How I Built an Online Business and Sold It. Part 1 | Ep. 55
It’s all here, step by step how I started, built and sold my online business.
This is a section of a book I’m writing with the working title,
“This way. Living, Loving and Finding Your ‘insert your first name here‘ – Ness.
I lay out my journey from start to finish. How I…
- Started with just an idea
- Built the site
- Built an audience
- Marketed the site online and off
- Raised over $2 million
- Build a subscription membership on the site
- Used affiliate programs to make lots of money from the site
- Got content for the site on a regular basis
- Built a huge email list
- Started a podcast to market the site
- Bought it back from the investors
- Ran it as a side hustle that thew off six figures a year, for years
- Sold the site to a large media company
It’s all here. If you follow the steps it can work for you too.
Let me know what you think by dropping me a a line at B @ Brandon C White dot com.
More Information on Build a Business Success Secrets
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- 7 Quotes to Inspire Success in Your Life and in Business
- How I Build an Online Business of my Dreams
Hello, friends. Welcome to the show. I’m your host, Brandon C White. And today I am narrating a chapter of the book that I am writing with the working title This way. Living, loving and Finding Your Insert Your first name Ness and I sent out an email last week asking people to read the Post.
I’ve been writing it as a blog post and going back and re working things and editing things, and people have sent me typos that I’ve had, and I’ve been doing this for a while.
I think it’s to the point where I really want some meaningful feedback. So I sent an email and said, Hey, if you read it and give me some meaningful feedback this week, I will pick a winner and random winner and the winner will get a year subscription to the Build a Business Success Secrets newsletter.
And if that’s not enough, I will give you $100 Amazon gift certificates so that you could buy yourself in early holiday present. Then I was thinking to myself, I’ve gotten some great feedback and I’m really grateful for that.
I am reading a book by Lisa Feldman. Barrett called 7.5 lessons about the brain. I’m actually listening to it an audio book and she narrates it, and it’s always really nice I found when the author narrates it.
So I figured when I write my book, I’m gonna narrate it. I wanna put it out as an audio book, so I’m gonna need some practice and maybe not everybody can read 24,000 plus words that I’ve written, but they could listen to it and give me some feedback.
So you’re here. Maybe you can give me some feedback. I love it. But I’m gonna narrate the story for you today. So I hope you enjoy it.
And here we go Working chapter of the working title of the book that I’m writing this way. Living loving and finding your Insert Your first name?
Yes, Let’s not waste another second. Let’s get to it. I started my career is an entrepreneur. 20 years ago, being a fanatical fisherman, I looked for quality regional fishing magazine with an in depth information and analysis, and I couldn’t find it anywhere.
I thought it was crazy because I lived in one of the best fishing locations on Earth the Delmarva Peninsula. On one side sits the Atlantic Ocean and, on the other, the Chesapeake Bay.
Any type of fishing you wanted was within a few hour drive. And not just any fishing quality fishing and yet no quality fishing magazine available for light tackle fly fishing anglers.
The best magazine on the market was black and white newspaper, with a few color pictures and covering old school fishing methods. After Sir Pain, Fish and Friends, they confirmed that no magazine existed that I described.
After talking with enough fishermen who indicated they would buy a magazine. Like I talked about, I decided I was going to solve the problem and build it myself. I had the square root of zero experience.
I had no real training on how to build a business, much less publish a magazine. Thea Extent of my training was setting up a lemonade stand when I was a kid and a captive but small market.
It was captive because we offered the only beverage store within 10 miles. It was small because we only had two or three people that worked on our farm. Sometimes they never even had to come to the part of the farm where our house was and our road probably had 20 cars go by a day.
Either way, it was a good lesson in supply chain. How to keep your product fresh, running back and forth to the freezer in your house for fresh ice. And I taught us what patients meant because my brother and I sat there for long hours waiting for customers.
I’ll come back to the idea of picking markets later in this story. My undergraduate degree was in psychology with a minor in sociology, far from any business training.
But in my mind there was a gap in the market with what people who said they wished a good fishing magazine existed and said they would buy one if it did lost after college. At the time, I decided I was going to build a fishing magazine business. I was working on my masters in psychology.
I found my way back to school by the way of a strong suggestion from my mom, who in retrospect, rightly saw me drifting at the time in my life and redirected me to a place that had much more potential toe lead to something better.
