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Business Tips: Website business plan

I built it, but nobody came. What now?

by Bob McElwain

"Build it and they will come," worked well as the theme in the movie "Field Of Dreams" in which Kevin Costner turned a cornfield into a ballpark; they did come. But that was a tale.

Nicely told, but still a tale. In real life, it just is not so. Why does this notion persist?

In the early days of the Web, it was almost true, for there was a far greater demand for information than supply. Thus if one put up some half-way decent content, some people did come. To whatever extent it was true back then, it is nothing but a myth now.

If you built your site believing in this myth, you have a problem. Nobody is coming. Can you change this? Maybe. In some cases, though, it may be best to start over. Check out the following to see where you stand, then take it from there.


Site Purpose

Why does the site exist? " To make a profit" is not sufficient. Exactly what is the site expected to do? There are many good answers. For example: To increase sales in my off-line business. Or maybe: To grow an on-line business so that it becomes my full time job. And there are many others. But "To make a profit" doesn't cut it.

How Do You Plan To Achieve This Goal?

You need a business plan of the same sort required in opening a store front on Main Street in your home town. This includes answering a host of questions, and preparing a statement sufficient to make your banker smile and reach for a pen when you ask for a loan. While you likely do not need a banker to open a web site, you do need the same definitive plan required of any soon-to-be shopkeeper. Some of the questions you need to answer are:

  • What products will I market? (Please substitute services throughout, if that is what you will offer. )Note products you create will bring greater profits than those you market for others.
  • What is my target market? The more narrowly you can focus, the more likely you are to succeed. For example, instead of "Dog Lovers," explore "Doberman Lovers. "The narrower the focus, the easier it is to position yourself, and your business, at the top of the heap.
  • How will I reach them? Search engines and mutual links are very helpful. But your marketing strategy is usually the key. Again, the narrower your focus, the easier it is to target your
    promotional efforts, including advertising.
  • How will I position my products relative to the same or similar products? If you have narrowed the focus sufficiently, it is much easier to position yourself above your competition.
    If you sell better products, this becomes easy.
  • How will I demonstrate a perceived value in my products greater than that of my competitors? Perhaps by the special nature of the support you offer or your guarantees beyond those expected. Whatever, this must happen.
  • How will I keep my customers coming back for more? This is fundamental, but simple. Satisfied customers will return, provided you have additional products of interest.

While questions as suggested above need to be answered in all cases, there are others. More important, there are many specific to your particular business. The answers must guide every step
so that it is in accord with the overall business plan. It is also important that no part of the plan conflict with another; all must lead interactively to the same goal.

An Aside:

The word used above was "products. "And you were invited to substitute "services" for "products. Note, however, that both are plural. In this, there is a difference between products and services. An artist who provides a graphic you like can expect you to return.

But in selling products, there is a fundamental difference. Some will disagree with me in this, but I am convinced one needs to sell a variety of products. For example, effective advertising opportunities for a single product are limited. Sales must exceed costs, or it's a losing proposition. Given multiple products, you may be able to afford a loss on a first sale that leads to others.

Most single-product sites do not provide a livable income. At best they bring in extra dollars. Which may be exactly what you want. If so, go for it. But if you want to grow your on-line efforts into a full-time business that provides substantial income, a single product is not usually sufficient.

You do not need a shopping mall, however. What is required is related groups of products that create multiple profit streams. Just as you would expect one or more such centers to become less profitable over time, you also expect to add further products which become additional profit centers.

If you presently have a single-product site, consider adding additional profit centers related to your product. There is more profit in adding products you create, but you may find an affiliate program or two that work for you. Further, you may be able to create your own personal relationship with other firms.

Given sufficient volume, some manufacturers will put your name on what they produce for you.


How To Build Or Modify Your Site

All begins with the domain and product names appropriate to your target. If you are not using names that clearly bring a focus and define a benefit, you may need to change them. In any case this will be the initial point of attack.

Rough out the content for each page including the ad copy which sells a specific product, or opens the door to other pages featuring separate products which taken together are a single profit center. One reason for organizing in this way is that if it becomes necessary, you can drop a profit center from your site without having to rebuild the whole of it.

Since people may enter your site through any page, it is important that each sell the business and the product specific to the page. That is, each page must grab reader attention, raise their interest and draw them quickly more deeply into the page and thus into the site. At any point interest lags, you may lose the visitor. So it is important to sustain, even increase intensity, as the page continues.

There is simply no point in creating even a single Web site page until your plan has been implemented on paper and the content for all pages:

  1. Is properly targeted
  2. Effectively positions both you and the product
  3. Grabs and sustains reader interest.

Even if you have a good idea of how you want your pages to look, obtain the help of an artist. A good one can indirectly provide powerful support by enhancing the key points of your plan in the art work itself.

Once your site is up and has been submitted to the search engines, the real task begins. Marketing and promotion. A never-ending task. But if your original plan is good, and it is implemented in your site, you have greatly increased the likelihood your marketing and promotional efforts will pay off handsomely.

So back to the point. If you are among those who have built a site that is not working, or not working well enough, there are really only two options. Build a plan as suggested above, with your present site in mind. If you can find ways to modify and expand your site to fit the needs of a good plan, go for it. But if you can't, the only viable option is to start over.

I hate to admit it, but both my first and second tries were a total disaster, and have long since vanished. Ask others now successful, and you will find they have been down this road. But all was not in vain. Think of how much more you know about the Web now. How much you know about putting a site together. And maintaining it.

Hey, you're way ahead of another starting his first site. Take the time to build a good plan and a site to match, and you'll soon be right where you want to be: On top!


Bob McElwain

Want to build a winning site? Improve one you already have? Fix one that's busted? Get ANSWERS. Subscribe to "STAT News" now! join-stat @lyris. dundee. net

Web marketing and consulting since 1993
Site: http://sitetipsandtricks. com
Phone: 209-742-6349

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