Tag: startup

niche site progress report

Niche Site Income Report 1 – One Month On

We’re already 1 month on from when I first started my niche site ‘Pizza Oven Hub’.

It feels like much more time has passed since I was first researching and trying to find the right niche for my site – so much has happened this past 4 weeks (and I was ill for one of the 4, so it’s more like 3 weeks in terms of weeks spent out of bed!).

Since then I found my niche, bought my domain, designed and built content for my entire site, and have managed to secure at least 2 high-quality, highly-relevant backlinks – and it’s already starting to show the impact of this in our search engine rankings.

That’s on-top of my regular commitments with Vitalife Group – where I’ve been sourcing some new store locations for one of our businesses, progressing things with the drawn-out warehouse purchase, coordinating and planning a new video ad for Vitalife Health, negotiating on some new stock bundles, chipping-in on customer service, and introducing quite a few changes and new, exciting features to the websites.

Plus I got to spend some good quality time with my lovely Wife and Daughter this month in Robin Hill on the Isle of Wight, and we’ve been out to eat quite a few times trying some newly discovered restaurants on the Island (The Pointer Inn in Newchurch do THE NICEST pie I’ve ever eaten – the Newchurch Pie – check it out if you’re ever on the Island).

Not to mention posting on here!

Phew.

It’s been a very busy, challenging but enjoyable month.

Cut to the Chase . . . How much Income has it Delivered?

Drum roll please . . .

Over the past 4 weeks, since I started my niche site, it has earned a grand total of:

£1.95!

And don’t laugh – I’m actually quite proud of this figure. It’s a success as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s my Adsense account snapshot (if you can’t believe your eyes!):

adsense snapshot

It barely pays for a cup of coffee, but it’s still a success.

Why?

Because 1, the only costs associated with setting the site up were the domain purchase (3 years at £27.12) and ebook cover/logo design (around £7 after currency conversion on Fiverr), so I’m already a whopping 5-6% towards reaching break-even on the project, and 2, more importantly (and seriously), niche sites have a compounding effect as your traffic builds – meaning they typically earn very little or nothing in the early stages, and as traffic grows, so does the income from the site.

Plus, your involvement and investment of time/energy tends to follow the opposite trend – so whilst I’ve invested a lot of time at the outset in getting things setup, as I get more backlinks and more SEO visibility for the site, my time and involvement should fall, just as income from the site rises.

This eventually leads to a situation where you are earning income from your niche site without any involvement whatsoever – which is the holy grail for everyone right? Fully automated income.

I actually added this site to my existing Hostgator hosting account that permits unlimited domains – so no ongoing hosting costs are incurred either.

Search Engine Performance

Whilst ranking for the (slightly more competitive than I realised) primary keyword of ‘pizza oven’ is still proving to be elusive, the site is ranking for a lot of derivative keywords like ‘Igneus Pizza Oven’ (position 14) which is a popular pizza oven model, ‘buy pizza oven online’ (position 83 now, following a position of 44 last week – which I’m guessing is down to the ‘Google Dance’), and many more.

All of these have delivered 14 sessions over the past 2 weeks from organic traffic, and it only started ranking for these derivative words from the moment the first backlink was placed.

Before this, the site didn’t rank at all – for anything – for the first couple of weeks.

Proving the importance of backlinks when it comes to SEO.

See the organic traffic pattern below:

organic traffic

This is just based on 2 do-follow links on high-authority, relevant sites, and a few social shares.

The rest of the traffic has come from the social shares we’ve had and a few visits from referrals from the backlinking sites.

I’m still convinced we can get the site to page 1 for the primary keyword ‘pizza oven’ with more quality backlinks.

If you want to learn how I gained the first 2 backlinks and how I plan to gain more, read my (more effective) backlink strategy here.

As you can see, organic traffic is still minimal, and in its first month, the full traffic figure came to a grand total of 215 sessions from 160 users.

So, again, next-to-nothing.

Which is reassuring, and gives me even more confidence of the site’s earning potential, because if the site is generating revenue of £1.95 against 215 visits, then if we do eventually land the first page of Google for ‘Pizza Oven’ with 22,000 searches per month, on a relative basis, this should generate £198.90 per month.

Plus, add in all the derivative keywords that will deliver a good deal of traffic too, and consider that the £1.95 figure only came from one of the site’s revenue channels – Adsense, and no consideration given for the earning potential from our Amazon affiliate store, then total earning potential could easily exceed £1,000 per month with the right level of traffic.

And for no involvement from me by that point, that truly would be passive income.

How to Make Your Adsense Ads Effective

One thing I have learned throughout this niche site process is you can go two ways with your Adsense ads – make them obvious, or subtly work them into your site content.