Thanks Mom, if you’re listening to this or reading my bio, I thought I was going to go to law school after college and practice law. Looking back, I’m not sure that that was what I wanted to do because I really didn’t do anything to set myself up for law school. And the sound of having to take the L stats to get into law school made me anxious just by mentioning them.
But it sounded good and people bought this story. My answer kept the challenging question about what I was going to do with my life after college, satisfied for those who asked. So I kept giving it.
After college, I worked in a tree nursery that had a landscaping division. I had worked at it during the summers to help pay my way through school. It does not sound glamorous, but when I originally landed the job, I saw it as a step up, having come from working at the local Exxon as a cashier and before that as a full service gas attendant being raised by a single mom.
Before there were as many business opportunities as the Internet and online businesses now offer, and in a time when women earned nothing compared to men. It wasn’t financially easy street for us. If I wanted to go to college, I had to take out student loans and pay my way. Working at the tree nursery during summer breaks allowed me to earn money that I needed.
I tried to law school path Well, I have a learning disability or ability, depending on your point of view. Diagnosed with it early in elementary school, it was later described to me as a form of dyslexia. To this day, I am a terrible speller.
I cannot sound out a word to save my life. I memorized the spelling. Thank goodness for the invention of spellchecker. I used to read slower than most, and I say that with 100% certainty. I used to read slower than most, and I say this with 100% certainty.
I am a terrible standardized test taker to make up for the learning disability, learn to memorize things my reading comprehension exists of taking notes and memorizing the pages. Then for recall, I read it to myself.
Remember where on the page the information is located, which sparks my memory to recall it when I had to take tests in school, that’s exactly what I would do. I would memorize the page, then remember where on the page that text was located, which sparked the memory of the information.
For me, that’s just how it’s been and how I survived my whole life. Turns out over my life I’ve come to love, to read and write and do both to this day as much as I can. It wasn’t that I hated reading and writing for any other reason than it was really, really hard and incredibly frustrating.
I avoided both at all costs. Once I figured out the formula for success, I couldn’t get enough. I’ve gotten pretty darn good at both.
All is not lost, either. When it comes the logic, seeing the big picture, seeing how things play out, how they work together, strategy, math and understanding numbers, well, that all makes sense to me. Outcomes appeared to me in a play by play vision. I digress back to the standardized test taking.
It killed me that I was bad at it, and the analytical part of myself could not figure out how I could be a national honor society and get a C at best on these tests. It always weighed on my mind, as if I was in some way not quite as good as others.
When you have to leave class in elementary school to get extra tutoring while the rest of your class stays there and does other things, well, those memories stick with you for a really long time, probably your whole life.
Later in life, I learned that’s not a bad thing. We’ll come back to that idea later to the poor test takers thing with law School was a recurring theme. I had terrible SATs to get into college.
My saving grace was that I was a four year, two varsity sport Letterman National Honor Society student and received the Governor’s Award for graduating at the top of my class top law schools at the time and may still wade standardized test. Almost more than anything, everyone had topic.
DMX and sports did not matter that much. You might be asking yourself at this point how I even managed to be a National Honor Society student. Well, it was easy. I worked really freaking hard and applied the formula for success that I had figured out for myself.
Hard work can beat talent. It wasn’t until two decades later that I stopped beating myself up about my learning disability. When I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath, Gladwell explains that an extraordinarily high number of successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic or have a learning disability.
To name a few, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Everything. Charles Schwab, Father of financial services. David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue. John Chambers, former CEO of Cisco. Paul and I won’t get this right for Fallon Yah, the founder of Kinko’s, and I for sure, won’t pronounce this right in Gar, comrade, founder of Ikea.
The list goes on. You get the idea. I learned learning disability went from being a negative in my life to being really proud of it, being proud to be a member of an amazing group of entrepreneurs and, as importantly, knowing this perceived negative all my life could be a positive and actually an asset.
Important note. If you have a learning disability and you don’t know the above information, welcome to the club. You have a great potential, and a great future awaits you if you don’t have a learning disability, and you’re thinking to yourself you’re screwed because you don’t crazy how that even sounds, too say fear not Based on the studies, two thirds of successful entrepreneurs don’t have a learning disability.
