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The 10 Most Important Questions

It has been said that over 90% of small businesses fail within the first five years of getting started.

We’re not talking about only online businesses here but are talking about ice cream shops, restaurants, dry cleaners and, yes, the online entrepreneur with a dream of living the “Internet lifestyle”.

I can tell you from experience that the first five years can be very tough if you are underfunded and are new to what you are doing.

When I started online I had $14 to my name and a burning desire to make a living online. But I was new to online business and that made things very hard.

Answers I should have had at the tip of my fingers escaped me. Simple things like where to find customers and how much to charge for my product became learning experiences that took incredible amounts of time to figure out.

Fortunately for me (sounds odd to say it that way) I was so sick that all I had was time. If I was awake I was working. Thankfully, we made it into the 10%

How can you put yourself in the 10% who make it and avoid being in the 90%?

I believe one factor is to ask better questions before you start your online  marketing business.

If I had it to do over again I would ask these ten questions before I committed to any business.

I strongly believe that most people start a business (especially online) without really having enough facts to make that move. It’s incredibly easy to buy a product on impulse and think that the act of purchasing has put you into a business.

We have all been there. I’ve been there … many times! 🙂

The reality is often different. Buying a product can be very casual. If you ask anyone who has succeeded in business, from Apple to your favorite online teacher, you will discover that it takes much more than one purchase to build a real business.

Here are the questions I would ask if I knew what I know now and were starting over. These are the questions I have taught my daughters as they began their own entrepreneurial journeys.

I will list each question and share a brief insight into them so you can get on with your day.

I hope these questions serve you well.

1. Who is my ideal customer?

Knowing who your ideal customer is is vital to your success. After all, just as you can’t hit a target you cannot see you will be hard-pressed to make sales unless you can identify your perfect customer.

Once you know what you are looking for it will become much easier to find that perfect customer.

Here are a few questions to ask about your ideal prospective customer:

  • Are they a man or woman, or does sex not matter?
  • Do they need to be in a certain income bracket?
  • Is it important that they have children, or that they not have children?
  • Is location important? Will you be selling a location-specific product or a language-specific offer?
  • Does their age matter?

There are many more questions we could list here, but you get the idea. The more you know about who might be a hot prospect for your offer the better job you will be able to do with your marketing.

And success in business is mostly about marketing, especially online. Great marketing can sell even marginally good products. Poor marketing would fail to sell the fountain of youth.

2. What do they want?

Notice this because it matters… a lot. I said what do they want, not what do they need.

The #1 lesson I learned in my many years of sales training was this – people buy with emotion and justify their choice with logic.

Selling to wants is about 100 times easier then selling to needs. Ask anyone who sells houses or cars or clothing, you can visit this site to find information on a car company. Look at your own life and you will see that most of what you own is not based on pure logic but rather on what you wanted, could afford and what fits your self-image.

3. What do they need?

Knowing both what your customer needs and wants is vital. Knowing both will help you tailor your sales message, inform your decision about advertising resources and more. If you are lucky enough to sell a product that people need and then also offer what they want you will do doubly well. For most of us it’s just not possible.

If you really think about needs vs. wants you will find that your product is almost certainly one that people want, not one they need.

Selling to needs and selling to wants is much different, so please take time to think this one through.

4. What are they being offered now?

Once you know who your ideal prospect is, and what product you intend to promote to them, it’s time to do some market research. You don’t need a white lab coat or taped-up glasses to do this. Just do some searching on Google as you think your customer would do. Then visit some sites (I usually visit 100 or more) and see what they are offering.

HOT TIP: Make notes of the URLs in Evernote (or bookmark them) as you go. You will want to revisit some of these sites later to see what sales approach they are using.

Ignoring what your competitors are doing is bad business. Copying what your competitors are doing is bad business too. You need a unique approach but want that approach informed by what is working in the market now.

5. Am I qualified to offer something better?

I want to be very clear about this. You don’t need to have THE ultimate product breakthrough in your niche in order to do well. I live in a town of about 200,000 people and we have lots and lots of donut shops, Mexican food restaurants and convenience stores.

But each one of them offers something unique, even if that uniqueness is only location.