I’ve found that the latter is far, far more effective than the former.

My clickthrough rates on banner/graphical type ads have been much lower than my clickthrough on link-based or text-based ads.

People just don’t seem to click on ads when they’re very obviously . . . ads.

The best-performing ad groups I’ve seen have been link-based, where they mimic a navigation menu or something similar – you can see how I worked a set in on a screenshot of my niche site below:

Niche site screenshot showing adsense ads

This actually looks like part of the website navigation, and is also one of the first things the visitor sees, so is therefore the best performing ad group for me.

Some people might consider this underhand and sneaky – and whilst I’d agree that it does encourage people to click on paid ads, I’m still comfortable with this tactic because:

  1. It still delivers content that the visitor clicks on and expresses an interest in, so it isn’t misleading in the content it delivers
  2. It still makes it clear to visitors that these are ad-based links since the ‘Ad Choices’ link  is placed to the side of them
  3. It ultimately delivers my goal as the website owner – to get visitors off the site, via an ad. And it’s very effective at it too

So, there you have it – my month 1 update on my niche site progress and income report.

Whilst I’m not quite making a fortune with it, things are looking promising and I’m really confident and excited about the future of this website and where it will go with a few more backlinks.

If you’re also going through your own niche site journey, please share your progress and income in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Niche Site Step 1: How to Find Your Niche

I originally set-out on this journey to create a niche site following Pat Flynn’s original Niche Site Duel.

I wanted to prove that anyone can still do this, and that evergreen niches (ones not based on short-term fads or crazes) could still be found and capitalised upon.

So, 6 years on from Pat’s original Niche Site Duel, is it still as easy to find a niche for your niche website?

Quite frankly, no!

You would think with a ‘how-to’ breakdown from Pat, that following the same process in a different topic/industry, you’d be able to quickly and easily source your own niche that meets the same criteria as Pat set for his own niche site (at least 100 potential organic visitors per day and a maximum of 40,000 SEO competitors – more on this later in this post).

Well, it isn’t so – or at least not in the areas I selected for my niches.

I suspect the difficulty I experienced was down to two factors:

  1. Pat’s original niche site was developed over 6 years ago – therefore a few of the techniques he shows in finding a niche are no longer relevant/applicable. I had to adapt his approach in order to successfully find my own niche
  2. The internet becomes more crowded with each day that goes by, and this, teamed with the fact that online marketers like Pat have publicised how you can set-up your own niche website, has undoubtedly led to many niches being filled over the past 6 years

New niches are always opening-up of course, with new crazes and trends – but I’m trying to find an evergreen niche, not one that fizzles out along with the trend.

I want my niche site to generate a passive income for decades, not just a few weeks.

However . . .

I have found my niche!

It took a lot longer than I originally expected – over 7 hours of solid researching, in fact – but I got there, and I’m pretty pleased with the niche I’ve selected.

The process would have been a lot faster had I realised the adjustments I needed to make to Pat’s methods earlier on – I spent at least 4 of those 7 hours following his exact method which only led to dead-ends.

Ultimately, Pat uses the software Market Samurai exclusively to find his niche – following an initial mind-map of ideas.

I too own a copy of Market Samurai (if you don’t, you can download a free trial version here) and set-out to follow the exact same research criteria as Pat did – only to find that absolutely no keywords ever came close to meeting this criteria (at least 100 potential organic visitors per day and a maximum of 40,000 SEO competitors).

See the screenshot below on how you set this criteria in Market Samurai (more info on how to use this software later in the post):

All the keywords I tried, that had over 100 daily organic clicks, had a minimum of 500,000 SEO competitors. Indicating that these keywords were too competitive to tackle.

However, after many hours of searching and finding 0 keywords that matched Pat’s criteria, I started to question the usefulness of the SEO competition data.

What this ultimately shows you is how many websites use this keyword phrase across the web. It doesn’t necessarily mean that these websites are focusing on this keyword and that they are optimised for it.

Pat even mentions in one of his later posts that the SEO competition data is pretty useless, since it doesn’t matter how many sites mention your chosen keyword, what matters is the strength of those sites that occupy the top 10 places in Google for your keyword.

So, I started to disregard this metric.

I also began to realise how unreliable the data is from Market Samurai’s keyword research function – I’d perform a search on a keyword one time, and it would show 300+ SEO traffic and 500,000+ SEO competition, then the next time I search for this exact keyword, I’d have totally different results.

So, I also threw in an alternative process to ensure the data I was basing my decision on was accurate – I’ll cover this shortly.

