Here is my checklist of fifteen crucial questions to ask yourself about your Internet business, whether it’s brand new or you’ve previously opened the doors to your niche prospects.
Yes, there are some important things to consider beyond what you’ll see on this list. But this is a place to at least begin … a reality check of sorts, to make sure that you understand what your business is about, where you’re headed, and how you’ll operate profitably.[ The focus here is on solo information businesses that are managed online. In most cases, the subject of the business will be related to the owner’s knowledge, skill, talents, passion, training, or life experiences. ]
Why these particular questions?
Every business owner needs to thoroughly understand the premise, the purpose, and the goals he/she has for the business. Journeys without destinations in mind are like ships without a rudder – they are vulnerable to winds, storms, currents, and obstacles controlling the course rather than the business owner. In addition, it’s always best to plan for the unexpected and even the unthinkable.
If you have any doubts or questions about a particular item, it will pay to clear those up prior to opening your doors for business. If, however, you are already conducting your business, it’s probably not too late to take some time out and focus on finding answers to any questions that hold some doubt or confusion for you. Clarity and understanding are critical for all business owners … especially those doing solo business. Sometimes management teams can collectively make up for the confusion of a particular team member … but with solo business it is critical that the owner/operator guide his ship without confusion or conflicting thoughts about goals, directions, and the steps necessary to effective guide the business to profitability and beyond.
Here’s my list for your consideration:
1. What do I know that others will pay me to share? Make sure that you stick to an information subject about which you are an expert (or can become one with some study and work). Deviating from your core competencies and understandings will nullify the advantages you have over other businesses because of your particular wisdom, knowledge and experience in the niche.
2. What will my business be known for? Identify and focus on something that will give your business an edge over all other competitors in your niche. Sometimes referred to as a USP (unique selling proposition), this advantage will set you apart and give your prospects a solid reason to buy from you. It could be anything from fast shipping, to a great assortment of products, to low prices, to a free trial, etc. The USP can also for an important characteristic of your unique business brand.
3. Who is my perfect customer? You must be able to identify and fully describe your perfect customer. He/she is the person that is the very best prospect for your targeted product or service. If you don’t know him and what he wants, how will you ever find him in your marketing? This fictitious person can take on a human personality and seem like a real person that you talk to and focus on as you write your copy for email communications, articles you send to your subscribers, sales letters for your products, and “guinea pigs” for your latest creations.
4. How am I going to generate needed revenue? Many entrepreneurs head into business without a clear recognition of just how they are going to be making money. To answer this question, you’re going to need to know what your revenue model will be, how you’re going to package your information, how you’ll handle financial transactions, how you will deliver purchased products to your buyers, how you will market your products and services, and other pertinent issues.
5. How can I conserve my cash? Cash is always king. New business owners (especially) need to be extra protective of every dollar they have for their new venture. The success of your new business will probably be inversely proportional to the size of your new office desk!
6. Is my business scalable? Most often you will begin your business in a small way with very few customers. Will you be able to ramp up your sales numbers based upon the way your business currently operates? Can you become a dominant force in your niche without having to close up shop in favor of a total overhaul? Some future planning today about you can grow without major interruptions will often result in smoother, more lucrative tomorrows as you transition to a larger business.
7. How well am I protecting myself and my family? Do you have adequate health and life insurance? Have you structured your business such that your personal assets are protected from those who would sue you? Could you run your business if you were laid up, incapacitated, or couldn’t give daily attention to it? What if you were in the hospital for an extended stay with a serious injury or ailment?
8. Do I know who my competitors are and what their businesses are all about? It would be rare indeed for you to be in a business niche without serious competition. The better you know the competition, the easier it will be to implement strategies that will increase your share of the market. Knowing the competition also suggests you know their business model, their products, their marketing strategies (through competitive marketing intelligence), and their reception and reputation within the niche.
9. Am I prepared to stay in business for the long haul? Your business will adapt and change over time, but you’d better be in a position to endure and persist with your business idea. Sometimes small business success and profitability can be traced directly back to owner persistence and his/her ability to solve problems and move beyond obstacles.