Also, you don’t have to create this product yourself. I am a top affiliate for Aweber and proudly recommend and promote them. But programming an autoresponder service is both above my pay grade and silly when there is a top product I can promote, one that I believe in and from which I can earn steady commissions.

The key to you being “qualified” has more to do with passion than with any technical knowledge.

6. How can I reach them?

It is vital that you know how to reach your target audience before you launch a business. Some niche markets look very profitable at first but end up being so hard to reach that success becomes unlikely.

7. Can I afford to reach them?

The situation leading to failure in business online I see most often is this. A person pays to get into a business and then does not have enough money to market properly. By the time they pay the fee to join the business, and then navigate the all-too-predictable upsells, they are tapped out. No money left to buy ads, or hire outsourcers or anything else.

The second most common cause of frustration and failure is falling for the hype, thinking that buying products alone will lead to success, and losing valuable time and money along the way.

Avoid those traps by asking smart questions before you commit.

8. Am I passionate about this? Will I see it through?

A recent survey of mine showed that most respondents were promoting 5 or more businesses at one time. That’s too many in my view because it spreads your resources too thin. Here’s why.

Let’s say John is promoting five affiliate offers at once and has $400 to spend on advertising. If he treats each business equally he will have only $80 to spend on each. There is very little you can do with $80 that will make much impact.

But if John could concentrate all $400 on one product he is promoting the odds of success increase substantially. Best of all, John could actually have less than perfect results with his first promotion and still have resources to learn from his mistakes. With only $80 to spend you generally have one shot to make it or miss.

9. Can I afford to get started?

We would all be wise to count the cost before starting any new venture. Sadly, most of us don’t do that. I know I didn’t when I first started out. Knowing the real numbers can sometimes be daunting. It makes success look too far away and that becomes a negative.

Some of us (I’m pointing my finger at myself) choose to not count the cost because we really really want to do a thing and we know that a cold analysis would stop us from doing it. Thank God I outgrew that one!

And it only took 52 years. 🙂

But is it better to know the numbers and avoid a mistake or better to forge ahead with vigor and lose what investment you can afford to make?

I’ll let you make the choice. No judgements here.

10. Is this idea scalable?

Succeeding in business takes work. It takes blood, sweat and tears as the old saying goes. So before you invest your hard-earned money and even more valuable time, make sure your business can grow the way you want it to.

When I started out I was selling copywriting services. As I began to succeed I quickly learned that I was in a bit of a trap – I was trading time for money. The only way to grow (or scale) was to charge more or hire ghostwriters.

Neither was appealing and I soon moved away from writing for customers and wrote my first book.

While the return on time investment in the first week, or even month, was not there I soon discovered that I could sell books automatically, 7 days a week and around the world with no effort after my automated system was in place.

I had discovered my scalable business. One I could be passionate about and was qualified to do.

I never looked back.

I hope these 10 questions help you. I’m not saying these are the only questions to be asked, or even the best questions to be asked — only that they are the questions I would ask based on what I know right now.

If you have suggestions about other questions to be asked, or want to comment on my list, please feel free to do so below. I believe life works best when we learn together.

Because learning, especially together, is a beautiful thing indeed!

 

Charlie Page
 

Happily married for 43 years, Charlie is the dad to two wonderful daughters. He is the author of 12 books on Internet marketing and creator of over 15 membership sites. You can see all Charlie offers using this link Click Here

  • […] is why choosing your niche, or target audience is the first (and perhaps most important) key to successful content […]

  • […] is why choosing your niche, or target audience is the first (and perhaps most important) key to successful content […]

  • Robert Andrews says:

    Just like people buy on emotion, people start businesses on emotion. They consider any of the above questions before starting a business. They don’t consider customer wants, needs, how money they have on had or anything. They may have a good idea and a gut feeling and they get started. They learn as they go. Expensive education and they lose everything. I’ve seen this happen quite often.

