Stop Thinking About Products

Too often people take a look at some of my small businesses and want to replicate them with different products/services.

These people first start searching for a product to sell. I think this mentality is wrong. First people should get serious about researching what goes into creating a small online business, THEN start looking for a product.

Many people don’t realize the first steps it takes to setup a fully functioning ecommerce website. This is just a short list of things to do:

  • Finding a domain name, buying the domain
  • Setting DNS servers for domain
  • Finding hosting to resolve domain
  • Creating an entire website
  • Enabling shopping cart capabilities
  • Opening a merchant account
  • Finding suppliers or means of production for products/services
  • Installing SSL security
  • Getting page properly indexed in DMOZ and search engines
  • Reaching customers
  • Drawing people to the website
  • Converting visitors into sales

Trying to do this on a budget of maybe less than $100 isn’t easy, so much of it must be done yourself. Something simple as designing a logo can be difficult if you don’t know how to use PhotoShop or other software.

Fortunately, there are solutions nowadays that take most of the technical stuff out of the process such as Volusion.com and Yahoo Stores, but even then it still really helps to be somewhat tech savvy.

If you’re serious about sometime starting up a small online business, first do some serious reading and research about the business and technical side….then decide on your product/service later. Don’t be afraid to sail uncharted waters.

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    Blog posted on: February 9, 2006

    25 comments on “Stop Thinking About Products

    1. Flexo

      Interesting. So if someone has a certain skill, such as sewing, providing technical support/services, or creating art, they should first think of business practicality and then choose something to sell that would make them the most money? It seems to me the product is determined by the skill, and if they want to turn it into a business, they’ll learn how as a second step, not a first.

      What you’re suggesting makes sense for the guy who knows they want to start an online business but doesn’t have any actual marketable skills… The best job for them is middleman… sticking themselves between the creators and the buyers. That’s not very entrepreneurial.

      Reply
    2. Dave

      Why is it whenever Nev posts a new comment the first thing people try to do is to try and prove that “it is not the best way” or that “it is wrong”.

      I dare say its not the best way for everyone but he is merely shedding some advice on how HE went about it seing as though this is HIS blog.

      Good post Nev some good advice, keep on blogging!

      Reply
    3. Flexo

      I was merely voicing a different point of view, not saying Neville’s wrong, certainly not attempting to “prove” anything. I appreciate Nev sharing what worked for him. There’s more to the world than “right” and “wrong.”

      Reply
    4. How To Be Poor

      Nev’s got a good point. Although it seems one should have at least a rough idea about what he’s going to sell, there are a bunch of things that need to be done first. Writing a decent-looking site, figuring out what database is going on the backend, and where everything is going to be hosted could be quite time-consuming.

      Reply
    5. Adam

      I took this post to be directed at people who see Nev’s success and want to replicate it. They don’t know what to sell yet and this post says, “hold on, get your infrastructure taken care of first.”

      Once you have the place to do the selling, you can work on deciding what to sell. That said, I do appreciate Flexo’s suggestion that doing what you enjoy and are good at is a good idea.

      Reply
    6. Manish M. Shah

      Nev,

      Most people do not realize how difficult it is to get a good online presence. Thus, I have started a company to attack that EXACT problem. http://www.acceleweb.com is responsible for creating a product to allow individuals to get high end presence quickly. We are also taking customers if people want to get high-end web sites up.

      Manish

      Reply
    7. Jay's Financial Blog

      as much as I love what an online business will give me re: ability to work anywhere with an internet connection…I still enjoy my offline businesses more.

      Call me old-fashioned, I guess its just my need to interact with customers, clients, and potential business partners in face to face conversation. I feel that nothing beats the personal development I have learnt from being offline and out there — in terms of talking with people, networking, talking with customers, clients.

      I really don’t know what all the fuzz is about online businesses, to be honest I find it cold, lonely, and inpersonal — that doesn’t mean I don’t own any..I just prefer putting on my suit or tie…heading downtown for coffee and talking to potential clients or business partners.

      Reply
    8. Jonathan Hartman

      Nev-

      You made less than $2,000 in the past month and a half. I see that your main source of income is still the online business, followed by selling pixels. Assuming that you’re not supported by your parents, how do you intend to increase your lifestyle with that level of productivity?

