Author Archives: nick

How to Stop People from Stealing Content

stealing content

Recently, I was talking to a guy looking to become an authority in the financial space. He has lots of content, charisma, and over the years, has been very successful for both himself and his clients with his proven methods. He quickly turned the conversation towards wanting to protect his content, how to put up paywalls, ensure that others paid for access to his work and how to keep copycats out.

So, how do you stop people from stealing content?

Howdy folks, Nick here. The short answer is, you can’t, so stop trying. And that’s all there is to it. Alright, good talk!

No, but seriously, I’m only partially kidding. There are definitely things you should try to protect. For example, if you have a unique catchphrase that is integral to your brand, then get it trademarked. (Starting point for trademarking a catchphrase if that’s you!) If you are using photography or videography, that you created and/or that you own, then consider adding a watermark. (Starting point for a watermark on photography if that’s you!) On your website, add a copyright statement that folks can easily find that outlines terms and conditions for using any content from your platform, including anything you post on social media, your newsletter, blog, etc. Here is an example from a website we created.

However, if you are trying to protect your thoughts and ideas from competitors, sharks, whatever — you need to understand that it’s pretty much impossible to keep that from happening, even with paywalls and login systems. Make something available online, and inevitably, if it’s of any worth, someone will pirate it, oftentimes, not even trying to make a profit, but simply to make it available for everyone. Heck, one of my favorite examples of this happens all the time on Reddit when someone posts a link to a news article from the Wall Street Journal or some other pay-to-read or watch platform. Just scroll down one or two comments, and within seconds you will find a mirror link or a TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read) of the content, typically with the words, “I’ve got you fam.”

So, let’s change the approach and mindset; instead, make some decisions about how you post your content online. One way to organize things — split your content up into three main groups or levels:

The 3 Levels of Content Approach

Level 1: Content for capturing the attention of relevant strangers. This will be more marketing-oriented materials. This is giving away some things of value (entertainment, knowledge, etc.) for free without any strings attached, simply to introduce them to your brand. This content is typically geared more towards telling your brand story and demonstrating your relevance to your intended audience. There is a lot to unpack with this level, and it really depends on your industry and your intended audiences. 

Level 2: Content that you give to people that follow you. For example, this is info we put into a newsletter or that you can require a login to access. This content rewards people for simply joining your tribe. They don’t have to actively pay for anything, other than allowing you to email them or DM (Direct Message) them. Another approach to this kind of content, a smarter approach, is to use something like Catch Engine to ask them a series of questions and then give them content based on their answers. 

LEVEL 3: Content folks pay to have access to (anything that requires a paywall). There are any number of ways to achieve as well as execute this level, and if you spend a lot of time coming up with proprietary knowledge about something, you absolutely should consider charging for it. We all need to make money to live and sustain what we are passionate about. If your content is educational enough or entertaining enough, people will pay for it, because they want you to keep doing what you are doing. The audience you want to build and support you will not steal from you. Just be mindful that your paid content typically will have a shelf life of some kind, and there is a good chance that its value to people will decrease over time.

Having said all this, here’s something else to consider. Stop worrying so much about folks stealing content. You are constantly on the move, advancing your position in your area of focus, doing research, building your influence, coming up with new ideas, evolving. Copycats will be hard pressed to keep up with you, and they will never be able to surpass you. They have to stay under your radar, otherwise, they will get found out and most likely lose whatever clout they may have gained. Also, if it’s brought to your attention that someone is blatantly stealing your work and reposting it as their own, then reach out to an IP lawyer to talk about how to stop them from doing it and/or get compensation.

Each case of stealing content may be unique, and there are certain measures you can put into place to deter copycats, but for the most part, your time will be best spent in creating new content and advancing your brand!

Make It Easy for People to Leave your Digital Auditorium – GDPR Approved!

Hey folks, Nick here! In a post-Cambridge Analytica world, we have been fielding hundreds of questions about user data, privacy laws and how to become GDPR-compliant when it comes to your website.

In light of all that, it’s important to remind ourselves that we have to make it easy for folks to exit our digital spheres of influence. For example, if someone wants to unsubscribe from your newsletter, give them that unsubscribe button loud and clear at the bottom of every email. Actually, I was reminded to write this article because someone failed to do just that.

A Coldwell Banker real estate agent I had met at a networking event took it upon himself to add me to his newsletter without my permission (never do that). Apparently all Coldwell Banker agents send out the same “personalized” generic newsletter every week/month. So, I went to unsubscribe, but he had hidden his unsubscribe button in the middle of a bunch of other footer text, and the link was the same color as the rest of the text. When I finally found the button, I was annoyed, but when I clicked on it, I got mad. Clicking on his hidden unsubscribe link opened up a blank email – meaning, I had to email this guy if I wanted to be removed from his email list that I never asked to join in the first place. Now I want to fight, and Gmail has made it super easy to report and block spam email.

