It’s another #freebiefriday! Here’s your FREE audio copy of part 2 of chapter 6 of How to Turn Your Idea into a Multi-Million Dollar Business.
You can buy a copy in hard copy or kindle version. But before it gets released to iTunes and to Audible, we’d like to give it to you as a free trial. We hope you look forward to some of the other things that we’ve got that you’re going to get absolutely free here and at www.moreprofitlesstime.com.
CHAPTER 6: TAKING IT ONLINE
- Web Hosting Services
- Cloud Computing
- Backup and Recovery
- Common Cloud Tools
- Affiliate Marketing
THANKS FOR LISTENING!
Until next time!
TRANSCRIPT: BONUS EPISODE 11
Title: How to Turn Your Idea Into a Multi-Million Dollar Business (Chapter 6, Part 5)
Date Published: November 27, 2015
Running Time: 16:01 minutes
Hi, this is John Millar. I’m the Naked Business Coach, stripping business back to its bare basics. As a special bonus, we’re giving you a free copy of all the chapters in How to Turn Your Idea into a Multi-Million Dollar Business.
Now this is available in Amazon and you can buy a copy in hard copy or kindle version. But before it gets released to iTunes and to Audible, I thought I’d give it to you as a free trial. I hope you enjoy it, took me some years to write. And I hope you look forward to some of the other things that we’ve got that you’re going to get absolutely free.
Thanks so much and welcome to The Naked Business Coach Podcasting Channel.
The Entrepreneur’s Guide Series
How to Turn Your Idea into a Multi-Million Dollar Business (And Avoid the Mistakes that Send Most Business Owners into Bankruptcy)
By John Millar
Chapter 6: Taking It Online
Web Hosting Services
I will be talking a little more in depth about affiliate marketing soon, but I will mention it here as it relates to websites. Affiliate marketing is a form of marketing where a company will pay their affiliates for delivering paid customers to their service. Here is where it relates to websites. When you purchase your website, you will basically get two things:
1) A web hosting account
2) The code that comprises your website
The hosting account is the place where the website code will exist. It is like an empty storage device. When you put the code onto the hosting account, the website comes alive. You cannot have a website without having both of these components. You will pay some amount periodically for the hosting account fees, but you will pay only once for the setup of the website (and then each time you make changes). Affiliate marketing comes into play here because some hosting services offer their affiliates kickbacks when they deliver customers to the hosting service. Some website developers use these hosting services because after they set up the website, they continue to earn revenue every time the client renews the subscription to the hosting service. This can be a bad deal for you because these hosting servers are often more costly since they need to charge more so they can pay the affiliates. Another gotcha is the interface for web development and the domain service. Without getting too technical, some of these affiliate-based hosting services make it more difficult for you to terminate your hosting subscription and move somewhere else. It is better to find a web developer that is not getting any kickbacks from the hosting service they are building your website on. Keep these two things separate and you have a better chance of avoiding costly conflicts in the future.
In summary, I would recommend that you start with a WordPress platform and go with a hosting service that is not affiliated too closely with the developer of your website. Build a simple site at the outset and let the complexity of your website evolve with your business as it grows.
In this section, I discuss some data processing topics with respect to cloud computing, but this discussion on these topics will also inform you about many critical concepts in general computing—concepts you need to run your new business. From the time you launch your company, you should understand things like data security, system backup, software reliability, and support. I will talk about these things with respect to cloud computing, and in doing so give you a general presentation on these highly critical topics.
You have surely heard the term “cloud computing.” In general it relates to the idea of sharing resources in a “cloud,” a jargon term for the Internet or some kind of network. You may have also heard of Gmail. Gmail exists online so it is essentially a cloud-based service. I am going to use it as an example because it exemplifies all the pros and cons of using cloud-based services for your business. Similar arguments for and against can be made with most cloud-based services.
Since you are going into business for yourself, it is very important that you understand what the cloud is, and the pros and cons of using services based in the cloud. These services can save you a lot of money, and remember: Cash-flow is king! If you keep more money in your own pocket, your-cash flow will be much healthier. The basic idea here is that you will need several data processing functions in your business— word processing, accounting, email, spreadsheet, presentations, and others—and you can use cloud-based software for these functions or you can purchase them and manage them yourself (usually at a higher cost).
