Can You Really Make Money While You Sleep?
"When everyone is looking for gold, it's a good time to be in the pick and shovel business."
- Mark Twain
Spend a few minutes online and you'll realize that we are in the midst of a modern day gold rush. Just about everyone has an idea to make money, or wants to sell you one. You just need to plunk down cash and suddenly you'll be "making money while you sleep..."
Are You Telling Me It's Not True?Actually, there IS gold in the hills. Right now 4-5% of retail sales go over the internet. This is a huge amount of money and it's increasing at an alarming pace. However, there is a catch. Most of it is going to companies with carefully executed business plans. Websites like EBay and Amazon are huge fishing boats pulling in nets of orders each hour. Lured by their success (and greed), a whole industry has grown up to "sell the allure".
Don't let this discourage you, though. The trend is real. We're on the edge of a new frontier. And, if you aren't discouraged, read on.
Don't Try To Go Alone...Start by assembling a team. You need to protect yourself and plot a good course. Be sure to have experts in following fields: accounting, law, web development, and a business coach or mentor. These people will be important in your life so make sure you enjoy working with them, and that they're available when you call.
Next, Make A Plan...Pop Quiz: What's the best thing to sell online...? BZZZZ...times up!
It probably doesn't matter. Sell what you know or something you really care about. Otherwise you won't have as much persistence and may have trouble understanding the market. Someone that's been in business for a long time understands this notion. If this is your first venture, a few classes and a mentor can be invaluable. It's not about building a website, it's about building a business.
But I Am Already In Business.You've got it easier. Think hard about how (and if) a website can complement what you are already doing. It can take on a support role, qualify potential clients, show your qualifications, and more. In some ways it's a good time to reinvent the way you communicate with clients. Maybe you just want to start out by HAVING a website.
On the other hand, decide whether an online venture WILL complement what you are doing. You might be better off with print ads, a PR campaign, or a better-looking sign.
Now, It All Depends On Google...There are great stories about websites that suddenly get tons of traffic. In practice, search engines are turning into national level marketing arenas - much like car racing. Sure there are keywords that are still relatively open. However, any competitive market becomes a battle for placement. You can spend money and hire firms that specialize in making websites bubble to the top. Be prepared to commit a budget like you would buy spots for TV commercials. You might get something for nothing today, but it probably won't last.
Ask yourself "is national advertising important for my business?". Also, have you ever heard of too much success? What would happen if tomorrow morning you had 2,000 orders in your inbox? If this is part of your plan, then you're on the right track (and talk to a Search Engine Optimization expert).
Otherwise think of search engines as just another source of traffic, and...
Put Together A Marketing PlanA website can become the center of an inexpensive and effective marketing plan for a small business. It generally takes a "wagon wheel" approach. Around the edges are different ways a client can find you. (Ads, Direct Mail, PR, Handouts, Newsletters, Public Speaking, etc.) These become spokes leading to a well designed website in the center.
This puts pressure on the site, so make sure it is interesting, professional, and gives a personal "feel" complementary to your business. It's also a good idea to give ample reason to come back. Include latest news, specials, upcoming events, special forms, etc. Be creative and provide things your clients are interested in.
Traffic logs give immediate feedback on how well your campaign is working. Keep in mind the outcome you want from a visitor. For example, decide if you want them to join your mailing list, to call, to read specific pages, etc. These metrics are more valuable than just a count of "page views".
Stay In TouchOne downside to the Internet revolution is things come at us so quickly. The tidal wave of information is overwhelming and we all lose track. Someone will visit your website today and forget about it by tomorrow. You need to reach out and pull them back.
However, don't become a spammer or source of junk mail. "Direct Mail" vendors talk about "opt in" lists. The assumption is that if someone agrees to receive your mailings, then it is not spam. Ideally you want to rise above this and only send things of value. You want people to look forward to receiving your mailings, not just toss it away annoyed.
Mind Your Business and It Will Mind You...This is more of an axiom, but "good service sells itself." Do your best to help clients to be successful and they will do the same in return. An online business is no different than any other venture. Play your cards right and you can make money in real life, not just daydreams.