You have great potential, and a great future awaits you as well. Pivotal moments. One piece of new information can change your life. It’s amazing how you go through life thinking you’re in some way inadequate, not quite as good as others. Not good enough in some way, for whatever reason, thinking that you can’t be good at something.
Then one day you’re presented with new information that forever transforms your way of thinking and gives you confidence in who you are and that you have more potential than you ever thought. I call these moments in life pivotal moments.
They changed the course of your life forever, and they happen in a moment. It wasn’t all that bad. I don’t want you to get the picture that I’ve walked around with my head down my whole life, feeling sorry for myself about this learning disability stuff.
It’s part of me, and I’ve accepted that a long time ago I didn’t like it, but I learned how to overcome it. It’s made me stronger person because of it. Anyone who knows me well, we’ll tell you I’m I’ll driven. I am. If anything, the whole situation, fuel to fire in me toe always be the best.
Hard work was something I’ve done my whole life to do the basic things like reading and writing. I realized that when I face a challenge, my talent is working smart, hard and understanding What is in my control and what’s not hard work doesn’t scare me. Shouldn’t scare anyone because it’s doable. It’s a skill everyone actually has.
The key is working smart, and the key is doing that is following formulas that have been proven to lead to success. Pursuing the fishing magazine business idea, I decided I was going to publish a riel fishing magazine. There were several challenges I had to conquer. I had no one money.
Well, not totally true. I had some savings from my last 18 months of working, but not enough to publish a magazine to support myself while I worked on it to training how to build a business or much less a business plan.
Three an idea about pretty magazines. Four background or connections to get writers for magazines, nor knowledge about publishing rights to different rates, etcetera. Five. Any idea about print publication layout programs? Six. No mentor coach to help guide me. Seven In general, No clue. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know the last point.
Scared the living daylights out of me. It scares everyone, right? Not knowing what you don’t know and not having a mentor or a path, a system or a formula to follow can lead you to losing a ton of time and money. I’m gonna take a minute to emphasize a big mistake I made.
In retrospect, I should have sought out a coach, mentor or someone to help me along the path. I learned how valuable here she was. As you’ll find out later in this story to this day before I dive into anything which I am unfamiliar, I seek out someone who has forged before me and can help. It saved me time, money and missed aches.
Anyhow, if you take away from the above summary of challenges is that really had no idea what I was doing? You’re right. Meeting with the local printer. There was a printer in town where I was going to school, and I scheduled a meeting with the sales guy.
After the meeting, it was clear that I was going to need, among many other things, more money than I had to publish my first edition. Not to mention he asked me, Ah, 100 questions such as who? My designer was my editor, where I was going to get photos and a list of other things.
Quite frankly, it was overwhelming. I pursued the fishing idea with ambition for about six months, working late into the night. I was doing things, but I felt like I really wasn’t making any progress. Have you ever felt like that before? I family got to a place where I realized it wasn’t going to be possible.
Without some sort of expert help and a capital infusion of some size, it’s hard to know where to look for help. I didn’t have any experience raising money, and as I mentioned already no idea about printing the magazine. I killed the magazine idea.
The idea I had wasn’t going to work at this point in time, a reality. I had a face it was disappointing, but there are times in life when you have to be realistic. I wasn’t giving up. I simply stopped pursuing something where I was beating my head against the wall. It was time to change direction.
Some people were sympathetic when they heard I was abandoning the idea. Some were happy for me that I had tried. Others gave me the old negative. Nancy. I told you it wouldn’t work. The magazine business idea didn’t work, but the idea had merit.
There was a need in the market. I had established that. After all, I had some confirmation from surveying potential customers who were fishermen that if a magazine, as I had described existed, they would buy it.
People call me a nerd since I was a kid. I love computers and what a few lines of code could create on my Commodore Vic, 20 came with a spiral lesson book that I remember to this day.
It’s amazing that you could type in some code in a box with a bunch of electron ICS would spit out something cool on the screen. I didn’t completely understand how it did what it did, but I knew the product that created was pretty darn cool.
The first lesson in the spiral structure notebook taught how to write code that would make the computer account seems true. They’ll now. But back in the 19 eighties, in the consumer space, that was cool. I can feel my finger hitting the return key on that Commodore Vic 20. Right now I’m watching it. Countdown the screen. I remember the room and even the smell of the room.