For example, you will need to use email in your new business and you have several configuration choices to pick from when you make your decision on which email program to use. Here are some considerations, and these will span all such services:
- Security – How secure is your email system and the communications to and from your business?
- Backup & Recovery – If you lose some email data, can you get another copy?
- Cost – How much does the email service cost?
- Reliability – What is the reliability of the email service?
- Functionality – Does the email service have all the functions you need for your business?
Your company emails should be secure and private. Business information has value and keeping it private can make the difference between success and failure. If you develop a proprietary system that you are selling, developing that system had a cost associated with it, and you do not want to just give that system away to a competitor because then the competitor will be able to use your system to deliver the same service. Since such services are usually priced to include the research and development in the price, your competitor would then be able to charge a lower price for the same service since they spent nothing on research and development. You can see the problem. If someone—a competitor—can access all of your emails, they will have access to a tremendous amount of the proprietary data owned by your company. If you use a service like Gmail, in the cloud and unsecured, you will be compromising your business on security. Gmail is based on the fact that all of your email remains unencrypted so that the Gmail software can parse the text of your email and add targeted advertisements based on content. While Gmail representatives claim that no one—no real person—actually looks at your emails, you cannot be guaranteed of that. In reality, most such systems are open to the eyes of many people (system administrators, support personnel, nosey relatives, and others). Conceivably, your emails (and all the attachments you send with them) could be viewed by anyone at all if you use an unsecured, cloud-based service like Gmail.
Another option would be to host your own email server. This would be more expensive because you would need to set it up and manage it, but it would offer you more security—and thus the proprietary information of your new company would be secure. The most secure solution would be to subscribe to a web-based service that offers full encryption.
You may not be concerned with having encryption and strong security in the initial phases of your start-up. If you are not, a cloud-based service like Gmail may work for you in the short-term because it is simple to get started on, free, and it has many good features. If you wish to get an email service that offers more security and other features, you should work with your business coach to get the email program you desire.
Backup & Recovery
This is probably one of the most overlooked areas in business computing. A very high percentage of companies do not have an adequate backup and recovery plan in place. Typically, the problem starts with a sub-standard method of archiving company transaction data. Most businesses fail to realize that they are not storing their critical data on backup until a disaster occurs and they need that data—and it is not there. This can be a very costly mistake. If you lose some emails, it will be very difficult to contact Google and get them to provide you with a copy of all the emails you lost. You may be able to do it, but since you get the service free, Google does not guarantee they will respond to you, or that they are even backing up your email data.
However, and this goes for many cloud-based services, with respect to general backup and recovery of other critical company data, there are some good cloud-based solutions. I am not talking just about emails here; rather, I am referring to all the critical data of your company, the accounting history, contracts, daily transactions, database information, etc. This data also needs to be backed up, and a cloud-based solution that offers local encryption is likely a lot more reliable and cost-effective than what you can do locally if you set up your own backup system. You should pay for this service so the usual drawbacks associated with free cloud services like Gmail are not present. Also, make sure your data is secure.
Gmail is completely free, but as mentioned above, if you need support, you might as well wish into the wind because when you dial the Google phone number (if you can even find it), I doubt anyone will answer. I cannot say for certain this is true with Google, but it is generally the case with all of the free cloud-based services. Skype would be another example. You can use their free facilities, but there is very little live support. If you want a support phone number for a cloud service, you will likely need to pay a subscription fee.
Gmail is very reliable, as are most of the larger cloud-based systems. Usually, they are much more reliable than what you can provide yourself if you host a solution in-house. These cloud services are hosted in multi-geographical regions, meaning that if one of their servers goes down for any reason, another server picks up service instantaneously. It would be very expensive to provide this level of system availability and redundancy in-house. In this respect, cloud-based services are the system of choice, especially for business startups.