From a technical standpoint, Gmail now has it on record that I have manually reported this email and its sender as spam. Any email from this guy henceforth will never land in my inbox unless I request it. On top of that, Google will take my report and add it to their anti-spam systems/algorithms, potentially auto-blocking this guy for others. If other folks send email from the same system that he uses, it could possibly block them as well. This is one of the reasons MailChimp is so aggressive about their terms of service when it comes to spam.

From a branding standpoint, I want nothing to do with this guy, because the system he has set up for himself (or rather, failed to set up) doesn’t give me an easy exit from its less than impressive efforts. Whether he meant to or not, he tried to trap me in his auditorium without realizing that I can do a lot more damage to him this way than if he had given me an easy, simple exit.

And this begs the question, why? Why would you want to try and keep folks on your platform that do not want to be there in the first place? Sure, maybe it cost you some money to get an email viewer there in the first place, but that’s your fault, not theirs. You may have targeted the wrong kind of audience in your marketing campaign, and once they got there, they decided your platform wasn’t for them. Or, you attracted them to your platform but turns out you don’t have unique or useful content.  Or, they wandered into your auditorium randomly/accidentally and decided that it wasn’t right for them. It doesn’t matter why, just that they want to leave, so why try to trap them? It’s a waste of your time and gives you a false perspective on the size of the audience actually interested in your platform.  When it comes to your audience, authenticity and relevancy should always win over sheer numbers.

On the flip side of this topic, think about having a safety net measure in place on pages on your emails so that viewers can easily unsubscribe. Here are a few best practices for email unsubscribes.

So, to sum up, how people can leave your platform(s) is an important process to identify, plan and implement! Time to check your own unsubscribe button and discuss more best practices for email marketing. 

Local Lead Conversion and How the Spaces Between Platforms Make It Happen

Long title, I know. Sorry about that. Nick here to expand a little on the presentation I’ve been giving lately to local service providers on lead conversion. We have been speaking a lot in front of groups like the Homebuilders Association of Austin, the Austin chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (aka NARI Austin for those in the industry) and so on. My recent presentation for these groups has focused on expanding Rusty Shelton’s overview of building a digital platform and understanding the three different auditoriums that comprise every brand’s marketing makeup.

The Three Marketing Auditoriums – Quick Overview

lead conversion

You’ll notice that all three platforms interact based on the diagram above and, ultimately, the goal is to feed the Owned Platform from Rented and Earned endeavors.  For reference, here’s a quick overview of the three arenas Rusty discusses.

Rented Media

Spaces where many flock to talk, share and consume, but they do not own. You can build an audience for yourself from the milling crowds running around in these spaces, but you have to stay in these spaces to continue the conversation. These spaces are owned by others and you have to subscribe to them and follow their rules if you want to play. Which means that the rules in these spaces can change dramatically and without warning. 

Earned Media

Other spaces endorsing you and lending you to their brand in order for you to gain attention and credibility. They control the messaging, the audience and the space, but their endorsement can drive a lot of attention your way.

  • Magazines, Newspapers, TV and other traditional pubs
  • Speaking/Presentation Opportunities
  • SEO: Google, Bing, Baidu

Owned Media

Spaces you own and control. You have to build your own audience for this space, but you decide how you display and disseminate information from these spaces, and when someone is in this auditorium, you control where their focus goes next.

  • Website
  • Newsletter

The Spaces Between Auditoriums Drives Conversions

When thinking about these three auditoriums (what we do in each one of them and who participates in each of them), it’s important to ask about what happens between them as well. Living between the auditoriums is where engagements of consequence tend to happen. These engagements are usually the action items that lead to real conversion. Let’s break it down.

The Space Between Rented and Earned Media

These are places where your audience lends their credibility to yours but neither of you owns the platforms where these conversations happen. In a word, think reviews. Think of Yelp, Facebook Reviews, and Google Reviews. These are platforms where folks can tell the rest of the world how they really feel, sometimes fairly anonymously and sometimes completely in the light, it just depends on the platform. For service-based brands in fields like moving, construction or remodeling, plumbers, real estate, cleaning, etc., these 3rd party platforms lend a level of objectivity to folks looking for these services, especially when they can see a bunch of perspectives on a single brand all in one place that a business can do very little to modify or change.

Gnash your teeth all you want at the unfairness of these sites, but even if certain claims about fake reviews making up anywhere from 2%-16% of all online reviews, the majority are real and mass review attacks from malicious competitors or disgruntled clients and employees are rare if happening at all. Many 3rd party resources like BrightLocal and Search Engine Land talk review why these review sites are so important to getting found and converting online. So, if your reviews are lacking, your brand is seriously lacking. Get them, respond to them, ask for more of them. If they constantly come back negative, the adage about looking for the common denominator in all of those responses most likely applies.