10. Will I be able to pay myself and all my obligations on time? Get your business in the habit of meeting your obligations without fail. Trust and confidence will accrue and your suppliers and customers will be loyal because of it. A wise goal for any business owner would be to operate without debt and encumbrance as much as possible.
11. What will I do to take advantage of special, one-time opportunities that present themselves to me? For example, a competitor decides to sell his assets and leave the industry. Do I have, or can I find, money to purchase such a business and fold it into my business without a lot of strain or risk? Do I have funds in reserve to purchase new technology and platforms?
12. How will I market my business? There is not a more important question for the business operator. Marketing is everything. If you can’t successfully spread the word about your products or services, you will not have a business for long. If no one shows up to see your offer, where will you find buyers? I always suggest the owner take the time to draw up a marketing plan. It need not be a large and fancy – but it should help to guide the owner and keep him “on track” as he implements a coordinated strategy to promote the business.
13. How will I manage to keep balance in my life? Owning and operating a small business can be a totally consuming activity. If you don’t learn to strike a balance between the business and your family, your health, your spiritual self, and your associations, you’ll most likely suffer greatly. Certainly your family will suffer if you can’t be there for them because your business needs you.
14. Do you have a workable and realistic business exit strategy? Too many solo business owners don’t think about the fact that someday they may want to exit their business. If the solo owner decides to leave … what will happen to the business? Will it fold, be passed on to heirs, or will the business be sold to a new owner/operator for a handsome profit? Consider the financial alternatives of each of these outcomes? In my mind, selling the business is an added bonus for smart owners.
15. Can I continue to do business with my current set-up if a major emergency or market shift took place and my income was reduced substantially? Do you have business operating reserves? Do you have a plan in place just in case you can’t work in your business for an extended period of time? The unexpected often happens; but negative impacts can be reduced or eliminated with good planning and some forethought about how to operate the business if you (the solo owner) can’t be there daily for awhile.
Yes, there are other questions you can ask in order to have clarity about your business and what is needed to run it successfully. Start with these fifteen suggestions and add to the list as you see fit for your business.
To your online business success,
Adding Value to Any Business
Some say they have nothing to sell. They say there’s so much free online information in their niche that no one is going to buy from them.
I say, “Hogwash!”
Here’s a secret that can make you very wealthy: people buy products for their value and they don’t much care where it comes from. It’s true!
Case in point: Alex, a college student, needed some financial help to continue his schooling. Without too much online searching he came across a free pdf guide on how to find and qualify for government grants in education. He studied the well-written guide, followed its instructions, and secured the money he needed. Some friends found out what he had done and decided they wanted Uncle Sam’s help in paying for their education too.
Alex got an idea. He began selling the guide to everyone that wanted a copy for $15. Then he put up a web site, advertised in his college newspaper’s classifieds, and grew a small business with that one freely available product. He expanded his marketing, got some glowing testimonials, and sold that same product for $37. Averaging 8-10 sales a day, Alex had a six-figure business in no time. (Note: “Public domain” material, like the guide Alex found, is put out by the federal government and is free to use, modify, give away and even sell – but that’s not the point of this post)
Alex stumbled upon a secret – people will pay you to sell them information (products) that they could find freely online but they don’t want to spend the time hunting for that information … or they don’t even realize the information is available. Let’s call this:
Added Value #1 – Ease – Save someone the work and hassle of discovery, finding something on their own, of aggregating information and they will pay you nicely so they can do other things with their time. Niche portals, hubs, and aggregators are proven business models because they ease the prospect’s pain of hunting down information from multiple sources.
Here are nine more ways to add money generating value to any business.
Added Value #2 – Exclusive – People will buy from you if you can offer them something that only they can have. Why do rare coins, vintage cars, and Elvis’s underwear sell for so much? Ownership of exclusive items is highly valued by many. Cater to the exclusive minded – to the fact that things which are scarce are often highly prized.
