February 5, 2008
How To Plan The Online Business Of Your Dreams
In the first post in my getting started series we talked about the importance of planning out the business of your dreams. Before you come up with a business plan you have to know what you want to accomplish with an online business.
In other words the first step to creating the online business of your dreams is to define the online business of your dreams.
You can’t create the online business of your dreams if you don’t know what it looks like!
The best way to define your ideal online business is to ask yourself questions that will help you create a clear vision of your ideal online business.
Here is a small sample of the kinds of questions you should ask yourself:
- Why am I starting a business?
- Why do I want to make money online?
- What am I willing to do to make money online?
- How much money do I want to make per year with my online business?
- How many hours a day do I want to work?
- Do I like to deal with customers?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
When you ask AND answer questions like the above question you can get a picture of your ideal online business. With that picture in mind, you are well on your way to creating the online business of your dreams.
PS. Here is a bonus question for those of you who are religious:
What online business can I create that will best serve God?
January 29, 2008
What is the first step you should take when starting an online business?
Many of us (myself included) start our quest to make money online by reading about it. You will read about SEO, Internet marketing, making money on eBay, making money with affiliate marketing, and anything else you can find to help you make money online. You might buy one or more info products about making money online. Then after learning how to make money online for a while you will either:
- Purchase a web domain and start setting up the website to make money using the knowledge you have gained.
- Continue to read and read about Internet marketing and never take any action on your knowledge.
- Make a sound business plan and then take action on that plan to build a successful online business.
- Make a sound business plan and then NEVER take action on that plan.
Which of these paths do you think is the best way to get started online?
The answer, of course, is number 3.
3. Make a sound business plan and then take action on that plan to build a successful online business.
If you start trying to make money online without a plan then you will never know where you are trying to go. You might get there on accident, but it is better to have that defined up front. In other words, choice number 1 is not ideal, but it is MUCH better than choices 2 and 4.
With choice number 2 you gain knowledge but never use it. With choice number 4 you make a plan and never act on it. Neither choice 2 or 4 result in an actual online business being created. You would be surprised how many people follow paths 2 and 4.
YOU WILL NEVER MAKE MONEY ONLINE IF YOU DON’T TAKE ACTION!
If you are just starting out trying to make money with an online business, then the first thing you need to do is make a plan for success. Not just any plan, but a good solid plan based on YOUR strenghts, skills, needs, and desires.
In the next post in this series we will delve deeper into planning the online business of your dreams.
January 3, 2008
I just wanted to let you know that for the next few weeks I have some family situations to attend to and won’t be quite as active on this blog. Most of my business activities are going to be delayed until mid January.
One of the few business activities that I am working on during the next few weeks is making plans for 2008. I am going through several processes, including answering some questions that Rich Schefren recently posted on his blog. I highly encourage you to answer his questions to help make 2008 a great new year for your business as well.
PS. I will be announcing the winner of Barter Genius contest in the very near future.
August 22, 2007
A while back, Jeff Hunsaker asked me what steps I was taking to creating an online product. Since I am currently working on creating two products I merged the steps from each of them to create a generic set of steps that I am taking to create e-products. I am not including all the details, because that would give away the nature of the products.
Here are the 39 steps to create a new product:
- Conduct Market Research
This is one of the most important steps in the process.
YOU MUST KNOW YOUR MARKET!
That is a little easier when you are part of your target market (like with my project). That said, there are many resources for doing market research. During my market research stage, I used some techniques that I learned from the Reese Report, and some that I learned from elsewhere. I am not going to go into detail on the market research that I have conducted, but I will go ahead and tell you about a simple tool I used for quick demographics research. It’s called “Microsoft adCenter Labs Demographics Prediction Tool” and it’s pretty cool. When you type in a search term the tool displays demographic data about the people who search for that term. For instance, if you type in “make money online”, you find out that 52 percent of the people searching for “make money online” are male. 26.8 percent are between the ages of 18-24 and a majority are under the age of 34. It’s not a bad way to get a quick look at your target market’s demographics. However, you will want to do a more in depth look at your market than just using the Microsoft demographic tool.