  • aida suarez says:

    Hi Charlie, I usually write a comment after reading once. This time I will read this 10 Questions and answers, two o three times before I elaborate on them. Just to be fair. To you and to myself. I don’t complain about past mistakes because we always learn a lesson from them. I keep saying: “Nothing is lost” ! And that is the way we mature. I think horses are wiser than us… because somebody say that they don’t step twice in the same stone. Good! We do.
    Thank you for your honest confessions. Take time to do things right, and we cannot avoid doing mistakes. And boy the price we pay! The thing is… when we fall, not to stay down. Just look around paying attention. Get up and keep fighting the good fight.
    Keep sending your articles! I read them all faithfully! Why? Because I know you are an honest person. A men from God, and He bless you and your family.

  • virgin8a says:

    Charlie the same as you I am so proud of the warriors that are defending our great nation and for the “Fallen but never forgotten” thank God for them that they put their lives for the USA people’s freedom. I have a disabled veteran at home and he is strugglin big time to reacomodate into the society he is my youngest son and I have an active duty son in the Navyl and again I am going to repeat this word I am so proud to have a son like him. He was honored by the Navy as a Sailor of the Year. I just said to my self that every american soldier when they got the government check they sign that check with their blood. So helped them God. Live or Die. God bless you. Virginia

  • Phyllis Thomas says:

    Another great article. Every informative and insightful. It has certainly given me some things to think about that I had no idea should be considered. Thanks for sharing your wisdom from personal experience.

  • adesina says:

    Wonderful and thrilling questions! They worth thorough scrutiny.

    I Love it.

  • […] YOU are not the reason why an estimated 99% of all people fail online. […]

  • […] needs to be in regular contact with the type of people who can benefit from what you do. This begs a critical question. Do you know what your ideal prospect looks like? Once you know, do […]

  • Charles Holmes says:

    Great post Charlie. I wish I would have read this post before I started my first business online three years ago. It would have saved me lots of time and money. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    Chuck

  • Ben Laing says:

    Hi great post! very helpful. If it were 11 most important questions I could add it. “With the question: Who are my competitors and what are they doing” although some ideas might be one of a kind it very likely someone is already doing something similar and you need to find out how hard it’s going to be to beat your competitors which probably come in line with your question “Can I afford to get started”

  • Mark M says:

    Great as usual Charlie. What can I say. Thanks Charlie

  • Janice says:

    While I’ve seen this sort of thing before, you’ve written this so clearly and honestly that it is much more helpful than I’ve seen elsewhere. Thanks Charlie

  • Dazzling Dolly Lutz says:

    Wow, Charlie……….I just finished your Article…..and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m guilty of all the mistakes mentioned…….and I’ve also learned a lot over the last 5 years on the InterNet. Some of my “failures” have been due to joining a Company that was doing great at first ……..and then went under.
    ANOTHER several hundred $$$ down the drain.
    I have been doing fairly well with my InterNet Business for 16 months and now the Admin/Owner has decided to move on………..Oooops!
    Here I go again…………looking for yet another Business. I’ve done MLM, Affiliate Marketing……..and Direct Sales. I’m burned out to some degree, being even older than all the other people who mentioned their age.
    NOW, I’m out of money, exhausted and need to make a huge decision in which direction to go. Two friends have both shown me their “NEW” Businesses in the Anti-aging Industry.
    I’m going to print your Article and put the questions up against each Business to help me make my decision………..I’ll keep you posted.
    By the way……..my real dream is to write my own book…….and one day I WILL do it……….just need the time, energy and some money coming in to make it feasible…………:>).
    I look forward to more words of wisdom from you…….thanks.
    Blessings in all you do……….Dazzling Dolly Lutz

    • Charlie Page says:

      Thank you for your kind comments. Here’s how to write your book. Write two paragraphs a day from this day forward. Inch by inch it’s a cinch.

      Charlie

  • Beth says:

    Hi Charlie,
    thanks for the encouragement. I’ll definately be signing up today. I was referred to you through another program, but I’m not entirely comfortable with the new services that I’m being encouraged to purchase. I’m new to this, so I’d just like to know some other options. Not everyone uses the same path to reach their own goals. Right?
    Beth

    • Charlie Page says:

      Beth,

      Whether it is my product or another, don’t make a move until you have the facts and can move forward with complete confidence. Good for you taking your time.