Added Value #3 – The Real Deal – Create a brand and position in your business that you are “the real deal,” the original ____ , or the one and only authorized authority. The same could be said for your product or service. Value can be added to any business that is able to position itself as “authentic” or that the brand is the “gotta have” choice.
Added Value #4 – Readily Available – Make your business product or service easy to find, always available, easily utilized and with few (if any) ownership restrictions. Simple. Convenient. There when you need it. Anybody can do this. It’s one of the attractions of PLR information for online marketers. There are few ownership restrictions and it’s there to use whenever and however you need it.
Added Value #5 – Instant – People pay handsomely for instant solutions, instant access, and instant gratification. Your product can arrive with free shipping in 5-7 days so why would anyone pay extra for overnight access? Plenty do. The same camera will be $300 less in two years. Why do you want it right now? People want instant solutions. Any time you can incorporate this concept into your business or product you will be paid handsomely.
Added Value #6 – Engagement – Customers want to be engaged with business owners; especially if the owner is a recognized authority or talent. Clients like to connect with and acknowledge writers, artists, successful people … and yes, “gurus.” Sometimes they will decide to do business with you simply because you are approachable and willing to engage on a personal level with your customers. Always keep in mind that folks do business with those they know, like, and trust.
Added Value #7 – Premium – There will always be customers that want the premium or luxury version of whatever they’re buying. Why not offer it to them? Why do people pay hundreds more to fly 1st class? Why do they pay extra for leather seats? Why do they buy the ice cream that is twice the price of the “generic” version? Any product or service can be upgraded to the “deluxe version” and sold right along side the regular version. It’s all about perceived added value!
Added Value #8 – Analysis – Most people don’t want just the cold hard facts. They will pay something extra for expert analysis and commentary. Your business may sell exactly the same service or product that many others have, but yours can be differentiated by the addition of your own opinions, views, and analysis that you provide above and beyond what is customary in your marketplace. The “curation” model depends upon the expertise and insight of the curator to add value to the news in a niche. With this added value, your customers and prospects will begin to recognize you as the niche authority.
Added Value #9 – Done For You – As most product creators understand, “done for you” (DFY) solutions are extremely popular as opposed to DIY (do it yourself). Why go to the effort to build backlinks when you can pay a backlinking service to do it for you? Why set up a niche web site when there are plenty of talented people who have created DFY solutions? There are all kinds of ways any business can incorporate DFY into a product or service. When I was a kid, we regularly washed and waxed our car in the driveway. So did all of our neighbors. You don’t see that much today. It’s too much work and too inconvenient. People want others to do the work which saves them time, hassle and effort.
Added Value #10 – Customization – Would you pay extra for a service customized to your exact needs? Many people will. Do you think dentists would pay extra for the “Top Ten Most Effective Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Dental Practice” vs. the “Top Ten Most Effective Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Business”? You bet they would. Any product or service can be customized to appeal directly and pointedly to a specific niche or target audience. Sure, it takes a little extra effort by the product creator to make it happen … but the rewards can be very much worth the little extra effort. “Repurposing” information products is a secret that has made some folks a lot of money.
There you have it – ten ways to add value to your business – any business. Yes, there is definitely some work involved in adding value – I make no bones about that! That’s why it will differentiate and cause your business to rise above the others – your competition won’t do what you can do, and therein lies the secret recipe for adding value to, and standing out from the crowd in, your business.
To your online marketing success!
Revelations for a New Marketer
Today, I’d like to share with all of you ten “truths” about Internet marketing that every new business owner should consider from the very first day working in a new business. I see it as a great advantage to a new business owner to have these truths “revealed” at the very beginning of a new business project. Here they are:
1. Education and learning in IM is a very good thing . . . to a point. I recommend that everyone spend 1/2 hour a day, as a minimum, learning about IM (Internet marketing) from a trusted source. Don’t consider learning your craft a chore – relish the opportunity to discover ideas and principles that will fill your life with prosperity. Many of the foundational principles in this discipline are not real intuitive. But a caution is in order: the pursuit of an IM education is no substitute or valid excuse for “on the job training.” Some have been “learning,” nearly full time, for many many years. Instead, learn as you go about your business. If you wait until you “know it all” you’ll waste a lot of time that you could have used to set up, experience and build a simple new business. And believe me, experience is always the best education in this discipline.
