A: The best book I have read with regard to e-business success is called Striking it Rich.com by Jaclyn Easton. In that book, Ms. Easton profiles 23 highly successful, yet not well known, online businesses and in the process explains what they did right. It’s a book worth picking up.
I also thought that the Forward to that book had some very valuable insights. That forward was written by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com. If anyone knows anything about e-business, it’s Bezos. So what say Bezos? He says that the key to business success in the virtual world is offering the customer something that cannot be replicated in the physical world.
Amazon started out as “The World’s Biggest Bookstore,” and it worked because whereas a typical book superstore may carry thousands of books, Amazon was able to list, literally, over a million of books. Because that sort of inventory cannot be duplicated in the real world, Bezos created and offered something unique, thus driving people to his site.
So that is what you must do if you are going to be an online success. And you need not do it on the scale that Amazon did to still be successful, either. Bryan Caplovitz is proof of that.
Caplovitz is the founder and president of Speakermatch.com. Speakermatch began a year and a half ago as a speaker’s bureau, that is, an agency that matches public speakers with meeting planners. As part of that business, Caplovitz created a web site.
While his bureau began as most businesses do – with a modicum of success - it was when he had his Big Idea that things began to change – rapidly, and for the better. Caplovitz realized that there was a great need not being met by traditional speaker’s bureaus, a need that could best be met online. Although Bryan Caplovitz never met Jeff Bezos, he instinctively knew Bezos’ lesson.
Bryan realized that one of the great frustrations for many a speaker is that finding speaking gigs takes a lot of time. Similarly, for meeting planners, finding the right speaker is also time-consuming. Instead of having a physical speaker’s bureau, Caplovitz realized that he could match these two groups online. “It became the Monster.com for the speaking industry,” the ingenious Caplovitz told me last week.
On the site (www.speakermatch.com) Meeting planners list – for free - their events and speaker needs. Speakers pay a nominal monthly fee to the site for the right to peruse and pursue the leads that match their abilities.
It’s a fantastic business model. Speakers can find employers directly, and those employers can find speakers quickly. And best of all for Caplovitz is that he has created a steady stream of loyal customers on both ends. Because it’s such a valuable, and unique, service, it is no wonder that it is a success. It deserves to be.
According to Caplovitz, since he started using his revised business model, “the site and customer base have grown every month.”
Caplovitz has two pearls of wisdom, learned the hard way, for those who want to start their own successful online business:
- The smartest thing he did was to create an opt-in subscription list for his speaker marketing newsletter. By opting in to that newsletter, visitors to Speakermatch are instantly pre-qualifying themselves for Caplovitz’s services. They want what he is selling, and they have agreed to give him their email address. It’s a powerful marketing tool for any would-be e-merchant.
- The dumbest thing he did was to purchase an opt-in list from a broker. “It’s a waste of money,” he advises.
So the Speakermatch lesson is clear: If you want to create a successful online business, offer something unique, something not easily duplicated in the physical world, serve a market need, and the watch the money click in.
Today’s tip: The gateway to most businesses is the receptionist. If you are pitching a proposal, or wooing a potential big customer, you could do a lot worse than to spend some time and effort getting the receptionist on your side.