      Charlie

  • Orestes says:

    Hi! Charlie,

    Thanks for the great post with a very valuable and wise advice.I will
    keep it and read it everytime I´ll need to make a move as we sometimes forget things very easy and just one mistake can hurt a lot.

    Happy to hear that Belin is doing wonderfully well….always praying
    for him!

    Blessings!
    Orestes

  • Fred says:

    Very informative article. We would all be wise to take these 10 questions, print them out, and put them in a place that we could and would read them ever day. Save us a lot of heartache, not to mention time and money.

  • colin cousins says:

    Yep been there done that 3 yrs it took me to get a grip of myself and start using the resources i already had instead of buying every product there is. And really looking at my customers wants and needs and Bingo nice steady income and i always make sure to over deliver in all my different niche’s
    Thanks for some great and honest advice Charlie

  • Charles says:

    Hi Charlie,
    This is a great wisdom in and I am one of those who buy on impulse.
    Now I study any product/service before I join or buy.
    In fact it is not the product but it is how good you are in sharing ideas to your customers or buyers… this makes you attractive and many will trust and buy your product.
    Good article for me… thank you.

  • alicia says:

    thank you Charlie, it would be interesting to see how to keep up with technology… we are now using twitter, pinterest, a facebook fan page and an indiegogo campaign on co-creating happiness…

    People seem to be attracted to new things… but nothing beats the personal touch.

    Hope Belin is doing better.

    Alicia

    • Charlie Page says:

      I know that some people want the new things but I feel we should all be free to say “no” to the new and concentrate on what is proven and fits our business model. I use social media only lightly for this very reason. I post updates from this blog on Twitter and Facebook and do little else because time does not allow me to have an active social media presence. I would rather do what I do (paid advertising and email marketing) to the very best of my ability and not get spread too thin by feeling the need to participate in everything possible.

  • Dusty Van Gilder says:

    I at present work with my wife in a business we love to do.We manufacture homemade/handmade ukrainian food products but i also would like a profitable online business-Unfortunately I have been unable to venture into anything due to finances and theScam efforts out there.I have read everything you have ever sent to me but have been unable to act upon anything.I appreciate the fact that you are willing to help even those who cannot afford.I will use these questions alot—and I thankyou for this.I hope in the future that I will be able to join DOE Thanks again and congrats on the job you do

  • Barry Selk says:

    Hi Charlie,
    Some of your comments above is something I’ve experienced, done, and not thought of. I got to the point where I quit my 2 paid websites this year because I was spending too much time fixing things and paying money (> $3000)! I quit for 2 months, and kept thing about this. I came to realize that I still wanted to do this and succeed. So now I’ve started with Blogger for my free blog, and Weebly for my future free sales site. I learned that now I just post on one and blog on the other and started to enjoy it. I have some ideas for sales items, but never set one up. For email I signed up for Mail Chimp for my free email up to 2000 signups and 12000 sends a month. I know this does not agree with what everybody does and read, but I’m now starting to enjoy writing articles about my hobbies, and I feel I may give back something to somebody just starting out like I did with less funds. If I should earn anything, I can kick everything to pay for a more professional look later. Also I may plan to write some simple tutorials from my research for 2 years in a training section. I don’t know if this will work, but I’m willing to give it a try. Have you ever heard of anybody doing what I’m trying? I haven’t, so maybe I’ll be a first. Keep your articles coming, because I really could use your experiences. Thanks for reading, looking forward to your emails!

    Barry Selk
    barryselkmarketing.weebly.com

    • Charlie Page says:

      I am sure others have gone this way as well. If you do own a domain name I would point it to my weebly site and use that domain in your ads and signatures. Nothing wrong with using free services but the perception that you are using only free services can make customers nervous.

  • Beth says:

    Hi Charlie,
    I really appreciate the information. I too, can no longer work. At 54 I’m not exactly retirement material. I have been searching for an online business that I could do, for the past couple of years. I wish I had gotten this $4000.00 ago. Live and learn, right? I really would like to work with you. Thanks again!
    Beth

    • Charlie Page says:

      You will have a chance to do that very soon. I will be making some substantial announcements over the next few weeks. Hang in there – I know you can succeed online.

