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13 September 2009

The 5 Things it Takes to Succeed Online

Before I get started, I should point out that parts of this may seem basic to some people. The key to getting the most from this manual is to remember that none of these things exist independently of the others.

Without putting at least most of them together, you won't have a business at all. And that brings us to an important distinction. That's the difference between a business and a succession of money-making projects.

If you're doing projects and you stop, the money stops. Immediately. If you stop because you're sick or you have a family emergency, stopping the money can be very inconvenient indeed.

A business, on the other hand, can keep going with someone else at the helm, and the money can keep coming in. It's entirely possible, with some models, for the business to keep generating cash automatically for months or even years, without any need for regular oversight.

Which do you want? A succession of projects, or a business?

That's a question you need to answer for yourself. Either way is fine, but you need to
understand that there is a difference, and it's important.

'Nuff said on that.

Please also keep in mind that this blog is intended to show you what you need to do and to learn. It's waaaay past the scope of the thing to teach you how to do every part of what's covered. That's for later.

As you probably guessed from the title of this blog, there are five things you must have for a truly successful online business. They are:

1. A product that delivers value
2. A site that communicates that value effectively
3. Visitors that already want what you're selling
4. Leverage
5. Focus

The last two I listed are usually not found on internet marketing. They're ignored by
the majority of people who try to start a business online. They're also what makes for real success.

Let me explain each of them, in order.

A Product That Delivers Value

This one is easy, as long as you remember that value is defined by your prospective customers. Not you.

I don't care how "cool" you think widget-whackers are. It makes no sense to try and sell widget-whackers to people who have no idea what a widget is, or why it should be whacked.

If your product solves a problem that 100% of the people in the world have, and 0% of the people in the world care about, it's not providing value. And if it doesn't provide obvious value, it won't sell.

Value is defined as "what they want."
  • Not what they need.
  • Not what you think they need.
  • Not what you think they should want.
  • Not what you're sure will make them happy.

What they want.

The more powerful the want, the more you can charge for fulfilling it. And the happier they'll be to pay you for it.

Whether you create the product yourself, or have it done to your specifications, you must make sure it provides value your market wants.

Find out what they want, and give it to them.
It's that simple.

A Site That Communicates That Value Effectively

Communicate benefits. For those of you who are new to the whole thing, you may be confused about the difference between a benefit and a feature. That's likely true even for most people who don't know they're confused.

Don't worry, it's a lot simpler than most people make it sound. In fact, it was the content of the shortest issue of this blog.

Benefits exist in the head and the heart. Everything else is a feature.

Yeah. I thought it was an important enough point to make that the whole issue.

Keeping that definition in mind, remember: People buy for benefits. They rationalize the decision with features.

You may think that doesn't apply to you, or your market. If you think that, you'd be wrong. Like most things that have to do with human nature, this hasn't changed in a Very Long Time.

When you create a product or write a sales letter, you should do so with one thing in mind: Giving people things they perceive as benefits. Things that make them feel better or that make them feel better about themselves.

Everything else is fluff and mummery.

Your site must be built and written around the goal of communicating to your visitors that you have the answer to a question they're already asking.

"How do I get this condition or this state that I want?"

A Side Note, on Roses and Aspirin

There are two kinds of sales: Roses and aspirin.

A "rose" sale is something that appeals to their opinion of themselves, or that promises to make them feel good by making someone else feel good about them.

An "aspirin" sale promises to solve a problem that causes them pain. It's a "feel better" thing.

A "rose sale" is fun, but it's too easy. There are tons of people who can make you feel good about yourself, who can appeal to your ego. The money in a "rose sale" is sometimes as good, but it's up against more competition, and it doesn't inspire loyalty.

On the other hand, an "aspirin sale" means you've fixed a problem. You've removed pain. That creates a much more loyal customer. Someone who trusts you implicitly and wants to deal with you again in the future.

It's also a bigger ticket sale, most of the time.

If you can communicate both - appeal to their ego AND eliminate pain - you're golden. Try to do that in every sales letter you write, or have written for you.