Also, besides review sites, getting mentioned on social sites in closed groups (think local swap groups and mommy groups on Facebook or sites like can lead to significant lead generation if the general conversation about your brand is positive. Even if an unhappy customer posts something negative about your business in one of these spaces, if your general service for others in the area has been positive, then this can lead to more attention and opportunity for your brand.

Yes, this means you need to be monitoring these spaces, but it’s worth it if these spaces are generating leads. That being said, don’t be afraid to ask customers to give you a shout out in this manner. It really does generate growth for your brand.

The Space Between Earned and Owned Media

This is credibility you have some control over. You not only gain information and credibility, you create an informed position to determine what happens next. In this section, we are talking about testimonials and assessments.

First, if you are going to get testimonials, try to get them as video testimonials, especially if you’re a B2C (business to consumer) type business. And with the video testimonials, you can always transcribe them for the written one. Typically, I encourage B2C companies to focus on building their reviews on 3rd party sites, but there is always merit to owned testimonials as well. For B2B (business to business), it’s easier to lend credibility to testimonials that come from other brands – accountability is easier to maintain.

Now, for the game changer in this category – assessments (or quizzes, if you prefer). Not just surveys. Surveys miss a step and provide non-specific results when someone hits the submit button. Create an assessment with results logic at the end of their feedback journey that provides them with specific calls to action or things to do based on how they answered your questions. Not only are you capturing all that useful data, you are driving your captured audience to then do something you want them to do. Basically, you are earning their feedback and then in turn controlling what they will potentially do next after giving you their knowledge. For satisfaction surveys, if they score high enough in their satisfaction, drive them to leave your brand a review. If you want to build an email list, then use an assessment to not only capture their email address but give them something of value in return and drive them towards action items that matter to them and to you. There are a few systems out there you can use for this. We use Catch Engine for assessment marketing.

The Space Between Owned and Rented

Gain some control over a rented space for your messaging. This one is all about Pay Per Click Ad campaigns. Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Youtube Ads – you name it Digital Ads.

For this arena, it’s all about great content and crafting the right audiences for your ads. The nice thing is that you can control exactly who can see your ad campaigns on platforms like Google and Facebook. These platforms are getting eerily good at tracking everything from individuals’ interests to income to job groups to family dynamics. Seriously, it’s messed up, but man can it be effective.

Know your audience, research your competitors, craft your message, spend some money on design and start testing campaigns against each other with different focus groups.

You don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to run decently successful digital ad campaigns that focus on lead conversion. Sometimes $40 on the right boosted post on Facebook, with the right audience, can generate 5 deck jobs. We had it happen for one of our construction clients.

Wrap It Up, Nick

This is a fairly brief overview of what I dive into in my seminar, but hopefully, it gives you something to think about when considering your marketing strategy. All three auditoriums are crucial to local lead conversion, long-term brand development and marketing success, and do not neglect the spaces between. And if you’d rather have someone else handle your marketing, don’t hesitate to contact us. Cheers y’all!

Catch Engine: Assessment Marketing and Building Brand Power

Assessment Marketing

Survey marketing has proven a very popular and effective brand building tool online for decades. Systems like Survey Monkey and Google Forms provide very polished and easy-to-use platforms by which anyone can create surveys to capture information. Typically, survey marketing focuses on data trends, gathering large numbers of responses for macro analysis and determining “big data” points of interest that occur when viewing large numbers of responses all in comparison with one another. This can be a very effective approach for brands to review these big data trends based on the questions they ask and then direct their operations, marketing, sales and other brand development efforts accordingly. Sure, a brand using survey marketing potentially captures some way to continue re-marketing to their survey takers, but there tends to be a massive, missed opportunity to assess and respond accordingly and immediately to every person who takes a survey. So, enter assessment marketing.

The Value Exchange

Every day more people are being more selective about how they spend their time online and what value they receive by not only giving their contact information but also their responses to specific questions. Assessment marketing, also referred to as quiz marketing, maintains the survey marketing element but takes things a step further by creating targeted responses to people on how they took the survey. Providing these targeted responses can be achieved by treating surveys more like quizzes, where every answer has a score and those scores then dictate the best response to send to the end user, all based on their participation.

In order for an assessment to provide something of value tailored to the end user, the end user has to provide an accurate input of information. For example, they answer a series of questions about their communication preferences and in return, the assessment provides them a response page gauging what kind of communicator they are. Both sides of the exchange are getting something from this engagement. The brand gets valuable information from an engaged end user along with their valid contact information (since that is the only way the end user gets their results.) The end user finds out something about themselves that they were not necessarily able to gauge readily or accurately on their own.

