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!