Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Monetising a website

The question of how to monetise a website often comes up. In most cases my clients have interesting content and have gained reasonable traffic in the order of 30 - 100 k unique visits a month. The issue then arises, how to take the next steps to monetize the website (generate revenue).

I categorize monitization into a series of categories, each building on the previous in terms of time and complexity to achieve and manage:

Lazy day, dream away

Here one the website generates revenue simply by placing adverts from one affiliate network or something like Google AdSense. Once the correct code has been added to the website and the account set-up there is little or no work (aside from maintaining the content - and making sure one gets the traffic). The returns here are typically low. However, one can expect to generate 100`s of pounds a month, if not more.

Lazy day, optimize

With some work on making sure your adverts are as relevant as possible to your target audience, some additional revenue might be generated. This involves correctly setting up keyword triggers and possibly using multiple affiliate networks, constantly scouring for the best deals. I.e those clicks that would generate the most revenue for your website. This requires slightly more work and attention and some more in-depth research and experimentation. 

Not so Lazy, Becoming a salesperson

Next in the level of complexity and possible returns is to sell premium space on your website. Naturally there is a cost associated and one must be sure that the investment yields the corresponding required return.  Naturally depending on the complexity, niche, reach etc of your site - you can structure your sales in a number of ways. In the simple case automated online advert placement - in the extreme a dedicated sales and after sales team. In this category you may mix affiliated networks with dedicated sales.

Even Less Lazy, Becoming Sales Focused

Next up is becoming wholly sales focused, so all revenue from dedicated advertising sales.

Starting to Work, Adding value

A further step would be to start officering value added services, the sky is the limit as to what these may be. But usually some kind of subscription in exchange for information or relevance. Most often you would still maintain sales of advertising space.

Working, Offering a product

Here there is some value add to your advertisers and clients and furthermore you are offering a product. A physical product related to your website or a webservice of some kind. This requires that you develop or source the product, have a CRM system - possibly a way to ship and bill etc.

Back from the Virtual, going physical

Lastly you not only are selling advertising space, some value added services and some products - but you also have a physical presence. I.e your business is not entirely on the Internet. Many traditional business start this way and later develop websites - few websites develop a physical presence. However, if done may add a competitive advantage and grow the brand.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The start up eldorado

Many blog posts I read and forums on entrepreneurship are filled with hype and half-truths. In many ways it reminds me of stories of gold digging over 100 years ago. Lured by the promise of fortunes, thousands of young men (and I assume woman) trekked in search of riches. Myths became reality, and the very few success stories soon fueled an entire industry around prospecting. Suppliers, transport, gold-exchange etc.

In many ways, I see the same thing happening around me - there are pitching events, workshops on how to attain funding, buzz-words and book-lists. The hype also elevates otherwise ordinary people to god-like status - a twenty something VC worker, a pitch event organizer etc. I recently saw a post asking for the best book on start-ups. Thats like asking what is the best TV program in the world. For one thing, the conception of what a start-up is and in fact what an entrepreneur is differs from person to person, from economy to economy. If you trawl the academic literature you won't find anything very coherent in terms of definition. These are in fact people who have dedicated their professional lives to studying the topic. Whats more, there is hardly even a mention of the entrepreneur in a vast majority of economic theory !

Secondly, while would all love to understand and know the traits of the "perfect entrepreneur" - despite thousand of research projects, many flawed articles and dissertations, the results are totally inconclusive. In truth we all to quick to forget about the context. Different times require, different skills and traits and so do different types of businesses etc etc. Would Alan Sugar make it in todays world or what about Donald Trump or Richard Branson ? The answer is "who knows, maybe, maybe not".

Instead of searching for that horde of gold, the percentage game (borrowed from golf or tennis) would be to do your research, speak to people, network and plan, plan, plan. Most businesses take a long time to build (in fact most never really grow), understand this and keep moving forward. There are no magic tricks, no courses, workshops or golden rules. When you have accepted that, you have made the first big step in becoming and entrepreneur (whatever that is for you)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Microchip Android development kit part 1

I recently obtained the Microchip Android development kit, this is the fist part of my attempt to get my development environment working :

You can join the debate and knowledge on Android and mobile peripherals, development, potential, business models etc at AndroidGizmo .

My Attempts at developing an application have come to a temporary halt as I try to find a way of getting Android 2.3.4 or above installed (currently 2.1). I am trying to find a solution on villainrom

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The inner game of business - 3 lessons from tennis

I recently read "The Inner Game of Tennis" by W. Timothy Gallwey. I found the book very interesting and the results on my tennis game have been profound. The basic thesis is that our conscious mind in being critical of our own performance is actually hindering our game. We should work at developing confidence, eliminating self-doubt and internal criticism. Unlike most books on betterment, this book does not advocate positive thinking, which according to the author is the other-side of the negative thinking coin. Positive thinking, can lead to disappointment or a sense of needing to maintain an unsustainable rate of success. What is needed is calmness, and a quiet mind.

Having started a number of business, I wondered how the insights from this book could be applied to the entrepreneur or existing business. Although I do not believe there is a set of personality traits that make an entrepreneur successful, certainly if we view the process of starting a business as a game there are lessons we can apply from the game of tennis. 

The Game of business

The first lesson, is to accept that business is a game, that should be taken seriously but not too seriously. In the words of Herb Cohen "you gotta care, really care, but not that much !".  Having this attitude will allow you to view you business with a detached objectivity and not be emotionally attached to the outcome of events that are often out of your control.

The second lesson, is that for a tennis player to play to the best of his/her ability he or she needs to diminish the self-critical voice and try access all the experience and training that lies within. This requires the player to relax, only when the muscles and mind are relaxed can one play to the best of ones ability. This is how great champions manage to play at their best in critical situations, not by tensing up, but by relaxing. Entrepreneurs are often very stressed, worked-up with large ego's. Sometimes this is helpful, especially when bringing a seemingly crack-pot idea to market. However, being able to relax and control ones stress levels and emotional participation is a skill which would serve us all well. It also perhaps teaches to focus on the things that matter, and not to "flex the muscles" unnecessarily.

The third lesson: When you are playing a game of tennis, it is important to relax during the point and play your natural shots, do not over analyze what you are doing, trust that it is correct. Of course after the game you may want to pick up new skills, again these can be learnt if relaxed. In tennis it is between points that the mind wonders, and we hear expressions like "come on you idiot !", "how could you miss that!" etc. These are not productive ways to ensure performance. Likewise, in business when we are busy in meetings or with tasks and objectives, there is little time to be self-critical - we can tackle these tasks with an inner relaxed confidence (at least that is the goal). However, it is when we are not busy, when we are thinking about, next steps, planning, tomorrows meeting etc. that the mind is even more wondering. It is during these times that we need to exercise the most control (like a tennis player between points). Find something to focus on, something calming and try to relax into it. Ideas come, like great tennis shots when we are calm and collected !
One thing to try in the office context is to focus on things like your colleagues body language - maybe even notice the items on all the desks, how they are positioned, how many there are etc. The goal being to relax and clear the mind, enabling peak performance.