That’s what impact it had on me. I’m sure you can recall pivotal moments in your life like this discovering the Internet. It was 1995 96 we were at the advent of the Internet. I’ve been playing around with it in college. The first day I discovered its potential. I was a freshman using a tool called Fetch to find things on the web of servers, and I decided to search for lyrics of songs.
I hit the server with the mother lode for over an hour. I scrolled through the list and read lyrics, not because I was so excited about the lyrics themselves.
But there was a resource out there that had all of this information in one place and in such detail, I continued to explore all the resource is on the Internet all through college, and participated in bulletin boards where you could hold your breath, talked to other people in a thread.
It was cool. In the 18 months between college and going back to work on my masters, I had not been on the Internet too much other than to use email. I had America Online a O. L, and surfed around from time to time.
But for the most part, I worked on the tree nursery, worked out and fished. One door closes another door opens with more time on my hands, having given up on the print magazine, thank goodness, because of things that follow.
I started hanging out in the computer lab and playing around with the Web. I could see more people coming online. One day while surfing around it dawned on me that I could create a fishing magazine online. Why not?
I had no idea how big the Internet was going to be, but I knew there was a ton of buzz in the tech community about its potential, and people were doing more and more, online, a O l was an acronym that people were becoming familiar with, and the a O L keyword was a phrase you started to hear.
I also knew there were other fishermen like me. Online ID interacted with them on bulletin boards and the more and more time I spent online, the more I believe the Internet was going to change everything as we knew it. Heck, you could even interact with people on bowling boards.
I decided to take a risk and go all in but the online magazine concept learning to build a website. We coated everything in flat HTML files for non geeks. Think about writing a book in cursive with pen and pencil spell, checking it with the dictionary and using an eraser or white out to make corrections and do that.
Today I taught myself to code and built a home page. The minute I finally finished it, I sat back in my chair. You know how you lean back after accomplishing something challenging and I say, said to myself, a magazine on the Internet, This is gonna work.
It looked like a magazine, simply a magazine on a computer screen. What I really liked if you found an error on your site. You could log in, make the correction and boom, It was live. This was even better than I thought compared to a paper magazine that was static and potentially outdated the day it came off the press.
At least when it came to the idea of delivering fresh up to the minute fishing information, it quickly became clear to me that, well, I could do a lot of the work myself to get started.
I wasn’t gonna be able to go to school full time, teach myself to code, hire and manage writers, write the articles myself and everything else that this list included. I needed someone else. I needed a partner who was smarter than I was in the technology area.
Recruiting a team started to pay attention to the students who are working in the computer lab and observing who was who. If you spend time anywhere, you can see who the experts are. Finally, one day I approached the guy who was clearly one of the best and gave him the pitch to be my partner.
He liked fishing but wasn’t sold on, the idea explained. He really didn’t have time between school and working in the computer lab, which was helping pay his way through college. I went from feeling pumped about having a partner in my business idea to leaving that day down.
I thought about that night this guy was good. I could tell I really wanted this help. When I broke it down, I realized that what he really told me was that he needed to make extra cash to pay his bills. If I could solve that problem for him, I had a shot of getting him to help me with my business idea. I didn’t have enough to pay him, so I decided to go get a job myself and use that money to pay him.
I would offer to pay him a little more than working in the computer lab and give him just as many hours. Yes, it would cut into my schoolwork, but net net. I would still be ahead having another person to help and to focus on the coding.
Why did all the other business stuff they give me a closet as an office? Next hurdle I faced was to find a part time job that paid decent, not quite as easy as I thought. After a few tries to responded to an ad and managed to land a job on a spinach farm, one of the largest producers of spinach in the country at the time, I was essentially a cross between a chief of staff and executive assistant.
I did everything under the sun from picking up lunch at the local sub shop that had amazing cheesesteaks doing accounting, reviewing and building financial documents and taking notes and board meetings on whatever else needed to be done. This was my ticket to propelling my business idea forward.
My boss gave me an office. It literally was a closet in office. Most people probably would have felt insulted to be put in there. I was thrilled about it and saw it as another upgrade from my tree nursery work. Heck in the summer had air conditioning in the winter at heat, The simple things in life.
With a few weeks to pay under my belt, I went back to the computing lab Eric and made another pitch. I said I would pay him more than the computer lab was paying and match his hours.