    • alicia says:

      Beth.. it is never too late… there are many entrepreneurs who started very successful businesses (Avon) or grew them (MacDonald) in their golden age… the future is defined by our present not by our past.

      thumbs up!

      Alicia
      (another 50+)

  • Lalitha Brahma says:

    Great Post. Thanks Charlie for sharing the lessons you learned. It is very helpful. I would like to add one more..
    1. Before buying any product/service to use in your business, first check your own resources. Use the resources available to you intelligently/effectively. I say this because, many times the same service or product is packaged differently and sold under a different name.
    2. Being resourceful is more important than having resources.

  • JimmySuccess says:

    I’m guilty of almost everything that you put here, not doing enough research about my customers needs or wants. You have opened my eyes Charlie, thanks a lot!

  • Ron McGregor says:

    Thanks Charlie,
    I really needed this information,at this time.It never fails,the easier the answer is,the harder it is for me to think of it.Thanks again.

  • Chery Schmidt says:

    HI Charlie, What a Great List! Doing your due diligence before purchasing yet another product online can a will save you in the long run.. ( I guess this goes for off line as well)
    Thanks for sharing
    Chery 🙂

  • billy says:

    Hi Charlie,
    Thanks for the list Charlie.
    Between you and my Mentoring For Free coach, if I had what you are advising, and what I was told to do then, I would not be
    in the 90%.
    I refuse to accept failure as that only comes
    to those who quit.

    Cordially,
    Billy

  • Clive Sabin says:

    Thanks Charlie for this excellent information,
    These are the really nitty gritty questions that everyone should ask before starting any business, especially an on-line one.
    I wish I had asked them many times over the years, especially recently before starting two online money making ventures that cost me dearly in terms of wasted time and money.

  • Neels says:

    A great article at the right time thanks a lot Charlie. A very good reminder to get back to basics.
    One of my biggest challenges is to stay away from the shiny objects, especially after spending the effort of mounting a new campaign which does not perform as wished for. The temptation to spice it up or replace solid work with a shiny object becomes much bigger.

    Neels

  • Samantha says:

    Hey Charlie, Thanks for sending me a copy. I am a newbie and been reaching information, and the best method to promote products to bring in some money to reinvest. Im so overloaded with information that Im stuck. Have a domain but no $ for hosting..made that mistake without reaching – so now it sets. I agree with you on one project at a time – Looking forward to hearing from you with more advise.

    Samantha

  • Here are some questions I wish I’d asked years ago when I first started my service business:
    What kind of lifestyle do I want to live?
    What kind of lifestyle comes with this business, and does it match with the lifestyle I want?
    Would I rather build products or build a business (there’s a big difference).

  • Leigh Grant says:

    Hi Charlie, what an interesting article. Point number 8 was what grabbed my attention, where you say promoting more than one or 2 products is too much, but what do you think about promoting a blog, that has many different products on it, that all relate to the SAME niche? I Have several squeeze pages that all focus on driving traffic to the blog, so I am promoting just one site but with many products, so all the focus and energy is spent promoting ONE site. What would your oppinion be on this type of marketing?
    Best Regards
    Leigh Grant

    • Charlie Page says:

      I agree with that idea completely. One of my favorite blogs is Copyblogger and they do the same thing only with fewer products. Good thinking!

  • Lelani says:

    HOpefully my website will still be available. I agree with you, all those questions should be asked. I don’t buy much, I got some books to get an idea of how they do it now. Anyway, My problem is, I ask a question, they send me files, ebooks or something to buy. That is not what I need. I need to know the steps in order (123etc), name of the file and what does it do, in order to activate a campaign at Click Bank. I’ve tried CB’s help, but the answer I need isn’t in there. I have some ideas I would like to discuss with you….but right now I’m looking for the answer to my question.

    I’ll get back to you, and you have your own mail folder.

    Lelani

  • Ralph says:

    Hi Charlie,
    Forthright,insightful and perfectly presented…as usual! Excellent.
    All the Very Best,
    Ralph.
    P.S. How is Belin coming along? Please pass on our very best wishes.

    • Charlie Page says:

      He is doing wonderfully well. Thank you for asking. Thank you too for the kind words. I’m happy you found this article useful.

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