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The Only Three Ways to Grow Your Business

  |  April 25, 2000   |  Comments

Sometimes we online publishers let all the bells and whistles of the Net distract us from some very basic principles. And those very principles could help us focus on what is most important. Andy tells you how to apply Jay Abraham's blindingly obvious approach to growing a business to your job as an online publisher. As you might guess, it has to do with how you sell your customers.

Earlier this year, Jay Abraham held conference for online marketer for which he had the audacity to charge $5,000 a head.

Get this: People showed up... and they paid to get in. As a conference producer, I am truly humbled by anyone who can pull that off.

So when Jay recently wrote a book called "Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got," I bought a copy, figuring I could learn a thing or two. (BTW, for a free preview of the concepts discussed in the book, click here to download an overview.)

Sometimes we, as online publishers, let all the bells and whistles of the Net distract us from some very simple principles. And those very principles could help us focus on what is most important. In the very first chapter of his book, Abraham outlined a blindingly obvious approach to growing your business that I, for one, had forgotten.

He says: There are only three ways to grow your business. Are you ready?

"You can find new customers, or... you can have your current customers buy more frequently from you... or... you can give your current customers more opportunities to increase the size of the purchases they make."

Duh! I plead guilty to overlooking the obvious. How about you?

Let's look at how this might apply to our jobs as online publishers.

1. Finding New Customers

You have two sets of customers: your audience and your sponsors. You have to grow the audience to grow your sponsor base. The fact is, you don't have just ONE audience to grow, you may have any NUMBER of audiences to grow, each with its own set of potential sponsors. So as you set out to grow your audience, you might want to think in terms of growing audiences.

And how is your base of advertisers doing? If your primary ad revenue comes from banners, you probably have a steady turnover. You're always looking for new ones. And if you aren't, you should be.

If you are heavily oriented toward sponsorship revenue, don't assume that just because someone has made a long-term commitment with you that they will stick around. Keep growing that base of sponsors, too.

2. Have Your Current Customers Buy More Frequently

Again, let's look at your two sets of customers.

You might follow the example of our friends at MediaPost. They launched a weekly newsletter called the MediaPost MONITOR and grew it to a base of 12,000 media buyers, selling out the inventory until the end of time. Instead of letting their sales plateau, they launched Just an Online Minute, a DAILY mailing with a quick bite of information relevant to the readers. So they got their AUDIENCE to "buy" more frequently by increasing how much content they offered them.

Being a customer of theirs, ClickZ has been given a number of opportunities to buy more frequently. We can buy ads on their weekly publication (which we have), their daily (which we have not), their home page (which we have) and their new ImmediaBuy section (which we have not... yet).

MediaPost is a very small company with a tightly focused audience that can only grow so far, but it offers a great example of how to get your current customers to buy more frequently.

3. Offer More Opportunities Where Your Customers Can Increase the Size of the Purchases They Make

Abraham draws an analogy to buying your phone service. Along with your dial tone, you can opt in for voice mail, three-way calling, caller ID, etc. So customers who initially sought to buy a dial tone for $20 per month end up spending twice that to take advantage of add-on services.

For your readers, this might be similar to the MediaPost example above. You can expand the content selection you offer them. Nerve just launched a new print magazine. The Knot recently launched a book, "The Knot's Complete Guide to Weddings in the Real World." One site that you know and love is in the process of doing its first conference as you read this... So there are a variety of ways that can enhance the size of purchases your customers make from you. It just takes a little imagination.

With each of these, you have new opportunities for sponsors to reach your audience(s) in ways they couldn't before.

My advice? Put Jay Abraham's quote on your whiteboard, or somewhere you can see it always. Ask yourself if you are doing something to grow your base of customers, offer them more buying opportunities or expand ways they can spend more.

All the distractions we inflict upon ourselves in this crazy business will quickly melt away when we focus on what is most important.

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Andy Bourland

Andy Bourland was cofounder and former publisher and CEO of ClickZ. He and Ann Handley launched the site in 1997 and sold it three years later to INT Media Group. In columns he wrote for ClickZ from 1998 to 2002, Andy provided practical advice to online marketers and publishers alike, frequently weaving in takeaways from real-life on- and offline experiences. Andy launched his own blog, Bourland.com, in 2005, continuing to write about online marketing up until his disclosure that he was facing a terminal illness. He died Feb. 16, 2009, at the age of 53.

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