Part 4 - Portfolio Optimisation - Products and Services

Part 4 - Portfolio Optimisation - Products and Services

In this series of articles, we are looking at how to optimise your domain portfolio across the different business models of sales (big and small), traffic and development. The first model I have been unpacking is development, not the technical aspects but the business aspects of domain development.

We’ve explored why people return to websites and how to earn money from advertisers. In this article I will be discussing how to build an online business selling services and products.

Escrow.com

The first thing we need to separate out is the different between building a business and conducting a transaction. Building a business is all about repeatable revenue that ideally grows over time while transactions are the big deal you hope to get one day.

My wife has a great saying, “Like clockwork.” What she means by this is that she would much rather have twenty dollars each month coming in from a customer than the big deal that may happen one day.

After attending a domain conference and hearing all about the great big things people are doing (most are not true btw) it’s easy to lose sight of what is really driving your business in the quest for the big deal. This is particularly appropriate for selling services and products. Don’t get me wrong, I love the big deals but they just take up so much time and have about a one percent chance of coming off.

So why am I a big fan of my wife’s saying? It proves a number of things about your new online business:

  1. You have traffic.
  2. The traffic is the correct type because it’s purchasing your service/products.
  3. Each month the revenue has the potential to grow with more subscribers.

Once you have these items in place all you need to do is repeat as many times as possible and ensure that the backdoor is closed. If two things happen, your business will then have no choice but to grow:

  1. You get more of the same type of people to your website.
  2. Your existing customers continue to keep their subscription/buying habits in place. This is the ultimate endorsement of your product/service.

Of course, I’m working under the assumption that you have your pricing right and that your customer acquisition costs don’t put you into a loss making situation.

People will subscribe to services/products for a variety of reason but generally speaking it’s because they can’t get the service/product from elsewhere. Associated with this is whether the new customers trust you enough to part with their cash. One of the problems that many news websites are experiencing is there is always another website where the same content is for free.

Let’s imagine that I decided to charge for access to my articles here on my blog. My guess is a few people would subscribe while the vast majority would write horrible things about me in the forums. My advertisers would abandon me and whizzbangsblog would become a shadow of its former self…..so I’m not too excited about this idea.

This raises an important issue that newspapers from around the world are wrestling with. When you’ve given something online away for free it’s really hard to then start charging for it. So going free is great as long as it’s in line with your overall business strategy.

In my case, I’m happy to write articles and share my experience with people because I believe in giving back to my industry and my sponsors like it. Although, if you have quality unique content that isn’t just a regurgitation of everyone else’s then you may get away with a paywall.....but it had better be really good content!

So let’s imagine I’m wanting to increase my revenue through some sort of subscription basis. What I may do is have premium content that is behind a paywall and leave the blog articles as they are. This strategy is used a lot in the software industry where you can have the free version of some software which has a few features or pay an annual subscription for the full version.

Another thing I could do is provide something completely different from my blog posts. For example, for twenty dollars a quarter I’ll automatically send you an awesome T-shirt with a really funny domain related statement on it or a domaining mini e-book/newsletter to help provoke your thinking about your business.

Better yet, why don’t I put together an online training course that takes a person from a novice domainer right through to a masterclass level. The course will include videos, notes and assessment so that it has some standing in the domaining community. There’s many different ideas you can adopt for your online business but my advice is you should test the market prior to investing a huge amount of money.

Two really interesting areas of subscription earnings that are only recently being exploited are subscriptions to highly targeted educational courses and products. For example, if I shaved with a blade I know that would love the concept of receiving new blades each month via a subscription service.

A couple of years ago I was listening to a radio show about guys and clothing. I couldn’t resist calling up the show and explaining to the presenter that I would love to subscribe to clothes. I hate going out to buy clothes and most of the time I just want to buy the same pair of jeans…..why not have a subscription for jeans?

I hope that you get the sense that all of these ideas are examples of subscription services. Just for the record, I have no desire to do anything with whizzbangsblog in that area…..I have enough on my plate!

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Part 3 - Why Domain Portfolio Optimising Works - Advertisers

Part 3 - Why Domain Portfolio Optimising Works - Advertisers

Obviously there are a great multitude of business models that you can apply to your development project. Remember that we are looking at developing one of our domains into a business as part of our portfolio optimisation. The first business model that we will examine is advertising.

Escrow.com

In this business model you are trying to ramp your traffic so that it becomes worthwhile for advertisers to spend their money to reach your audience. A couple of things about audience, you can either provide mass numbers or the right people to advertisers. For instance, Whizzbangsblog doesn’t have millions of people visiting it every day but it does have the right people in the domain industry. This is valuable for sponsors.

With your new development you need to choose your approach and go mass volume of advertisers or a select few. If you have a mass of advertisers on your pages, then readers may revolt and advertisers won’t pay the big dollars. Less advertisers will potentially allow you to charge a higher rate and keep the readers onside. It’s a balancing act and it really depends upon your market vertical.

Remember that one person’s advertising can also be another person’s content. This is often the case in hobby publications where the advertising is just as valuable as the articles to the readers.

Unless you have huge volumes of traffic then I would recommend staying clear of selling on a cost per view basis. Likewise, any other performance based advertising (eg. Pay per click) may not be suitable for a business you’re launching out of the gate. A reasonable charge per month is often palatable for advertisers as well as provide some necessary initial cashflow for your venture.

As you write your content what you really want to do is provide value to your sponsors/advertisers. For instance, I use both Escrow.com and Epik and I wouldn’t have a problem recommending them to readers. You need to be careful that you’re not writing advertorial pieces but sharing your own experiences of using their products and services.

You can add a lot of value beyond a banner on a webpage. For instance, earlier this year I conducted a video interview with Jackson Elsegood from Escrow.com about some of the developments that he’s introducing at Escrow.com. Likewise, I will be interviewing Rob Monster from Epik about what he is working on at Epik. If you are looking at adopting this strategy, then the number one issue that you should be focused on is whether this is providing value to readers. There’s no point in conducting an interview that’s merely a sales pitch.

On the flipside of the coin, the ultimate mass volume model is a directory. Once again the biggest challenge for anyone building a directory isn’t the actual building (there’s lots of directory software available) but getting the high volume of traffic to the directory so that advertisers get a return on their investment. As an aside, as a directory grows they can often morph into market vertical or hyper-local search engines…..hence why Google is very interested in this market.

So there are a lot of decisions that need to be made with the advertising business model but they all tend to boil down to providing value in the form of highly qualified traffic. The only way you will keep your traffic is if you are providing reasons (see the previous article) for people to return to your new business. So be really careful in looking after your audience....they have a lot of demands on their time and for them to spend some of it with your new venture is a privilege and should be respected.

In the next article we will look at products, services and how building one of these businesses isn’t actually as hard as you may think.

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