Rob Walling – Start Small, Stay Small

But if you start small and make a product so good that your niche is falling all over itself to sign up, word will spread and you will soon find yourself with a product that extends beyond your tiny niche. However, this takes time to grow organically; an approach that outside funding does not allow.

The genius of niches is they are too small for large competitors, allowing a nimble entrepreneur the breathing room to focus on an underserved audience. Once you’ve succeeded in that niche, you can leverage your success to establish credibility for your business to move into larger markets.

The key factor in an entrepreneur’s success is their ability to market their product.

On rare occasions the product-first approach works, but for the most part it’s a recipe for failure.

If you are doing it for the money you will not stick around during those long months of hard work when no money is coming in.

Knowing your goals will allow you to make the right decisions as you start (or continue on) your path through entrepreneurship.

Spend 20 minutes making a list of the things you are hoping to accomplish by starting up.

public commitment and accountability, can be achieved by interacting with a community of like-minded startup founders.

Strive to build a startup that generates $500 per month in profit.

It’s a common belief that building a good product is enough to succeed. It’s not.

Another common distraction masquerading as productivity is reading business books.

You can’t consume and produce at the same time – when you’re in high-producing mode you have to temporarily step away from your magazines, blogs, and other forms of distraction for a while.

Anytime you’re on your computer ask yourself “Is this activity getting me closer to my launch date?”

Before I start any task I ask myself: “Could one of my contractors possibly do this?”

The bottom line is to start small, gain comfort with a contractor, and gradually increase the amount you outsource. Outsourcing is a learned skill, and you’re likely to screw it up your first time around. Start with non-critical tasks and be very specific in how they should be executed.

Design is much easier to outsource than programming.

Putting a value on your time is a foundational step in becoming an entrepreneur, and it’s one many entrepreneurs never take.

$100/hour is a good long-term goal to shoot for.

Outsourcing aspects of your business is the single most powerful approach I’ve seen to increasing your true hourly rate as an entrepreneur.

Numerous times throughout the day ask yourself: At this very moment am I making progress towards crossing off a to-do, -or- am I relaxing and re-energizing?

When reading blogs or books or listening to podcasts or audio books, take action notes.

Market Comes First, Marketing Second, Aesthetic Third, and Functionality a Distant Fourth

if you can find a small group of people and make them amazingly happy, you will make money.

A “warm” niche is a niche where you have some kind of association.

introducing a product into this niche will be much easier than choosing a completely unknown market.

without a niche “insider” your chances of success are dubious at best.

As a self-funded startup you want a market that is already looking for your product, even if it doesn’t exist.

The idea is that if a market has a magazine devoted to it, it’s large enough to provide enough customers and if a full-page ad is less than $5,000, the market is small enough that you’ll be able to effectively market to it.

Find the website(s) where your real market hangs out. These are the people who will actually buy your product.

From a startup perspective, vertical market niches are superior to horizontal markets for a number of reasons

The question is: how many visitors do you need to gross $1,000?

gauging demand for a product before you build it based on monthly Google searches for certain terms.

The next step is to determine what kind of software each of these niches desperately needs. We’ll do some of this research online, but the best place to start is with your contact for the niche (the person in the right-hand column). Give this person a call and grill her on what pains her in the job or hobby that could be solved with software.Read more at location 1143   • Delete this highlight

Note: similar to foundry Edit

  • Google AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool30 • SEO Logs Keyword Difficulty Tool

Enter your main phrase, without quotes, into the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. Include synonyms, and run the search. Once the search results display, change the search type to “exact match.” Run the search again.

Now we use the Micropreneur Methodology: we multiply this generic keyword by 4 to get an approximate overall traffic if you ranked #1 for this keyword. Enter each keyword you pulled in steps 1 and 2 and enter them one at a time into this tool. The score that comes back is a rough approximation (based on the number of search results returned in Google) of how hard it is to rank for this term. The lower the score, the better. 39 or below is good. 60 or above is bad. 40-59 is so-so.

Using Micro Niche Finder, the approach is a one-step process. Enter your keyword and search. The results come back with a number of related keywords, the search count, ad cost and strength of competition (SOC) for each one.

The approach is to place an exact match AdWords ad (using quotations around the keyword) and bid high enough to ensure your ad is on the first page.

The only way you know if someone would try or buy your product is if they think they are really trying or buying it when they visit your sales site.

Setup a Mini Sales Site that includes two or three pages (see chapter 4 for more details on building these pages):        Home        Product Tour (optional)        Pricing & Sign-up

When someone clicks “Try it” or “Buy Now,” track conversions using Google AdWords and notify the prospect that your product is still in development. Ask for their email address so you can notify them when you launch.

Product Success Triangle. • Product – Your product has to be good • Market – You need a group of people willing to pay money for it • Execution – You have to market, sell, and support it

In the paradigm above, your product is one-third of the equation. This is far from the hefty weight most developers place on the product.

You should aim to master all three in the long-term but at the start, place emphasis on the latter two to determine if the idea will fly. Once you know you have a market and can execute, then you can improve your product. For this reason this book focuses on the latter two steps.

As a rule of thumb, your path to 1.0 should fall between 200 and 400 hours.

The sales website, documentation, marketing, and everything else will be 100-200 hours.

Compared to hiring out, building your own application is more likely to lead to burnout and an early decision to quit.