Here’s my full revised process for finding my niche:

Step 1: Mindmap

I began my process much like Pat did, but instead of creating a mindmap around fears, problems, and passions – I just created mine around passions.

I see the logic of focusing on common problems and fears that people have – because there’s a demand for knowledge to overcome those problems and fears – but I just couldn’t see myself writing content for a site that focuses on a problem or fear-based subject.

Given I’ll be writing all of the content for this site myself,  in order to maintain my interest, and allow me to speak in an engaging way around the subject, it has to be about something I have a passion for.

So, here’s my original mindmap (I used the free trial version of a software called SmartDraw to build it):

After failing to find a keyword to match Pat’s original metrics, a fresh set of eyes really helped (in this case, my lovely Wife Grace) in coming up with even more keyword ideas, that eventually led to my chosen niche.

I also switched-up the method I was using, by doing the following:

Step 2: Keyword Generation and Research

Here’ where I decided to ditch Market Samurai, and opt for data right from the horse’s mouth – or Google’s mouth, rather.

If you have an Adwords account, you’ll already have access to Google’s Keyword Planner. If you don’t have an account, you can quickly set one up, and you’ll get instant access to the Keyword Planner.

Just pop in a search term, and it will show you exactly how many monthly searches take place for this keyword, how competitive the PPC arena is for this keyword (which is a generally a good indication of competitiveness in SEO too), and give you a ton of high-volume, alternative and longer-tail keyword suggestions that you could focus on.

I ran keywords related to my passions mindmap through this tool, and came up with a condensed list of potential keywords that I could focus my niche on.

The two keywords with the most potential following the keyword planner exercise were ‘non-alcoholic wine’ and ‘pizza oven’.

These both had relatively strong search volumes (5,400 and 22,000 respectively), meaning ‘pizza oven’ was the highest volume, but the PPC competition was also ‘low’ and ‘high’ respectively, so this kind of balanced-out the prospects of these two keywords.

Step 3: Competitor Strength

I then took the 2 keywords I identified in step 2, and ran them through Market Samurai’s ‘SEO Competition’ module – I found this to be much more reliable and helpful than their keyword research tool, and really gives a good overview of the strength of the competition in Google’s top 10 search results for your chosen term.

Ultimately, when using this, you want to see as many greens as possible, and as fewer yellows and reds as possible.

A lot of greens is good news – and means the competition in Google’s top ten results for your keyword term are relatively weak. Reds and yellows on the other hand indicate strong competition, meaning it would be harder to break into the top 10 results for your keyword term.

As you can see from the screenshot above on my term ‘Pizza Oven’, although domain age is pretty strong on the Global results, the other metrics for these sites are quite weak.

I also performed a local search by changing the project settings, to see how competitive the UK search arena was for this term, and it returned similarly weak competition.

The competition was stronger for Non Alcoholic Wines, which was contradictory to the PPC data provided by the Google Keyword tool.

So this, combined with the fact that ‘pizza oven’ had almost 4x as much organic traffic potential as ‘non alcoholic wines’, means ‘pizza oven’ is my chosen niche!

Insider Information: At Vitalife Group we’ve been working on developing a nice-tasting, non-alcoholic wine for quite some time now (it’s more difficult than it sounds! Most currently on the market just taste like grape juice), so the ‘non-alcoholic wine’ focus would have tied-in nicely for when we come to launch this product.

But I want this niche site to become a separate business in its own right and not rely on other parts of our group to become successful – otherwise it’s missing the point of showing that anyone can do it.

So the pizza oven niche fits the bill perfectly – and the work is now on to build the site, monetise it, and start promoting it.

Like Pat Flynn, my only rule in this process is to not use paid advertising to promote the site, so it all has to be done from link-building and SEO.

I’ve got the domain (which I’ll announce to you in my next niche site post), now I’m on with getting a logo designed (using Fiverr.com), installing WordPress (using 1-click install with Hostgator), getting a cool free theme, getting the site online, and building the initial content.

If you’re taking the niche site challenge too, and you’ve never set up a website before, I cover all of the above processes in one of the sections of my ‘Fast Track Entrepreneur: Start an Online Business in 4 Weeks‘ course over on Udemy, and I’ve also made this section publicly available on Youtube for you to follow here.

Please share your own experience with finding a niche, and share your tips and techniques for finding a high-traffic, low-competition keyword to focus on in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

12 Things that Keep Small Business Owners Awake at Night (and Why they Shouldn’t)

Sleep deprivation shouldn’t be a badge of honour for busy, stressed entrepreneurs.

It leads to reduced productivity, higher stress levels, and poor decisions.