You will generally get better functionality from a non-cloud service, but subscription-based cloud services (those you pay for) will provide better functionality than the free ones, and here’s why: if you are paying a company to use their software, they will generally be more responsive to your individual needs and requests. You will not have much hope of getting Google to make a change in their Gmail program to meet one of your internal company needs; you will, however, have better luck if you buy an email program, or subscribe to one. In the latter case, the vendor is making their revenue from you directly, so they need to keep you happy. Google does not care as much about the functionality you need for your particular business, and they are using you to generate revenue indirectly. In summary, you tend to get better functionality for services that you pay for. This is not true in every instance, but it is generally the case.
Common Cloud Tools
There are many cloud-based tools you can take advantage of to get your new business started. As mentioned above, some critical functions—like backup and recovery—can be done very economically with a cloud solution. I will present some of the more popular cloud-based functions here to help you get started. Your new business will have its own unique needs, so check with your business coach for guidance in this area.
Communication – I will list the industry leader here: Skype. They offer online chat, messaging, video conferencing, and other services. Their offerings are extensive, with some free cloud services and some subscription-based.
List Management – These would be vendors of online email marketing services. As outlined above in the email marketing section, your business will eventually have a marketing List and you will likely be doing periodic email blasts to your List. Several such services exist in the cloud. I won’t list them all here as you can easily find the leaders online or get the top names from your business coach.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System – I am going to tell you the general features of CRM systems and leave it up to your business coach to help you decide which is best. A CRM system allows you to manage your clients. This is a must-have for sales people who need to track leads and follow all the developments in a client relationship, especially if it spans any length of time. If you have more than five clients, you should have some type of CRM system. It will allow you to store account history on a client so that anyone in your company can go back and view what has occurred.
Payment Processing – The industry leader is PayPal, and if you are transacting business online, you will need a PayPal account. Many clients are likely to show up with a PayPal payment for your products and services. PayPal does not replace your local bank, but they do give you a viable alternative to having your global customers send you checks in the mail. If you accept a PayPal payment from a client today, you can have the money in your bank account in a few days. You will have to pay a processing fee, around 4-5% for international transactions, but it makes processing payments much easier for non-local business transactions.
Accounting – As with the other tools, having a cloud-based accounting system will give you the flexibility of allowing multiple people access to it from multiple locations. Your accounting department can be geographically dispersed if need be. The cost for a cloud-based accounting system will be lower on a monthly basis, usually less than 20 USD. Conversely, if you purchase a package to install on your local computer, it can cost hundreds of dollars. Depending on the complexity of your accounting needs, one option may be advantageous over another. Your accountant would probably prefer that you run on a cloud-based system because it makes access easier for them. On a hosted system, you would need to write your accounting data out to disk and deliver the disk to your accountant. It is easier if they can just access your system online; it does, however, bring up the issue of security again. An online accounting system is far less secure: if your accountant can log in from his office, a hacker could also gain access to your vital data and cause you trouble. Your data will be safer physically if it resides in a cloud-based accounting system because a burglary in your office, and the loss of a computer, will not affect the cloud-based system records.
Document Processing – If your workforce is distributed at all, you can solve many problems by using a cloud-based document management and processing program. You will be sharing documents, so having them in a central location— available to everyone—is paramount. If the software you use to edit those documents is also cloud-based, then you do not need to have individual copies on every PC in the workforce. Workers can log on and process the documents online, from anywhere. Collaboration (as with most cloud applications) is easy.
Affiliate marketing refers to the concept of selling your products and services with the help of “affiliates,” or people who are referring customers to you. When someone (an affiliate) sends a prospect your way, and that prospect ends up purchasing a product or service from you, you are obligated to compensate that affiliate. This is not unlike the offline version, which is to pay a commission to distributors who market and sell your products and services.
On the web, affiliate marketing works as follows. You create an affiliate program for your business. On your website, you take applications. Potential affiliates apply to become an affiliate. You approve them and give them backlinks to the purchasing pages of your products and services. Each link contains an affiliate identification code. The affiliate puts advertisements on the Internet (on their website or elsewhere) with links to your products. When someone in the world clicks on an affiliate link, bringing them to your product buy page— and that person buys your product or service—you assign a credit to the affiliate who sent them to you. This is the general idea behind affiliate marketing. If you get a million affiliates to sell your products, you will increase your website traffic and some of these visitors will end up buying your products. This type of marketing can be very productive. It is not simple to set up, so I would suggest that you get help and guidance from your business coach or webmaster.