The Call to Action

You have heard us talk about calls to action before on this blog. Some calls to action are necessarily plain and simple (like “Call Us”). But that may not be the best approach when building brand awareness or vetting possible leads. An assessment, although a call to action in and of itself, can drive incredibly focused and appropriately targeted calls to action to those who participate in taking it. For example, a satisfaction assessment can determine whether someone is happy or not with a brand’s service—driving happy customers to Yelp or Google and unhappy customers to continuing the conversation until the brand makes things right. An assessment may also drive a budding author to consider a webinar series created by a particular writing coach based on their focuses and interests. All the while, the brand is being provided valuable demographic and feedback information about current customer satisfaction, potential leads, market segments, etc.

Furthermore, as a call to action, an assessment can also become a magnet for others to visit a brand’s website. People who take the assessment will likely share their results with their spheres of influence if the information is tailored enough to describe them and/or help them. A great example is the Narcissism Test by Dr. Craig Malkin. The assessment does more than tell you whether or not you are a narcissist. It determines how much of a narcissist you are and whether your narcissism is the healthy type or the extreme type or if you are not enough of a narcissist for your own health. This assessment has been taken hundreds of thousands of times because people share the test and it has built a very powerful brand for Dr. Malkin.

The System To Get It Done

Historically, creating assessment or quiz systems like this have always been expensive, temperamental and cumbersome. Most brands can’t afford to spend $30K or more (plus monthly management costs) for a system that cannot be easily manipulated on the fly. So, to build these assessments quickly, efficiently and cheaply, the principal over here at Alter Endeavors, Nick Alter, designed and developed a platform called Catch Engine.

Catch Engine allows for brands to effectively build out assessments (or quizzes, whatever you want to call them) with an intuitive system to build out the questions, answers, response pages, logic system and additional actions (like alerts and MailChimp or Infusionsoft integration). By creating assessments with Catch Engine, building brand power becomes a much more focused and tailored experience for both the brand and the end user. The end user benefits while the brand’s power builds exponentially.

A Marketing DON’T: Contact Form Spam

contact form spam is not a good idea

Contact Form Spam Makes Puppy Sad

Hey guys, Nick here to remind you that it is not okay to market to businesses randomly through their contact forms. The cost of contact form spam far outweighs the benefits. Oftentimes the people abusing these forms for marketing purposes are scammers or bots set up by hackers looking for a way into your site. However, there is a disturbing trend amongst marketing consultants and B2B groups in the U.S. who are employing this tactic. Stop it. I recently ran across a guy who actually sells this service to other businesses. We had words, none of them nice. Here are a few reasons why you should never pursue this as a marketing tactic:

1. Wrong Expectation

The expectation for most contact forms is either for support or leads. The people reading these forms typically involve either a sales team or a support staff. In smaller businesses, owners might be reading these, but the expectation for this space is not to be sold to.

2. Conversion Goals Through Analytics

More often than not, contact forms are linked to conversion goals on systems like Google Analytics. The folks analyzing those conversion goals and the analytics that support those goals have a tendency to gnash their teeth every time they have to manually extract the information they need to assess from the noise created by contact form spammers (I’m talking to YOU Jeff, stop it!)

3. Terrible, Lazy First Impression

Because of the first two reasons, now you face every sales person’s worst nightmare. Contact form spam comes across as lazy and annoying before the conversation has even begun. You didn’t take the time to research who in the company you should have reached out to talk about your service or product. Instead, you are blindly hammering on the door and trying to force a company or organization to respond to your summons. It’s like trying to pitch your service through Facebook Messages, nobody is going to take you seriously.

There Are Better Outbound Sales Tactics To Pursue

Cold calling can and does work, if done appropriately. Lead Forensics provides a great example. We actually signed up for their service. Don’t get me wrong, they have a really interesting (read as useful and unique) product. However, to get to the decision maker (me), they did their homework. They asked for me by name. The sales guy referenced something that I had tagged in social media to align himself with me. He stroked my ego by complimenting my work, citing specific examples of some of our recent projects. That took all of 20 seconds. He then jumped right into how his product could help Alter Endeavors track other businesses visiting our site and a way to connect with those folks. He had me hooked in less than 45 seconds. I was impressed and intrigued in under a minute. That’s how you cold call. It won’t always be that way, but with an approach like Lead Forensics’, your rate of success will definitely increase significantly.

• LinkedIn targeting. It’s another research tactic that, if treated properly, can lead to successful connections and conversations with decision makers.

• Setting up seminars and speaking engagements to give away valuable information in exchange for trust and conversation.

• Networking groups are still effective. We participate in BNI (Business Networking International) over here at Alter Endeavors.

These are a few ways you build trust through outbound sales and all are better than contact form spam. Even if someone doesn’t sign up for what you are selling, they are much more likely to speak of you, and maybe even speak well of your brand to others.

That’s all I’ve got for now folks. Go get it done!