So if you find yourself losing sleep over your small business, it’s a dangerous place to be, where a visious cycle can quickly and easily follow.

I always try to get at least 7 hours a night, preferably 8, sometimes accompanied by a short nap in the day too.

If I have less than this, I can’t function as effectively or as efficiently as I normally do. I’d rather spend an extra couple of hours in bed in the morning if I haven’t slept well, so I can operate at full pace when I get to my desk, than get up early regardless and burnout by 2pm.

Huge companies like Google are taking notice of the impact that sleep deprivation can have on productivity and combat this by offering employees ‘sleep pods’ in the workplace where they can take a nap to recharge.

But when stress is causing you to lose sleep, and you don’t have the opportunity to catch-up, it can be difficult.

In this post I assess the top 12 things that keep entrepreneurs and small business owners awake at night, and how you can change your perspective on these, and implement some tools and techniques, to stop them impacting your sleep.

Cashflow

One of the biggest challenges most small businesses face is cashflow management.

How do you ensure you have enough cash flowing into the business to meet wages, rent, and supplier payments?

With the dynamics and complexities of a fast-growing entrepreneurial business, it becomes less linear and straightforward to keep on-top of cashflow.

Sales are often hard to predict, and budgets need to be flexible to accommodate respective upturns and downturns from sales projections, and to capitalise on new growth opportunities.

Even the most adaptable forecasts (learn how to create adaptable forecasts for your business in my online business course) can be tested with almost daily changes from projections.

And this is why cashflow can often keep the small business owner up at night.

The best way that I’ve learned to combat fears over cashflow is:

1. Build and maintain flexible, simple cashflow projections (I show people how to build these in my 4-week business course) so that you can predict future cashflows and arrange finance in advance accordingly if necessary

2. Hold on to cash for as long as you can. Get paid as soon as possible from your customers and arrange long payment terms with suppliers

3. Don’t be afraid to take-on affordable finance to provide cashflow in times of shortfall. Provided you are profitable and can cover the cost of borrowing, then it’s a better option than running out of cash!

Profitability

You can struggle with cash but still be profitable – if you’re continually reinvesting in stock or capital equipment.

But if you’re struggling with cash and you’re unprofitable, then it can be a very difficult time.

Banks rarely lend to unprofitable businesses, and raising equity finance is equally difficult unless you have an exceptional management team and/or concept.

So unless you have more cash to pump in until it becomes profitable, then you’re going to be in trouble.

Sit down and figure out your top 4 overheads, then look at how these can be reduced. Cost cutting in all areas can have positive impact, but if you need to turn finances around quickly you need to focus on the big expenses for big impact.

Then look at how you can increase your gross margin, can you push suppliers for further discounts? Sell more profitable products or services?

When your business is as lean as possible, and you are maximising your gross margins, then you need to look at ways you can increase sales and scale with the same foundation of overheads so you can dilute these further and start to see a healthy net profit.

Look for new promotional channels and particularly focus on maximising customer order value with up-selling and cross-selling (I cover how to do this in my 4 week business course) – selling more to existing customers is often a more profitable strategy than seeking brand new customers.

Deadlines

Client deadlines, account filing deadlines, and regulatory deadlines – they all create pressure and can contribute to stress.

Try using a calendar, to-do lists, and collaborative working tools like Basecamp to plan ahead and ensure all deadlines are met, and where they cannot be met, appropriate communication is made before the deadline arrives.

In my 4 week business course I also cover how to produce and use to-do lists to help prioritise and organise tasks.

Employees

Fear of key employees leaving, sickness, staff shortages, conflict – there are plenty of ways that your employees can cause you stress and therefore sleepless nights.

It’s important, with employees, that you appreciate they aren’t just machines, they have their own needs, objectives, and dreams – and these won’t always necessarily marry with the objectives of your business.

You have to ensure your employees are in positions where they remain motivated and engaged, and that you are flexible when it comes to their own needs – whether it be flexible working hours, training and development, or even just leaving work early one afternoon for a family event. Help them to meet their objectives and they’ll help your business meet its objectives also.

Beyond showing flexibility, a desire to help them achieve their own objectives, and ensuring they are in the right role within the business, you can’t control much else.

Humans, by their nature, are unpredictable. They are driven by emotion and feeling, and there are many variables (both inside and outside of the workplace) that can affect these.

Don’t stress over things you cannot control – provide employees a flexible, fertile environment for them to flourish, and the rest is out of your control. Relax.

Sales

Research has shown sales growth to be one of the biggest causes of stress for small business owners.

We’re all trying to grow our sales – no business owner ever wants them to go the other way.

But stressing over growing your sales really isn’t necessary.