He was a little skeptical and that’s how he’s going to be able to afford to pay him. I explained, I got a job and I was going to use that money to pay him. I believe that is what put him over the edge to a yes. In his mind. If I was willing to go to that extent to get him on board, I must be pretty committed.
He kept his job but the computing lab, but cut way back on the hours he pitched me that it was a good idea to keep his job with limited hours because it would give us the best access to the computer lab.
Resource is, I like the way he was thinking, and the idea of free resource is because money was tight Knicks. That last sentence money was almost non existent. Now I had a partner and he was bringing something to the table. Things were beginning to shape up my first business plan. I wrote my first business plan.
Shortly after getting Eric onboard, I read the lunch break eating my homemade Wonder Bread tuna fish sandwich in my closet office at the spinach farm. You can’t make this stuff up. I’ve saved it to this day as a reminder.
One problems I have other people probably have a swell to. If the problem is big enough, people are willing to pay to fix it, and that can turn into a business. And three, you can turn your idea into a dream business, even if it starts in the closet.
Financing the company with a credit card. I had some extra cash left over after paying Eric. It wasn’t much at first. He hosted the website in the college servers while we built it. When the time came to launch it to the public, we needed a commercial Web space.
I did the research and found that Carol’s Internet was offering 500 megs of website space for $800 a year. I definitely did not have an extra $800 so I did what anyone would do. I put it on a credit card.
My theory was putting on the card would buy me another 30 days to pay it, figure out how to do that. When the payment came due, I planned on pain what I could and paying the balance with another credit card I had which had sent me checks to move a balance.
It offered no interest. For six months, I gave me seven months of interest bringing money. I figured by that time I could pay off the balance one way or the other. If the business didn’t have that much cash by then, that might be something. I should be more concerned about them paying off the balance.
Worst case. I’ll get another credit card and do another balance transfer. We launched the website within a week. We had a website called Chesapeake Angler up and running on a commercial Web space.
Thanks Terrell’s, I say website lovingly because it was about five pages. At this point, it was small, but it was launched and it gave us something to work from. I did all the writing myself, using my personal experience, and I started reading fishing books to come up with article ideas.
Every time I went fishing, I wrote a fishing report, which I did often, even if I only went for a few hours. The reports included how I did it. What rods, what reels, what fishing lures.
I used the tides and everything else that went along with that fishing trip everything someone could use to go out and catch fish from reading that information. The reports took some time to put together.
But I thought it was worth putting out a product that people would find useful, something they could actually use to help them catch more fish, a magazine where people create content. I wanted more content, and to get it, I either had to one recruit other writers to help sounded good, but I wasn’t quite sure how he’s gonna pay him.
And frankly, the content I was producing was enough to attract people to the site because it was how to information where the results were visible. You would apply what I wrote and get results, and I backed it up because I took pictures and posted them with big fish or number two.
Somehow I could get a two way conversation going with people who visited the site. The visitors would be contributing, which would create uneven more powerful resource, which would attract even more fishermen. This sounds easy using today’s Internet, but back then it was hard not knowing what would work.
I pursued both avenues at this time in the Internet evolution. There were bulletin boards or what we call them today. Message boards or comment streams or a Facebook wall type program. Implementing live chats was pretty hard and took a lot of bandwidth. Translate that into, ah, lot of money.
We figured out how to hack some code to get a forum to work for the site. Having a private forum on the site wasn’t easy back then, but I was adamant that we needed to have it on the site.
After some time in frustration, we pulled it off. We put a link to the Forum on our home page and launch with high hopes and great expectations. After all, if you build it, they will come. One day goes by crickets. Two days go by. More crickets, three days crickets a week. All we had was crickets, not a single stinking post.
I felt defeated, defeated or not. At this point, I was committed and I saw the possibilities. I stepped back and said, Why aren’t people posting in our forum? People are talking fishing in the A. O. L chat rooms.
So I knew fishermen were out there. We didn’t have very sophisticated statistic capabilities. Google Analytics was old long way off, however, we could pull our server records and could tell if people were looking at the site. People were looking at the site and they were going to the forum, but they were leaving without posting.
It dawned on me. People were looking at the forum and there wasn’t anything there. I didn’t think anyone else was there because there was zero post count. It clicked. It’s like walking into a restaurant at dinner time, and no one is in there. You quickly ask yourself What’s wrong with this place? If there’s a line out the door, you assume that the place has good food and you should eat there. It’s crowd confirmation.
