One of the frequent conversations I had at the domain conferences was about developing websites. Due to the Missouri.me launch and some of my other projects many people had questions about how to develop the sites, tools used, where we get content, etc. I am always happy to share as much as I can but there was something that I would preach to anyone who would listen and it seems to escape many.
There is a huge difference between building a website and building a business. In most cases people can have many great ideas about what they would like to do with their great domain name, they may even have all the technical abilities to create an amazing e-commerce site or content rich geo site but in so many cases there is no plan for what to do once the site is up.
If you put 50K into a wonderful website, do all the hard SEO work, if you do not have a plan on how to generate revenue after the site is up it is really just a website, not much different than a parked page, I can imagine if you spend 50K or even 10K on developing the perfect website you would want to have a plan for something more than Adsense for revenue.
So, when talking about domain development you need to think about taking it past the web development phase and how to get it into the business development phase.
To understand what I mean take a look at what the Castello Brothers have done, they understand business. With sites like Whisky.com and PalmSprings.com they have created businesses. I have really enjoyed my conversations with Michael and David and love the fact that they focus so much on the business rather than just the website. That is the difference between successful domain development compared to someone just building a website.
Now, everyone has different skills, I know many people much smarter than myself that can create amazing web sites but they lack the skills necessary on the sales and marketing side. This is where partnerships come in. If you have a great idea and have all the skills to implement the product and technical side then you may want to look for partners for the sales side. I know I could not of come close to creating everything my development team did on our state geo platform.
So, what is the point of this post?
Well I have heard so much talk of domain development, as we all have heard over the past year or so, I want to see people be successful. In most cases people will not be able to do it on their own, if you plan on building your domains into real businesses and not just websites you need to evaluate what you are good at and determine what pieces to build a business are missing from your skill set. Find people that you can team up with to fill those gaps. You may find that 1+1=3 when you do this.
As much as I try not to put to much structure in place and cause headaches when first launching this little thing called Missouri.me there are certain concepts and ideas that work well no matter how large or small your enterprise/product.
The one that I think is of the most value is the idea of having a product roadmap when developing your product, in this case a website. When developing any major site the first thing that you need to understand is that it will never be done, EVER. If you are dealing with people outside the tech world this may be a new concept to them. But if you think that you are going to wait to have every feature you will ever think of before you promote or sell product on your site you will NEVER make it to market because you will run out of money before you make it to revenue.
What we did was developed a phased approach, where phase 1 was based on core features, phase 2 on major core changes (speed, etc), and phase 3 on nice to haves.
Now within each of those phases we had a point by point description of what the feature would do, complexity, etc. Thats all fine and great but what happens next is once everyone involved starts seeing that their features are pushed out to later phases people start wanting to pull things into to phase one. Let me give you an example of this happening. Last year I was consulting for a group of doctors in the area I live in, they were starting a company and had a rather ambitious plan for a product they wanted to create. At one point in the process I stopped them and said ok, next meeting we have one item on the agenda, we are going to build a road map, I told them up front what would happen, they would all list features, they would agree to structure it in phases but then I let them know everyone was going to ask for their feature to be in phase one. So what happened, you can guess, out of all the post its we stuck on the wall (I used them to make a point), a total of 3 out of 50 or so were not in phase one. Hows that for making a visual impact of the problem.
So, how do you fix this, its natural to think your feature or idea is the most important, but you need to take the personal emotion out of it. Numbers work best. For the first few months of development I spent the largest portion of my time managing the expectations and requests from the sales side of what was being created (I was part of the sales side which makes it real interesting). I always laid out that if X feature was added then Y feature would slip and then did my best to show how revenue timelines or amounts would be impacted. So how do you balance when to add features and when to make a change in the road map, prove how many customers or how much more revenue could be added.
At some point you have to put a line in the sand though and say that phase one (launch product) is locked down, if you do not do that you will never get to revenue and your business will fail before it starts. That happened with that group of doctors, they never could get to launch because they wanted EVERYTHING day one. They could not prioritize features that were required vs nice to have.
At the end of the day your product should always be improving and growing, it should never be done, you need to have a plan and realize that you cannot have your developers changing course everyday, nothing will ever get done. Structure your development plan to get the most bang for your development buck and you will be successful.
OK, so the title may be a bit dramatic but I truly feel the decision I made a few weeks back and executed this morning may be the most important decision I have made outside of children and marriage.
Today I walked away from a six figure income at a leading technology company to focus on starting my own business. After 15 years in the corporate world it was time to take that leap and believe in the possiblities of what I can create and what has been created over the past several months. I could tell for sometime that I had really lost the passion for next generation telecommunication networks (I had been involved in carrier class VoIP networks all the way back in 1996 at ATT) and my heart just was not in that piece of the communication world.
As many of you know I am a big fan of Geo domains and believe now is the time to act to create a business to take advantage of the shift to “hyperlocal” search that we all have seen as part of the domaining community. Back in December I had an idea for a business model that would allow for certain customer types to be targeted more effectively than they have in the past and along with some other services would create an online marketing solution for small businesses that could not be matched by other media and technology companies.
Initially I had planned to stay in the shadows a bit and let my business partner work the sales front and I would provide technology and marketing vision and drive the company from that side while I worked a rather demanding full time job. It would not be possible to provide much time to this endeavour and it was only fair to the company paying my paycheck that I gave them full effort on a daily , nightly, every minute of the day basis.
After the intial alpha launch of our site the intial reaction and success showed that we were onto something that would scale well and create a solid revenue stream for the company rather rapidly. But at the same time, once you see the possibilities you see that committing yourself fully could make the business much more than if you focused only part time.
So, after a few months of very deep soul searching I realized, do what I love. If you work on what you enjoy you will be successful, although there will be stress starting a business (Although strangely I feel none), at the end of the day the freedom and fullfillment you get from creating something and watching it grow is so much better than the daily corporate grind. We have only been operational for a short time but the experience of watching customers react in such a positive manner is that much better when it is something you created (with a team, and never forget that).
Thanks to the domaining community for giving me the ability to create such a business. The support and advice I have received from the domaining and development community has been great.
Lesson learned here, develop, develop, develop, find an idea that is interesting and works from the business side AND that you will enjoy and good things will happen. Find a hole and fill it, provide solid service at a fair price. People will buy.
It is a GREAT DAY!
WordPress Minisite News Aggregator in 15 Minutes
UPDATE: A new version also now exists at How To Build A WordPress News Aggregator although not in downloadable format, if you want a PDF this is the post for you.
Minisites for your Domains come in many different forms. One that has become popular is taking a niche and building a news aggregator using WordPress and the FeedWordpress Plugin which is built specifically to aggregate RSS feeds from sources that you choose. This How-To Create A WordPress Minisite Tutorial will show you how to create a WordPress Minisite aggregating news for a specific topic, in this case using Cpanel and Fantastico.
If you do not have hosting with Cpanel and Fantastico then you should head to Hostgator.com, since they have packages that allow for unlimited WordPress installations at very low prices, I use them for all of my hosting for both my dedicated servers and blog hosting for BruceMarler.com
Originally I was going to paste all pictures and info in one blog post but after seeing the length of the post I feel its best to offer it is a PDF document in a sort of informal E-Book format (for free of course).
To download the WordPress News Aggregator in 15 Minutes Process click this link (its free) WordPress Minisite News Aggregator in 15 Minutes