Saturday, 1st December 2012
WANT TO BE THE NEXT INTERNET BILLIONAIRE? - Most entrepreneurs dream of starting a business that will provide them with financial security and even extreme wealth. You often see very successful entrepreneurs fail many times before they hit it big and even when they do they sell up only to go in search of the next challenge. You see an entrepreneur, in many cases, is not just concerned about the wealth but by taking an idea and making it work.
The downside to being an entrepreneur is the cold hard truth that many ventures fail within the first 18 months, but for a true entrepreneur this will not deter them from moving on and coming up with another idea or two. Creating a successful business, online or off line is about perseverance, time and dedication and while many of us dream of having a successful business few ever make the cut, in terms of what it really takes to succeed. Still interested in becoming the next Internet Billionaire? Read on…
Formulating an Idea
The very first thing you need is an idea. Will any old idea work? Well no, unfortunately it won’t. Over the years that I have been trying, and often failing, to succeed, I have met many people with many ideas and these ideas generally fall into two categories:
- Niche Market
- Worldwide Market
What’s the difference?
A Niche Market
This is one where you will target a very specific target market. For instance if you set up a website that provides information and products for Toy Car Collectors. Collecting toy cars is of course restricted to those who are indeed interested in the subject and are avid collectors of toy cars. There is nothing wrong with entering a niche market but you must understand that the visitors and potential customers will be restricted in numbers.
Before you rush off and set up your niche market business it is vital that you understand your marketplace and the competitors that you have. Unless you have invented a brand new product, meant for a niche market, then it is almost a certainty that you will have competitors. You also need to establish figures in terms of potential customers and the question here is ‘How big is your market?’; that is, is there sufficient potential customers to actually make your business a success?
A Worldwide Market
When we look at worldwide markets this really pertains to something that everyone and anyone could potentially use. There is, in reality, no such thing as a complete blanket as by very human nature we are all different and we all perceive things differently in terms of what is and what is not useful. However, there are certain businesses out there that do manage to tap into a vast audience and the obvious that springs to mind is Facebook.
The difficult aspect of trying to create a business where the majority of people want and will use is extremely difficult but, as Facebook proves, is not impossible. Take Meebal.com as an example also. OK, yes it doesn’t get millions of users per day as it is still in its start-up stage, however the content has a very wide appeal and therefore does not target any one specific interest group, either demographically or geographically… It is a worldwide market.
Formulating a Plan
Now that you have researched your market and determined the product and or service you want to provide it’s really time to do a little testing. For many startups, this can be a difficult thing to do as it means telling others your ideas. Generally your safest bet is to run it with friends and family or find people, in the event of a niche market, to discuss your plans with.
Now you might be thinking that this is going to let the cat out of the bag before you have launched and what is stopping some other savvy individual from cashing in on your idea? Even family and friends might turn against you if they think you have just come up with the next big ‘Facebook’ idea. Remember that money can bring out the best and the worst in people and often invokes jealousy and resentment so a word of caution… If you have any doubts draft a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) and have people sign it BEFORE you discuss your plans. Most people will not berate you for this as most people will understand that you are just being a savvy entrepreneur and protecting your potential business ideas.
Buying the Right Domain Name
Once you come up with an idea it is going to be very tempting to just go ahead and buy a domain name and while these are cheap enough it could be a waste of money. Take into considerations above. As you research you will inevitably formulate ideas that either compliment your original idea or indeed changes it significantly and none has more effect that when it comes to discussing your ideas with others. Therefore you may have bought a domain name that now has no real bearing on what you are about to execute.
One consideration here is that a good descriptive, short and memorable domain name is not that easy to come by so if you do find a name that meets the initial criteria it could be argued that you should go ahead and purchase it. You can of course sell that name if you no longer need it and you might even be able to sell it at a profit. Sounds a little far fetched? Let me enlighten you…
About 12 years ago I was toying with the idea for a new online venture. I researched domain names and found one suitable and purchased it. At the time I paid less than $10.00. Three weeks later I shelved the project due to other commitments and put the domain name up for sale. A week later it sold for $2,800.00. Not a bad decision after all.
When it comes to buying a domain name you must choose carefully. For me a domain name has to be catchy, relevant to the subject matter, and where possible under seven characters in length. This makes your domain name much easier to remember and type for your users.
I’m going to put my hands up here and say that while Meebal.com is not the best of names it is short and easy to remember, or so I thought at the time. However, after much careful thought, after the fact, I have come to the conclusion that Meebal.com is not actually a very good name – it might grow with time and as the site becomes more popular, let’s face it who would have thought Google was a good domain name? I will also tell you another secret here… I recently purchased the domain name Penity.com and it is most likely that over the next few months Meebal.com will become Penity.com. Why Penity? I came up with this as we, at Meebal, allow people to write and submit content … So Pen It. What do you think? Would be nice to get a few reactions.
Again, the advice here is to carefully research the domain name for your website, and even during the process above, ask others. The obvious telltale sign of a domain name not being overly good is when you speak the name and your friends say; “What was that?” or “How to you spell it?”
Take your time and spend some time researching. It is also a good idea to take your chosen list of domain names and write them in the style that will form your logo. You will be surprised to learn that not all letters look great in a particular font so you need to find something that looks appealing and is very easy to read. This is all about trial and error so stick with it.
Creating the Website
So, everything is in place and all you need now is a kick-ass website design to compliment your ideas. The first issue here is going to be the platform on which you want the design built, for instance, PHP or ASP. If you are not a developer, and don’t get developers mixed up with designers, these are two very separate areas of expertise, although many companies provide both services, then you need to do a little research into what you want from your website in terms of functionality for your users. Will you be selling goods and or services? You will therefore need a shopping cart. Will you be allowing people to add content, like Meebal.com does? You will need a members log in area with access to a form for creating content.
