In May, I celebrated my 20th year in business. I was 24 years old when I began my computer training and consulting business as a way to bring in extra cash flow when my husband’s job situation went south. By November of 1990 I was teaching 40-50 hours per week out of my home.
My first clients were individuals who needed to learn computers to get better employment. Those people got jobs and then started referring me to their employers. A few years later I was consulting and programming for large companies in the Chattanooga area.
In 1996, a friend and I started an online marketing company, helping my clients get online with Web sites. One of the main ways we promoted our clients was by listing them in search engines and promoting them with articles that we sent to ezines editors for publication. That was back in the day when you could just submit your site to Yahoo! and get a listing and when people actually wanted to subscribe to a newsletter.
IdeaMarketers.com was born in 1998. I put my database programming background together with Web design to help writers and publishers find each other. According to my research, we’re the longest running article and ezine directory around, now having expanded to content promotion of more than just articles and ezines, but also press releases, books, ebooks, audios, videos and expertise.
Along the way I’ve learned some important lessons that I’d like to share with you if you are or plan on doing business online.
Stay on the bleeding edge of technology
One of the most serious mistakes I made with IdeaMarketers was staying with a Microsoft Access database instead of moving to SQL sooner. That may not mean much to you if you’re not a database person, but bottom line, what that meant was that IdeaMarketers could only hold about 20,000 articles before it would slug down to a crawl. MS Access couldn’t handle the volume. So I’d periodically go in and purge old or unwanted articles.
Other article directories came along and used SQL sooner and grew their databases without restraint. As a result, IdeaMarketers is the oldest article directory around, but we’re not the largest because I didn’t adapt fast enough. Lesson learned the hard way!
Stay Open to Inspiration and Act Immediately
In 2004, I woke up at about 3:00 a.m. with an idea for how people could bid for position on the home page of IdeaMarketers. While I’d been keeping my eyes and ears open for new directions to take IdeaMarketers, I had never thought of doing something like this until it came to me clear as crystal that night.
In the morning I woke up and went to work. The bidding system was in place within about 24 hours. Of course it evolved over time, but it’s become an innovative way for people to economically promote their articles, press releases, books and ebooks on our high-traffic site.
When inspiration strikes, act immediately!
Adapt, Adapt, Adapt
Over the last two decades, our revenue has come from dozens of different places. When the dot-com bust of 2000 happened, many of my friends with high-traffic web sites that generated revenue from advertising suffered greatly. They went from four and five figures a month in ad revenue to only a fraction of that. Because our revenues were primarily coming from memberships and content services, we survived.
Today, as small businesses and individuals struggle, PPC advertising is a more stable form of revenue for us than anything else. Remember that what worked yesterday, might not work today in business and you have to be willing and ready to adapt.
Keep Expenses under Control
I’ve seen internet businesses come and go. Those that have gone out of business were those who spent too much money too fast – assuming they’d have massive business growth overnight. They incurred big up-front expenses and then never generated the revenues fast enough to keep up with them.
Whether you’re starting up or growing quickly, keep your expenditures under control. Things change fast on the Internet, and you have to be ready when they do. Those who were paying high dedicated server fees in the dot-com bust era went under when their ad revenues dried up. Today, of course, things can be volatile as well, but there’s still good money to be made online. Just be wise with it when it comes.
In 2003 I hired my first virtual assistant and it wasn’t until then that our business really took off. Within less than two years of hiring her, our revenues doubled and have continued to climb ever since. You simply cannot take your business to the next level all by yourself. You need help. Delegate!
I could go on and on with the lessons I’ve learned over the last 20 years, but I hope you’ll take to heart the five I’ve shared. They could make or break your success.
© Copyright 2010 Marnie L Pehrson