Sorry this is a bit of long one, even for me! You might want to read my previous posts first if you haven’t (and they are shorter!): 2011 Looking Back, 2012 Goals – Introduction.
Short version, why should you read over 3000 words of my ramblings? Because most people don’t have a business plan to make money online, and I think more of you need one!
A Whole Bloody Business Plan? Why Not Just Some Goals?
This started off as my 2012 goals post – and ended up as an Internet Marketing plan – how the frig did that happen? I read some other people’s goals posts – and don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking posts like this, or this, this one, or indeed the one that made me buy a book. I read them all, and they all seemed reasonable goals and plans.
But I wanted a bigger picture, I wanted a vision, some frigging idea where I was going with this whole business thing, and 2012 in particular. Or, to be allegorical, (’cause I am playing with language at the moment), I needed to know the layout of the forest, before I focussed on individual trees!
And then Google has failed me. I figured that now I was finally ready to write a business plan for my Internet Marketing business, Ms Google would provide me with a handy dandy template, or at least a format to copy!
Nope – I found a couple of sites willing to sell me a a template, for a bargain price, limited-time offer! But not a similar business plan to be found on the Interwebs! Well guess its time to fill the niche! Naturally I should have realised this months ago so that I could be #1 for “internet marketing business plan”, ah well, maybe next year? Maybe its just that Internet Marketers don’t want to admit to their business plans? Well I’m sure the A-Listers dont – but Z-List bloggers signed up for transparency – so here we go!
Anyway what I did start with was a fairly ordinary free business plan – and adapted it, yeah its written by New Zealanders, but none of this is stuff is very country specific.
Does Everyone Need a Business Plan?
Well as I write this I am entering my 5th year in this business. This is my first business plan. Should I have had one early, probably, let’s face it, I’m hardly a star on the earnings front! Should I have done one at the start – nope, you can’t write a business plan until you know your business. I still think it takes at least a year before you have any chance in hell of writing a business plan!
Because unless you can actually write down your business model and strategy – you can’t write a plan. As I look back through my archives, I see so much stuff that I tried and failed at, and some of it my fault some of it just failed business models that are now the relics of history. (Note to self – go through and put some caveats on those old posts in case someone actually reads them!). In the long-ago past I actually used to have to write business plans for company units, every now and then, as part of my job, it was a nightmare, but at least I know how to do it. My lack of business plan to date has nothing to do with being unfamilar with them, it was because I didn’t have the necesary information.
Now I think I do.
I’ve modelled this plan on a “normal” business plan, as linked to in the link above. If you want to apply this to your own business I suggest you download it and read the notes, you could buy a zillion worlds of business books on how to write a plan – but this template is the essence of the format, used world-over and beloved of MBA schools!
Business Model for Internet Marketing – Overview
For the brief history – see here. The purpose of my business? Well to make me money while I sleep of course? Could there be any other?
Hmm my products and services … Well I’ve written one book in the travel niche and have plans for more. This in essence is the difficulty of writing this type of plan when you are in the business of affiliate marketing and ranking sites that make money from Adsense. WTF are your products and services!
Are websites products? I think they might as well be for the purposes of discussion, after all they make me money even though I don’t see them as my product per se, i.e. I don’t build websites to sell on a regular basis, instead they product me on-going income by way of affiliate and other advertising.
Yup lets take websites as products – in which case I have, 53 domains registered. Of those 5 are purely personal so can be ignored. Of the other 48 I have websites in some shape or form on all of them. Some of them are supposed to make me money and do, some are supposed to make money and don’t, others are “support” sites which aren’t supposed to make me money directly.
In addition I make money from my writing on revenue-share sites including HubPages and Wizzley
Current position of the business – well summary can be found here. Where is my business in the business lifecycle, I’d say its at the start of its growth phase. The industry of Internet Marketing I’d say is an emerging industry which is developing at a frighteningly fast rate.
I really do see the whole on-line digital marketing/publishing world evolving at a speed which its hard to comprehend even to those of us who live in the midst of it. The rate of change is currently only accelerating, quite probably at a exponential rate, regardless of what measurement you are using.
Overall the whole landscape of SEO, affiliate marketing and digital products are all changing at light speed. Really I’ve always liked technology for its speed of change, but the whole online environment is amazing quick moving.