Avoid Negative Online Reviews With Good Communication

avoid negative online reviews

Hey folks, Nick here to continue our talk about the “Trust Puzzle” as well as briefly talk about negative online reviews and good customer service. Here’s the deal: build out your private lines of communication with your customers as quickly as possible, and then spend the next year refining the (insert expletive here) out of them. One of the most important lessons we have learned with our service-based clients and dealing with their customers online stems from the level of accessibility our clients have available for their customers, especially via digital means. From our own data we have found that more than 65% of dissatisfied customers will reach out to your brand privately to resolve an issue before taking it public. The “Yelp Elite” aside, many folks do not want to speak ill of a brand in a public manner if they can avoid it. However, if a brand does not have readily apparent avenues for dissatisfied customers to pursue (with near-immediate response times from said brand), then social media and review sites like Google Places become the only recourse. This is dangerous for any brand, no matter how big it is. 

Get Proactive, Send a Survey… AND PAY ATTENTION!

The best way to see how your customers feel is by sending a survey. When building out an online strategy with our clients, especially those with high-dollar, infrequent services that folks only use once in a great while (like moving or painting or roofing), we harp on getting a survey system in place immediately. We actually built a system called Catch Engine to help with individual communications with each customers’ experience, a service we now implement for all of our clients. With Catch Engine, you can actually grade customers based on their answers. The system will then respond to the customer with the appropriate response page based on the customer’s responses. More importantly, you can set up alerts using the Catch Engine system to immediately notify you when someone is likely to post a negative online review, simultaneously letting the client know that someone will be in touch with them shortly about their issue. 

With a system like this in place, more often than not you can head customers off at the pass before they go announce their displeasure with your brand to the rest of the world. What’s more, you now have redemption—the opportunity to make it right with said customer and possibly even win them over as a brand ambassador in the future. 

A Teachable Moment – What Not To Do

On the other hand, if you have a survey in place, but do not have a rock-solid system for responding to negative online reviews in a near-immediate manner, you might actually make an annoyed client into a furious client. For example, I thought about writing this blog because of a recent experience I had with the Austin branch of a high-end furniture company who shall remain nameless. Although the sales experience was pleasant enough, their follow-through and delivery was lackluster at best. For buying such expensive furniture, their level of communication during delivery was practically non-existent.

I reached out to their support department about my frustration without ever receiving a response. After my furniture was finally delivered, I then received a survey; which, again, I let them know how frustrating their fulfillment process was for me. Weeks later, still no response. This is normally where review sites would come into play, and not in a good way. I appreciate the company providing me with a teachable moment, but do NOT be like them! Don’t get me wrong, I love my furniture. It’s awesome, but we are not very likely to order from these folks again or recommend anyone else do so either. At least, not until they fix their fulfillment and delivery issue. 

A Teachable Moment – Be Like These Guys

On the flip side we have a number of companies I have no reservations about naming. Square Cow Movers, Patriot Pools and Spas, Austin’s Paint Guys and Soleil Floors actively seek their clients’ feedback. All of these folks use the Catch Engine System to better understand and react to their customers’ feedback. The secret here? Respond within 1 business day to negative feedback. 

The other trick is to have a system in place for those who respond positively. Even if someone is happy with your service, take 2 minutes to follow up with them a week or two after they take your survey to let them know how much you appreciated their patronage, and how you look forward to serving them again. If you are in desperate need of reviews for your brand, cross check the positive responses to your survey with your review sites. Consider incentivizing your past clients who responded favorably to leave honest reviews of your service. But also, do NOT forget about your unhappy clients. They should be responded to immediately. 

It doesn’t matter what system you use, as long as you take the time to respond and act to every client, then it’s well worth the effort. 

How to Write Content that Builds Trust in Your Brand

how to write content that builds trust

Hey guys, Nick here. Do you wonder how to write content that builds trust?  This will kick off our series about what we call the Trust Puzzle, a challenge every brand faces when building a presence online. Content is a subset of the Trust Puzzle. Types of content include text, images/graphics and video. Why do we care about good content? Why does it matter? The simple answer—content drives conversion. This article focuses on writing content for the static pages of your site.

As your brand’s primary hub, your website has to speak authentically, eloquently and concisely. Long gone are the days when Google favored awkward, bulging, keyword–stuffed paragraphs of non-sensical vitriol written for the sole purpose of trying to “dominate the front page of Google…” Bleh, good riddance. This does NOT mean keywords are no longer a requirement when building out content for your website, quite the contrary; however, Google’s algorithms now allow for a much more authentic, realistic approach to written content.