Growing a business isn’t an exact science, and it takes plenty of time and trial/error to achieve millions of pounds in sales.

Provided you are collecting data and analytics on every promotional channel you are using, and you are regularly analysing these statistics to tweak your promotional strategy to focus on the activities with the best response and highest return on investment, then worrying beyond this is completely irrational.

You should only be worried about sales growth if you are flying blind and are not collecting, processing, and applying data from each promotional avenue that you employ. Because then you’ll never truly know what is working and what isn’t, so you’ll never feel in control of your sales growth.

Install Google Analytics, use promotional codes uniquely assigned to each promotion you run, and continually analyse your results – and you should never feel worried about growing sales. Perhaps you’ll feel frustrated at times as you go through the trial and error stages of your promotional activity, but never worried.

Time Management

For small business owners, time is quite literally money. If you don’t manage your own, and employee’s, time effectively then it can prove costly.

And not always costly in the sense of an immediate financial cost, but also the opportunity cost of focusing your time on more valuable and rewarding activities.

This is something I personally had an issue with until most recently. I’d spend most of my days sat monitoring and dealing with emails, and not on value-adding activities or my own to-do lists.

This caused a distraction where I was ultimately prioritising the needs of the people emailing me, and not my own business needs.

Now, I only deal with emails in short bursts either once or twice per day. And if I receive an email that doesn’t align with my own business objectives or relating to the ongoing needs of my business, it gets ignored entirely.

It seems ignorant and somewhat selfish, but you have to prioritise your time according to your own business needs, or you’ll be constantly distracted and lose your direction.

Customer Satisfaction

It’s always important to ensure customer satisfaction – it’s this that will ultimately drive your business growth through referrals and repeat custom.

If you are having issues with your product or service, it’s important to deal with them quickly and aggressively so they do not negatively impact on your customer experience.

Then ensure you have the right customer service in-place to deal with any complaints. A complaint in itself doesn’t have to be a bad thing. View it as an opportunity to show-off your customer care and service.

Research has shown that customer loyalty is even stronger amongst customers that have experienced issues but had them dealt with by great customer service, than amongst customers that never experienced any negative issues with their product or service in the first instance.

So don’t stress about customer complaints, just ensure the underlying issue is dealt with going forwards, and that any complaints are dealt with swiftly and effectively.

Growth

Like with sales growth, overall company growth is often a worry for small business owners, especially those with other investors and shareholders to please.

How you adress this concern depends on the measurement of growth you are concerned about – it could be revenue growth, asset growth, customer growth, profit growth, or any other measure.

If it’s revenue growth that you have a concern about, you need to analyse your promotional channels and their performance, just as you would with sales growth issues. If it’s asset growth, you need to analyse your reinvestment strategy and the depreciation rates for your business assets, if it’s customer growth you need to look at promotional channels and also your customer retention and repeat order encouragement to ensure these are optimised, if it’s profit growth, you need to analyse both sales/promotional performance and your expenses in comparison to budgeted figures.

Again, though, analysis and computation/implementation of data will allow you to combat fear with rational results analysis and strategy revisals in order to maintain course towards your company growth projections.

And if you don’t meet projections even after constant and thorough analysis/application of data, then you’ve given it your best effort – not everything goes to plan. So, revise your growth projections so they remain realistic.

Technology

A concern for some business owners can be about the technology they use and whether it is outdated.

Technology investments, particularly in manufacturing operations and technologically-advanced businesses, can be substantial – so when the time comes to update, you need to either have good cash reserves or be in a position to take on funding.

Ignoring or putting-off technology investment can lead to falling behind the competition and operational inefficiencies that can hinder your growth and financial performance – so don’t neglect it.

Government Regulations

A particular concern for those operating in highly regulated industries or politically unstable Countries, is regulatory changes enforced by government.

Not only can meeting new regulations be costly, but they can also put you completely out of business, depending on their severity.

But the answer to preventing worry around this business risk is simple, just don’t worry – unless you are a large organisation with hefty political power that can lobby government to actively combat restrictive and unnecessary regulations, then you cannot control it.

Therefore worry is completely pointless and leads to no useful outcome.

Just stay aware of proposed regulatory changes and position your business well to adapt to them if they are enforced. That’s all you can do in this circumstance.

Economy

I get particularly frustrated when I read about economic concerns or predictions. Especially when they are negative (which they invariably are).

Economies are built on confidence. Give people confidence and they’ll invest, they’ll take risks, and they will create further employment.

But scare people with gloomy predictions and depressing forecasts, and their confidence will be knocked, so they will hold back on investment and taking risks.

