Can You Feel It Coming?

I am not psychic, can’t see into the future, and haven’t got any special insider info that isn’t available to anyone else willing to dig a little bit.

What I do have, however, is some wicked-long experience in marketing… and I’ve seen this movie before. I know how it ends.

I’m talking about the free-for-all climate on the Web right now. My instincts, for a couple of years now, have been saying we’re deep into the “Gold Rush” stage of online business… sort of a Wild, Wild West, where anything goes and restrictions are minimal.

This lawlessness is what makes the Web dangerous, charming, and a license to print money… if you know how to break the code on reaching customers.

Very savvy marketers are making the rules up as they go, based on rigorous testing. This is why you see so many entrepreneurial sites that look the same — similar typefaces, similar layouts, similar graphics, similar closes and methods of collecting money.

These guys talk to each other.

Testing is the same tactic used by all marketers in the past, but the Web has made everything immediate. Faster than immediate, sometimes. If you’ve got heavy traffic coming to your site, you can change headlines or prices as often as you like, and count up real-time hits and purchases to judge what appeal or offer works best and what sucks.

The result is the ability to craft an appeal targeted at the unconscious heart of your market literally as fast as you can put up alternative copy. You can even automate this testing, so you can go to bed while your program counts up the results of Ad Number One versus Ad Number Two versus Ad Number Three, ad nauseum, and wake up with a clear, proven control waiting for you.

Gosh, that’s exciting for marketers.

This Web-based marketing just rocks.

However, there is something very important that you online guys need to keep in mind: All gold rushes end.

Right now, you’re strolling through a virtual Garden of Eden, plucking low-hanging fruit and wondering why anyone ever thought business was hard.

Us geezers have seen this before. With infomercials in the late 1980s, just to name one example. When the technology first appeared, it was wide open — no rules, almost no costs, and you could shoot a sloppy half-hour infomerical in the afternoon, have it run for free on after-hours cable that night, and count up the orders before the show was over.

If it was a winner, you ran it again the next night (or even the next hour). If it was a loser, you tossed the film can over your shoulder into the trash and ran the other informercial you shot that afternoon instead. No editing. Not a lot of thought about quality or anything other than getting your sales message on the air.

For the few marketers who got hip to the amazing — and unexpected — profit being ignored in late, late night cable television, it was (like now) a license to print money. The Gold Rush was on, big time.

Things changed fast, though, once other marketers caught on to the game.

The cable networks stopped giving away late night slots. Started demanding production values in the ads. The feds arbitrarily wrote up new rules to follow. Expenses shot up.

Nowadays, you need over a hundred grand just to get an infomercial shot and tested. That’s a lot of money out the door, before knowing if you even have a winner or not.

And you can’t get good times to run it anyway on your own — a few savvy moguls bought it all up years ago, and dole it out for huge smackers.

It’s been “game over” for entrepreneurs for a long time now.

You think the Web can’t suffer the same fate?

Let me tell you — it may seem like magic when you log on, and there are all these people out there in cyber-ville hungry for what you’re selling. But it’s not magic. There is a lot of hardware that goes into making the Web come alive, and that means the entire thing is vulnerable.

To attack, and to regulation. The weak point, I believe, are the servers. Maybe you can remain anonymous, more or less… but your server can’t. Spammers are finding that out.

If the government and Big Business ever gets their collective ass together and decides to regulate the Web, the Web will be regulated. Postage for email, individual state taxes on all sales, obedience to a new alphabet agency that loves bureaucracy, overseer spyware on all computers sold in the U.S., draconian laws against avoiding that spyware…

We’re in a fresh sci-fi game, folks.

The Gold Rush ain’t over, not just yet. But it’s coming. I can sense it.

I haven’t gone off on this before much, because what the hell do I know, really? As my younger colleagues love to say, I’m “old school offline.”

However, at a recent brainstorm session down in Los Angeles, I cornered half a dozen VERY savvy “new school onliners”, and asked them if they thought my instincts had even a twinge of possibility.

They all agreed with me. To a man.

But let’s not panic. Stay calm, tend to your herds, compile your lists, keep testing your offers and appeals. There’s nothing you can do to change what’s in the works. You gotta roll with whatever punch comes your way.

More important, you need to keep honing your “old school” chops. It’s the one “X” factor that will survive any change in the cyber economy. Wicked, nasty, confident salesmanship.

Just a friendly heads-up to my friends.

John Carlton

P.S. On another, less deranged matter: I’m sorry for not getting back to everyone who emailed me about the Freelance Course. I’m updating it, right now, and expect to have the new version ready in about two weeks. This update is critical, and involves everything I’ve learned about getting clients and getting paid the big bucks… including everything that has changed in the last year or so online.

It’s hot stuff. The potential incomes are just jaw-dropping.

So please be patient. I will alert you all to the new site when it’s up. Thanks for your interest in freelancing.

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