Using Joint Venture Marketing to Increase Web Site Traffic

In this article, I will share with you a technique that I have employed successfully to make a new Web site instantly known in within its target group, using print advertising... that we received absolutely FREE!
The techniques involved are:
"Camouflage Marketing"
"Joint Venture Marketing"
What can this combination do for you?
    • It brings you a host of qualified prospects and leads to your Web site, whatever you are selling;
    • It is "camouflaged," which makes it particularly effective (how, I will show below);
    • It happens offline where a large part of your best Internet prospects will always come from;
    • Since you run it as a joint venture, you will pay little or nothing out of your own pocket to do it!
There will be no gray theory here; I will provide an actual example of a camouflage/JV advertising campaign I created for a client of mine... an ad that helped him turn his Web site from a hobby into a respectable commercial success within a few short weeks!
Now let's go right into the specifics of the Camouflage/JV marketing strategy... and how you can use it to turn your Web site into a cash cow for your business!

Step #1: "Get" Camouflage Marketing!
Camouflage Marketing (the term was invented by radio host & master marketer Michael Litman) is the use of a fairly well known, but little understood "psychological trigger" we all have hardwired in our brains:
It is a mechanism whereby we all draw conclusions about the actual nature of something merely from its appearance. In other words: "If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it must be a duck!"
This principle is at work in our brains all the time... in our head we constantly take this mental shortcut to make decisions quickly. In fact, we wouldn't be able to function in modern society without it!
Just imagine driving down a busy street... while, at the same time, trying to examine and compute every situation from scratch, as if you had never encountered it before! You'd drive like an absolute beginner every day, wouldn't you?
I will now show you how to put this psychological principle to work for your online marketing efforts... and how you can do so absolutely free, or at trifling expense!


Step #2: "Get" the importance of offline marketing in online marketing!

A large quantity of your future buyers will choose which Web sites to visit based on information they get offline. They watch out for URLs while reading their mail, while watching tv, while reading magazines, or while listening to the radio.
In fact, a New York Times article from last week (7/23) states that 10 million online users have a TV in the same room as their PC. Amazon.com's now famous radio campaign contributed a large deal to its mega-success! I will show you a principle that will allow you to place such print ads, radio ads, even TV commercials at little or no expense to you!
Don't get me wrong, online promotion is just as important (and will be part of a different discussion)... However, with offline promotion you tend to attract a totally different crowd -- the exact type of crowd you may very well want to reach:
    • people who demonstrate to you what their wants are by reading a certain magazine or listening to a certain radio station;
    • people who have a life and interests outside the Internet. Their time is precious, they pay close attention to the Web sites they visit, and they tend to make a buying decision quickly;
    • people who have no irrational doubts about your ability to deliver, because a media source -- which they already trust! -- referred them to you.
In short: You encounter a lower percentage of the typical "Internet Time Waster", often an immature person who enjoys disrupting your operation but doesn't have the funds to buy anything...
Offline marketing tends to attract a more serious, more committed crowd. And that's just who you want to deal with in your Internet business, don't you?

Step #3: Make a conscious decision to think big and run a paid ad for your Web site!
Among the offline media, the most predictable way to increase hit rates for your Web site is still good old paid advertising (we will discuss free Web site marketing in another issue).
Publicity and press releases can be great vehicles to promote your URL and should be used as much as possible (they are, after all very low cost). But their promotional effect is always somewhat random, somewhat unpredictable - you never know if editors will pay attention to your particular press release today, or tomorrow, or at all!
With paid ads,
    • You have full control over copy, layout, and design;
    • You can tweak your copy to your heart's delight and measure exactly how each change reflects on the results;
    • You determine the exact URL that people will go to when they are interested in the ad... allowing you to count the exact number of hits you bought for your money.
Paid ads have only two downsides:
1.) They tend to have a credibility problem. People know that you paid for the space and that everything you say might very well be hyperbole. What you really want is the "endorsement" effect you get from media articles about you.
2.) Ads tend to, well, cost a lot of money. As every bedroom or boardroom CEO knows, running the wrong ads in the wrong places is the best way to lose a lot of money fast.
Why don't I address both of these caveats right now?