Sometimes I feel the media and speculation are the foundations of a downturn, and not the downturn in itself (they at least accelerate and amplify the negative effects of a dowturn).

With the internet and increasingly free International trade, we all operate in a Global economy. Do you know how many variables there are that can affect the performance of a Global marketplace?

Too many to mention!

As humans we constantly want to give reason to fluctuations in economic performance, so we feel we can control it a little better. But the truth is, the economy is so big, and has so many variables, that we cannot control it – and there are bound to be periods of ups and downs. And whether these ups and downs are given real reasoning or not, we cannot control them.

So as a small business owner, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to control it either – so my advice is, don’t pay any mind to the things you cannot control. It’s a waste of time and energy, that would be better spent on the things we can control.

Recession or not, you’ll keep pushing your business and trying to grow – don’t let the speculation on economic performance or outlook change anything about that. It’s precisely this type of reaction that creates a downturn.

Ethics

Although not something I’ve heard mentioned elsewhere, if I personally wasn’t running an ethical business or one that was doing something positive for other people, I would question the whole purpose of my business.

In particular, if your business is having a negative impact on people or the environment like alcohol or oil, then this would keep me up at night.

For me, business has to have more purpose than just making money, and it has to deliver positive impact to others – otherwise, I don’t see the point in doing it.

Do good in your business, and you won’t have to worry about this one keeping you up at night!

And that rounds up my 12 things that keep small business owners awake at night, and why they shouldn’t!

If you know of any more, or would like to add to my suggestions on how to overcome the worry that that above 12 things can create, then please share in the comments below.

8 Business Tips you can Steal from Successful Startups

Business isn’t an exact science.

What works for one business may not work for the next, and it is often not the idea that makes a business successful but rather the execution.

So whilst it’s important to remain true to yourself and make your own course, it’s still sometimes helpful to see how other companies and entrepreneurs have made success – to help guide your journey in generally the right direction.

The following tips aren’t official quotes from the founders, they are what I have extracted from researching these businesses from startup to where they are today.

So have a read and take from them what you need, to help steer your business towards success.

Don’t Worry about the Competition – Facebook

Remember MySpace?

They were once the leading social media platform up to 2008 – now they have practically disappeared.

There will always be competition in your field, both direct and indirect, but if seeing the competition (and how much market share they own) puts you off pursuing a business idea or continuing to challenge them, then you could have missed an opportunity to surpass them at some point and be the market leader.

It’s one of the reasons I don’t watch Dragon’s Den. When I used to see this program, the Dragons would always ask the people pitching for investment whether what they are doing is unique, and whether they hold a patent.

Patent or not, nothing successful stays unique for long.

Plus, when you analyse each one of the Dragons’ own entrepreneurial journeys, none of them did anything distinctly unique – health clubs, restaurants, online retail, there’s nothing patentable that allowed them to make their fortune!

So don’t be fooled into thinking that you can’t compete unless you have something totally unique or patentable.

Yes, you need unique selling points, but the ultimate premise of your business model doesn’t have to be completely unique.

If Zuckerberg would have thrown in the towel after seeing how MySpace were dominating social media up to 2008, then he wouldn’t be on the Rich List in 2016.

Be aware of the competition, and figure out how you can make your offering more attractive than theirs, but don’t let their success and power put you off challenging them – you might just be surprised if you hit on their weaknesses.

Continually Innovate – HP

HP invests $3.6B each year into research and development – with the vast majority of their sales coming from new products.

This means, if HP didn’t continually innovate and invest in R&D then the business would quickly shrink.

HP is an extreme example of innovation – the markets in which they operate are very fickle ie consumers always want the latest gadgets, and very fast-changing.

Your market may also be similar. But even in less dynamic industries, innovation is still key to growth and success.

Many marketers talk about focusing on selling ‘evergreen’ products – products that will always be in demand, no matter the season or how long the product has been on the market.

But every product has a shelf life. Even the lifeblood of the World economy and something that has been in high demand consistently for decades, oil, has a finite lifespan – soon it will be overtaken by renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydro.

If the oil companies don’t pay attention to these market changes and concurrently invest in renewable energy provision, then when the switchover really gathers momentum, they will die. Demand for oil will nosedive, and so will their profits.

So, always keep an eye on the bigger picture and reinvest so that you are able to adapt to market and environmental changes.

Learn from Failure – Virgin Group

You can learn more from failure than you can success.

Richard Branson has seen some enormous successes in his entrepreneurial career, but he has also had his fair share of failure.

Virgin Cars, Virgin Brides, Virgin Cola, and many more Virgin businesses failed for various reasons.

But that didn’t stop the Group continually diversifying and entering new markets with the Virgin brand.