Ooh a competitive analysis – who are my competitors and how can I capitalise on their weaknesses? My competitive advantage is simple, I’m small, I answer to no one, no bank to please, no investors. If I want to try something new in response to changing markets I can, and do.
Who is my main competitor? Well this is where I’m starting to think that I’m going to need to do a business plan for each of my main websites (or groups of websites), for example this site has a quite a different competition environment than say my travel sites.
In fact I think I will do that for a least three of my sites over the following week or so. So I’ll keep this post at a high level.
To be honest I don’t see my main competitors as the people who own the sites that out-rank my own in the search results. Rather I see my main competitor as Google and the major brands (Amazon, eBay, TripAdvisor, Expedia, LonelyPlanet) who Google tends to favour in those results.
My advantage is that I can go more niche and more specific than the competitors. Travel is a classic for this – try searching for a specific destination which you know has hotels. Pick somewhere obscure, but that definitely has businesses with an on-line presence. What will you get? Results for the nearby state, province, town – but not the specific destination you entered. That’s Google preferring their brand partners. But its not in the searchers best interest, eventually it will have to change. Eventually in Internet Marketing is within the year.
My other advantage is that I’m unique, people have called me lots of things, but bland is not one of them. On my count I’ve made more friends than enemies for being outspoken and saying it as I see it. You’ll never get h0nesty from a tourism website or from 99% of internet marketing websites. I can do honesty – must be an advantage!
How am I going to increase my capability? I’m not, there’s nothing much wrong with my capability, its my application of the same which needs work! So really I need to either, severely limit or eliminate, the time I spend on Facebook and possibly some forums too. The trouble is of course, that forums and social media do get me visitors and subscribers, I’m just not sure that its worth the effort 1/2 the time.
How am I going to increase my capacity. Well I am going to build up my outsourcers as I grow my income. There seems to be plenty of people who can write competently, I’m happy to employ them, as I can afford it, to build my business.
I see no issues with growing my business, the problem is merely the CEO who has to stop bouncing from one new, bright idea, to another and to actually flipping focus!
The suggested time frames with the original template business plan is “next year” and “next 1-3 years”. I think we need to focus in a bit of a shorter time-frame to take into account the speed of change in this industry.
1-3 Month Goals
Goal 1: Fast Cash via Wizzley
Well specifically I need to find NZ$3500 by April and the same again in May for taxes.
I’ve proven that Wizzley will rank long tail articles on page 1 of Google within 24 hours so I’m using a combination of content I’ve removed from Hubpages plus Tony’s Keyword Researcher to reuse most of that content and try to make some quick cash on Amazon, to compensate for the loss of Hubpage Amazon earnings from January and to pay my taxes. I’m not pretending its a long-term strategy – but I need the cash now, and the pages can provide backlinks long term.
I have 2 ID’s on Wizzley and I need to get both to over 100 articles to maximise my revenue share. I’m hoping that once I have the momentum going, that I can outsource most of my “anonymous” account’s writing.
I’ll need to average about 7 articles/day to get 200 published by the end of January. That’s lots, but not impossible.
Goal 2: Diversify from Google – Branding and List Building
After years of being anti-list building, I’ve changed my mind. I’m building lists for a single strategic reason. To remove some of my dependence on Google (see SWOT analysis below). The two main areas that I see that I can build lists is this blog, and my travel niche. These are two topics that I have genuine knowledge of and write almost all (all for this site) my own content for.
It also means I have to play the “branding game” – hence the Z-List Blogger manifesto!
I don’t even know what is considered “good figures” for a mailing list. I’ve seen plenty of bullshit figures in the A-List circles (let me know if you want me to tell you how to fake the numbers!). From a standing start (i.e. zero) on the 7 November, I now have 118 subscribers here, and 72 over 2 travel blogs. I probably need to give the travel subscribers a reason to subscribe ie a discount on a book or a freebie, and maybe the same here? I’m not sure. But I am (slowly) evolving the way that I split content between my blog and the subscriber list.
I’ll work out some specifics in my specific business plans for my main sites here, suffice to say, I think 1000 is a nice round number!
Goal 3: Diversify from Google – Publish More Books
I need to finish the books I’ve started and get them out there making some money!
