I often joke that the reason we started talknbusiness.com and wrote Retail Rebellion was to stop people from starting e-commerce businesses. This makes people laugh, but there is truth to it. When Tess was speaking at a conference in Australia, she had no end of people coming up to her afterward for advice. We spoke on skype that evening (I was “holding the fort” in Thailand), and she told me how difficult it was to talk to people who had tens of thousands of dollars worth of product in their garage, based on niches that either had no one searching for the product, or the competition was so high that these people have no chance of competing.
How do look someone in the eye and tell them that they could have saved themselves either lots of money or years of their lives if they had just spent 10 minutes doing some market research before starting. This was not the only issue though, people come to us with horror stories about ordering product from China, and losing thousands of dollars because the supplier either didn’t exist, or sent them product that was so bad it was unusable. We usually then find out that they didn’t order a sample, and didn’t try multiple suppliers prior to choosing several suppliers to spread their risk.
So we wrote the book and started talknbusiness.com. We still don’t know where this site will end up, or even what we want from it yet, but our hope is that it will help at least a few people be successful where so many others aren’t. We have received some amazing feedback with regards to the book, and unfortunately some not so great feedback, which we will expect to get more of. This is one hundred percent from those out there who already have an online e-commerce business, who buy our book in the hope that it will solve a particular issue they’re having. When the book tells them that they should have chosen a different product, they get frustrated and that frustration comes through.
Don’t Let This Be You
We can handle a few upset people, and we can understand their frustrations, but we hope that what we’re doing helps you avoid making choices that will put you in their position. Always remember, that often those choices are made quickly, and right at the beginning of the business’ life, and it can take years of hard work and money before you realise that. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how passionate you are about the business, or how hard you’re willing to work, if there isn’t a market, or you can’t compete with the competition, then your business will most probably fail.
It Won’t Happen Overnight
It certainly won’t! We’re not what most westerners would call rich, but we haven’t needed to have a job now for 4-5 years, and we get to live where we want to. This in itself allows us to live a rich lifestyle, as well as getting to choose what we want to do every day (unlike remote contract workers). We have no deadlines, and our businesses will keep bringing in income whether we take a week off, a month off or a year off. We didn’t get to this position overnight, and it has taken us many years to be able to find a model that is replicable and works, and even then, getting to the point where we are rich even from a Western perspective will still take a bit longer yet. “Rich” however, has taken on a whole new meaning for us, and we hope you get the chance to live overseas when your businesses are up and running, as it will change your perspective too.
Don’t Miss The Opportunity
The opportunity to rank well for low competition keywords will not last forever. While there is still plenty of opportunities out there, eventually they will mostly disappear. I understand that new products are released all the time, but if these are the only keywords left to fight over, I’m not so sure that the environment we will find ourselves in come 2020 will be anything like what we still have today. I wonder if we’ll all look back on this decade and last decade as the “gold rush” era, where some made it big and others missed out because they didn’t take the plunge.
When we started Vurge, we found that we had one major competitor, Gilletts.com.au. They had a distinct advantage in that they had been online since before Google, and had over a decade of backlinking. They still kick our butts (and everyone else’s) for most of our keywords, and probably always will. They “own” the top three results for “mens wedding rings” in Australia, and probably always will. Gilletts doesn’t care when Google changes its algorithms. Gilletts doesn’t even really care about new competition. It was through their example that we started to picture what it would be like to “own” our own top Google real estate, and how much that will be worth in decades to come.
The Level Playing Field Is Dying
When people first started dreaming about e-commerce, the world started to realise that search engines didn’t rank you by brand value or by how much marketing spend you had. Sure you could pay for adwords to get your site up there, but people can block those ads so easily now, and everybody knows that you only got there because you spent more money than the next business, and they inherently believe that there is something wrong with that.
So this created the idea that small home based businesses could always compete with large corporations for search engine space, because small new businesses were so much more flexible and targeted. This is true, and is still possible now, but it is fantasy to believe that this will always be the case. In fact, the very nature of the way we search may ultimately mean that we will end up even less competition than before. Take Gilletts for example. We’ve been to their one physical store, and it’s just another jewellery store. In fact in the mall they are in, there are dozens of other jewellery stores, and in the city there are hundreds, and in the country there are thousands. In Google.com.au however, Gilletts only has nine other real competitors in the whole country for mens wedding rings. Now that is real estate worth having! Was Gilletts a big jewellery chain? No, they’re one store. There are many jewellery chains in Australia, all of them with a whole lot more money, brand power and influence than Gilletts, but they did it right. They moved quicker, they targeted the right keywords, and now they’re going to be extremely difficult to move from that number one spot.
What real estate will you own? Will you look back with regret?