Think very carefully what your site must do in order to please your users. If you get this wrong then people will quickly abandon your website.
When it comes to starting an online business you will need to determine how much cash you have for everything that needs doing and buy, for instance:
- Domain Name
- Web Hosting
- Designer / Developer Fees
Luckily we live in an age where this can be really cheap. Remember it is unlikely that as soon as you launch your online venture that millions of people will flock to it; so think about starting small and then add to the site as you need it.
Once again I’ll give you some open and honest information… It cost me exactly $165.00 to get Meebal.com up and running. That figure included Hosting, a WordPress Theme and a Domain Name. Pretty cheap eh? Three of the most popular routes for getting an online business up and running is WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. All provide FREE Content Management Systems (CMS) that will allow you to easily add and manage the content on your website and these are suitable for practically any website you can think of.
The moral of the story here is that you don’t have to shell out really big bucks in order to give an idea a go. Explore your options carefully and remember you can always up the development and provide more functionality as you grow.
I know what you are thinking… I said about providing functionality otherwise visitors would leave. Yes, that is perfectly correct but that still doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune getting your start up off the ground. Provide sufficient functionality for what is needed in the present and then build on it as the demands of your users grow. This allows you to dazzle them with new features to enjoy and shows your users that you always have them in mind as you grow. Even Facebook started out with basic functionality and even now continues to grow and develop – Rome was NOT built in a day.
Getting People to Visit Your Website
Congratulations you now have a brand new shiny website to thrill your visitors with and delight them with all your content. OK, what visitors? Where are they? Why are they not visiting your website in droves? What did you do wrong? You built a site with all the bells and whistles but nobody is visiting… Why?
For starters the truth is that your website is competing with approximately 1 trillion other web pages out there and absolutely nobody knows you even exist, part from your Mother and your pet hamster and he’s way too busy with his wheel to be bothered with your website – unless you went for a niche market for hamster wheels in which case Herbert Hamster is probably your biggest fan.
So how do you get people visiting your website in order to make you the next Internet Billionaire and what’s it going to cost you?
I could quite honestly fill a library with specific areas, but you should have a few ports of calls:
Submit your XML Sitemap to the major search engines, such as Google and Bing. You can set up Webmaster Tools Accounts for both of these and you should in order to submit your XML Sitemap. It is going to take a while for both Google and Bing to crawl and index your website and then of course rank it. How well either ranks your website will depend on the amount of unique and quality content you have on your website. Take a look at both and you will see Guidelines and Terms listed on each of the best practices for getting indexed and ranked:
Please DO NOT expect overnight results with regards to getting any real type of traffic from Google or Bing. When it comes to Google or Bing you need to be aware that they have a set of algorithms, over 200 in Google’s case, that each of your pages needs to pass through to get a ranking. As a new website you are unlikely to get ranked very well as Google and Bing prefer driving search users to well established and trusted websites. Therefore you are going to have to do a lot of work in order to get people to visit and share what you do and once this happens, and providing you get enough people sharing, Google and Bing will sit up and take notice.
Email Your Friends
It doesn’t take more than 30 minutes to set up and submit your sitemap to Google and Bing so once that it out of the way your next port of call is going to be your personal email list. Now be aware that not everyone in your email list may be interested in what you have going so you might want to cherry pick from the list of who you send to. DO NOT just send them an email with a link to your website telling them to check it out. Remember these are your friends and if you motivate them enough they can really help get your website noticed. Don’t believe me?
Look at how Facebook got started… It was through an email list. From this list of Harvard students the social network quickly grew through word of mouth and by friends emailing their friends… In other words it went viral.
Make your email personal – they are your friends! Tell them what you are doing and how great the site is and ask them if they would check it out. If they like it the chances are they’ll be emailing their friends and then hitting their Facebook accounts or other social media accounts they have and spread the word for you.
DO NOT EVER be tempted to buy an email list. Yes, these are available for what is generally a hefty price but laws are much stricter now on the sending of SPAM and this could end you up in court and just alienate existing and potential visitors … Nobody likes a spammer!
There’s a ton of social networks out there and you should join and maintain your accounts under your business / website name. Facebook is the obvious one but where I get a fair amount of traffic is from Pinterest.com, LinkedIn.com and Stumbleupon.com. There are lots more so have a look around.
It is VITAL that you provide SHARE BUTTONS on your website. You need your visitors to share what you have as this will also increase your search engine visibility.
One vital social network that is often overlooked by startups is their own ‘Comment System’. Comment systems are very popular and almost every website has one. Do not make the mistake in thinking this is not a social network, it is and it’s your own. Carefully monitor comments to reduce spam and trolls but do remember to give feedback to comments, even if they are not complimentary. Always be polite and try to help. If people can see that you are directly involved they will tell others and they will come back.
Patience, Hard Work and Then More Hard Work
Unless you have come up with the next Facebook then be prepared to join the ranks and files of the rest of us mere mortals. In does take an awful lot of time, effort and patience to build a successful online business with the pursuit of becoming the next Internet Billionaire. Rome, as we all said time and time again, was not built in a day.
Consider Jumping on Board with Another Startup
There are lots of website startups out there looking for talent and while they generally don’t pay, due to the lack of startup capital, they will give you shares in the company. This is often a great route for getting in at the ground level and applying your skills to a project that has potential for growth. Take a look at Meebal.com. Currently it is offering a 10% stake for a content writer. This idea is simple; once it reaches 3 million articles it will pick one of the contributing writers to take a serious stake in the business and all for writing an article. Want to know more? See the full details here.