3-12 Month Goals
Goal 4: Use the Wizzley Results to Diversify
Using the results from my Wizzley adventure, any winning keyword groups I will use to develop new niches. Early results suggest that Wizzley is rubbish for Adsense click thru rates, so these will probably be product niches.
Goal 5: Promote my Published Books
This one is vague at the moment – lets get the books out there first!
Despite Google’s best efforts at mis-information to the contary, I don’t see a whole lot changing as far as promoting websites in the near future. Its all about content and backlinks, content is a bit more important that it once was, but I still see absolute crap rank at the top of the search results, why, backlinks and site authority.
I know how to build both – but I’ll leave the details to specific posts I think at this stage.
The main risk I see in the next few years, for me and other affiliate marketers is Google, pure and simple. But the market is changing so rapidly, its hard to know whether search will even be the more dominant method that consumers use to find information in the next few years.
Do no evil. Really, because, lets face it, Google abandoned that particularly philosophy a long time ago. Yeah I’d acutally like to be ethical in this business. Particularly in Internet Marketing, because, lets face it, there is not too much competition! Hence the transparency – how many other Internet Marketing blogs actually tells you the number of subscribers?
SWOT and CSFs
SWOT analyses are cool – not heard of them? Read up, there is precious little useful in all the management courses I’ve done over the years, but learning to do a SWOT is handy, not just in business, I do when I’m buying a house too.
Strengths of me/my business:
- diversification of income sources: I make money from many niches and from many advertisers.
- I have standardised my sites on WordPress and Catalyst – and they are therefore much easier to manage, update and control than previously.
- I live in a country that doesn’t have, and is unlikely to have, sales tax. This means the chance of my Amazon affiliate account being banned is low.
- I have an eBay account, got in early, not sure what to do with it these days though, as I can no longer use it through HubPages. I do, however, know they are rare.
- I’ve been in this game long enough to have some confidence in my own ability to pick keywords and rank pages in the search engines.
Weakness of me/my business;
- I’m getting better at selling, but its still against my natural inclinations, I’m particularly uncomfortable about selling to readers and people I know online. I can’t stomach the sort of prices many people seem to be able to put on their products and their time.
- short attention span. I’ve always had a tendency to value learning, over doing, so I am suspectible to the “shiny new object” syndrome so common in our industry.
- my location. Because I live in a market of only 4 million people there are few local opportunities for selling services to local businesses. Basically pretty much anything will rank here with minimal effort, and the business community doesn’t “get” SEO, because, frankly, they don’t need to.
Opportunities for my business in the current external environment;
- the rise of e-readers is driving demand for cheap fiction e-books, and an as yet unknown market, for non-fiction e-books. Self-publishing has never been easier, and the sector is very rapidly evolving. There are opportunities for those of us who can write.
Threats against my business in the current environment
- Google is progressively blocking detailed stats from Google Analytics accounts. The only question is when it all become unavailable or unaffordable for most of us.
- dependence on Google for much of traffic and the unpredictable changes to the Google’s search engine algorithmns;
- dependence of Google for much of my income (Adsense);
- dependence on a formerly good revenue site, gone bad (HubPages) for some of my income
Critical Success Factors have got a bit over-run with the newer fad of KPI’s, but I like them – because they are about as basic a question as you can ask your business: “what are the key things that need to go well for this business to be a success”.
CSF1: Chose the right keywords, the terms that people are searching for who have their credit card out and ready to run. I am so over keywords that either have no traffic or no profitable traffic.
CSF2: Produce good books and price them low enough to offer excellent value for money. The pricing of books has absolutely nothing to do with how long it took you to write it!
Market research is the basis of this business. I do it two ways. Initially I take a guess at the relevant keywords, then, once I start ranking a site, I look at what I am actually ranking for, and persue those terms as well. Its not rocket science, I doubt that its changed for years, it works.
One of the delights of Amazon – is that they have plenty of actual data that they are happy to share with you (check for most popular items and then apply your imagination).
Google will tell you what people are searching for – by giving you auto-complete suggestions as your type in a query. I also have the feedback from readers and subscribers for the Internet Marketing and Travel.
My emphasis is on the US, and will continue to be. America may be having a recession, but even in recession you guys buy far more online than any other country.