What works? Regardless of what kind of content you are writing for your site, whether a services page, a mini biography or a blog article, there are tactics that will always help. Let’s break it down by the numbers:

  1. Get Past the Blank Canvas
    I call it blank canvas syndrome. I tell you to write the content for a page, a week goes by and you tell me, “I’ve got nothing to say!” Yeah you do, it’s just overwhelming to figure out where to begin. If you are anything like me, you tend to overthink both your writing capabilities and your standards. I’m a better editor than writer, something I hate admitting. So, I had to come up with strategies to actually get something written out that I could then edit. The next few points are some of those strategies.
  2. Let Your Sitemap Be Your Guide
    Determine the purpose of the page you are writing. Typically we never start with the home page when writing content for a website. Every subpage on a site has a purpose, lending itself to the overall goal(s) of the site (whatever your site’s conversion goals are) and the home page serves as the nexus for that overall goal. This is where keywords can come in handy. If you know the 2-3 relatable keywords to a page, they can help drive the written conversation you are about to have on that page.
  3. Does Your Writing Support Your Mission Statement?
    Write down your brand’s intent or mission statement. If your brand doesn’t have an intent or mission statement, spend your time figuring that out first. For Square Cow Movers, we came up with “Movers with Manners.” Let your brand’s statement become the lens through which all other content has to pass through. If you start writing something that does not support this statement, delete it and try again.
  4. Write for a bit
    If you are anything like you me, you would now start writing for a little while, then stop after about 30 minutes, look at the jumbled mess you just vomited out of your fingertips, and then start editing. I start teasing out the structure of what I want to convey on a page or a section from the heap I just created, creating headers and/or lists for each section. If you are not like me, you might start by planning out the sections you are going to make on a page before you write. Whatever works, just start writing. After that timer goes off, start organizing and editing. Keep paragraphs 2 – 5 sentences in length and break up sections with headers. It makes reading for the end user so, so much easier.
  5. Record Yourself (optional endeavor from point number 4)
    Maybe talking is more your thing than writing. You can talk about your services and solutions  and brand history, etc. If so, then compose a series of questions to ask yourself for each page that needs to be written. Get something you can record yourself with, hit the button and start talking. The transcribed text from that recording is the equivalent of the strategy laid out in the previous point.
  6. Talk Out Loud To Find Your Writing Voice
    Literally, I talk out loud sometimes when I write. In order to imitate another brand, I will come up with a different voice from my own when I speak. If it’s appropriate, sometimes I’ll allow my colloquialisms to come through, or those of my client. For example, the owner of ABC Blind & Drapery, Ken McWilliams, has a wonderful speaking voice. Ken sounds a little like cross between Johnny Cash and Jimmy Stewart in their later years. Still very much the heart and soul of ABC Blind, I speak in Ken’s voice whenever I write for his brand—a Texas gentleman with a kind heart and a passion for the historic brand he has helped cultivate for the past 40 years.
  7. Know Your Audience
    If you are writing in a language other than your native tongue, you may want to consider either hiring a native speaker to help you, or sending your writing to a native speaker who would bluntly tell you if it sounds genuine. Always consider the voice of your intended audience when writing marketing content. Unless I have some gimmick in mind, if I am writing for a New England or Canadian crowd, I will leave the words “y’all” and “folks” out of my vocabulary. If I need to relate to a national audience, I would downplay my southern twang, if not do away with it completely. I’m proud to be a native Texan, but I need to relate to my audience first before they will listen to me.
  8. No Fluff, No Bull If you sound like this, stop it: “Our service results will shock you! You will be amazed by how incredible our product will save your wallet! Learn how you can make billions by not working at all with our revolutionary whatever! Trust us, you will be amazed!”
    It’s okay to be fun or funny, but always be sincere. Telling someone what their reaction will be (ex: This will shock you!) is an immediate turn off. Also, avoid saying things like, “Surely you will find this helpful.” People can make their own decisions and surely you will agree with that.
  9. Learn Some Grammar Stuff There are lots of great tools online for grammar. Typically, I’ll write first before going back and editing, but oftentimes I’ll refer back to tools like:
  1. The Comma Queen – Great quick videos, easy to search
  2. EduFind – An English Grammar Guide
  3. The Elements of Style – An awesome book to help you write better

Time to start writing content for your website, and if you need help, contact us!

With Our Powers Combined: The Benefits of a Joint Venture

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

In a city (Austin) regarded as boom town and incubator for technology, industry and business, it can be easy to be overwhelmed by the competition.  We prefer a different approach, a collaborative approach.  Nick Alter, the Principal of Alter Endeavors, explains.

What is a Joint Venture?

NA: Joint Ventureship happens when two or more companies realize that they run along congruent lines, but do different things, things that their clients regularly ask them to do. But, they don’t do that thing, and they would rather know and trust the company that does do that thing. So, a referral relationship is born. For example, Alter Endeavors does not provide PR services. Most likely, we will never provide PR services, but a ton of our clients ask us about this service. Instead, we pass all PR referrals over to our friends at Shelton Interactive. Inversely, Shelton Interactive only handles a certain kind of website project at a certain price point in house. If a website job falls out of scope for Shelton Interactive, then they pass it over to us to see what we can do. 