And think about it…a lot of people can build a good invoicing application. But how many can work the necessary marketing angles, form partnerships, create a profitable pay per click campaign, and build a compelling sales site?

Lean towards higher pricing. Developers tend to undervalue their software, and think that lower prices will result in higher sales. This is typically not the case.

Every stage of your sales funnel is crucial to the process and you will have to devote time to optimizing each.

Although common wisdom is to focus on traffic, the best internet marketers realize that increasing conversion rates for existing website visitors can yield a better return on investment.

You shouldn’t plan to sell to a customer on their first visit

Your number one goal, even beyond selling your product, is turning browsers into prospects.

Convincing someone to give you their email address is much easier than convincing them to buy your product. Once you have an email address, you have the chance to begin building a relationship with the customer, as well as to gently remind them, through relevant emails, to return to your website.

Your goal should be to understand what your ideal customer wants to find on your website, what they want to find in your product, and what triggers will make them buy.

In a successful sales website, every page has a single, primary call to action. That is, an action you want your user to take.

Every page needs a single focus.

Everything should be within 2 clicks. From any page, a visitor should be able to demo your product, buy your product, or provide you with their email address with two clicks, including the click of the “submit” button.

Use headlines and bulleted lists for skimmers.

Make buttons look like buttons. Make your buttons so clickable that people can’t help but click them.

No One Reads. Text is a terrible selling tool; audio, video and images are always better.

The Core Pages • Home • Tour • Testimonials • Contact Us • Pricing & Purchase

A simple home page with very few options, and large, clickable buttons.

If you choose to have an image for your home page, choose one that shows the result of your product.

Your hook is your four-second sales pitch and it should be the headline of your home page. It’s the single sentence that grabs the reader in and makes her know she’s in the right place.

My recommendation for your tour page is to include medium-sized screen shots of the major screens filled with data, along with a one-minute screencast (video demo) of each page.

This page can also be titled “Buzz” or “Who uses [Your AppName]?” and it’s one of the most important pages on your site. Do not launch without testimonials.

You will have beta testers, friends and colleagues who try your software – get a handful of testimonials and create this page.

It’s best to provide both a contact form in the browser and a separate email address. In addition, always provide a toll-free number, even if you let it go to voice mail and return the calls.

For SaaS applications this would be Pricing & Sign-up. Unless you have a good reason to do otherwise, put this as the link on the far right of your top navigation and add subtle highlighting either by bolding the text or changing the color.

  • No small text on this page – no paragraphs of description. Only large fonts. • A call out to a 30-day free trial in large text. • The pricing plans are shown with minimal description and in large fonts. • One plan is highlighted as the best deal. It really makes you want to click it. • Logos are shown just below the offerings • There are a handful of frequently asked questions at the bottom (below where this screen shot cuts off) relating to payment and long-term contracts. • At the bottom, there’s a chance to ask any questions before you sign up

Give Something Away

I recommend shooting for a PDF report from 5-15 pages.

If you target a niche with a common interest, such as personal trainers or psychologists, providing ongoing content every 2-4 weeks is the best way to build a relationship.

monitor the following news sources and report to your audience on new happenings in their niche: • Google Alerts • Digg • YouTube • The popular blogs in this niche Take this information and share relevant links with a small amount of commentary.

Test, Test, Test – It’s all about finding out your audience’s preferences. Both email services I recommend have the ability to segment your audience while sending broadcasts. Test the time of day, day of week and subjects. It will be obvious fairly quickly which approach is superior.

Core strategies like building an audience, search engine optimization and participating in niche communities have far more impact on your bottom line than most of the new media tools you read about in the business press.

Top Shelf: Traffic Strategies that Will Sustain a Business 1. A Mailing List 2. A Blog, Podcast or Video Blog 3. Organic Search Second Shelf: Supplemental Traffic Strategies 1. Social Media / Social Networks 2. Pay-per-click Advertising 3. Forums 4. Press Releases 5. Guest Blogging 6. Affiliate Programs 7. Banner and other advertising 8. Everything else…

A mailing list is the most effective marketing tool you will possess. It works in any market. It’s a marketing requirement for startups.

The best day revenue your startup ever has will be the day you cash in a bit of your list equity and email them with a time-limited promotion.

Indeed, blogs are light years ahead of static sales websites in terms of drawing search engine credibility.

Outsourcing to a virtual assistant will dramatically reduce the time you need to spend on administrative tasks, and increase the time you can commit to growing your business.

As I’ve automated pieces of my businesses, I’ve noticed an interesting trend: nearly anything I try to automate is easier to outsource first, and then automate down the line once the volume warrants it.

The next most important time to use a VA is once your product has launched and you need to begin supporting customers.

  1. Find a VA 2. Start with a single task and gradually increase the amount of work as you gain comfort 3. If things don’t work out, find a new VA

I’ve had the best results hiring VA’s in the Philippines.

  1. Task-based VAs        Search ODesk73 under Admin Support -> Personal Assistant or Other.        Search Google for “virtual assistants.” Typically the best looking websites are the firms that have their act together.        Search Elance74 under Admin Support -> Admin Assistant.

When getting started, my advice is to stick with a larger VA firm. You will pay a little more but you will have more reliability, higher security and will be able to easily find a replacement when you need one.

Automating your startup should be your first choice. But if you are unable or unwilling to do so, getting a lump-sum payment through a sale can be an appealing option.