Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Four C’s of Internet Success

Doug McFarland, of Media Metrix, explained that successful sites have four elements, all beginning with “C”. They are: Community, Content, Communication, and Commerce. And I think that’s their order of importance, and the order that a site owner should address them in the process of setting up their website. As the site develops and grows, each of these elements will become more prominent and important, but as a site is being built, they should be taken on in that order.


It’s very important to realize that your customers aren’t just people who give you money, they are your friends. They are your associates. They are people with common interests. And you get to pick who they are.

The very first thing that should be addressed in the creation of a web business is: “Who will be coming to it?” Once the audience of a site is established, everything else might not fall into place immediately, but it will have a place to fall into.

Then you can ask things like, “What do they want to know?” and “What do they need?”


The content is the information that you have at your website. Studies show that three-fourths of web visitors return to their favorite sites for strong content and constantly refreshing information.

And if you’ve effectively established your community, it should be relatively easy to identify the subjects you can provide content in. Finding that content can be time-consuming, but it’s not difficult. Sites like ( can be great resources.


The best thing someone can do when they come to your website is to buy something, right?

The next best thing they could do is to join your mailing list. In fact, sometimes I think that the mailing list might even be the best thing they can do. Because on the mailing list, you can bring them back again and again to buy over and over. Establishing the list is critical to the success of your business.

How do you entice people to sign up? First, simply ask them to. Many will come to your site, be intrigued by your content, and want more. Others will need more to draw them in. Offer some product as a premium in a drawing. The bigger the offer, the more likely people will be to sign up. You will, of course, need to balance that with your ability to provide the prize!

Once you’ve established a drawing, list it at contest sites like ( These draw lots of people interested in winning free things, and you could be amazed at the signups you’ll get.

Of course, once you get a list established, you’ll want to use it to bring people back to your site. For more content, or for product! Establish a regular email newsletter. It’s not spam, because everyone on your list has requested to receive it. It’s better than third party bulk mail lists because you know that these people are actively interested in YOUR site.


Lastly, establish your site as a place to buy things relevant to your content, and that appeal to your community. Choose products, find sources and put them on your site. Hook up your merchant account to make payment easy. Announce new products in your newsletter.

These four elements, taken in that order, can boost your site up to commercial success!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Goal setting

A long time ago, when I was first mentoring, my supervisor taught me about goal setting. It’s critical to long-term success, and even short-term payoffs. But how do you do it? She showed me seven steps to success.

Step One: State the goal.

We’ve all probably heard that a goal that’s not written is just a wish. It’s too flexible, too easy to be rationalized around, until it’s in a fixed form.

I’ve learned that there are two elements that need to be a part of the written form of a goal, to make it even more impactful and motivating. One is that it needs to be phrased positively. For example, I could say that “I want to lose weight”, or I could say that “I want to be thin”. They say essentially the same thing, but “being thin” is focused on the result, where “losing weight” is focused on the problem. Do you see how wanting to be thin will be more motivating?

Another important thing is to make the goal measurable. How else are you going to tell if you’ve achieved it or not? “I want to be happier” is certainly a good thing, but how will you know if you’ve done that or not? “I want to be filthy stinking rich!” Great. Just how filthy and stinking do you want to be? Put some numbers or conditions on it, so that it’s measurable.

Step Two: List the Benefits

What do you want to get out of this goal? What do you want to have when you are done? Part of the things in this list will be tangible, like money in the bank, or a new car, or whatever you’re shooting for.

Many items on this list will be more personal, like the feeling of accomplishment, the sense of security, the freedom that comes from meeting all your financial obligations.

Whatever the goal there’s going to be reasons why you want to achieve it. Whatever the goal, there will also be times when your motivation lags, and your will to push forward fails. In those times, it’s very good to remind yourself why you wanted the goal in the first place.

Step Three: List the Obstacles

What’s going to be difficult? What will get in your way? A lot of people want to ignore these things, or pretend they don’t exist, but they’ll have to be dealt with. In this step, we’re just going to list them. We’ll deal with them in a later step.

Step Four: What do You Need to Learn?