Who does Alter Endeavors have a Joint Venture with?

NA: Right now I can talk about The Think Engine, Ampersand Agency, Square Bear Studios, Field Trip Creative, Overflow Communications, Shelton Interactive and Searchography. We have a few other PR firms, printing companies, SaaS providers, marketing consultants and SEO consultants that white label Alter Endeavors for their needs. Each Joint Venture partner has to meet our standards for quality of service before we allow them to white label us.

Why would someone, an entity, another company, etc. want to enter into a Joint Venture?

NA: The short answer is control. A slightly longer answer is control and opportunity. For example, look at one of our PR partners. Many PR agencies do not have an in-house team who can build websites at the level we do, as quickly as we do. Also, websites do require a certain modicum of ongoing support to keep everything running smoothly, and our in-house team does a stellar job of just that. Rather than changing their entire business model and building out an entire staff to try and compete with us, our agency partners choose to work alongside us instead. By doing this, our JV partners get to maintain control in the relationship. Sure, Alter Endeavors performs a vital role in these situations, but our mission is to make our JV partners look incredible. This also opens up new avenues of business our JV partners can pursue with their clients. By enabling our JV partners and plugging in where they need us the most, they can focus on making everyone involved more money and not worrying about losing their client to an agency who would rather be a competitor than a collaborator. 

Why should businesses / companies consider a Joint Venture?

NA: Besides what I said earlier about not being built to handle certain things in-house and needing trusted agency partners answers this question, there is also the matter of accountability. We do not do video or animation work in-house at Alter Endeavors. If someone comes to us to do animation work then we are going to pass that to our JV partner and friend Erik Niells rather than trying to farm this work to an animation group in the Philippines. If someone needs a political speech writer, then we are going to pass that along to Overflow Communications and Andrew Barlow. We find solutions for these types of services because our clients need them, ask for them and we want to have resources on-hand that we can trust to do an incredible job in a timely and cost-appropriate manner. It’s all about accountability. 

What type of company would make a great Joint Venture partner?

NA: For Alter Endeavors, we are looking for companies that offer print services, PR services, video services, photography services, application development services, animation services, unique web services that cater to niche needs, and so on. Good Joint Venture partners to us are organizations that look to serve specific needs with specific skill sets and they are really good at it. For us, the approach is collaborative, but also respectful. Just like we try to be flexible for our Joint Venture Partners, we ask the same in return. We will never micromanage our JV partners, and expect no less in return, but we will take guidance, advice and suggestions, always. Pricing should be competitive, but fair to everyone involved. We have no problem providing our JV partners a reduced rate for our services so they can build in a margin for their time and expertise as well. 

Why is AE a good Joint Venture partner?

NA: Because we want to be. We want to collaborate. We want to be involved. For us, it’s not about crushing the competition unless the competition is only out to crush us. 

How do you keep everything straight? Whose client is whose? Who takes the lead on a project, etc.?

NA: When one of our partners brings us one of their clients in need of a website, that client still ultimately belongs to our JV partner and we go out of our way to respect and honor that relationship. Although we always expect to be in charge during a web design/development engagement, we make it very clear to the client that we are involved purely in an auxiliary capacity. In this respect, if a client asks us for another service, we first pass that request to our JV partner to respond however they deem necessary. That being said, we never make it confusing for the client. If they ask us a question that would be better answered by our JV partner, their primary vendor, then we tell them “We don’t have an answer right this second, but let us get back to you about it today.” In this case, we pass the question over to our JV partner, and they then respond to the client in a timely and appropriate manner.

What advice would you give to two companies considering a Joint Venture?

NA: Try starting with smaller level engagements first in order to work out kinks in your combined process. Be sure to work out communication between your two firms. Who is whose primary point of contact in each possible engagement scenario? Also, have a system in place so that shows both sides what engagements are currently being worked on, how much each side gets from these engagements, what the deadlines are and who is responsible for delivering what when. There is more to it than this, but this is a really good place to start. Also, don’t get offended if a JV partner doesn’t bring you in on every project, just ask why and be respectful. 

Control Your Brand, Own a Website

Social Media and other borrowed spaces continue to prove to us that they are both extremely valuable and extremely fickle. A little over a year ago, the Facebook algorithm made a dramatic shift, immediately shutting down businesses’ ability to reach even their engaged audiences in a “free” kind of way. And since then, their algorithms continue to shift all the time to accommodate new advertising methods, new mobile initiatives, etc. Brands have learned to adapt and rebuild but any brand that thinks its royalty status on Facebook or any other social media platform is safe lives in a dangerous fantasy.

It’s not just Facebook. Twitter completely changed the way their API works over a year ago, actually killing entire businesses that once used to be built on that API. With everything going on over at Twitter right now, a company floundering to stay relevant while finding profitability, more dramatic changes are inevitable.