      If your answer is that you have “unmentioned” sources of income, why not list the revenue, and leave the business anonymous?

      Thanks.

      Reply
    9. Steve Mertz

      Nev-Good job speaking about financial possibilities. I believe in the infrastructure first then let the creativity begin. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your passion. My bud makes $36k a year off his site on wedding toasts at http://www.wedding-toasts.org selling an Ebook! Let the good times roll!

      Reply
    10. Anonymous

      Get the horse in front of the cart, not the other way around. Serving a market is the end-all-be-all, so you have to focus on the product/service before you know you have a business prospect.

      Then you can sort out the technical details of setting up the web/commerce jazz. I personally would have someone do it for me and leave me to focus on marketing.

      -Chris

      Reply
    11. Chief Show Officer

      As Nev states, the technical end of setting up a web site is not insurmountable even for a first timer and it is getting easier everyday.

      So assuming you get a site set up, AND you have a good product THEN you are faced with have what may be the most challenging piece of the puzzle – Marketing.

      There are lots of great sites with super products that just don’t produce.

      Q: If a great product is on the web and nobody finds it…does it make a sale?”

      Reply
    12. Anonymous

      You need marketing skills, anyone could use yahoo to setup an online store but what you sell and how you sell is key to success.

      The other problem is there is too much competition. I think you can market a product all you want, but if one site has the same thing your selling, for cheaper, I think you will be out of a sale. When I buy online, the thing I look for is price.

      Reply
    13. Anonymous

      The advantage of an online business: for the first time, you can market nationwide (or internationally) without the significant cost it used to require. Take a look at HouseValues (SOLD) – they’re based completely as an online service and did $20 mil. in 2003 (latest financials). A guy started it out of his extra bedroom and went public in under 4 years (and did it after the crash), only because he was able to reach potential customers nationwide vs. previously being confined to a particular geographic region.

      Back on topic: *everyone* has a great idea for a business. That’s not a sarcastic comment – after talking to enough would-be entrepeneurs, I know it’s true. The trick isn’t in the idea, it’s in the execution. Neville is dead on.

      - CollegeGuy

      Reply
    14. Anonymous

      Not to flame or point fingers, but you really need to secure that shopping cart you`ve got on H o Rave.

      I cannot see anyone going through a payment script and actually paying through it, if at least it isnt on an SSL connection.

      Honestly, for your good sake, tackle that issue before some custmers come back to you with security issues.

      Nice blog though, good ideas you have over here.

      Reply
    15. Erwan

      Hi,

      Just one thing that I can’t understand is how you can buy a domain name without knowing what kind of products your are going to sell?

      Did I miss a point?

      Reply
    16. Jay's Financial Blog

      Domain names are nothing without branding. Think about it. Amazon.com seems the unlikely candidate for a book store, and so does the sound of google.com — so domain names really do not play that much of a role in terms of what you intend to sell online. A Friend of mine owns Yaz! — a student portal….again an unlikely name for such a website.

      The name is nothing, until you give it meaning — marketing will bring out the meaning through proper positioning and branding strategies.

      Jay

      Reply
    17. David

      What you’re suggesting makes sense for the guy who knows they want to start an online business but doesn’t have any actual marketable skills… The best job for them is middleman… sticking themselves between the creators and the buyers. That’s not very entrepreneurial.

      I completely disagree. An entrepreneur finds profit. Being that middle man or creator. Are the people selling things on Canal street in NYC entrepreneurial? I’d say so.

      Reply
    18. Jonathan Hartman

      That’s completely ridiculous…. I’m the middle man because I’m not ready in invest in the capital to become independent. Considering I’m 20, that makes sense. And I think that the thousands I’ve made by assuming the middle man position is entrepreneurial enough for me.

      Reply
    19. MC

      So with all these new businesses, how do you deal with the legal aspects? Do you establish a sole proprietorship, corporation, something else? Do you get the appropriate licenses for each business? Do you have separate tax forms for all of your different businesses?

      Just curious, not an IRS agent or anything. I’m considering starting a few business myself and find these to be the stumbling blocks for me.

      Thanks!

      Reply
    20. Neville

      MC,

      If you start a micro business yourself, you can simply use a DBA (Doing business as) if you aren’t making much money.

      After that, it would be best to create an LLC for the business!

      Reply

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