The question was, How was I going to fill my restaurant with people? So when others came by, they saw it as popular place that they should come in and join the conversation, terrified of failure. I try something crazy.
I felt under the gun to make something happen, feeling failure and fearing the discussion I would have to have with the people that this idea didn’t work, not to mention Eric losing faith, and regardless of the money I was paying him going back to the computing lab, I would be back to square one.
After some brainstorming in a slight state of panic, I decided to do two things. One talk to myself. I figured I did it as a kid. So what the heck, I created a bunch of different names on the Forum. One handle would ask a question, and I would log into the other handle and answer the question.
I loaded up the Forum with conversations. Actually, I learned a lot in the process because I would ask myself a question under one handle that I didn’t know, research the answer in one of my fishing books and write up a good answer.
Two started collecting email addresses with the idea of creating a weekly newsletter, but we would alert people to new articles and conversations happening on the forums where they could join in sticking with it, I talked with myself on the message board in every spare moment I had for weeks.
Sure enough, people started to slowly posting threads as soon as they posted, I would reply or answer if I could.
Additionally, I’d send them a personal email, thinking them for joining it was time consuming, but it was working, so I stayed with it. People would write back, thanking me for thinking them.
They love the personal touch. Knowing that there was someone really behind this site, the fan base started to emerge. They would also give me feedback and suggestions for the site, effectively telling us how to create the product that they wanted. All we had to do was engaged and listen.
The people we talked to told other people that there was good information on the site and the guys behind it were riel. This started to get the word of mouth marketing engine going quick aside.
A few years later, we raised our first round of funding to the tune of one million and our chairman of the board. It was an early investor in America Online revealed to us that a well did the same sort of thing in their chat rooms. To get them going, they would have several people acting under several handles, and when people would come in and chat, they saw the conversation going on and people would jump in.
Before you know it, the chat room was full on, bustling with activity big companies. At one point or small, you have to start somewhere getting savvy er and iterating on the technique.
In order to throw some fuel on the fire, I would post fishing reports and leave a few key things out of the post on purpose to spark a question from someone such as What? Fishing Lord? I call it my biggest fish on.
If no one took the bait and ask the question, I would log on under another handle and asked the question under that handle. Then log back in under myself and answer as time when.
And I started to learn what types of posts got more responses, I learned one post with pictures, always got more opens and responses to titles of posts. Greatly affected people reading them three in depth information posts had the highest engagement.
Four controversial statements, got huge engagements and could go off the rails really fast. They were quick to get engagement, but that engagement could be a double edged sword because it could offend some visitors. I’ve been asked if I thought it was okay to act as different handles to get the board’s going.
My short answer. Yes, a few points.
One. As an entrepreneur, I believe I have to sometimes create some of my own luck to doing things different. Elicits a feeling of being uncomfortable. It’s not normal. You can’t do normal things to make progress. It’s outside the box thinking, lateral thinking.
Number three. I believe if you are doing something, whatever it is to get your product going with the best intentions to fulfill on what you are promoting, then that’s fine. If you are doing something to rip people off or be evil, that’s 100% not okay.
These sorts of tactics are used to this day for crowdsourcing campaigns on Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other viral things that happened on the modern Internet today.
We’ll talk about this later in this story. Stop talking to myself is much. After about 12 months, I didn’t have to ask myself questions anymore and could use my own handle or screen name.
There were enough people checking the forum regularly to chime in and add value daily. I never had to use this tactic again. The forums My job went from talking to myself, talking with the people that came to the site, a k A. our customers.
I took the time that that freed up and put it in tow work building the member base. I emailed every single new person that joined to thank you. Then I made sure to post in every thread someone started with something meaningful, not just in That’s awesome to show that I appreciate them taking part in the community.
I posted real authentic comments and truthfully, I cared. It was really interested in this stuff. What I later learned is that just as there is a skill and getting conversations, going, their skills around managing an online community of people talking, I want even more traffic to the website.
So I built UNE email list to get people to the site. I would hang out and chat rooms on the Internet, get people’s emails and send them a personal note letting them know about the site. These were personalized emails to people in our target market.
