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Abbie's Column : Starting a Business


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12 Years Online and the Lessons Learned

By Abbie Drew
Nov 30, 2006

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Happy Anniversary to DEMC

When celebrating the Thanksgiving Holiday last week I reflected on what I have to be thankful for and DEMC came to the front of my mind.

I recalled it was 11 years earlier we published the first issue of DEMC. Over the last 11 years of operating DEMC, I have transformed from school teacher to Internet entrepreneur.

As we now head into the 12th year of running DEMC, it continues to be a fascinating and exciting journey. There have been ups and downs and many lessons learned. Today I’ll share with you my top 10 business success secrets and the stories that go along with them.

The examples provided are of my own business. But the principles discussed apply to all businesses – including yours!


1) Learn from your mistakes and from your failures.

We all make mistakes, the question is how do you handle them. Do you give up? Or accept that it was a mistake, see what went wrong and try again.

One of my early and most memorable mistakes was when I published the very first issue of DEMC. I had new emailing software into which I placed my subscriber list and then I hit send. The software errored on me multiple times, but I kept at it. I was determined to email out the issue.

It was only when the phone started to ring and I got my first angry call that I realized my mistake.

I ended up emailing out that first issue to my subscriber list over 30 times.

Big Oops!

As you can imagine the negative response was enormous. I felt stupid and a complete failure. But I did not quit. I asked myself what I could learn from the mistake. The answer was TEST first! And now even 12 years later, I Always, Always do test emailings to myself first. This point is doubly important, when using new software and/or hardware.


2) Be persistent.

The phrase "if at first you do not succeed, try, try again" has been a motto of mine. Being persistent goes hand and hand with learning from your mistakes. When you fail, as when you fall, you have to pick yourself up and keep going.

If you think DEMC was my first attempt at an online business, you would be mistaken. DEMC happens to be my first online business that worked. I tried multiple business opportunities and MLMs. I even wrote and published an information product back in early 1995 - that flopped for me too.

I persisted despite my lack of success and that is how I discovered email marketing. Only when I began to use email did I begin to see success.


3) Accept and Embrace Change

Technology on the Internet is constantly improving. What was new and exciting last year or the year before is now old and technology from 4 years ago is ancient.

To run an Internet business successfully you have to always be watching the Internet landscape and incorporating the new technology that works.

For an individual like myself, this lesson is a difficult one. I do not like change. My instinct is to resist it.

To illustrate my dislike of change, here is a true and embarrassing fact. DEMC did not have a web site until 1998. For almost 3 years DEMC had no web site even though we were an online business!

You might ask how did we take orders?

All orders were placed offline either via phone, fax or postal mail!

When finally we put up a web site, as you can imagine our business improved dramatically! We had much more time, as having orders processed via the web was a huge time saver, and we also had more business. The web site was a terrific marketing tool.

I wondered why I waited so long! But for the previous 3 years, I thought the web site an unnecessary change. I did all my marketing by email and email autoresponder. I did not think a web site was a necessary marketing tool. Boy, was I wrong!

As a result of this mistake, I have learned I need to accept change and seek out new technology that can improve our business. Not avoid it!


4) Work "ON" your business not just "IN" your business.

It is essential that you avoid getting bogged down in the everyday operations of your business. If you focus solely on delivering your existing product to your customers you will fail.

"What!" you might be say, that doesn’t make sense.

But think for a minute.

You have to do more than just serve your customers’ immediate needs. As a business owner you have to also look around you to see what new products / services you can offer. You have to find ways to constantly improve your business and your offerings.

If you are not always improving, competitors will create a better product / service and deliver it to your customers – putting you out of business!

A perfect example of this phenomena is what occurred after the launch of our SendFree autoresponder service. The launch was a tremendous success in the spring of 1999. We received thousands of sign-ups over the course of the next year. The problem was we were so busy for the next few years working with our SendFree users, we neglected to work on improving the service.

For example at first we only offered a single autoresponder with no follow-ups. This type of service had become outdated by 2001. But instead of working on the business and improving the service, we had just focused on delivering the existing service.

After seeing our mistake, we took action. We updated the SendFree autoresponder service to offer unlimited autoresponders, unlimited follow-ups and broadcasting to subscriber lists. And we continue to work on the business, improving the features and services we offer customers. We’ve learned constant improvement is the only way to stay competitive and in business.


5) Consistent Marketing

Marketing is the lifeblood of any business. You need a marketing plan and on going promotions. Simply running an ad here and there is not enough to keep your business alive.

Taking the time to devise a marketing strategy that you will follow is crucial to your success. You need to determine what marketing works and then put it into place.

We’ve found for DEMC E-Magazine to make money, there are 2 marketing requirements. The first is that an informative email publication be produced and distributed regularly to our subscriber list.

The email publication is designed to build a relationship with subscribers and maintain readership. When subscribers read the publication, they see and respond to the advertisements. DEMC makes money from theses ads.

The second element to DEMC’s success is acquiring new subscribers. New subscribers are the most responsive and will provide our advertisers the best response. Advertisers who generate a good response will re-run ads as well as recommend DEMC advertising to others.

To succeed DEMC therefore needs a marketing strategy that incorporates these 2 principles. Publish an email newsletter and acquire new subscribers.

We now have in place a strategy that delivers these goals like clock work. I publish the DEMC E-Magazine every other week. And through our web site and our CustomLead service, we gain thousands of new subscribers every month.

It’s simple now, but I’ll admit it took us quite a while to get here. Early on (1995 – 1998) delivering DEMC E-Magazine via email was a challenge. There were no Email Service Providers (ESP) like - SendFree to deliver large quantities of email. So I had to email out from my PC or through my ISP.

I still have nightmares about not getting the issue out because my PC crashed! Thankfully these issues are behind me and I can email easily using our SendFree servers.

And I recall before we had our CustomLead service, those times when sales would slip because of poor new subscriber sign-ups through our web site. We would end up running spot marketing campaigns to generate a flood of new subscribers. And boom, we’d be back in business for a while. Until we had to do it all over again.

Now we have consistency in our marketing and DEMC runs much more smoothly. The tools we have in place through SendFree and CustomLead allow us to reliably grow our list, email to it and generate consistent results for us as well as our advertisers!

Can these same tools improve the profitability of your business?

That is for you to decide. SendFree allows you to educate and market to your target audience by email. CustomLead enables you to consistently increase the size of your audience.


Stay tuned to DEMC, for part 2 of my top 10 business success secrets and the stories that go with them. I’ll share lessons 6 – 10 in our next issue. Find out my best email response trick! Plus how I've learned to balance children with a home business. And more!

###
Abbie Drew
DEMC Editor



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