Provided you’re still alive, no matter how bad the failure you experience, you are here, and you are therefore able to pick yourself back up and try again.

In the moment, failure doesn’t feel good – I’ve felt this myself in some of my own ventures like Vitalife Cell Bank. And in the moment, you don’t really feel that much good can come from that situation.

But once the dust has settled and you’ve tied everything up with your failed venture, then comes the moment of reflection and the opportunity to realise how the experience you have just gone through can be used to better guide your other ventures.

What other option do you have? Give up? You still have your life to live – what will you spend it doing? Feeling sorry for yourself that things didn’t work out? No.

Wrap things up, give your failed venture closure, reflect on the reasons it failed, then start again with these lessons in-mind.

Provided you don’t keep making the same mistakes and you learn from your failures, if you persist and keep getting back up, the law of averages says you’ll find success eventually – just never give up.

Branson was fortunate in that he experienced wild success before his other business failures, so he knew the feeling of exhiliration that comes with being successful in business and I’m sure this taste for success was helpful when dealing with and recovering from later business failures.

For those that haven’t yet tasted success and know this experience so they can use it as motivation to try again, it takes even more grit and determination – but it carries the same principles, learn what caused you to fail last time and let this guide your approach differently the next time.

Diversify from your Core Stengths – Fujifilm

Once a humble photography start-up, now a multinational corporation operating in diverse industries from medical equipment to LCD televisions.

When traditional film photography rapidly declined with the advent of digital photography, Fujifilm and many other photography companies were faced with rapidly adapting to the new digital marketplace, or bankruptcy.

Many firms ended-up doing the latter, like the photography giant Kodak, but Fujifilm not only survived, they thrived following some drastic strategy changes.

Instead of becoming purely a digital photography business, they chose to diversify into brand new markets with their existing competencies and strengths.

They discovered that the technology and chemicals that they had been using to develop their photography film was also used in liquid crystal displays for computers and televisions, and that the process of getting the colours to stick to the film could also lend itself to cosmetics!

So they branched-out and entered these new markets, becoming widely diverse in terms of the industries in which they now operate, but very focused in terms of their core competencies and strengths.

Look for ways that your business competencies and strengths can be applied to other industries and businesses, and see if you can diversify in this manner also – to protect yourself from specific industry decline and environmental/market changes.

Be Adaptable – Vitalife Group

Vitalife switched their focus from full-price retail health products, to cut-price discount health products – following intense competition and pricing pressures.

Fast-moving consumer goods are things consumers buy regularly, and they therefore want the best possible price for their items.

With increasing online competition, margins became squeezed. The way Vitalife reacted was to create a sub-brand that focused purely on discount health products, in a way that didn’t damage margins further and allowed them to compete more effectively on price.

Their original health product site vitalifehealth.com also changed and focus was placed on delivering a greater level of value to customers that were seeking goods without potentially harmful ingredients that other ‘health shops’ would still offer customers.

This strategic change allowed Vitalife to grow sales and profitability in a time of increased competition – quite an achievement.

So when your market and environment places pressures on your business, be prepared to adapt in order to continue to grow and reach success.

Continually attempting to force products or services on a market that isn’t responding well to them, or to cave into price competition – paying disregard to the profitability of your model, are surefire ways to go out of business.

Have Long Term, High Level Vision – Tesla/Solar City

Elon Musk had a vision – to create a closed-loop, fully-renewable electric vehicle.

Not only did he envisage manufacturing the electric vehicle and overcoming all of the obstacles that the major car manufacturers faced in the production of electric vehicles, but he also had vision to provide the energy source for these electric vehicles, from solar energy.

To do this, he created 2 companies, Tesla Motors (to manufacture the vehicles) and Solar City (to provide the energy) – they have since announced acquisition of Solar City by Tesla, bringing Elon’s vision under one entity.

And this is way, way down the road in Elon’s entrepreneurial career – by this point he has already launched and sold several businesses for multi-million dollar figures, including PayPal.

But the vision to create a closed-loop electric vehicle existed way back in his student days where he fantasized about the concept – although at this point he didn’t have the resources at his disposal to make it reality. He stuck the concept in the back of his mind, making the other huge ventures he’s exited in-between appear a means to achieve the ultimate vision.

Whereas most would be content with 1% of the things Elon has achieved, he just keeps going – taking bigger and bigger risks, in order to achieve his overall, high-level vision.

Whilst there aren’t many people like Elon Musk in the World, it still highlights the importance of having a long-term, high-level vision – the sort of focus that would prevent you from retiring even when you have several million pounds banked, the focus that would drive you to take further risks even when you don’t need to, the focus that makes money a means to an end goal, not the end goal in itself.