2. IM can be simple unless you complicate it to the point that it becomes quite complex. Take note that I didn’t say IM was easy. You should recognize the difference. There are actually very few things you really need in order to set up a sales system, have a product to sell (your own or that of someone else), a transaction platform and a delivery mechanism. But filling that system with prospects and converting them into buyers is not always easy; in fact, selling can be very hard if you don’t know what you’re doing. Especially in the beginning, keep things simple and spend your time understanding how and where to find prospects and how to turn them into buyers.
3. Decisions are your friend. You must make them everyday in your business. Don’t rely on people in a discussion group or a public forum to make them for you. Study alternatives, get feedback to help you weigh the alternatives, then be decisive, choose one, and move forward. Even if your choice is wrong, you’ll know soon enough and have a chance to go with something else. Think about your own life. Everything good that has happened to you has been the result of deciding to do something. Indecision has claimed a heavy toll on many IMers who have literally spent years trying to get started with something . . . anything!
4. Some IMers can only focus on the money. If you do that, you will never be satisfied with the amount you make. A better approach, IMO, is to focus on helping and serving your customers. If you serve well and provide your customers with quality products and services, money will be the result. If you take a personal interest in their interests (not yours), they will recognize you for your empathy and concern and reward you with their money. Owning trust in a world full of doubt and skepticism is a goldmine because your clients will shower you with loyalty and repeat business. Trust of businesses and their methods and motives is a scarce thing these days.
5. Your time is valuable. Sometimes, especially when you’re on a tight budget or even broke, you have to spend your time on all the tasks necessary to execute a business plan. I understand that. But in no industry like IM is the phrase “time is money” more appropriate. Learn well the principle of leverage. It’s what allows you to take your business to increasingly higher levels of income. It’s what allows you to let go of certain time intensive activities that are done better and more efficiently by people trained to be experts in that one thing. It’s what the smartest business owners use to back themselves out of the daily management of routine tasks in order to have more free time to run their companies and enjoy life.
6. In Internet business, you are responsible for everything. Whatever you may now believe, it’s no one’s fault but your own. Period. It’s not Google’s fault, it’s not your mentor’s fault, it’s not the software’s fault, it’s certainly not the customer’s fault, it’s not your ex’s fault, or you mother-in-law’s fault. Don’t blame it on your language, your education, your lack of time, your age, your girl friend, the computer, your niche, PayPal or ClickBank. And in the very rare instance that it really does happen to be someone else’s fault . . . it’s still your fault!
7. Some people are born and live their entire lives in the state of denial. If you have a weakness that stops you from doing a necessary business chore, don’t ignore it, put if off forever, or deny that you have a problem. Get some help, fix it, and move on. If you don’t have money to start a business – go get some (it doesn’t take much). If you don’t have the time to nurture your customers – find the time and quit doing other things that take up all your time. If you don’t know how to attract free traffic – spend some money and go get some paid traffic. Find a way to move around every obstacle in your path. Learn how to do hard things or pay someone to do them for you. The better you get at finding solutions, the easier they are to see and to navigate around.
8. Like-minded people nearly always find or attract each other. If you want to be successful in IM, hang around and pay attention to successful IMers. If you want to be profitable as a blogger, hang around bloggers that are making good money. If you want to have a money making e-commerce store, then befriend, listen to, and pay attention to what profitable store owners are doing. In a similar manner, be very careful about who you choose to listen to and follow. Public forums, chat groups, and online member groups often contain well-meaning but totally clueless folks that love to give “rehashed” advice – the source of which is something they “heard online.” I’m not saying that most of these people here aren’t genuinely nice people trying to help … it’s just that often their advice and tips given are totally wrong.
