Do you have any ideas or thoughts on how to better run a business? This is the place for these blogs.

What is My Daughter Doing Now?

As many of you are aware, Sarah, my daughter, has over the years helped me on and off with Whizzbangsblog. In my recent travels I had a number of people ask me what she is doing now…so here it goes!

Over the last five months Sarah has been working as a specialist make-up artist for “The Body Shop” in their flagship store here in Australia. It’s really allowed her to hone her craft as a make-up artist and more recently showcase some of her work on social media (Instagram).

She’s been reading everything there is about how to grow a following on Instagram and then posting a new photo each day. It hasn’t taken her that long to gain close to one thousand followers….which from a standing start is pretty good going.

She now has her sights clearly set on her next target of ten thousand followers. Apparently at around this number you can begin to get some sponsorship onboard.

The reason why I’m writing this particular blog is I’m wanting to help Sarah grow her Instagram followers. To see her Instagram page just click here or the link at the bottom of the page. If you’re into Instagram, then any “likes”, a follow or even a repost would be awesome!

If you have any expertise in social media and growing a following then I'm sure Sarah would be all ears. She plans on attending NamesCon in January so don't be surprised if you are confronted by a really enthusiastic young lady that is focused on learning everything she can.

Yes, I know that I’m shamelessly promoting my daughter…..but that’s what Dad’s are for JSo do a guy a favour and help me out…..if you’re a father or a mother then you know exactly what it’s like to have a daughter you’re just so proud of.


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1407 Hits

Is the Global Economy About To Crash?

I watched the recent debate between presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Since I live Australia, you may ask why? I wanted to see whether either of the two candidates really seemed to understand the economic knife edge the world is currently balanced upon. Sadly, I was disappointed in what both of them had to say.

Other than a number of sound-bites there was nothing on issues such as China’s burgeoning debt Crisis and the impact this will have on the global economy.

Back on the 11th May 2016 the Financial times reported the Chinese Communist party’s flagship newspaper, the People’s Daily, published a front-page interview with an “authoritative figure” who warned that the country’s soaring debt levels could lead to “systemic financial risks”. This doesn't sound good....

On the 29th August the Australian Financial Review reported that prominent investor, George Soros, as seeing an “Eerie resemblance between conditions in China now and those in the US leading up to the financial crisis in 2008.” Remember, Mr Soros was the man that broke the bank of England in one of his currency trades.

What’s concerning is that Chinese debt levels are around 282% of GDP and China still hasn’t taken the foot off the debt accelerator. For example, right now debt is growing at around 13% and the IMF is forecasting China’s growth to drop to a 25 year low of 6.6%. This roughly means that it takes $2 of debt to fund $1 of growth….clearly unsustainable.

Some people are sitting back and saying, “So what! It’s China, that’s not us.” This is a naïve perspective of a highly interconnected world. As the world’s second largest economy (after the US) if China screeches to a halt then it will impact everything and I mean everything.

So what does this mean for domain investors? You only have to reflect on the last twelve months to see the impact of debt on the domain market. In an effort to get their money out of China and into more flexible assets many Chinese investors raised margin loans against share positions. They then took these loans off market (you can’t do this in most markets) and bid up the prices on short letter/number domains with the ultimate goal of flipping the assets into US dollars.

Last year, I attended DomainFest.Asia and upon returning home my business partner and I sold every domain we could get our hands on at top dollar rates. This year I attended the same conference and I can now buy the domains I sold last year for around 35% of the price I received for them.

So what happened? Debt combined with key market makers is what happened. This created a rapid downward spiral to the present valuations….it will be interesting to see what will happen to the price of all of the Chinese held domains in the event of a Chinese economic meltdown.

I remember writing about the crazy inflationary domain prices post the New York TRAFFIC conference. At the time key market makers pushed up prices and debt first entered the domain space (eg. companies like Domain Capital). This easy access to debt fuelled the price boom in much the same manner as the one Chinese investors just experienced.

So what else am I concerned about? Since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 I’ve been keeping a close eye on the world’s major central banks as they tried to stimulate their way into recovery. This was attempted through combinations of lowering of interest rates, government spending (fuelled by debt) and quantitative easing (ie. Print lots of money).

Despite the massive injections of stimulus nothing has really worked. As can be seen from the chart below the global growth is still at a lackluster rate of 2.4%. In the case of Japan, the central bank has recently issued negative interest rates. This means it costs you money to keep your savings in a bank…..sounds crazy but true.