Step #4: Eliminate the Credibility Problem head on by camouflaging your advertisement so it looks like an article... not like an ad!

This is the step where camouflage marketing comes in: If it looks like an article and it reads like an article, your readers will subconsciously associate the credibility and importance of an article to your ad!
You get more readership because the format promises substantial information and value - that's what people want when picking up the publication from the news stand in the first place, right? (Or tuning in to the radio station/tv channel)
People trust the editorial format! In fact, the more your ad looks like an article, the more readership, credibility, and response you will get.
This is so important, I want to say it again:
The more your ad looks (or sounds) like editorial contents, the more readership, credibility, and response you will get.
This is the subtle psychological "trick" behind camouflage marketing... remember the principle?
If it walks like a duck... if it quacks like a duck, then we like to think it probably is a duck... and we like to give it all the "positive" emotional connotations that come with a duck... even if the duck is actually a wooden toy (to stay in the metaphor). Just look how Disneyland patrons delight in gathering around Donald & Daisy and you see what I mean!
Now, people tell me, "everyone with half a brain can tell that your ads are ads, even though they look like editorial content... you use more colors, there are catchy starbursts in the layout, and prices mentioned, therefore, this won't work". NOT SO!
It's true, you are not cheating anyone. That's why this is not sneaky at all. People know that they read an ad... just as much as they know that Donald is not for real. Yet there is something about the format that makes it irresistible. It is human nature to instantly put meaning into objects.
So, Yes, people know they read an ad, but they can't help but reading it anyway. It's a psychological trigger few people can resist!
Listen to the two most famous disk jockeys in the world, Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern one morning: The most successful commercials on their shows are read by the DJs themselves. In fact, they go out of his way to make these commercials sound like another shtick of theirs!
Another objection is, "people have no time to read "editorial style" ads, so they won't bother - a brief and flashy ad will do much better." Again, nonsense - if people are interested in what you offer, they will want to find out as much as possible. So they appreciate the semi-editorial information you give them!
To summarize: An ad for your Web site that looks or sounds like an editorial combines the advantages of the press release AND paid advertising: You get most of the trust that the editorial format creates... and you get all of the control you get with paid ads.
The only other downside is, it ain't exactly free... Ouch! Here's where my step #5 comes in:


Step #5: How to do it all at little cost, or for free, or even at a small up front profit: Joint Venture with other businesses to pay for the ad!

"Duh!" you may now say, "Thank you for this tip, Nicholas, who in his right mind would pay me to run ads for my web site?"
Here's who: Two or three or four joint venture partners that seek to connect to the same target group... and here comes the magic:
Within your pseudo-editorial ad ("advertorial") you place "sub ads" for your joint venture partners.. which camouflages your ad even more because editorial content wouldn't be editorial content if it wasn't interrupted once in a while with ads. Get it?
Here's how that works and you'll see a real-life example at the end of this article:
1.) You probably know your target group and the magazines/media outlets that they read and trust. In a recent project with a client of mine, it was users of digital still cameras (The expensive ones that you can use to create digital snapshots. Then you can upload those snapshots to your PC, print them out or put them on your Web page.)
2.) My client runs a Web site called http://www.pcphotoforum.com
His goal is making his hit rates skyrocket, so he can sell more banner advertising. The purpose of our ad was to bring people to his Web site, and once there, to have them subscribe to his many free services.
3.) So we decided to take out a full page ad in "Digital Photographer" magazine (it appeared there in their premiere issue Summer 1998 on page 7). With a full page ad, you get the full attention of the audience... and using the camouflage technique you get their full trust as well.
4.) But full page ads are expensive... so what to do? My client quickly drummed up two joint venture partners that placed those magic "sub-ads" into our advertorial.
The SUB-AD concept within an advertorial is a smart move both for you and your sub-advertisers:
Additional ads embedded into our advertorial help you make the surrounding "article" appear even more like editorial contents! (People expect articles to be interrupted by ads -- so text that is "outside" of the sub-ad is perceived even more as an important article! Get it?)
The embedded ads, in turn, benefit from the additional readership that the "editorial" contents around them generated. That's the formula all commercial media in the world based on: People seek out the editorials and can't help but noticing the ads that intersect these editorials.
We, each sub advertiser, and even the magazine, became part of a classic WIN-WIN-WIN deal:
THEY WIN! Each sub-advertiser was looking for a smaller commitment. Like many, they just want to tip their toe in the water of Internet marketing. Each only wanted a third of a page.
Perfect! We accommodated them with a price lower than what a full page ad would have cost them, but -- of course -- higher than the cost of a full page ad divided by three (the smaller the ad, the less of a "volume discount" a sub-advertiser will expect. Yet his absolute cash outlay can be quite small.
WE WIN! We knew this would take off, so we were willing to make a bigger commitment to the magazine: Buying a full page ad gave us more buying power with the magazine. We were able to negotiate a better price with the magazine than each of the sub-advertisers could have gotten by themselves.
THE MAGAZINE WINS! Yes, even though we were tough negotiators, the magazine got what it wanted: A new advertiser with a large, long-term commitment. (By the way, this principle works just as well with electronic media such as radio and television.)
Out went the ad to the magazine... and here it is as it appeared in the Summer 98 premiere issue of "Digital Photographer" magazine, on page 7: http://www.profitalk.com/pcphotoforum/ad.pdf
(To view this file, you will need the Adobe Acrobat reader which is available at http://www.adobe.com


