I just spoke (ok, it was just a text message) with a brilliant and talented young woman. She’s a professional belly dancer. Speaks four languages, kind, and gorgeous. She’s thinking of starting a website.
Ironically, she asked me the same questions CEOs ask me. And until now, for some reason unknown to me, I haven’t been inspired to write out the answer to their questions.
Largely, the question is about how to monetize the web. But it’s more than that. The real question is, “how do I turn my website into a business?”
Our female protagonist, like every lawyer, mechanic, caterer, and accountant out there begins with the idea that a website can make their business more money. All this time, in the minds of most people, a website is still nothing more than a cheap-green medium of communication. It’s just a glorified brochure.
But they can do so much more. To explore how much businessification potential your website has, essentially, you have to change your question. Instead of asking how your website can make money, you have to ask, “What can we do if we get thousands of people in the same room.”
In the end, it’s not about what a website can do, it’s about what people can do when they all meet together. The smallest detail is how to make the website serve the group that assembles on it.
Before we get into trying to answer that question, lets first itemize the top 8 needs — things people pay for.
3. Hard Goods
1. (Love) / Sex
#8 People pay for money. Sounds silly but no. People pay to day-trade. People pay for groupons. If you can promise a discount or a profit for a fee, people will pay your fee.
#7: People pay for cache. People pay a little bit more for quality. Then, they pay a lot more for a logo. If you can deliver exclusivity through a website, people will pay for it. An example of this is LinkedIn’s premium package. Or better yet, the mensa geniuses organization. If you can tell people that you’re in some elite group online, if you can add it to your resume and get another 10k/year out of your HR department, it’s worth paying for.
#6 People pay to be introduced to someone else. Let’s face it. You didn’t go to a private school because they taught algebra in a way that was lots of better. You went to a private school because of the relationships you’d take with you for the rest of your life. If you can introduce people to each other, they will pay. A good example of this is Twitter and even Facebook. Sure, you’re not paying with cash but you are paying with something much more valuable — your time. It’s their job to figure out how to monetize your time and your clicks.
#5 People pay for niche information that’s just not available in Google. If you can produce an instructional mp3, video, pdf book, or even psychic transference of good Karma (yes, Mr. Cyber Guru, I’m looking at you), people will pay. Oddly, even IF the information is available in Google, if you make it more convenient to pay than to search, people will go 50/50. I know this because I have two different websites that sell exactly the same thing. One is easy to find. The other is harder. People pay $75 for the easy to find version (http://koreanovernight.com) and $7.50 for the hard to find version. Both sell equally well.
#4 People pay for time. It’s more valuable than money. Money, you can always make back. Time lost, not so much. Not even a little bit. If you can save people time, people will pay you. A perfect example of this is Expedia or Google Maps. People aren’t paying for information. People are paying for time saved. A better example is Kayak.com. It compares all the major travel sites in one. Again, the real value is not information. The money money is in the time insulation.
#3 People pay for stuff. Piratebay can’t torrent it. A RW DVD can’t copy it. People will illegally copy $1 songs and $10,000 software programs. But they will not steal a pack of bubble gum. Cookies and Cream Twix is altogether a different issue. People pay for stuff. So sell physical stuff. You’ll get back imaginary green currency that’s not worth much.
#2 People pay for entertainment. Ever since the 70’s when tv sets were in every bedroom and the 80’s when Atari was in every TV set, people can’t just sit in a void. There’s a need, no, an addiction to sensory stimulation today. Build a discussion forum. Build a cartoon series. Build an online fictional novel. Build something that will carry a person from one necessary event to another. Suck up all that fatty time and You’ll get paid. The best example of this is Facebook.
#1 People pay for Sex. Supposedly, it’s the most base biological and psychological imperative. And again, people pay in a currency more valuable than money — time. Why else would you stand in a short skirt behind a red velvet line for 2 hours in the cold? Why else would men build empires? Probably the best example of pimping out sex is, again, Facebook.
Now, we have to ask, “How do these 8 needs relate to my ability to quit me job?”
Let’s just take #6 as an example. And we’ll dive into this topic in depth in the next post. If you have a regional, local profession, like a belly dancer or any professional services person, to get more clients, you’d simply start blogging. If you blog about a topic, people quickly recognize you as an authority on the topic. When people Google that topic, your blog (with your phone number), shows up.
But let’s be honest here. How many people who throw a wedding or an anniversary or a corporate event Google “belly dancer?”
So, you’ve got to go more broad. You’ve got to blog about a bigger category. Maybe the category includes caterers, comedians, djs, etc (here’s HP trying to capture traffic for “Apple“). So, your new blog could be about the most entertaining and exclusive private parties around the world. If it is, then, when someone googles “DJ,” your blog comes up with your pitch for belly dancing and the emcee might just bolt you on without even having considered it before.
The same holds true for accountants, mechanics, chiropractors, or anyone in a local professional services field. Blog about a bigger category but sell your niche. As an accountant, instead of just competing against other accountants, also compete against stock brokers, financial planners, and attorneys for that consulting gig. You’ll end up with a dollar that was originally intended for a pocket of a totally different color.
But here’s the beauty of the web. Since we are talking about #6: “Selling Relationships,” Since you do have a global vein of traffic, and since you can only service one geographic area, why not lease out the relationships that are outside of your domain? Realtor.com does. They pull people into their website with popular blog posts like “10 Unknown Traps of Buying an Older Home” and then sell the relationships to a local realtor.
What would happen if you had thousands of people read your blog daily and you can find a local / regional service provider for any one of them? How much would that relationship be worth to a registered user of your website?
To start unraveling how to get that 1,000 people a day to read your blog, see http://sparkah.com/marketing.php