- Write The Business Plan
I talked about my business plan a little while ago. In short, I filled out the business plan from the SCORE template gallery. It is an extremely useful step, one that shouldn’t be skipped.
- Write A List Of The Tasks That You Need To Accomplish
This list of 40 steps is an example of the list of tasks that I created for myself. Some of the steps listed here are broken into smaller steps in my actual list.
- Assign Estimated Times To Complete Each Task
You need to estimate how long each task in your task list is going to take and write that number down. When estimating how long each task is going to take, you need to allow some time for unexpected circumstances. I estimate on the conservative side, because I find that I often underestimate how long tasks will actually take.
- Assign Tasks From The List To Yourself Or Others
If you are doing all the work yourself, then you will be assigning everything to yourself. If you are relying on other people to do some of the work, then you need to assign their names to the tasks they will be doing. This will help you with the next step.
- Create A Time Line
It is very important to create a time line for finishing your project. Creating a deadline helps motivate you to take action. I recommend creating a Gantt chart using Microsoft Project, Microsoft Excel or with a free Gantt chart creator like ganttproject.org. A Gantt chart is a chart that tracks a project’s progress over a period of time. For those of you who are intimidated by the thought of creating a Gantt chart, or you just don’t want to, I have also developed a “lazy” method of creating a timeline. What you do is add up all the days from your estimates. Go to a calendar, and figure out when you will be done. A Gantt chart is better, because you can factor in other things like dependencies (tasks that are dependent on other tasks being completed). However, having some sort of timeline is better than nothing.
- Select A Domain Name
This can be a fun process. I wrote a good article about choosing a domain name for blogs and it applies to regular websites as well.
- Come Up With A Name For The Product
This goes hand in hand with previous step. You should choose a good name for your product. Names are very important.
- Set Up A Mailing List
I wrote about setting up an email list two weeks ago.
- Promote The Mailing List
There are many ways to promote your mailing list. In my case, I am currently only using this blog to promote my list by displaying it prominently in the upper right hand corner of the navigation. I will have to write more about promoting email lists in a future post.
- Choose Affiliate Management Software
If you are going to have an affiliate program (and in most cases you should), you will need to determine what affiliate software to use. There is a plethora of choices, and I am not going to cover them in this article. I will cover this sometime in the future.
- Determine All The Tools And Technologies You need To Create The Product
This can be a time consuming process. You need to figure this out early on, in order to come up with an accurate budget for your product.
If you are starting a new corporation for your product, then it goes without saying that you will need to incorporate. Just like with the product name, it is a good idea to choose a meaningful and memorable name for your company.
- Conduct Pricing Research
There are many methods of finding the right price for your product. I recommend reading the free ebook – “Make Your Price Sell!” to learn the basics of choosing the right price for your product.
- Choose Payment Processor/ Merchant Account
If you are going to take payments over the Internet, you will need to determine how you are going to handle that. In most cases, you will need to have a merchant account. There are many things to consider when choosing a merchant account, and I recommend you do some research before choosing your merchant account.
- Choose A Web Host And Purchase Web Hosting
Choosing a web host can be one of the most difficult decisions you make in the process and it can be an easy decision. If you are like me and you want to find the “perfect” web host, then you will spend years and years researching web hosts until you discover…
“All web hosts suck!” 🙂
Once you discover that all web hosts suck it will be much easier to choose one by flipping a coin, playing darts, whatever method you deem acceptable 🙂
Ok, all web hosts don’t suck! In fact I like mine, but you can certainly find some fascinating stories by searching for your favorite host along with the word “sucks”. In other words, don’t spend all your time searching for the perfect host, because there isn’t such a thing. Find a host that suits your needs, and preferably one that comes highly recommended by someone you trust.