Global Growth Rates

The main goal of dropping interest rates is to devalue the local currency by making it less attractive to foreign currency traders. Put really simply, if you can borrow money in the US at 2% and get 3% for depositing it in banks in Australia you can effectively make 1% for doing absolutely nothing. This effectively makes the $AU more in demand and increases the value of the $AU versus the $US.

So when the reserve bank in Australia lowers interest rates the margin gap between the borrowed and deposited money shrinks and this increases the risk. The $AU receives less demand and it sinks in value against the $US. This will ultimately mean that Australian goods and services are cheaper if paid with $US….which in turn stimulates the Australian economy. Sounds great in theory but there’s a problem.

In the case of the Global Financial crisis all the central banks simultaneous dropped interest rates/printed money. This has meant the competitive gap between nations didn’t materialise and central banks ended up scratching their heads while they played a global game of chicken with each other…..who will drop first?

Here’s what I’m concerned about, when central banks approach zero interest rates (or below) where do they go from there? All of their “gun-powder” has been used and we’re now rapidly approaching the 7-8 year economic cycle.

For years, economists have talked about a 7-8 year cycle as being like the heartbeat of the global economy. Guess what, back in 2008 was when President Obama first took office and literally weeks later he faced the sub-prime mortgage fiasco that caused the global economy to nose dive.

So now, after an interminably long campaign, we have Trump and Clinton coming up for election. If we imagine the two candidates as the captains on the economic titanic, as far as I can work out, Hillary is saying, “steady as she goes” while Trump is saying crazy things that amount to, “we need to instantly build a submarine.”

Let’s face it, both candidates are more focused on themselves then acknowledging the global problems that the US is caught up in. Neither is actually espousing a concrete plan with some sense of vision. I’ll be interested in viewing the next round of debates to see if there is any light at the end of the dark tunnel. It's sad to say but I think everything is down to how we all cross our fingers and hope something good will happen.

What the UK Brexit debacle has proven is a lack of decisive leadership around complex global issues leads to disaster. We elect leaders to lead and not to hand back their leadership in a referendum so they can say, “The disaster wasn’t my doing but the people’s”.

My hope is that once elected, either Clinton or Trump will rise to an unseen level of leadership that will inspire the entire US nation rather than foster the division that seems to be prevelant.

There are a lot more economic indicators than I’ve mentioned in this article that are pointing to troubling times ahead. So as a domain investor, what am I doing? Two words, gold and cash.

I could be wrong with all of my doom and gloom but there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years…..I’ve never regretted having excess cash. Cash provides the flexibility to move quickly and seize opportunities. If I’m right and in the first half of 2017 there is a financial meltdown, then there will be bargains aplenty for a person with cash.

I remember after the 2008 crash I picked up heavily discounted domain portfolios as people struggled to pay crazy high mortgages and tax bills. I’ve been enjoying the proceeds of these portfolios ever since. This time I think that I will be also looking at the more traditional markets and once again, domain data will help me pick the right companies to invest in. What I really want to keep an eye on is the Chinese domain market…..will it fall further or are there other opportunities that will play out in a downturn?

Just an aside, a recent report by management consulting firm McKinsey and Co. showed that Israel was one of the few countries in the world that was rapidly retiring debt. There’s one thing I know about the Jewish community, they’re generally pretty savvy when it comes to money.

So reduce debt, get cashed up and hang on for the ride….hopefully the cycle will pan out just fine but if it doesn’t, then make sure you’re ready.

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Focus on Consistency

I find that many people complicate running their businesses enormously. When you really think about it, it’s actually pretty easy to run a successful business. The revenue needs to be consistently more than the expenses…..seems obvious but given the fact that around eighty percent of businesses fail in the first two years it’s clear that the majority of people get on the wrong side of this equation.

The key word in the equation is “consistently”. Bringing consistency to your business revenue line provides you with an ability to plan versus one that is of a boom bust nature. One of the difficulties that many domain investors have is they have the elusive carrot of selling a $20K domain name tomorrow always in front of them while they starve now. There is no consistency to their revenue.

How can you get consistency to your revenue? One of the things that many customers like is consistency in product they are about to purchase. In fact, the whole essence of branding is all about consistency.

Whether you like them or not McDonald’s restaurants have done an incredible job to bring consistency to their product line the world over. I can go to a McDonald’s in Tokyo or New York or London, order a Big Mac and they’ll all be the same. It’s to the extent that financial analysts often quote the “Big Mac” index as a way of measuring the true buying power of a currency.

