The simplest path to a successful web business is to
identify a great product that lots of people want. People you
can convince to buy from you, rather than from others. Then
discover where they hang out on the Web. And figure how to
Those new to the Web often overlook the above. For one
thing, it takes more time and effort to define a product and
target than most realize. Often more than beginners are willing
Having done the research, don't mortgage the farm and go hog
wild. Quite the contrary. Follow the lead of major marketers.
Build a simple, inexpensive test site and see if you can sell
One Test Model
Think simple. A very plain no-graphics site. Only a few
pages. Or maybe only one. Put your time into creating great
copy tightly focused on your target.
The key is in the sales copy. If you're not good at this
kind of writing, you may have to hire someone to create it for
you. But not for a test site; costs are high. Shoot your own
best shot and call it good. (For an excellent tutorial on this
topic, visit http://www.adcopywriting.com. Joe Robson is
tops in my book.)
Here's a very simple page I built for another purpose,
then modified for this article. Use the ideas. Or copy the
page and add your content. http://sitetipsandtricks.com/ex/
You don't need the expense of a merchant account. PayPal
or ClickBank will do fine for testing. While free hosting
won't do, hold costs down. If your host doesn't offer good
stats, visit a script site and pick up a free counter. (Never
use one on a site that's for real, but for testing, this is
a simple solution.)
Now scour the Web. Find sites drawing traffic that includes
a pretty good percentage of the traffic you need. Arrange an
advertising deal on the site or in the site newsletter.
This will cost. But trying to test with search engines is
tough these days. It takes months to get listed, and with the
popularity factors in use today, you are unlikely to get enough
hits within a reasonable time.
How Many Hits Do You Need?
100 won't do. You may make no sales at all. Or you may
make 2 or 3. Three would be nice, for 3 in 100 is often
The catch is 100 hits is not a sufficient sample. Those
hits that converted to buyers may be the sort of people your
test uncovered almost by accident, people you are unlikely to
ever reach again.
With anything less than a thousand, the likelihood of
accurately evaluating your test site is low. 10,000 is
considered minimum by many. But for a reasonably good
indication, 1000 works pretty well. Of course, 2000 is better.
Suppose you paid $500 for your advertising and generated
only $300 to $500 in sales. You have likely demonstrated it's
time to find another product. Certainly you would not proceed
without further information and major changes. On the other
hand, if you generated $1000, cheer. You likely have a winner.
Tough decisions are needed when you make a profit, but not
much. Suppose you grossed $700. $200 in profit is great,
provided you are confident volume will remain high. And this
is a serious consideration. Big timers know what to expect
from such results. Without experience, you'll be doing a lot
of guessing. Likely this is a bit low for most.
The CR (Conversion Ratio) Matters
If you generated 10 sales on 1000 hits, your CR is 1 in 100
or 1%. The thinking is tricky here.
Since you generated these sales from an ultra-simple site,
you may feel confident a full blown site will increase the CR
to 2%. On an advertising cost of $500, this means the cost
per sale drops from $50 to $25.
There are lots of variables here, but common sense shows
you the way in most cases. An ad cost of $25/sale won't do when
selling a $20 product, but it will work fine for one at $100,
provided your wholesale cost for the product is reasonable.
While advertising will likely remain the mainstay of your
business, it is reasonable to factor in free traffic from search
engines and directories, from link exchanges, and other ways in
which you can interact with other sites.
So You Lose; Is This bad?
If you spent the time doing the research, then forked over
$500 for advertising, and clearly demonstrated you have a loser,
it's sure not good news. But do take heart. This beats the
heck out of working and growing a site for two years only to
find in the end that not enough people want what you offer.
How To Handle A Win
If you're satisfied with your results, still hasten slowly.
Don't rush out and spend major bucks. Hit the search engines
and directories. Find an artist to brighten up your site
template without busting your budget. Maybe add a few pages to
For example, Feedback and Tell A Friend pages continue to
work effectively. And also consider adding some great content
pages; both search engines and visitors like them.
Be sure your business plan is solid. Then continue step by
step, building an ever more profitable site.
So What If You're Not Sure?
This is the common dilemma. Quite often results do not
clearly show you have a loser or a winner. If you can afford to
risk the cash, it may be wise to brighten up the site a bit and
try once more, seeking to reach a greater number of prospects.
Fundamental to such an effort is to improve the sales copy.
While a few can make this work, most will find once again,
results are inconclusive.
For most, the better path is to find a new domain name
appropriate to another product, and repeat the above. In doing
so, you can lean heavily on those elements of the first site
that seemed most effective. And you'll find much of the
necessary research has already been done.
This may sound harsh to some. But again, it beats busting
to grow a site for three years, only to be forced to abandon it.
$20/month in hosting alone will have cost $720. And your lost
time will far exceed what it takes to build another test site.
An Option To Consider
As you think about shifting your focus to a new site and
another set of products, look closely at your target. It may be
that your failed site is drawing people who would be interested
in your new products. Check costs with care, but you may be
able to put your previous site on auto-pilot and attract some
traffic to your new site.
Some argue that drawing such traffic matters so, that it's
unwise to close any site. Certainly if it is close to covering
costs, this can be a very smart move.
Testing Is The Answer
Whatever the outcome of your testing, be guided by the
results. This works for the pros. Let it work for you. You'll
save a ton of time and bucks on ideas that don't prove out. And
you'll have a solid foundation upon which to build successfully,
given a winner.
. . .
Bob McElwain, author of "Your Path To Success" and
"Secrets To A Really Successful Website." For
info, see http://sitetipsandtricks.com/webways/
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