Initially, one of the huge appeals of this business was that I could be a one-woman band. The human race is full of idiots and most of the worst ones had been people I’d worked with and for over the years. I was really looking forward to working with no one. It didn’t work out like that. Instead I ended up finding out just how important your friends are online. I’m lucky to have had some of the good and great over the years – many of whom no-longer post regularly.
But the Internet abhors a vacuum and I am lucky to know Mark from SEOCobra (exciting developments there in the next few weeks) and Dave from ZenDuck.me, not to mention Tracey from Tracey-Edwards.com and SY from Hospitalera.com.
E-Commerce and Technology
“Explain how you’re using e-commerce and technology in your business”. Yeah I think we can safely say technology is my business!
Tactical Promotion Plan
Interesting question – in general I’m wondering if I should try some of the tricks of Social Media to use things like Twitter and FaceBook to get more followers. The trouble is, that my experience is, that ranking for the right search terms, is not only easier in terms of time spent, it also gives me far more engaged readers!
I do want to investigate videos and podcasts as methods of promotion as well.
Nope no intention of spending anything much on marketing, certainly not going anywhere near PPC! I do pay for editing of my books and cover design – does that count?
Credibility and Risk Reduction
Who do I increase my creditability and reduce my customer’s risk? Basically I think I’ve always maintained my credibility, particularly on this blog, by not having guest posts. I’ve seen so many blogs over the years die a living death by becoming dependent on guest posters.
Selling through Amazon and other “legit” online shops (iTunes, Barnes & Noble etc), is a very easy way to differenate an ebook.
Team & Management Structure
Skills, experience, training, retention
Yeah well I think the boss needs to go some 5-star resorts, somewhere warm and learn about planning and better time management. Anyone up for sponsoring that one?
Seriously. I have one full-time outsourced writer who writes my BMR articles. I’ve had him for over a year now and he’s reliable and consistent. Last year, he had exactly one article rejected. I’m keeping him on. I do however want to expand my outsourcing in 2012 as my cash flow allows.
Well thank goodness I don’t need a lawyer! My accountant I’m training up to understand my business. A consultant – please God no! A guru and advice? Actually I was just going to delete this section – but I one of the biggest risks in this business is the isolation and the voices in your head! Where do I go for advice?
- The Keyword Academy forum;
- Zen Duck Dave’s forum;
- here’s a new one too – check out Hospitalera’s new forum.
- my trusty spreadsheet manages my cashflow and income/expenditure in several currency and actual versus cash (because affiliate programs take so long to send cash). It works, I’m not changing it.
- I’m currently developing a better system to track my actual output – words or articles and projects they relate to.
Financial Budgets and Forecasts
I don’t do detailed budgets or forcasts, I may add this in this year though as I ramp up. It would be useful to have when I decide to increase my outsourcing budget.
My cashflow forecast is that I need:
7/4/12 – $3599
7/5/12 – $3419
for taxes. We have it, we aren’t going to getting into dispute with the tax man, but I am determined to have that money out of my own business’s cash flow! On top of covering my 1/2 of the household’s expenses (which I have done for 2 years now).
Summary: Internet Marketing Business Plan
Wow that was a bit of a mission! But a useful exercise – I think I still need to drill down and focus on individual sites for their business plan’s – I’m a still a bit vague on just how many sites I’m focussing on this year. But its been an energizing exercise for me, I hope it inspires you too – let me know in the comments!
Next plan review date: 1 March 2012
37 replies on “Internet Marketing Business Plan – 2012 Edition”
Nice post Lisa. It’s always important to visualize your goals, strategies and so on than just keeping everything in your head. Mind works in mysterious ways and we have to feed it accordingly 🙂
Yeah the original reason for this blog was a “learning journal” which is an academic way of saying if you write stuff down you are far more likely to actually do something about it!
Also less likely to forget what you need to do or have done!
Awesome post though, just hashing out (well reviewing) my initial business plan…though it is nice when you are on track!
Excellent (and long-winded) plan Lissie! Whew…
Happy New Year to you, and best wishes to a prosperous 2012 on the internet 😉
Long-winded??? You mean long-tailed surely Scott! Have a great 2012 yourself!