- Come Up With Unique Product Launch Plan
I strongly considered buying Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula for this launch (and I still might). However, after watching quite a few product launches and after talking with a few established Internet marketers there is a good chance that I am going to make do without the Product Launch Formula for this launch. I am putting together a product launch plan and my wife and I brainstorming ideas to make our launch out of the ordinary. If I was launching a product in a niche other than the Internet marketing arena, The Product Launch Formula would be a more appealing purchase.
- Create Marketing Plan
Along with the product launch, Jill and I are coming up with a marketing plan to encourage people to buy the product. That said, I only want people who REALLY need and will REALLY use this product to purchase it. I don’t want people to buy it just because it’s the latest and greatest thing. I don’t want people to buy it because they think it will answer all their problems. I know this is likely to mean I will have less customers, but I would rather be able to sleep at night than sell the product to someone who is not going to use it and/or doesn’t need it.
- Purchase The Tools And Technologies I Need From Previous Step
This is both one of the least fun steps (parting with money) and the most fun steps (getting cool new tools) of the product creation process.
- Create The Product
This step needs to be broken down into many other steps. For instance, if you are creating an ebook, you will need to research the book, create an outline, write the book, create an ebook cover, etc.
- Decide On Delivery Mechanism(s)
How will your customers get the product? Is it a download, does it ship on CD, is it an audio file, video, membership site, email course, etc.? You may want to offer a product in multiple formats to maximize your earning potential. For instance, if you are selling an ebook, you might want to let users also buy it in audio format or have a hard copy mailed to them. You can charge more for the various options.
- Consult Attorney On Legal Aspects Of The Business
It is always good to consult an attorney to help prevent potential legal problems.
- Build A Swipe File For The Sales Letter Based On Similar Successful Products
One of the first steps people use to create a sales letter is to find similar products that are selling well and “swipe” their sales letters. In other words, you leverage succesful sales letters as a guide for creating your sales letter. Don’t use these sales letters verbatim, because that can get you into legal problems for copyright violations. However, take a close look at the things in your competitor’s sales letter that convince you to buy their product. Use those same techniques in your sales letter.
- Create Sales Letter Based On Your Product’s Swipe File And Based On Copywriting Products That You Own
I am currently working on creating the sales letter for the new product I will be selling from this blog.
I own a product from Yanik Silver called Instant Sales Letters. When creating a sales letter, I like to go into the Instant Sales Letter members area and use one of the letters as a guide for writing my first rough draft of a sales letter. It helps me to focus on creating a sales letter with all the right components. I also will sometimes review some of the copywriting principles I have learned from other products I own (like Instant Web Profits System, etc.)
- Create Camtasia Video For Sales Letter
While not necessary, video does increase your conversion rate. You can create a sales pitch with the video, and/or show success stories, and/or show a behind the scenes look at the product. If it is in your budget, you should definitely create a video to help sell your product.
- Create Camtasia Videos For Help System (optional)
I marked this as optional, because most products don’t need video to help their users understand how to use it. However, videos that help users understand how to use the product can help, especially with more complicated products and higher end products. They can also be a major selling point and increase the percieved value of the product.
- Create Affiliate Training Material, Sample Ads, Sample Emails, Banner Ads, etc.
You should create as much promotional material as possible to sell your new product. Affiliates will love all the options and they are more likely to promote your product if they have less work to do. You can also offer your affiliates training. Studies have shown that giving your affiliates training will improve their conversion rate.
- Create Incentives For Early Customers
It’s important to come up with incentives for people to buy the product when they first learn about it. You should always offer an incentive for ordering immediately.
- Create Website That Will Sell The Product
This is fairly self explanatory. You have to create the site that is going to sell your new product. This can be broken down into many steps, including a few steps I mention in this list.
- Test The Product To Make Sure It Works
Testing is important, not only with your marketing, but also with any product you create. Make sure you have created a product that your customers will value. In fact, you need to over deliver on your promise. Make sure your product is BETTER than you say it is.