Instagram implemented a much stricter API system back in late 2015 in order to fight malicious apps, but in doing so they managed to kill a ton of other apps, companies and add-ons.

The list keeps going. Social media platforms, powerful though they might be, are not permanent, especially as they are now. Controlling your own branded space matters to the longevity and stability of your brand online. And social media should be a reflection of the spaces you control online. It’s not to say that social media or other borrowed spaces (like Reddit) are not necessary. They absolutely are. But spaces like your newsletter or your blog or your website only change when you want them to, and how you want them to change.

With 10,000 Facebook followers, you can only engage them with the Facebook wall (only a fraction will see) and Facebook ads (which is limited to the amount of money you spend). With 10,000 email subscribers, you can engage them with a newsletter built however you want, to suit whatever need you might have. If you are a clothing company, sending out an email about your latest and greatest pieces to people who care is worth its weight. Have a controlled space to direct subscribers to is worth its weight in gold.

If you are a plumbing company, start a plumbing blog with plumbing videos. Most of the content you create and post on your site will always be relevant, it will always matter. If indexed properly with the right keywords, that content will rank well with Google and drive folks back to your site, your blog. And don’t just have a shingle hanging when they get there. Give people direction on your site. Show them where to go next, what to do next. Because what matters to you as a plumbing company (or any other service company) at the end of the day? Leads.

Websites are not dead. They are not obsolete. It is necessary to rebuild them every 3-5 years, but that should be because of the changing,growing nature of your business as well as to accommodate the changing nature of how people view the internet (hello, mobile.)

And it’s not to say that we discredit social media. Quite the contrary. Social media can prove indispensable to the building of an email list or when driving new prospects to your site. But that’s just it. These spaces are there for the assist. They are the pathways that lead to those controlled, authoritative spaces.

The AgroAmerica Example Scam With Google Emails


AgroAmerica most likely has nothing to do with this scam, but since the scam artists are using it as their primary form of legitimacy, this is why we call it the AgroAmerica Example Scam. The primary target appears to be small to medium-sized web agencies and freelancers building/designing sites.


The scam starts either with an email or with a text message that looks like this:


From: James McGrew <>
Date: Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 12:07 PM
Subject: Re: New contact submission from Alter Endeavors
To: Nicholas Alter<>


I have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in KY and the company is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Gacillia Nut and Cocoa so I need a best of the best layout design for it. I hope you can handle that for me. Check out this site:, I will be happy if you can give me something better than this if its possible. The site would only be informational, so I need you to give me an estimate based on the site I gave you to check out. The estimate should include hosting and I want the same page as the site I gave you to check out. I have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.


1. I want the same number of pages with the example site I gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
2. I want only English language
3. I don’t have a domain yet but I want the domain name as
4. you will be updating the site for me.
5. I will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
6. I want the site up and running before ending of next month.
7. My budget is $4000 to $5000

Kindly get back to me with:

I. An Estimate
II. Cell-Phone Number

James McGrew



I’m hearing impaired. I would love to know if you can handle website design for a new company and also if you  do you accept credit cards? Kindly contact me at:, so I can send you the job details if you are interested.


Tracy Miller

Sent from iPhone

When we received the first one of these things, the “hearing impaired” thing was not a tipoff for us. Neither was the request if we accepted credit cards. It wasn’t until we got about 3 emails into it with the first scam attempt that we realized this was not legit. Once we started to get suspicious, we tried to get a bit more information out of them to see if we could uncover who was doing this, or at least be able to provide a lead to authorities when we submitted this to them. Typically we just ignore crap like this, but this particular approach proves a little more put together, a little more crafty than your typical scam.

We didn’t go through the process accepting their “payment”. They want you to send money immediately to their “marketing consultant” after they have paid you. This could either be a money laundering scheme or it could be that they force a charge back to your credit card AFTER you have paid the consultant, which would result in a direct loss to either you, your merchant services provider or both.

We have submitted reports to Google that Gmail accounts are being used for this scam operation. Per Google’s policy, they did not contact us immediately about our report. However, we do encourage anyone else who has experienced one of these emails or text messages to speak up, submit a report, contact your local authorities, etc.

More importantly, be sure you have very strict policies in place about how you process credit cards and pay monies out from your company. Be sure you have a signed contract along with a payment processing page where credit card information can be filled out and a signature provided. Yes, many of us have e-commerce solutions in place, but for sums of money larger than $500, we strongly recommend getting a signed agreement before processing any credit cards. Check with your merchant services provider about chargebacks. We use CynergyData Texas specifically for this reason. They help protect us against situations like this.

Also, it’s our policy that we have a face-to-face with every client before signing a contract, even if they are hearing impaired. IM and video-conferencing equipment make it very easy to have a face-to-face meeting with someone even if they live far away and/or are hearing impaired. Stay vigilant people! Let’s build a better internet, and let’s please do away with crappy scams.