John Audette, moderator of the Internet Sales Discussion List, tells how he became an Internet multi-millionaire by serving a distinct niche and following his heart.
Back in 1994, when I got started with Multimedia Marketing Group, there was very little activity on the Internet -- therefore the barriers to entry were low. It didn't require a $25M ($25 million) advertising campaign to kick things off. So in those days you could go into a broad category with some expectation of success.
The game has grown and entry fees have grown along with it. Brick and mortar Big Dogs such as Wal-Mart have finally noticed that the 'Net is for real and are entering the game with big bucks and big experience. And the new dotcoms coming in are doing so with venture capital funding in the tens of millions. The belief in first mover advantage has become a mantra and there's a willingness to pile giant amounts of money on unproven concepts. So what's a small business to do? You already know the answer:
Niche -- and niche with passion.
Inventory your list of interests and note the ones that you are most excited about, most passionate about. Those are your potential online businesses. The smaller the market, the more highly specialized, the better. You have a great chance of success:
(1) The Big Dogs aren't interested in small niches. They're after the kajillion dollar markets.
(2) Some of the new dotcoms target relatively small niches but most of them are in it solely for the money and will not do as good a job as someone motivated by other things as well.
Passion, interest and knowledge are powerful. I spent many years working as a stockbroker, an environment that was not native to me and therefore I was only in it for the money. I made a high current income, but never really built up a significant net worth. And I didn't really enjoy the work. So in the late 80's, I quit. And I made a vow to myself at that time -- never again do anything solely for money.
I decided to make my living doing something that I was genuinely interested in, that I was passionate about. And I made peace with the belief that I would probably not make as much money as I had during by brokerage career.
And then a funny thing happened -- I started two Internet companies that would end being worth $16M.
I didn't start those companies to make $16M. I started them because I loved the Internet (I still do). As an aging child of the 60's I loved the "power to the people" aspect of the 'Net (I still do). I ended up working in niches that perfectly matched my interests and passions. I-Sales itself is a perfect example. [Editor's Note: I-Sales is widely recognized as a premier discussion forum for Internet marketers.]
The I-Marketing Discussion List, moderated by Glenn Fleishmann, was the king of the hill back in 1995. It was a great list, with about 7,000 subscribers --huge for that time. I posted there frequently (I still remember how excited I was when my first post was published there) and found it to be extremely valuable as I started learning about the Internet.
There was one aspect of I-Marketing that wasn't perfect for me, however. The discussions tended to get pretty theoretical and often hovered at 40,000 feet. I wanted to get down to ground level and discuss real things learned from experience (a niche). I discussed this with Glenn, and with his permission and support, I launched I-Sales for exactly that purpose (though we HAVE wandered up to 40,000 feet on occasion).
I spent countless hours on I-Sales in the early days with no revenue model in sight. It excited me to be able to provide a forum for others like me who were trying to figure out this Internet thing (it still does). One of MultiMedia Group's early clients was completely perplexed that I was spending so much time on something that was producing no revenues and criticized me often. I ignored him.
Looking back, it's apparent that I-Sales has been the single most important component in building the modest Internet success I have had. So I had that pretty well figured out, right?
Nope. I simply followed my interests and my passion.
It's very powerful to be motivated by forces other than money. It gives you awesome tenacity that those chasing money don't have. It gives you the discipline to give up a quick buck today in return for furthering a relationship that will yield greater rewards over the long-term.
So niche -- and niche with passion.
John Audette is President of Multimedia Marketing Group, Inc. ~ offering "Accountable E-Commerce Marketing" (tm) since 1994. He also publishes several informative newsletters and discussion groups under his AudetteMedia umbrella. He is Moderator of the I-Sales Discussion List, where this article originally appeared on January 21, 2000.
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