You need to have good legal terms of service, privacy policies, membership agreements, financial disclosures, etc. You need to make it clear how people are allowed to use your product and/or website.
- Create Customer Service Plan
Create a customer service plan to keep your customers happy. Don’t neglect your customers, they ARE your business. This might include decisions like whether or not to offer phone support, whether to have a customer support ticket system , whether to outsource your customer service, whether to have a customer support forum, etc..
- Create A Company News Blog And/Or An Affiliate Blog (optional)
While blogs aren’t a necessity, having a customer/product news blog and a blog for your affiliates will help you grow your business faster.
- Set Up Affiliate Contest For The Product Launch (optional)
Most product launches I have seen have run contests for their affiliates. If you can afford it, come up with a good contest for your affiliates.
- Recruit Affiliates
If you have an affiliate program, you need to spend a good amount of time finding people to join your affiliate program. Having a powerful group of affiliates promoting your product will make a HUGE difference in the amount of money you make.
- Get Testimonials
Testimonials offer the social proof you need to convince people to buy your product. You can never have enough testimonials. For those of you who don’t know about social proof, social proof is a psychological trigger that occurs when people see other people behaving in a certain way and, therefore, assume that behavior is the appropriate behavior to take. For instance, say you go into a new town and are trying to find a place to eat. You find two local restaraunts. At one of the restaraunts the parking lot looks pretty full, the other restaraunt only has two cars in the parking lot. Which restaraunt do you assume has better food?
The restaraunt with more people.
That is social proof in action. Testimonials offer social proof that your product is good.
- Submit Articles Promoting The Site To Article Directory (optional)
Writing articles that other people can reprint on their website, or in their eZine is one of the most effective ways of getting free traffic to your website. Writing articles allows you to get free traffic from websites that reprint your article, you get a link to your website which in turns helps your Search Engine rankings, and allows you to develop a reputation as being an expert in your field.
- Write Press Release (optional)
Press releases are an excellent way to get your online business free publicity, and free traffic. Publicity Insider has a good article on the details of writing a good press release.
- Hire Accountant
Last but not least, you need to hire an accountant to take care of the millions and millions of dollars you are going to make after your product is releaseed to the public 😉
Be sure to set deadlines on each step and don’t waste a lot of time on any one step. If you spend a month trying to find a web host, you just aren’t spending your time productively.
The steps above are fairly generic, so you can use them as a starting point for the products you create.
If you would like me to write a more detailed post about any of these steps, please let me know.
May 13, 2007
Last week I was thinking about where to go next with my business, and I recalled a recent discussion I had with my friend Austin about that very subject. As a result, I decided to focus my efforts on just one of my websites or blogs, doing everything I can for THAT site to make it successful. I was going to use some of the market research I discussed in my “How to choose a niche” post. But then…
Last Friday, I decided to join StomperNET with the one dollar trial that was going around. Prior to the trial membership offer, I had no intention of joining. However, because of Austin’s success with the original Stomper program and because it was only a dollar, I decided to go ahead and test it out. If it helps me achieve my goals faster, then I may stay. If not, then I will proceed with my plan. (So far, I’m really impressed with the program, by the way.)
Since, StomperNET is keeping me ultra busy, this blog will be a bit lighter on content for a few weeks, and I’ll be doing a couple of things differently during that time, as well. I’ll be posting about one of those changes tomorrow, and I hope it’s something that will make for a nice change of pace, as well as give me a bit more time to evaluate StomperNET.
If you have been anticipating more posts from the blog traffic series, don’t worry. I have two posts for the series sitting in my drafts folder. One of those posts contains a huge amount of information that should keep you busy for quite a while.
April 18, 2007
This month and possibly next month, I am taking a step back to evaluate my strengths, likes, and dislikes, regarding my business.