I strongly recommend that you learn the basics of writing effective sales copy, even if you intend to have someone else write your letters and ads for you. That way, you'll have an idea of what's needed before the writing starts, and how to tell if it's good when it's done.

If you understand how to communicate benefits, you'll be able to explain them to your copywriter, and to "see" them in the finished copy.

Some experienced salespeople often confuse benefits with features. To make it easier:

If you can touch it, it's a feature. If you feel it, it's a benefit.

Benefits are all about feelings. Removing bad ones or adding good ones.

Features are the things that make benefits happen. People only care about the features if they don't already know the product will work.

People don't need to be told how aspirin works, because they know it does. Conversely, they do need logical reasons to justify spending thousands of dollars for the feeling they'll get from owning that new 60" high definition TV.

Which brings up another point: Features don't always even have to relate to the benefits the prospect is looking for. As an example, how about that new 60" high-def system?

I've never seen an ad that talked about any of the logical features that lead to actual benefits. They talk about the "big, bright, crystal-clear picture."

That is not a benefit!

It's barely a feature, unless you have vision problems. You just don't need a 60" TV.
A big-screen TV is a toy. A large, expensive, very cool toy.

There's nothing wrong with toys. You just need to realize, if that's what you're selling, that the appeal to logic doesn't have to be real strong. People can justify their toys just fine without it.

It's all about benefits. All the time. That's what you're promoting. That's what they're buying. That is a critical thing to understand, and it's a lot easier than most sales trainers and copywriting courses make it seem.

Visitors That Already Want What You're Selling

Here's a little secret about people involved in the "Internet marketing" field: One out of four would eat their own young for an extra 15 visitors a day.

Fortunately, the rest are really cool, so you've got decent odds of getting out of it alive. If you think I'm kidding, watch the things some people will do to get you to visit their site, or sign up for their list.

Some are deceptive. Some give away the farm to get a glass of milk. Some beg, some borrow and some steal.

Some make a planned effort to only talk to the people who already want what they're offering. Who do you think is going to make more money and have more fun?

Some people will tell you that any traffic is good traffic. That is not true. I've seen businesses fail because they had too much of the wrong kind of traffic. More common are the businesses that fail because they didn't have enough of the right kind. I have never seen a business fail because they had too much qualified traffic.

No matter what you're offering, you need to have a plan to attract the people who already want it, and to get them to your site at a price that creates a profit.

That's much easier if you create the product in response to an existing demand for which you've already identified traffic sources.

Traffic is the place where your math skills will be most important. You need to watch your "visitor value." That's the amount of income generated, on average, for every person who lands on your site. You need to know what it is for every traffic source you pay for, so you can judge the best places to put your money. You need to know what it is for free traffic, so you can gauge where your time is best spent. And you need to track it over time, to make sure it's staying in the profitable range.

If you're planning on working on only "free" traffic generation, make sure you remember that your time has value. Decide what value is acceptable as a return for that time.

If you're concentrating on promoting affiliate products, you need to consider "earnings per click"(EPC). How much money do you make, on the average, every time someone clicks on your affiliate link? Basically, that's your "visitor value" for a visitor you send to someone else. The math is simple, but you have to do it.

This is why you'll hear so much about testing and tracking. You need to know how you're doing now so you can compare it to how you do in the future.

How else can you expect to improve?

When you consider the value of traffic generation, you need to keep in mind that some traffic generation techniques pay over a longer time than others.

The worst kind of traffic technique is one that happens only once, and can't be duplicated. This can be profitable, even very profitable. This is stuff like press releases, articles that get printed in newsletters but not on websites. If you do that sort of traffic generation, make sure you have a way to get at least some of those people into your affiliate program or on your customer or subscriber list.

This is not to say you should avoid this kind of traffic. Not at all. It can help provide the boost you need to make some money and get the staying power to work on other methods, generate other products, or pay for more consistent traffic.

If it's effective at generating subscribers or affiliates, it's worth making time to keep doing it. But it should not be your main focus.