Step #6: The Bottom Line

When the magazine (with your ad in it) hits the newsstands, you had better be prepared for things that may happen very fast... Here is the sequence of events that unfolded on the PC-Photo Forum Web site:
BAM! The "pcphotoforum.com" promotion generates an instant jump to 125% of PC-Photo Forum's already high hit rates!
BAM! Through the newsletter sign-up form on the Web site, pcphotoforum.com gains hundreds of new subscribers for their in-house email list!
BAM! A special $200 discount offer for a new digital camera bundle (consisting of camera, case, extra memory, a how-to guide), emailed to the newsletter subscriber list, generates $7000 in instant revenue!
OOPS! Web server is at capacity from all the additional traffic! A good problem to have, isn't it?
There is a lesson to be learned here:
Internet marketing does work!

A couple of years ago I thought Internet marketing was a joke. I changed my mind completely. I've seen it work. I've seen the credit card orders coming in. Via email, via the Web. Day after day.

First they trickle in. Don't expect too much, too fast! That's where the faint-of-heart jump ship. They lack the vision. They give up too quickly. They return to traditional marketing methods too soon.
The brave ones keep chipping away on their online marketing. Their trickle will soon turn into a steady flow of orders... then into an outright stream. Their personal profit stream -- that's why we named our company Profitstream Corporation. We turn your Web site into a profit stream.
In fact, I have decided to make the Internet the center of ALL my business activities. Whatever I do offline, points to my Web sites online. My goal is to operate 100% as a virtual corporation. Run from anywhere in the world. Mostly on autopilot, using smart technology that everyone can afford and access. For instance, I like to run my company via my wireless modem from the California beach... ;-)
Depending on the nature of your business, you may choose to add your online store as a new profit center in addition to your offline activities. Many existing businesses go that route. If you are looking for a new direction or want to start over, follow my lead and go 100% online.
This is the time that any business will have to make a decision. A decision for the Internet. Or against it. Right now, a line is drawn in the sand. On my side are entrepreneurs who recognize the commercial potential of the Internet... who know that the Internet will soon be in everyone's household, in everyone's computer, in everyone's TV, in everyone's telephone, in everyone's car.
On the other side are those who choose to ignore it. They are afraid of what they don't know. They suffer from Internet phobia. I understand that. Technology can be a challenge. I grew up with technology. It comes naturally to me. But that might not be you.
However, choosing to ignore the inevitable is never the right path. Hoping that the phenomenon will go away will not solve the problem. The Internet is here to stay. The concept of a network shared by of millions of computers, and soon appliances, TVs and cars, is too compelling to ever disappear again.

-J. Nicholas Schmidt

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