down below) and share this information with your friends.  They’ll thank you for it.

That’s all for now.

Onward & Upward!

Sam Knoll

(Here’s that button)


Filed under Blog, Free Resources, Online Marketing, Product Reviews, Software by  #


I read a great post by Seth Godin today that was a quick discussion on "Breakage".

He related the breaking point to rising insurance costs (you know the ones… health and automotive that continue to increase well beyond inflation regardless of whether or not you have even dipped into their reserves).

At what point does one say ENOUGH! and switch to another service, where presumably the same cycle will repeat itself.

The insurance companies are juggling the trade off between the extra revenue they collect system wide relative to account attrition.  As I look at Blue Cross Blue Shield’s profit statement of over 100 million (not bad for a "nonprofit") I say they are balancing things just fine.

Now let’s take breakage in a different direction and look at online businesses.

The breaking point that I often see pushed is in the realm of email marketing and list ownership.  I have heard more than one successful list owner admit that once they get a name on their list they will hit them pretty darned unmercifully until they either convert to a customer or unsubscribe.  If they leave without buying then they weren’t worth having on the list.


The lead funnel for that type of business model must be huge.  It is also probably a safe assumption that most names on the lists are there in response to freebie, opportunity seeker type offers.  Not exactly the model customer prospects. 

Now, what if that breaking point were to be skewed just a little?

What if the attitudes and the messages were changed so the folks on the list felt they had a real relationship with the list owner.  What if the content they received in most mailings was so good that they were afraid to leave the list for fear of missing out on something.  Consider that a small change in the messages being sent out could sway 1-10% of the people normally heading back out the door.  Could that translate into a lot more customer conversions, even repeat customer conversions, with roughly the same amount of work.

I say, change the attitude and the income will follow.  You do not have to PUSH people to the breaking point, just lead them to drink your water.

The biggest problem with stretching a rubber band until it breaks is when it snaps back and smacks you in the hand.

Onward & Upward!

Sam Knoll

Filed under Email Marketing, General Musings, Online Marketing by  #


Listen in as I join Chris Curtis for deep discussion about eCommerce 2008 – what to expect this year in online marketing, promotion and sales!

Chris is an extremely informed marketer, promoter, and a very adept interviewer.  On top of all of that she is an awesome person.

Use the player below to listen in on the interview.


There are some great nuggets of IM and general marketing wisdom in this interview.

You also get a further look inside the head of Sam Knoll.

Onward & Upward!

Sam Knoll




One of the greatest challenges the marketing world has faced recently is exactly how to leverage the evolving Web 2.0, Social Media universe.

Everyone can see the tremendous numbers of users involved as well as the potential reach that it seems should be possible as well.

That said, very few brands have been able to crack the 2.0 code and harness it to their advantage.

Very few brands have been able to crack the 2.0 code

In my opinion there are two issues at the core of this conundrum.

First, is a general lack in the depth of understanding about just how the social web functions that is keeping folks from seeing just how to use it.  It is not yet another channel in which advertisements can be placed.  I don’t care how good they may be, if it is ads that one is trying to use in the social web… you will most likely be wasting your money.

Secondly, there is an over-riding issue of patience, or lack thereof, that seems to permeate the efforts of most companies trying to happily exist in, let alone leverage, the social web.

Social media tends to grow gradually or organically.  Could this be one reason the Search Engines like it so much?  Note the word "Organic".

If a marketer comes in and tries to forcibly insert their message it usually gets thrown back in their face.  This is going to be a problem for most companies working with traditional marketing groups who are used to being able to put together a plan, design the creative, send that off to one or two places, and then at the pre-appointed time their message is made available to a (hopefully targeted) audience of a generally predetermined size.

Social media requires the same planning and creative design (well not quite the same but you get my drift).  What follows next though is what requires patience.  It is not good enough to disseminate your materials to just a handful of places. 

With social media one must first step back and look at all of the various formats in which a message can be delivered.  Next, the various forms of the message need to be carefully distributed to as many media/community outlets as possible.  Yes, you should start with the big guys but the greatest benefit will be seen by massive distribution.

Look at this massive distribution as a huge collection of windows

Look at this massive distribution as a huge collection of windows, or better yet doors, leading in to your website.  The more doors, the more obvious access points into your product or service.  Yes, you will even receive some good SEO benefit… if your materials are all posted correctly.

Is there a problem with this methodology?