For a month, I will only work on business things that I really WANT to work on. I will write down everything I spend my time doing. This will give me a better idea of the areas of my business that I need to start outsourcing and will help me better understand in what direction the business needs to move.
I will also spend a lot of time learning as much as I possibly can from John Reese. I am really loving the Reese Report and look forward to learning a lot more from John.
Lastly, I am going to be starting work on a product, but more on that later…
February 14, 2007
I am done creating anything that is boring on the Internet (well mostly done). I can’t think of one blog or website that I visit on a regular basis that I consider to be the least bit boring.
Whenever I get bored with a website or blog, I stop visiting it.
One of my BIGGEST goals in 2007 and beyond is to be remarkable, and to NOT BE BORING!
You should make it one of your goals too! Stop being boring! Nobody cares about boring websites except their owners. Just stop it!
Be remarkable, Be exciting, Be interesting, Be unique, Be everything you want to be, but…
DON’T BE BORING!
December 27, 2006
It’s actually pretty simple. I have been struggling to come up with a real definitive business goal for the year. Well, now I have one:
I want to earn 1000 dollars/day by the end of the year.
This goal will help direct my other business decisions in 2007. I came up with this goal after having lunch with Austin last week. I will talk more about how lunch with Austin changed my business direction in the near future.
December 21, 2006
Here is a list of the two goals I have for the year 2007:
1. Make goals for 2007
2. Accomplish those goals
You have to start somewhere, right?
PS. I need to get started on that first one:)
November 28, 2006
I came up with several lists the other day to make sure my short term business direction is correct. I decided that in order to make sure I was focusing on the right sites and/or blogs I would make three lists that answered the following questions:
- What are the top 5 sites that I own that are easiest to get traffic too?
- What are the top 5 sites that I own that make the most money per visitor?
- What are the top 5 sites that I own that I enjoy working on the most?
I am not going to go into details on my lists, except to say that there were two sites that I own that fit into all three categories (this blog wasn’t one of them). This blog was on 2 of the 3 lists. It didn’t make the first list, because I find it much easier to grow traffic on most of my other sites and blogs. It can be done, but it is much more difficult and time consuming.
Anyway, I thought I would share that with you, because it might be helpful to make lists like these if you have multiple websites. It might also be helpful when choosing a niche for your next website.
If you were using these lists for choosing a new niche you might instead ask the questions:
- Which niche site will be easiest to get traffic too?
- Which niche site will make the most money per visitor?
- Which niche site will I enjoy working on the most?
Asking and answering questions like these area a great way to help you reach your goals faster, not only in business, but in other areas of your life.
November 15, 2006
I have written on this subject before, and haven’t yet managed to get the work/family/health/spiritual/relationship balance that I need.
I think it is very important to get balance in your life.
Now that my 80 hour work weeks are starting to look like 40 hour work weeks again, I am going to put together a plan not only for my business, but for all the aspects of my life. I want to make sure that my business plans do not take on more importance than trying to stay healthy, etc. I want balance!
Anyway, I was inspired to mention this because of Aaron Wall’s latest post:
I highly recommend you go over to Aaron’s blog and leave an encouraging comment on the post above. We all need encouragement to do the right thing, and living a healthier life is the right thing.
October 18, 2006
The other day I was thinking about my business and all the things I could do with them. I was thinking of offering new services, creating a product, etc. and I realized something…
I have not been doing the things that I know I need to do in order to make our websites succeed.
I love driving traffic to websites! It is one of my favorite things to do, yet I have spent very little time in this area in the last 3 months. What a big mistake that is!
I know what to do, I know how to do it, and yet I have not been doing it, because I keep getting sidetracked with new ideas, etc.
So, one of my primary goals through the end of the year is to drive more traffic to some of our sites.
I do have other things to do (business planning, some design work, etc), but driving more traffic to our sites is going to be a high priority weekly goal for me.
Are there any things in your business you know how to do, know you should be doing, but aren’t? If so, what are they and why aren’t you doing them?