No matter how much a person knows, or how much they study, there will always be concepts and skills that will be needed to achieve a goal. Why? Well, the very nature of a goal is to go somewhere that the goal setter isn’t, or to acquire something the goal setter doesn’t have. If the person already knew all they needed, he or she would likely already have what the goal is spelling out, right?

So, in this step, list the things that you can see that you’ll need to know in order to complete the goal. Some of these things will be very practical sorts of things. “I need to learn how to build up my reciprocal links page on my site.” Or, “I need to know how to write great ad copy.”

Other items could include more personal things. “I need to learn how to better manage my time.” Another could be, “I need to learn how to overcome my fears.”

We’ll also come back to this in a later step.

Step Five: Who can Help

Make a list of the people that you know that can help you. Mentors and advisors, people who’ve been there before, people with success. They can give you invaluable advice and help you avoid problems that they had to overcome.

Often, family and friends, while not necessarily the most skilled mentors, can offer great encouragement and moral support. Sometimes, however, family and friends can end up on the “Obstacles” list, too!

Make sure to include organizations, like the Small Business Administration, and your local chamber of commerce. Authors of books can be a great help, as well.

Next to each name on this list, also write how that person or group can help you, so you’ll not only realize that you’re not alone in your endeavor, but you’ve also got some specific resources.

Step Six: The Action Plan

I usually set up my goals annually. That’s a nice round figure for a long-term shot.

I also work backwards, rather than forward. I’ll start by saying, “OK, I want to be HERE by the end of this year.” And that’s usually what I’ve spelled out in step one.

“So, if I’m going to be there in a year, then I need to be HERE in nine months. And HERE in six months. HERE in three months, and I need to do THIS by the end of this month. Which means that this week I need to do THIS.”

Working backward keeps the steps much more reasonable and sensible. It’s easier to perceive the benchmarks that I need to set up for myself.

Now, here’s the good part: While you’re setting up the timetable and breaking the big goal into smaller steps, take a good look at the obstacles. One by one, plan for what you’ll do to overcome each obstacle in the list. Then as you do, and cross them off that list, they stop being obstacles, and they become a part of the plan! They become manageable! That’s a very empowering feeling to have!

And do the same thing with the Step Four list of things to learn as well. It will be amazing how much more reasonable they all seem when they’re in the plan, instead of when they’re blocking your way.

Step Seven: Set the Review Date

If this is to be an annual goal, then set it for one year from today. Or set it at Dec 31, and review it then. However you want to do it is fine.

I used to call this the “completion date”, but it’s really more a time of review. Did I achieve the goal? By how much? Did I miss the goal? How close did I come? What will I do next year? Set up another seven steps.

These seven steps have proven to me over and over again that they’re very focusing and motivating. I recommend using them for setting your big goals. It’s not necessary, though. If you’ve got another system that works for you, then use it. But a life without a goal is without focus and ultimately lost.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Content, Content, Content

We know that good content drives people to your websites. We know that thoughtful, well-written, and informative articles brings interested people in, and that when those articles are written to include strong search terms, they power your site up on the search engines.

But where can you get the content?

Well, first of all, there’s a lot to be said for not re-inventing the wheel. If someone else has already said it, and said it well, why redo it? Why not just republish it in your site? Why not go out on the net, find articles already written, and put them on your site?

Plagiarism! Theft of intellectual property! Illegal! Copyright laws, and all that.

Well, the dictionary defines plagiarism as: “To use and pass off (the ideas or writings of another) as one's own.”

That means that republishing isn’t the problem. Republishing without credit given to the author, and/or without getting permission from the author is the problem.

So, that breaks it into three steps:

One, find an article
Two, contact the author and get permission
Three, put it in your site.

Finding an Article

There are a number of ways to accomplish this. The long way, but sometimes the best way, is to google up some sites that would interest your audience, and look for content there. This can be a lot more time-consuming, as you’re investigating site after site, but can get some really great articles that are well-focused on your audience.

Another is to find an article archive website, like eZine Articles ( This site has a huge number of articles on many many topics. Internet business, family life, current events, personal development, all kinds of topics are covered here. Check the topic directory tree, or just do a search.