When I was away this past week my wife and I went to a restaurant and the food was terrible. It was so bad that Roselyn decided to write a review using an app on her phone. She’s never done this before so it was a bit of a new experience for her.

After writing the negative review she then looked back at what other people had written…..they were all terrible! So before going to any restaurant we are now checking what other people have written and to see if there is a negative or positive consistency to the comments.

Another way to bring a level of consistency to your revenue line is to examine your price. For example, is it better to sell ten domains at $1,000 each or one domain at $10,000? The answer to this question really depends on things such as your stock levels, need for cash, opportunity cost and appetite for risk.

Generally speaking I personally would much rather sell ten domains at $1,000 each rather one domain at $10,000. The reason is the levels of risk. If I lose one sale at $1,000 it doesn’t impact the consistency of my revenue line nearly as much as losing a single sale of $10,000.

So once you have the right price and right product with people buying all you have to do then is scale. If you are selling hamburgers this will mean you need to refine your processes of making them to minimise and control the cost side of the business. In the case of domains, how can you get your domain list in front of as many prospective buyers as possible for the least amount of effort.

There’s the obvious solutions of ensuring your domains are in all of the marketplaces but there are the less than obvious options as well. Such as, build a page with all of your domains categorised and priced. Have the for sale link traffic from parked pages point to your custom page to increase the chance of selling your domains versus someone else’s.

If you get the maths right, then you should end up with a sales revenue per thousand visitors number. All you then need to do is get the right visitors to help increase your sales potential. A little experimentation with some advertising may be in order…..but whatever you do keep track of your expenses.

If you have a consistent revenue line and a consistent expense line that is less than the revenue, then you have no choice but to make profit. Profit then provides the opportunity for reinvesting into additional stock, better processes or experimenting with different sales channels (eg. Facebook advertising).

If you aren’t making any profit, then at some stage you will need to make some drastic decisions or someone else will make them for you.

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1662 Hits

Be Careful Who You Listen To

One of the great things about the Internet is that it allows everyone to express and opinion on whatever topic they desire. One of the bad things about the Internet is it allows anyone to express an opinion on whatever they desire, regardless of whether they have any authority to do so.

I was debating whether I would write on this topic as it can be somewhat controversial as some people may view it as a censorship on free speech. I’m actually all for people being allowed to express themselves but as readers we need to be really careful about who’s advice we listen to and adopt in our businesses.

For example, the other day I was having a really “vigorous debate” in a forum about monetising domain traffic. The person I was debating was very outspoken and to be quite honest with you at times insulting and sarcastic. In the end I found out they did about thirty cents a day in traffic revenue. If you didn’t know this then you could be mistaken into thinking they were an authority on their topic and earning millions of dollars per year.

There’s a really good saying which goes somewhat like the following, “By their fruit you shall know them.” This means that you should look at what a person does and has achieved rather than just what they say. On the Internet anyone can speak but very few people can do.

The classic book, “The Richest Man In Babylon” puts it this way. Go to the jeweller to learn about jewellery and the baker to learn about baking bread but you will lose your shirt if you get advice about investing in domains from the brick layer.

Was the author of the book having a go at brick layers? Heck no! What he was saying was be really careful who’s advice you apply to your business. Seek out a somebody, not an anybody as you will save yourself a world of pain.

I’ve been involved directly in the domain industry for over 15 years and during that time I’ve seen people come and go. Many have been like meteors screaming, “Hey look at me!” only to burn up in their own self-importance and disappear. There are some that have stood the test of time and are achieving amazing things.

When I attend domain conferences I like getting alongside some of the really successful “doers” in our industry to get their thoughts on a wide range of topics. These people are often the quite ones that sit in the corner and generally mind their own business while they finalise deal after deal. These are the people that I absolutely love and cherish listening to. Many of them I call my friends.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t listen to new comers to the industry? Absolutely we should but look at their “fruit” before you decide to completely adopt their business idea.

If you are new to the domaining my suggestion would be to get alongside those investors that have survived and flourished in the ups and downs of the industry. Don’t be afraid to pay for good advice and be very discerning whom you listen to. Remember, we have two ears and one mouth. Act in the same ratio.

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Opinions are like arseholes, everyone's got one, but you don't really want to hear from all of them do you.
17 August 2016
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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.

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… 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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