There are ways of generating traffic that keep working, long after you've stopped working at them yourself. Free (or paid) ebooks or reports that contain links to your site. Articles posted on other sites that contain links to your own. Viral systems that get people to spread the word about your site on their own.

Or an affiliate program. You pay people for every visitor to your site that does something specific and measurable. Signs up for your list, buys your product, or asks for information on your services.

The more attractive you make it for other people to send you traffic, the more traffic they'll send you. And they'll keep doing it as long as it's profitable for them to do so.

Paid traffic is another option. This includes various systems like pay-per-click, banner ads, CPA networks, and even more odd sounding items. The benefit of paid traffic is that most of it can be expanded. If it's profitable, you can buy more of it.

That can be a very fast way to build a business, if you know how to properly measure and track changes in the value of that traffic. But this not for those with small budgets.

The best traffic is that generated by your own subscribers and customers. They know you, trust you (if you've treated them right), and have a demonstrated interest in your subject.

The best way to build a solid base is to build a list of people who're interested in your offers, and treat those people well.

If there's one thing you get from this lesson, it should be this: Know who your perfect prospect is, know where to find them, and know what they want to get before they'll give you what you want in return. After that, it's all about creating systems to repeat the process.


Leverage is a simple concept. You arrange your strategy to get more results from a given effort than would normally be expected.

Leverage is one of the most talked about things in business, and pretty much everyone gets it wrong online. Well, it might be more accurate to say that almost everyone gets less of it right than they could.

Let's take a simple example: You write an article and submit it to various newsletters for publication. If it gets picked up, you could get a decent amount of traffic from it.

  • Write it as a 5-10 page report, and offer a condensation of the report as an article. Then suggest that readers go to your website for a report giving more details on how to do what you've just told them they need to do. Give it as a bonus for subscribing to your list.

  • Include a link to your product, and give the article to your affiliates to use on their sites or in their own mailings. Let them put their affiliate links in where yours is in the original.

  • Same as above, but get people to subscribe, and track the affiliate who sent them. Give that affiliate credit for ALL sales of your products made to the folks they sent your way.

  • Have a plan that allows you to use the same report as a chapter in a product.

  • Sell reprint rights to a branded version of the report, with a link to your site or
    product. Also, include a link (not too obvious or disruptive) that tells the readers they can also distribute the report. This makes the report an even better tool for your affiliates to use to generate sales, since their version will be distributed by the folks they give/sell it to.

  • Make sure there's something in every version that points people to your list, and gives them a reason to subscribe.

There are other techniques. Lots of them. This is just to give you the basic idea. For a list of the most important areas where you should look to apply leverage, keep an eye out for the next blog: Visit the The 7 things you must include in everything you do online.

Leverage isn't only a matter of which techniques you use. It also means making the most of how you use them. You want to work at improving every step of the process.

Let's say you have an article that you've promoted to 100 publishers, and 10% of them use it. Each of them has 3000 subscribers, and 10% of those click through to your site. Of those, 3% end up buying. That would be 90 sales.

If you can improve each of those things by 10%, you end up with 110 publishers, same 3000 subscribers each (you can't control that), with 11% clicking through and 3.3% ordering. That's 119 sales. A 32% increase.

Not bad. That sort of incremental improvement can make a big difference in your income. But it's not leverage.

Think about how this can build on itself if you make those improvements part of a multichannel process that re-purposes that same content over and over again in different ways.

Before you create any content or promotional piece, whether a simple banner or classified ad, an article, viral report or free online service, think about how you can use it in different ways to get more from your effort. Then think about how you can make each of those ways more effective.

I promise you, you will be surprised at what you come up with. Both in terms of ideas and increased results.


You know what this is. You've been there. But you may not have the words you need to repeat the process on demand.
Hopefully, this will provide you those words:
Focus is wanting something so bad that you measure every action against the answer to one question:

"Does this move me closer to what I want, faster than whatever else I could be doing?"

Focus is the thing that separates the successes from the almosts. It's sometimes the hardest thing to get and keep. And it's as easy as knowing what you really want and gauging your actions based on the answers to that one simple question.


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