Getting Permission

At eZine Articles, they have very clearly spelled out the instructions to use the articles. At this site (and I’ve found this to be common among others), articles can be used for free, but the publisher must agree to certain conditions, like not changing the text of the article, and including the links back to both eZine Articles, and the author’s website. The articles also can’t be sold or included in compilations for sale, etc…

If you find an article on another website, it’s usually just as simple as sending an email to the author (who is usually the site owner), and getting permission. In most cases, the authors will give permission in exchange only for a link back to their home page.

Putting the Article on Your Site

Finally, simply create a page and install the text of the article into it. Make sure that you include everything that you agreed to as you were getting permission, like the linkbacks.

Creating the Content

If your website is based on something that you’re passionate about, and knowledgeable in, then you have an advantage in that you can create your own articles. They don’t need to be long, maybe as short as 1000 words or so, but they do need to be informative, and useful. Don’t just write up more sales copy for your products.

Tell someone how to use the product in a new way. Keep in mind that products are based on experiences, and experiences can be shared. If you’re selling tents and sleeping bags, remember that they are all about the experience of camping. So, tell them some tips that relate to camping. Write an article about setting up a camp to stay dry if it rains. Write about how to store food and keep it away from animals. Include some dutch oven recipies.

Then post these to your website, just like the others.

And then, turn around and share those. Offer them to other websites. Post them at eZine Articles and other archive sites. Why? Because if people use them, they provide links back to your website, links that boost your traffic and your search engine ratings.

Remember that the web is all about information. Shopping, products, and e-commerce are relatively new additions to cyberspace. Provide something valuable, and they will come!


For the record, if any readers wishes to re-publish any of the articles at SOHOman, my policy is to allow it, stipulating that the text not be changed, and that there be included a link back to

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Beating the doldrums

Many years ago, in the days where the sailors used to travel across the oceans, they’d often have to cross this area of the ocean that they now call the “Intertropical Convergence Zone” or the “ITCZ”. There are all kinds of geological and meteorological reasons for the phenomenon, but basically what it boils down to is that in these areas of the ocean, there can be days, or even weeks where there’s no wind.

Now to a guy on a sailing ship, whose primary propulsion method is wind being caught in his sails, that would be a very difficult time. Add to that the fact that this usually happened near the equator, where it’s very hot and humid, and you can see that they’d have problems.

They’d sit there, lightly floating on the still water, doing nothing.

For days, or, like I said, sometimes weeks at a stretch. With supplies getting low, and tempers getting short.

These times were called the Doldrums.

Since that time, we’ve all encounted times where we feel like we’re not moving forward, not getting anything productive done in a project or endeavor we’re involved in. The energy and motivation wanes, and even when we do put in effort, it seems to be not effective, leaving us sitting dead in the water.

When that happens, here’s some things that can be done about it.

1. Take a step back and look at the big picture

Re-assessing the goals and objectives that fill out the big picture of your business can be a great motivator. Often we get so locked into the day-to-day efforts of running our businesses that we forget what we were trying to accomplish in the first place.

Assess what your big goals are, and how your current steps are moving you toward that goal.

2. Take a step in and focus on each step one at a time

Sometimes the big picture can be so huge and so overwhelming that focusing too much time and attention on it can be detrimental, or overwhelming. At times like these, it’s good to get myopic and only look at the next step. What tasks do I have to do today? Can I get them done and crossed off my list?

3. Take a step aside and do something else for a time

Sometimes we simply get to wrapped up in our endeavor, that we get overly focused, even obsessed. At times like that it’s a good idea just to take some time off. I’m not saying weeks or months, but even a day working on some other project or even a day with your family can re-energize and get the wind back in your sails.

4. Take a step forward

Ultimately, no matter which of the other approaches you take, it’s going to come back down to doing something. And often, it doesn’t matter so much what you’re doing, as long as something’s getting done. My dad used to tell me, “It’s easier for the Good Lord to guide your feet when they’re moving!” As you begin getting even nominal tasks done, they can get your momentum moving forward and getting things accomplished.

Whatever you do to get your ship moving again, realize that the cycle of activity is natural, and not to beat yourself up over lost time. Just get things moving again, and you can get your business back on track.