What I found was when I sent out the emails in a personalized way to someone who I knew was interested in fishing in the region. The site covered, I’d get thank you replies for letting them know about the site and reply, saying that they would check it out. Some of those people I am still in contact today.
Almost 20 years later, my girlfriend, now wife and I would copy emails on yellow legal pads and enter them into excel. Spreadsheets, then would import them into our email to send small groups of personalized email messages referencing the chat rooms where I had talked to them.
It wasn’t spam. It was a legit email, this amount of the highly personal emails and a super high open rate and response rates. I then put together a weekly email newsletter alerting people to new articles and highlighting some recent posts on the message boards.
This kept the site front and center in people’s minds. People respond to the group emails, and I always replied to them, The weekly email not only allowed me to start reaching more people at once, but by responding to their responses, it kept it personal on the job sales person training.
Within a short period of time, we were making a name for ourselves online as a place to come. If you wanted Chesapeake Bay Mid Atlantic fishing information, I had no idea how to get advertisers Nor was there any standardization to follow about ad sizes or formats on the Internet.
It didn’t matter. I made it up is I went along. I figured efficient related companies were advertising new magazines. They would advertising Elektronik magazine. Why not? I asked myself if I were considering buying advertising the site. What would I want to know? With those answers? Put together a one pager about the site.
I included the purpose, what we provided and statistics I printed off my home printer. It wasn’t fancy, but it worked. In the evenings and weekends. My girlfriend and I would get in the car and drive from tackle shop to tackle shop around the region. I do a bunch of research during the week on tackle shops or fishing related stores, and we’d use that as our guide on the weekends.
As we drove around, what I realized, what I was doing, all the research was there wasn’t one place on the Internet to find a list of tackle shops. I had created it as a result of putting together a list of our potential customers effectively our sales pipeline.
So I published it, tell people, locate taco shops I’d include pictures that I’d snapped when I was at the shops trying to do sales. I’d also write a short blurb about the shop. Since I’ve been there in person, the Tackle Shop Resource Page took off. People wanted and needed that information.
Crazy enough, the page rank high in the search engine for years and droves hundreds of thousands of visitors. The reason was simple. It was highly valuable resource that save people time and energy from doing the research themselves.
Once the page started to get a lot of traffic, business started to ask to advertise. We copied the newspaper classifieds model. Newspapers sold featured ads and bold ads and ads with pictures. We did the exact same thing, and people started paying us.
Eventually we added banners, which gave advertisers the highest exposure allowed us to charge a higher price. Sales calls can be scary. Doing sales calls was scary, but at the same time it was pretty exciting.
I simply going to tackle shop, strike up a conversation with the person at the counter, tell him or her what we were doing and ask if they wanted to advertise that was it getting out and talking with potential customers allowed me to learn Aton about the fishing market, the problems they faced and how their businesses worked.
One thing I learned was that tackle shops all published fishing reports, and eventually I turned those fishing reports into a vehicle show potential customers the power the site had.
Even when a potential customers said they were not interested in advertising, I would ask him if we could call them Weekly and include them Inefficient report In exchange for a mention of their business, almost everyone said yes.
This gave me a chance to talk to him weekly, and eventually, as we grew, they would tell their customers to read the report on our site. This turned some of these businesses into pain customers, and ultimately it was a win win.
We got content and they got exposure, as I did. More and more sales calls don’t even see the sales. I saw it as I was educating potential customers about the Internet and putting them in front of potential customers that they didn’t even realize we’re fishing for information online.
In the early days, I got more no than yes is, But the yeses kept us going and the nose taught us a ton. Frankly, the Internet was so new. People, really. We’re not sure what to think of it, much less the idea of putting a magazine online.
Some people thought a well was the Internet in the early days, and it was really was true because all the content they had we land paid advertisers were a legitimate business.
I kept out at nights and weekends, and we managed to land a few advertisers when people start paying turns your hobby into a business. Almost all the shops lacked Web Web pages, and they started to want one.
They asked me if I knew anyone that could build one for him. I jumped on the opportunity to solve that problem, and I’d sell him Web pages that expanded our offerings and our revenue.
We weren’t making a ton of money, but regardless of the amount they paid, they paid, and that made us legitimate. Someone valued what we were doing and the audience we had enough to pay to get exposure to that audience. When someone pays you for what you have, that’s when you know you have something real or a start of something riel.
