1. You can judge a book by its cover.
The premise of my business model initially started out as being a simple site to list quality plugins for consumers. I just wanted to be a place where people looking for premium solutions could find what they were looking for. Due to my own ethics, I noticed quickly that the site was going to be a full-disclosure review site. This type of content production just came the most naturally to me, so that's what I wrote.
As most start ups do, I didn't have hundreds of dollars to purchase all the products and review them. So, I used the same method that I had used in the past when I was dabbling in internet marketing. I emailed vendors, asked to partner with them, and for them to send me a review copy. The difference in my results with this business, compared to my dabbling, were night and day.
When I was dabbling with my past review site, I received so many emails basically telling me "Not a chance." But, with this site, I spent the cash on the graphics, the theme, etc. I planned out exactly the presence I wanted to give off and how I wanted the business to "feel." I treated it like a business from the initial thought in my mind, to it's current inception. The result? Roughly 90%+ acceptance rate from pitch letters to potential partners. Most of them respond in a similar fashion, "Your site looks great, here you go. Look forward to doing business with you."
Now, did my integrity change in how I treated review copies? Absolutely not. Did my evaluation method change? Nope. Did the first impression my potential partners receive change when they check me out? Completely.
Because of this, I've made some great partners who, from what I can tell, are very pleased to be in business with me, thus far.
So, no matter what anyone else says, people absolutely judge a book by it's cover in our world. Use this to your advantage and do your pitches the right way. Look the way you want to be perceived.
2. Do NOT go backwards!
As most sites do at their beginning, I was looking to get as much content out as fast as I could. So I was pushing out the reviews in their current format as fast and thoroughly as possible. The problem that arises for us new start-ups, is that we push so hard to get content out, then we learn some new little trick or method that we believe should been included upon all our pages as a whole, and we want to go back and change them all.
So what ends up happening for a lot of webmasters is they delay the production of new content and start spending time going back and refining their old pages. In some cases, this is good business. In most new start-ups, however, this is nothing more than spinning your wheels. It's been my experience that you'll almost always be better served to initiate a new format, layout, or plan with new content than you will be with going back and refining old content. It follows a rule that I believe in starting an online business, and that is, "Always be making more net real estate." Meaning, the more you are creating, the better off you're going to be. Always be creating.
3. After value, marketing is a math game.
This concept is very simple. Once you feel that you are giving your visitors something of solid value, then the rest is pure math. Take my site for example, I feel I'm giving them a unique look at products that they aren't going to easily find in other locations and they seem to agree (based on my conversion ratios). So, with that knowledge, the rest is simple math and there is no reason to try and complicate it. More traffic = more hits on my pages = more sales. Period. And that, ladies and gentleman, is the true heart of internet marketing to begin with. Once you've found a way to provide value and you know your client base thinks what you are doing is valuable, the rest is nothing more than getting more traffic.
4. Building a responsive list is an art.
I'll only touch on this briefly since my list is not much to speak of and, therefore, my experience is lacking in this department. What I have learned here is that a bribe list (yes, you read that right... a bribe list), where you offer something for free to get people to sign up, is a profit eater. You end up getting people on your list who have no desire, what-so-ever, of receiving the information you're going to send them in future mailings. They want their free gift and then they are done.
It makes total sense though doesn't it? In my case, for example, you should only want people to be on your list that are interested in receiving updates on the latest reviewed plugins or whatever, right? Everyone else is simply costing you money through your auto-responder service. Don't dilute yourself into thinking you're going to pitch them some amazing headline and they will magically start opening all your emails and buying from you. This isn't the case. It's not 1999 anymore.
The way I view it is that with freebie-lists, the only thing you're doing in bribing (because, let's be real, that's what we're doing) all these extra people on your list is running up your monthly auto-responder bill. I don't know about you, but I'd rather have 200 people on my list, who signed up, expecting product updates when they were added and getting a 90% open rate and 80% click-through rate, than a list of 1000 getting a 5% open rate and 2% click-through rate.
In this case I absolutely believe that less is more.
Alas, the wine is running low and my first night off in 4 weeks of IM (including my regular job) is drawing to a close. So I'll end this here. I hope this may be found useful by others who are struggling in their start-up and I look forward to great discussion regarding the topics above. Keep fighting the good fight my fellow warriors. May we all be sipping something delicious on some random beach in our futures.