[…] many it has become customary to blog abut their plans and resolutions for the new year. Liz wrote a detailed business plan on what she hoped to achieve in 2012, RT came out early with his resolution for 2012. Google […]
[…] many it has become customary to blog abut their plans and resolutions for the new year. Liz wrote a detailed business plan on what she hoped to achieve in 2012, RT came out early with his resolution for 2012. Google […]
Hi Lis, Grizz would be so proud of you 😉 And also thanks for mentioning my new forum! Your business plan is truly impressive, far more detailed than mine, that goes along the lines of ‘Concentrate on a few sites that make the most money and forget, for the moment, about the rest.’ I already tend to over-think things, so for 2012 I try to keep it short and sweet. I am also pretty done with any Web2.0 platform I don’t control (which is pretty much anything in that category), such as Hubpages, Infobarrel ect, but I might have a closer look at the German version of Wizzley (PageWizz) especially for Amazon purposes as my German Amazon account already looks good thanks to my German websites. Happy and Prosperous New Year to you and yours, SY
Yeah I still don’t know how many sites to concentrate on – I think I need to goals for the main ones and then prioritise – trust me there will be more posts in this blog in the next week than I normally do in a month!
Phew, I’m tired now!!!
Great and very detailed Lissie. Seems a number of us are getting very serious about our business.
Heck, I even set out daily tasks for myself for the next 3 months, which is definitely a first.
Bloody hell I don’t think I could do daily task lists Dave! That’s a step too far! But yeah the time for dabbling is done as far as I’m concerned
I think it’s important to make a plan like this, but it’s equally important to be flexible enough to change it should the need arise.
Definitly – that’s why its up for review in 2 months!
Long winded? Hardly. At least it said something which a hell of a lot of posts from all categories A to Zed often do not.
You know, with the “gurus” of varying income and capability who post articles about “monetizing” or “running an online business”, the category of articles actually related to “business” is virtually empty.
Planning? Taxes, Budgeting? These sort of articles, especially from anyone who knows even the rudiments, are very thin upon the ground.
Likewise any sort of tracking/accounting software that actually manages and provides useful information about websites. Example, your 48 “money sites” .. quick, which 5 are the worst performers and why? Example, what are your top 50 profit-producing articles (on a blog or on a third-party site). For that matter, when is your next URL renewal due and why should you renew it, or drop it from a business rate of return standpoint?
The list goes on. A huge field of opportunity out there for someone looking for an online business to develop.
As you point out, accountants and such have to be taught or tutored before they can bring any of their expertise to bear. What’s wrong with that picture?
Talk about a huge “target of opportunity”.
All the best for 2012, Lis.
(oh, and Wow! am I glad I pay US income taxes and not NZ’z.)
Thanks for the long-winded reply Dave! You’ve given me some ideas to think about! I agree I don’t see many people talking about applying basic small business principals to this online gig!
Exactly. If someone out there is really focusing on the business of internet business, I’d love to read his/her work.
excellent excellent! thanks for the ideas you have given me to put in my own plan. Maybe, just maybe I should write one for myself … anyways, I wish you all the best for this exciting new year, Go Go Go Lissie!!
awesome post Lis. I haven’t thought about writing a huge full-on internet marketing business plan << adding to the keyword density for you. But that's probably because I'm lazy. Although I do keep a pretty detailed Excel spreadsheet with all my earnings from year to year so I can see at a glance how different months/years stack up against each other.
Oh I love the indepth detail of your Business Plan. I have read on several blogs about the importance of not only setting goals but also working out how to achieve these goals. I have sort of done this in my head and have made notes on bits and pieces of paper but maybe I should set out my own measurable plan.
I wish you luck and look forward to the update/review in March.
Oh setting goals is the easy bit – planning is a bit like procastinating – its more fun than work!
Wow, your IM business plan is pretty serious. I was just happy to have a few goals.
Your short-term goals to pay the taxes look challenging, can’t wait to see how you do. Good luck!
Well my short term goals scare the hell outta me – so that’s gotta me good right Carrie! Good luck with your plans too!
Above you say that you’re going to use wizzley to jump start your income and intend to get up to 100 articles for your 2 id’s to maximize your commissions. Then further down you state that wizzley adsense click thru rates are poor.
When writing your articles, are you focusing on one or more of the specific income streams such as automatic chitika integration on certain keywords, or amazon products or one of the others? Are you letting the chips fall where they may? From your experience with wizzley so far, which income sources are producing the best results? Any insights you can share would help as I used to do some hubpages but am now taking your advice and am just getting started with wizzley.