In a word, No, but it does leave a lot on the table.

It is wonderful to have people watching your videos on one of the many video sites and then clicking through to your site.  It is also great to have people following your tweets on Twitter, viewing your images on Flickr, or watching your live stream on Mogulous, but is there any cross-pollination going on?

Is the prospect looking at your photos on Flickr even aware that you also have videos on YouTube, or a blog to which you post, or a live feed?

Chances are the answer is NO, and this is where the real opportunity lies…

Enter the concept of Brandstreaming

Enter the concept of Brandstreaming, also known as "life-streaming" or "life-casting". 

The idea is to aggregate all of the feeds from the various places your contents (start thinking of them as assets) are posted to one single place.  In theory this is then streaming all online aspects of an entire brand (brandstreaming) so that consumers need only go one place to drink from the info well.

There are a number of different sites doing this such as FriendFeed and OnaSwarm and more on the way.

Now, I want to insert my own opinion on this here.

I believe that these sites are on the right track… but only have a small piece of the total picture.

They only have a small piece of the total picture

These sites see themselves as aggregators of content.  That is cool and a step forward.

Now, let’s take things a step even further forward and ask, "What if all of that content from a single brand, as well as that of others covering the same brand topics, was leveraged to create a new breed of ultimate authority site?"?

Are you starting to see some of the possibilities here?

What could you do if you owned the Ultimate Authority site for a given brand or topic? 

Do you think you could make a few bucks with that?

The definition of the "Authority Site" is going to change

The definition of the term "Authority Site" is going to change and in my opinion that change is right around the corner.

 Keep your eyes and ears open for what is coming next.

Now having read through all of that, what is your take on brandstreaming and/or authority sites? 

Please leave your comments below.

Onward & Upward!

Sam Knoll

Filed under Blog, General Musings, Online Marketing by  #




The marketing world is realizing that playing in the Web 2.0 requires understanding a new set of rules in regards to honesty and disclosure.

Now, the term transparency is far from being a new one in marketing vocabulary.  It is a term that has been tossed around and used for decades.

What we are seeing in present day is that the new Social media and the communities upon which it is built are redefining how the term applies to companies AND their marketing.

In the marketing agency days of old the term was often used when referring to client:agency interactions.  This usually pertained to elements of strategy, branding, positioning… and billing.  Generally it was about the client, not their target market.  Beyond the Agency – client dealings, the consumer only needed to know what the marketers wanted them to.

Well, times have changed.

Times Have Changed

In the new frontier of Web 2.0, social media it is the consumer who demands transparency of the companies delivering marketing messages left and right all around them.

Blogs, forums and the rapidly increasing number of newer style community sites like top dogs, FaceBook, YouTube, MySpace, Ning based sites, Flickr, Squidoo, etc, are all powered by if not run by (the site owners will be the first to admit this) the end users.  These users are often intelligent, educated, tech savvy, and extremely openly opinionated.

Want to play on the 2.0 playground?

Want to be one of the businesses welcomed into their court?

You’d better be willing to be 100% forthright and transparent in your intentions and motives or at some point you will be found out.  When this happens, the very same, all important social influencers that can help make you a household name can also quite adeptly lead the charge to run you right out of town.

Now, besides the risk of being found out… you also must consider one other important element of the new, social consumers.

I mentioned earlier that these folks are now intelligent, educated and often very tech savvy.  On top of all of that, they are also becoming rapidly immune to may of the tried and true marketing techniques and frankly can see right through much of it even if it is completely opaque by design.  Again, once this is realized by the social consumers they will at the very least tune out your marketing message all together (that is the softest least damaging reaction).

Gotta Be Willing To Lay It All Out

Think about what consumers want… a merchant who is willing to be openly honest and share everything with them (even if it means telling them that ultimately you hope they’ll buy your product) or someone employing smoke and mirrors. 

The bottom line is — if you want to sell today, you have to put away the bag of tricks, put on your honesty hat and lay it all out there at the get go.

If your message is true and your motives good, there is still plenty of room at the top.  Just make sure you don’t have any dirt hiding under the carpet just waiting to be discovered.

This is pretty basic stuff yet, many larger traditional marketing groups seem to have a hard time grasping it let alone embracing it.

Do you agree or do you think the same game as ever can still be played in the social web?

What Do You Think?

Onward & Upward!

Sam Knoll

Filed under Blog, General Musings, Offline Marketing, Online Marketing by  #

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