Achieve this mindset and focus, and lose the emotional attachment you have to money, and that unlocks the door to unlimited success and the ability to fulfill your ultimate vision.

Focus on the Customer – Amazon

Everything Amazon does is from a customer perspective.

If you’ve ever made a complaint on an Amazon order, you’ll know how good their customer service is – they seem to throw financials out of the window and don’t hesitate to grant full refunds or replacement orders for the smallest of issues.

This shows that they are looking at the long-term, lifetime customer value and not the value attached to each individual transaction that a customer makes.

They want to keep customers happy at all costs – if they keep you happy and show exceptional service, you’ll buy from them again, and they will make the money back that they lost on the order with an issue, over the next few orders you make with them.

If you’ve ever sold on Amazon, you’ll see even more dedication to customer happiness. Sellers are faced with a set of strict metrics to meet in terms of delivery times, despatch times, customer responses, and cancellation rates. If sellers don’t meet these metrics, they are banned from selling on Amazon.

So, try not to be too short-sighted when it comes to pleasing customers. Focus on lifetime value, and retaining repeat custom, and let go of looking closely at the financials of each particular complaint.

Even if what you sell isn’t fast-moving and doesn’t attract a great deal of regular repeat custom by its very nature, word-of-mouth spreads fast, and if you show exceptional service then you’ll build a good name and encourage orders from the friends and family of existing customers.

Be Persistent – Disney

Think of Disney and you think Disneyland, cartoons, merchandise, films, Disney stores, and many more.

They are hugely successful, and known Worldwide.

But for the founder, Walt Disney, the story was more one of consistent struggle and cashflow dilemmas than of unbridled success.

He didn’t build the first Disneyland until just prior to his death, and before Disneyland his films and animations were often met with mixed reviews and varying levels of success – they borrowed millions of dollars, and faced bankruptcy several times.

But eventually, towards the end of Walt’s life, he began to see his consistent efforts and never-say-die attitude pay-off – seeing Disneyland become a huge success from the off, and other ventures begin to turn a healthy profit.

If he hadn’t smoked so heavily he may have had more time to enjoy the fruits of his labour!

But Walt’s story is inspiring nonetheless – a true visionary and a very persistent character, his legacy shows what can be achieved with this approach in business.

And that’s that!

Hopefully the above analyses provide some useful insight into how these business tips can be applied to your business and entrepreneurial journey.

If you’d like more guidance or want to learn more about starting your own business, then enroll in my 4-week business course over on Udemy today.

If you have witnessed a business successfully using certain concepts then please share them in the comments below.

Discover Your Passion, and the Money will Follow

Business is tough.

I’m not going to lie.

There are times that make you want to give up, or go back to a simple 9-5 job where you can leave your work behind when you leave for the day and not wake up in cold sweats during the night thinking about your business.

And if you don’t have the right motivation for your business, no doubt you WILL give up.

But, if your business is founded on your passion, something that you feel you were put on this Earth to do, then it’s much harder for you to throw in the towel. And it’s this level of persistence and focus that ultimately, eventually, brings success.

So, discover your passion, and you’ve just discovered what your business should be based around.

Often there is too much focus placed on making money when people follow business ideas – pursuing opportunities based purely on their expected or potential financial return.

This isn’t a sustainable approach.

Of course, money is important, it’s the lifeblood of your business – without cashflow, your business crashes, without profit, it slowly dies. So you need to ensure you get on the right side of cashflow and profit as early as possible.

But, if you’re bootstrapping your business ie you don’t have a great deal of cash to invest, then things take time. You have to invest a ton of time and effort into making your business work, and there will undoubtedly be tough times.

If you’re going through these tough times, and you have absolutely no intrinsic motivation for your business, just purely around the potential financial gains – chances are, you won’t even reach the point where you can enjoy those financial returns, because you’ll lose interest in the business and the constant grind of building a start-up with very little investment will take its toll on your optimism and the long-term vision of financial gain.

When you’re starting a business from next-to-nothing, you need to be sure that you are inspired by what your business is actually doing – financials aside.

Is your business making other people’s lives better?

Is it saving the planet?

Is it solving World hunger?

Okay, these are grandiose examples, but it highlights the type of non-financial goals and purpose that businesses can carry – and these are the ones that will keep you going, even if the financial rewards take a little longer than predicted.

This is what my 2nd course lecture covers in more detail – helping you to understand your passion(s) and then how to monetise these.

View the lecture preview in the video below, or enroll in my course over on Udemy today for the full version plus 27 other step-by-step videos on how to get your business up-and-running.