Sorry I should have been clearer – my emphasis on making money from Wizzley is Amazon – it seems to cnvert well. I have never found Chitika worth anything for anyone – they just don’t seem to convert. I wrote this article about my different uses for Wizzley : http://wizzley.com/make-money-with-wizzley-progress-of-a-not-so-newbie/
Thanks Lis! I really enjoy your blog posts. You come across as the real person you are, and not some sales pitching guru. You give me hope that I can make some decent income online.
Thanks for sharing your goals Lis. I really appreciate being able to follow along as you think these through. There is a lot of good wisdom in there.
I haven’t tried wizzley because I have been only concentrating on properties that I have control over. I spent a lot of time with hubpages and it didn’t really work out. Are you worried that wizzley will go the same way?
I have also been having concerns about search as a form of traffic after a few more years. There are so many options for people, and as you say things are changing so fast. I am working to implement more of a branding presence. I know this is a buzz word but it seems to be one of the words Google does like. I really wonder how much longer Google will continue to send traffic to little niche blogs.
I think links are still going to be important but I am not really sure that link services will do the trick most of the time. I do think that Mark at Cobra has a good idea, though, and I hope he can keep the lid on spammers.
Good luck with all your goals.
Hi AGrande, Wizzley is great at the moment – but yes they could go any which way or even disapear – because I don’t own the site I have no idea what the future holds for them. I see them as a good short term solution for beginners trying to figure out what a kw is and more experienced people using it to funnel traffic to my own sites, backlinks, and quick cash.
Mark is totally on to it with Cobra – his trouble is the “spammers” are his customers – the very people who claim they want good backlinks – also are happy to trash his network with spun, sub-par content. He’s working on it, but its delayed his next opening until later in Jan!
And if I may piggyback on this answer. Wzzley will change. That part is certain. How it will change and how beneficial or harmful the change may be … that’s anyone’s guess.
I make some money with mainly ‘fat’ niche sites and a couple blogs that are worth running. Two years ago a good friend got hours of my time and coaching to help him get started in his own niche site empire.
Eventually, he never “pulled the trigger” and got any sites started, mainly, in his own words, “Because Google is fickle, they change their rules so often, I want to wait until things settle down.”
Well, Google has indeed changed a lot of things in two years. Some good, some very negative to some folk’s bank accounts. But guess what?
Wizzleys may come and Wizzley’s may go but the “game” strongly favors action takers. As Mr. Gretzky was heard to say, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
I see you did reach NZ northernmost point at last 🙂
48 domains? Are they only in “make money online” and “travel” categories?
Wow Lis that’s one heck of a post! I actually read every word. Took at few quick breaks to search my random thoughts but I made it through. 🙂 I’d say you are on to something with this business plan idea. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing one too.
Great goals for this year. But I have some confusion with one picture that you have uploaded here the World famous public toilets, Kawakawa, Northland, New Zealand. Is this for real? what makes it famous? I’m so going to google it after posting this comment. This is really funny. lol
Totally for real! You’re the first person to read the caption I think! This is the back story http://www.bay-of-islands-nz.com/hundertwasser.shtml – and I tell you its really weird taking photos in toilets! And yes they are still the free public toilets in Kawakawa!
Hey Lis, I just started following your blog. Love it 🙂
I really liked that you wrote: “I see no issues with growing my business, the problem is merely the CEO who has to stop bouncing from one new, bright idea, to another and to actually flipping focus! ”
I completely agree and this is something I struggle with too. I wish there were more hours in a day!
Look forward to your next post!
Cloning that’s what I want – several more of me – but then maybe there would be arguements LOL
This post made me realize that marketing is exciting when you know the reason why you’re doing the things that you do. Putting your customer first is the foundation of marketing but this is usually forgotten and seldom applied. Thanks for reminding me about this concept and may you have everything that your heart desire.
Really great article. I’ve just come across this now 8 months later but I’m glad I did. I’m MBA qualified but this is one of the clearest and most insightful ways of writing a business plan that I’ve seen.
You’ve certainly inspired me to tweak mine and to drive my business forward!
Nice Post. The best Business Plan is to have clear understanding what do you want, how to reach it and when. Then, this plan works. And it doesn’t really matter in what kind of format do you have it.