9. IM is not the place to be timid and shy. I’m a fairly private and quiet person by nature. That’s not to say that I can’t be a leader or a voice of authority when needed. But I can tell you, without reservation, that if you want success as a marketer, you can’t hold back and wait for good things to happen to your or your company. Business is war. You have to “put yourself out there” (so to speak) and force your own success. The best way to do that, IMO, is to be confident and authentic, strive to always deliver quality, and aggressively go after prospects and customers by believing that you can help them and that you do have workable solutions to their needs. Believe in yourself, what you’re doing, selling, and advising. So called “black hat” methods, scamming, peddling garbage, and claiming to be or do what you’re not is the sure road to eventual failure. People tremble because they fear they are not “the best.” You can make money without being the best – but it’s important to do your best – always.
10. Persistence is a virtue. I can think of no other personal trait or characteristic more important in IM. If you can’t persist on a project, or toward a goal, or in giving your business a chance to develop over time, I would suggest you not even attempt to start an online business. I mean this in all sincerity – sometimes persistence is the only difference between a profitable and an unprofitable business. The thought of and desire for instant and quick riches is possibly the single biggest reason for failure in this industry. When it (making money) doesn’t happen fast enough, many people quit, or jump to a new and different method, only to give up and start again and again simply because they did not have the necessary staying power.
There you have it. Ten “truths” about Internet marketing that I have learned that I hope will directly benefit you.
Opposing views are always welcome.
To your online business success,
Grow Your Business Like This “Stupid Orphan Boy”
What can you and I learn from a “stupid orphan boy” that eventually became the father of science?
He has often been heralded as “the most brilliant man that ever lived” . . .
Ranked #1 and #2 with Albert Einstein as history’s leading world physicists . . .
He discovered the law of universal gravitation . . .
He defined the law of planetary motion . . .
He co-founded the principles and study of calculus . . .
He discovered that white light is composed of all the colors of the spectrum . . .
More than any other, he is responsible for laying the foundation of our modern day study of mathematics, astronomy, and physics . . .
Yet this slow, awkward, and fatherless boy was abandoned by his widowed mother at the age of two and left to the care and keeping of his grandmother.
As a young boy he did very poorly in grade school, was often teased about his stupidity, and was considered by his instructors very “unpromising.”
He became engaged at 19 but the romance with his sweetheart quickly cooled as she left him to marry someone else more desirable.
Then something miraculous happened.
The young man became engrossed in his studies. Through diligence, persistence, and hard work, he became the top student in his school.
Surprisingly, his most important discoveries were made during a two-year period when the university he was attending was closed due to an epidemic of the plague.
He was forced to retire to his home where he continued his self-tutoring.
So what miraculous change came over this young man?
How did he rise above the challenges and dire circumstances forced upon him early in life?
What lessons can you learn about persistence, overcoming adversity, and turning failure into success?
Here are his own words:
“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” Sir Isaac Newton
Newton was quick to give credit to and magnify or enlarge upon the contributions of those who had gone before him.
His vision and perspective were greater than the masses because he continually built upon and perfected the knowledge, ideas, and work of his predecessors.
Fast forward to today! Business life surges on at Internet speed which is simply mind boggling!
Change happens at a dizzying pace, new ideas and profitable models pop up constantly, emerging technologies appear on the scene like waves crashing on the beach . . .
You don’t have time to re-invent the principles of business success. There is no need to re-plow your field of endeavor.
Find yourself a giant and stand on his shoulders. Or better yet, stand on the shoulders of many Internet business pioneers.
Just how do you do that?
Honestly, there are many, many ways.
You see, giants have written books about their success and how they achieved it.
Giants sell courses, and seminars, and hold live events.
Some have private membership sites where they lay out their businesses and strategies. They sometimes offer to mentor or coach others in what they know how to do.
But a word of caution is in order here lest you jump at the first “giant” you see and offer him/her your life savings to show you what he has been doing to make money online.
Many will profess to be the “giant” you’re looking for. They will gladly take your money. Not all of them are legitimate, trustworthy, and honest.
Some are only interested in your money. Make absolutely sure that the giant you choose to follow is really a bona fide giant and not a pretender!
To your online business success,
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