In Praise of Thinking Small

    July 10, 2003

All your life you’ve probably been beseeched to “Think Big!”, the idea being that if you think big you achieve big, while thinking small gets you nowhere fast.

That’s probably good advice as a general rule but it shouldn’t be taken literally when it comes to creating an Internet-based business. The Internet is one environment where thinking small generally leads to greater success than thinking big. In fact, thinking big in the wrong way can definitely get you nowhere fast!

The temptation when first starting out is to sign up for as many affiliate programs as you can. Somehow, you figure, the more programs I have to earn a commission from, the more money I will make. All you end up doing in the process, however, is diluting your focus with the end result being a web site that attempts to be too many things to too many people.

As urgent as it seems to get your web site up and out there and attracting as many people as you possibly can as quickly as you possibly can, the smarter approach is to spend considerable time, before you even start, seriously thinking about what it is you want to contribute to the Internet and the market you want to attract.

Many people, for example, think there’s money in “Internet Marketing”. There is. But Internet marketing is not an end unto itself. It’s a set of skills you need to master once you actually HAVE something to market.

Sure, there’s a large army of so-called “gurus” out there who profess to be experts in Internet marketing and have made a tidy sum from people who believe them. But you’re not one of them and neither am I. (Neither are they, actually, but that’s another story altogether.)

So, when you think about “making money with my computer” or “making money on the Internet”, understand that there’s not some parallel universe out there that will allow you to generate an income simply by connecting to the Internet.

You have to create something of real value to a very specific audience to get them to visit your site in the first place. You have to continually add value to your site to keep them coming back. Only then can you even begin to think about maybe making money.

So, let’s start with the basics. What is your web site going to be ABOUT? Hopefully you realize now that it’s NOT going to be about Internet Marketing. It’s going to be about something that you know something about, something you have a special interest in or passion for, an interest or passion that others share and in sufficient numbers that they constitute a good- size target market.

That’s where the beauty of thinking small comes in.

If you set out to create a site all about Internet Marketing, the subject is simply too vast to do justice to. And unless you’re an expert (and 99% of you reading this are not), you’re not going to be able to create anything of true value to attract repeat visitors. The competition’s just too great.

So, think small. The smaller the better. The smaller the less competition you have. What is it that you’re interested in, good at, expert of, that others may also be interested in? Maybe you’re mad for old lamps. Create an auction site just for old lamps. Maybe you were a grief counselor in a previous life. Create a web site devoted to helping people cope with and transcend grief. Perhaps you’re a stay-at-home parent. Create a community-style web site for other stay-at-home parents who are looking to connect with other people in the same situation. It doesn’t matter. Just think small. Think about what pushes your buttons. Then take that and create something fabulous that’s all yours. Something unique.

When it comes to generating an income from your web site you have a few options. Affiliate programs are a good choice for a site that generates decent traffic but make sure you select programs that are relevant to the subject matter of your site and your site visitors. Sure, you may have fewer of them to choose from, but because of the specialized nature of your site and, hence, your site visitors, your market is much more highly targeted than a more general audience. Therefore, the conversion rate (the ratio of site visitors to purchasers) will be commensurately higher. (It’s also, I might add, a LOT easier to achieve a high search engine ranking for keywords that aren’t being competed for by 99% of the webmaster population!)

In addition to promoting relevant affiliate programs, it’s a natural extension to your site to start publishing an ezine on a regular basis. Because the subject matter of your ezine is NOT Internet Marketing (which nine out of ten of everybody else’s are), you are more likely to produce a worthwhile read for your targeted audience (include a sign up form on your web site so your site visitors can subscribe in addition to marketing your ezine as a separate “product”). You can advertise your affiliate programs in your ezine, accept paid advertising, and promote your own products. Just three ways to generate an income. Another is to charge a subscription fee.

Finally, once you’ve been going awhile, it’s time to start thinking about creating your own products. E-books and other products that can be delivered electronically are always a good choice but your product line will depend on the subject matter of your site. You may sell beaded jewelry, for example.

The point is, whatever you choose as the subject matter of your site, the narrower you keep your focus the better. Trying to be too much to too many only guarantees you’ll be too little to too few. Including yourself.

2002 Elena Fawkner

Elena Fawkner is editor of A Home-Based Business Online … practical business ideas, opportunities and solutions for the work-from-home entrepreneur.