Your Online Business: The 10 Most Important Questions
It has been said that over 90% of small businesses fail within the first five years of getting started.
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.
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 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 have… 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.
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.
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, or don’t have, children?
- Is location important? Will you be selling a location-specific product or a language-specific offer?
- Does age matter?
These are just a few examples. The more you know your prospects, 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.
Most of what people buy is based on what they want, can afford, and fits their self-image.
3. What do they need?
Knowing both what your customer needs and wants is vital. This will help you tailor your sales message, inform your decision about advertising resources and more.
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.
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?
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 lot 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?
Most failure in online business happens like this: You pay to get into a business and then don’t have enough money to market properly. After paying the fee to join, and navigating the all-too-predictable up-sells, you’re 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, because it spreads your resources too thin.
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.
That’s better than the one shot he’ll likely have with only $80.
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.
It can be daunting, and make success look too far away. We might not want to count the cost because really really want to do a thing, and we know that a cold analysis would stop us from doing it.
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?
10. Is this idea scalable?
Succeeding in business takes work. Before you invest your hard-earned money and valuable time, make sure your business can grow the way you want it to.
I started out 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.
The return on time investment wasn’t automatic, but I soon discovered that I could sell books automatically, 7 days a week, around the world, with no effort after my automated system was in place.
I had discovered a scalable business that I was 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 ones, or even the best ones– only that they are the questions I would ask based on what I know right now.
I hope they help you learn and grow.
Because learning, especially together, is a beautiful thing indeed!