It at least has potential. How much potential is driven by the market size? We got lucky, but it could have been a really bad situation, turning amateur writers into the pros.
Next on my list was getting a writing staff to help create weekly content to add to the fishing reports that I did and the threads and post on the forums. I contacted a few writers I saw in the local magazines and asked their rates.
They were way too expensive. Heck, at the time they get $800 for a picture in some of the larger fishing magazines. I barely could afford our Web space, much less $800 for one picture, I thought to myself, How else can I get Writer’s One night while reading some of the people’s fishing reports, it dawned on me.
Why don’t I take what would be considered an amateur writer and published their work? Sure, maybe these fishermen were not the best writers in the world, but they had the information we had to catch fish and a lot of fish, and that was the problem we were trying to solve for people I could take posts from the fishing forums and turned them into articles that were featured on our front page of our site.
I’d become then editor seemed reasonable, since that’s exactly what I did myself. I was an amateur writer in the eyes of the pros. I wasn’t even published in the Hard Copy magazine yet. I was writing, and visitors to the site saw me as an expert in value.
What I offered, that’s what I did. I started contacting guys who posted really good fishing reports and how to post. Moore said. No than Yes, I landed a few by convincing them that I would do all the editing. All they had to do was get technical information down on paper, and I’d make him look good.
Their compensation. Here’s what they get. They got a lot of attention and elevated status in our community online. I would give them a chest big angler writing staff T shirt had these specially printed when they were on Lee for writers.
It made them feel appreciated, and we would write a blurb about them at the end of the article where they could promote any business or side hustle. They had this also worked for fishing guides, at least the smart ones that realized that writing really was advertising.
When you write, you establish yourself as an expert and people look up to experts. Even if you give away all the information people still wanna learn firsthand and will pay for riel world instruction.
I could read every how to fishing article, every fishing report, a fishing guide posted and still never replaced the experience of going out with that fishing guide firsthand. The reading helps set the foundation when fishing with a guide in person made it all come together. There is no substitute for in person personal instruction. I digress.
I tell Gamage ER’s and gave them an outlet, an audience to become experts. An expert is a person who knows more than the audience they’re addressing. That’s all you have to achieve to become an expert instructor and or teacher.
The idea worked with a few guys to start, which gave me success stories to point to recruit others. People saw these guys getting attention, and they wanted it to. Sometimes this is referred to ah Fomo fear of missing out.
I found it cast an almost magical spell on humans to expand my recruiting efforts, I would go to fishing seminars, approach the presenters afterwards and give my pitch. I got more nose than yeses, but I kept at it.
One no, was one more closer to a yes and one yes was worth some highly valuable content. I learned what type of content really matters to people online. I landed writers for us, and we had our front page content. We were a Riel online magazine, and it made us feel good. I missed something, though.
Only 10 years later, through denial, even in the face of traffic numbers did I acknowledge we never needed a much front page contest as I thought we did, or at least the variety of what I thought I got lost in my own product.
The only two types of articles that really mattered in our market, as evidenced by engagement metrics, were one timely information, such as fishing reports and to how to articles how a reader could catch more fish thes air, the articles that fishermen audience really wanted.
Anything outside of these two types was pretty much a total waste of time and money. Sure, there was a segment of our viewers that liked reading well written stories. But it was a minority and not big enough segment to pay the bills.
No, is really not know. It’s, I think I’ve heard no over my 20 years as an entrepreneur. At least 10,000 times too many times to count. I’ve come to realize that I know is not really a No no is not absolute.
It appears black and white when you’re on the receiving end, but it’s not know is a temporary opinion that someone has based on the data that they have at the time and their belief system At that moment in time, one piece of data can change that.
No to a yes, no different than Malcolm Gladwell informing me and David and Goliath that people with learning disabilities are in good company with other rock star entrepreneurs. In an instant, your belief system can change with new information.
Sometimes it can take some time to sink in, but I know can transform into a yes to fund the company. We decide to trade stocks with our revenue. I’m going to stop here because what I realized is that narrating your own chapter from a book or narrating the whole book.
Probably It’ll wear you out. So we are about a third way through, and we’re gonna split this up into another section. So in our next episode, we will continue the story of how we actually funded the company by trading stocks.
You’re not gonna wanna miss this one And how it all turns out and thank you, friends for tuning into the show.
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