There’s a dreamy romance about the notion of making money while you sleep. This is one of the major motivations for new online entrepreneurs – which is understandable when you read stories about the gobs of money made by the great global success stories such as Amazon, Google, facebook and eBay.
Many people concoct amazing new web ideas every day; lots don’t get developed, and lots don’t make it online. Some run out of budget after launch, and sadly fizzle in the market. Here are some aspects to consider when trying to make it in the web world.
It’s hard to believe, but the web has been mainstream in Australia since 1996. In 12 years the web has evolved significantly with some 5 billion websites. Just on numbers, the big winners are few.
The internet is experiencing an era like the industrial revolution where multiple people fought over who was the first to invent particular machines. Brilliant ideas are dreamt up every day, and there’s a good chance someone else in the world has already thought of it. In fact, there’s a good chance someone else is developing it already.
Many people believe the web money now lies in narrow niche markets. For example, there’s not a great deal of room in the market for another major player like Amazon. But there are strong online opportunities for antique book dealers, collectible book specialists, rare and hard to find online bookstores.
Similarly, as more people seek to purchase local goods and services online, geographically niche concepts will become more important, and certainly more profitable.
The first step of any online entrepreneur is to get some advice from people in the know. Sit down with a number of IT gurus and thresh out your concept. Refining the idea early on will save you a lot of money down the track.
It is best that once you’ve talked to a few friends in the industry that you seek the advice of seasoned internet professionals. Most web developers who’ve been in business for 5 or more years are considered veterans and will happily work in a consulting capacity to assist you.
People mistakenly skip this step and try to keep ideas to themselves for fear of someone else stealing it. The reality is ideas need substantial development to make it to market, so it’s well worth investing in the professional advice of people ‘in the know’ and experienced with your market.
The great rules of traditional business are equally but arguably more important for online business. A business plan, start-up capital and a strong marketing strategy are required for online success.
Business plans for websites are different beasts to those of bricks-and-mortar businesses, but you most certainly should not skip this step. Most web development companies will have somebody on staff to assist with the conceptual planning and realistic goal targets from an online perspective.
Start-up capital for most online operators needs to cover the cost of website development as well as realistic marketing costs to get the idea off the ground.
What’s your idea going to cost? Most customised websites with unique and interesting features start from $20,000.
All the awesomeness of the web’s automation has won hearts in the past but customers now crave the essentials of traditional businesses; customer service and reliability. Unfortunately, it is usually the automation features that attract budding online entrepreneurs and it’s important to remember that customers require so much more to become regular website customers.
Automation trends now only impress when intelligent interpretation and intuition is used throughout websites. An example of this is where you fill out an online form and upon answering a question the form tries to predict the answer to your next question.
Delivering superb customer service through intelligent automation should be the goal of emerging web businesses. Think carefully about the text in automatic emails sent to your customers when they complete certain actions on the website, such as asking for more information or subscribing to your newsletter, as you can keep a visitor for much longer if you can continue to satisfy their curiosity.
Ultimately once your website is built, you’ll need to sink some marketing dollars into drawing visitors. The quickest way to do this is through Google’s AdWords program, or advertising on high profile websites within the region or industry in which you operate.
Many new websites skip some of the user testing techniques employed by the big websites to maximise profits. Try this simple one: find 5 to 10 people you know to participate. Just friends, work colleagues and family will be fine. Give them all a slightly different job to do on your website. For example, purchase 3 items using the shopping cart, or make an enquiry. Watch how they traverse the website, where they need to stop and think about their next action, and where they find the site easy and intuitive. Use this information to improve your customers’ experience.
The web is undoubtedly an exciting place to do business, and if you don’t lose sight of the basics of business, the road to success and profits will be much smoother.
This article was published in the May 2008 edition of In Touch In Business magazine.