I emailed Joe at Joe's Goals, a website where you can list goals and then work on them. I told Joe that I was teaching a class, Intro to Internet Selling, and would share his site in the class.
We need all the help we can find to get our work accomplished and to help our dreams actually become a reality. I asked Joe to give me something to say from his perspective so I wouldn't be putting words in his mouth. I do not believe in re-inventing anyone's ideas. They own them and I want them to represent their ideas if I at all possible.
It was so very cool that he did send me some information. As a self-proclaimed internet doo gooder who loves to spread the help around and maybe make our internet society a better place, I'm sharing his email with you.
- I'd like to think this email could start a dialogue that would promote growth in our internet seller's mind.
- What does it mean to you?
- How would you implement some of these ideas?
- How are you going to improve your business in 2009?....the list goes on.
We can't stop where we are. There are places to go and hopefully money to be made. Don't forget we also need to have fun along the way, so I will dabble in photo imaging stuff and others will bake cookies and many of us will actually clean up our work spaces so we have room to grow!
Building a web business:
1. Solve a problem that you have - even if it is a minor problem. Joe's Goals helped me track my goals in the way I wanted. Turned out that thousands of people also had the same problem. Don't try and solve a "problem" you think others should have.
2. Free promotion is worth ten times as much as paid promotion. If you can get into a blog post on a popular site the chances of that post being picked up by other blogs, social networks, link sites, etc is very high. This will get you a lot more traffic that buying banners or links on Google and the traffic will be targeted. It isn't easy, but here are some ideas on how to approach blog authors:
- Be honest - tell them if you read the site every day or just discovered it. Don't pretend.
- Be direct - don't waste the blogger/authors time. Tell them what's up.
3. Tell them why you think your business is relevant to their audience. ("I saw you posted a list of the top ten to do list application. Joe's Goals isn't a to do list, but it may be of use to your audience in a similar way")
4. Offer a sample - don't be afraid to offer a sample of your product for them to review. It may not get you a review or a positive review, but it increases your chances.
5. Don't pester. Email one of the authors and if nothing happens in four or five weeks feel free to email again. After that drop it as these blogs get dozens of similar requests a day.
3. Look at Google trends when you name your business/site. They don't have a lot of data, but if you compare terms related to your business to other known popular terms you can get an idea what traffic you could expect should you rank well on Google. Google can be a great source of study traffic and ranking well there will typically rank you will on any other search engine. Study SEO.
4. Figure out how you are going to make money - There are only a few ways that people typically do it online:
- Display ads (think Google Adsense). A good example of this is plentyoffish.com (do some research to figure out this guys sites). Most of the time Ads will not pay for much more than hosting costs with a small business. You probably have a 1 in a thousand chance of making money this way as the vast majority of sites (even sites like facebook and youtube) don't earn enough to cover their expenses.
- Selling real stuff - Think books, tshirts, etc. This is how a lot of businesses get started in the real world and make their transition to the Internet with real products. You know your cost, your profit margin, etc. The difficulty will be reaching critical mass.
- Lead generation/referral - This can be a great way to build a business. If you can attract or buy an audience that is interested in a particular product or service you can often provide referrals and/or "leads" to the company that provides that product/service.
- Selling digital stuff - If you have some way of making the digital stuff (meaning that you are a developer) this can be a great way and many successful companies do just this (see 37signals as an example). You'll ultimately end up providing support and always be focused on marketing. But you can start out with very few costs and scale from there provided you can do the work yourself.
6. You existing customer is worth more than a new customer - perhaps by a factor of 10. It is hard to get new customers, but selling/upselling an existing customer can be relatively easy.
7. Be prepared to change - chances are very low that your initial idea is going to be worth much. Be prepared to adapt your model, your products, and your approach based on the business climate at the time.
8. Own as much of what you do as possible - The digital graveyard is littered with companies who made hundreds of thousands of dollars in one year riding on the backs of Google or Yahoo, and then died the next year when these big companies decided to change the way they did business. Everytime Google "improves" their search listings there are companies that go under as they no longer get those 20 sales a day from search traffic.