Today is a big anniversary for me – 16 years ago today, on August 30th, 1996, I started my first Internet business.
Yes… I actually started all the way back in the summer of 1996.
I've come a long way since then – from incredibly humble beginnings in a corner of the baby's room to selling tens of millions of dollars of my products. (And, of course, that baby is in college now.) More importantly, my students and clients have sold hundreds of millions of dollars of THEIR products.
In any case, since this is my 16th anniversary, I thought I would share my 16 Rules of Internet Success.
These rules came to me at different times over the years. I was lucky to stumble onto the first two of these laws right at the very beginning. The rest were hard-won lessons I learned over the years. So without further ado, here they are:
1. Always Be Building Your List AND Your Relationship With Your List: I wrote about this one at this link – this is one of those laws that I somehow instinctively understood from day one. This is critical, and people still screw this up. For most digital businesses, this is the one true asset that you can truly own. And don't forget that second part – your relationship with your list is just as important as the size of your list.
2. Only Sell What The Market Wants: I learned this one in the first few months of starting my business, when I was looking at which pages on my site were getting the most traffic. I realized that was an easy way to tell what people were interested in… and I also realized that it wasn't what I would have expected them to be interested in. Hmmm… big surprise – and I learned to look at the data instead of trusting my instincts. You need to do the same… sell what the market wants, not what you want to sell them… or what you think they should want. There is so much data and feedback available in our online businesses, there's no reason to mess this one up.
3. Take The Long View – Win With Strategy: So many people continually screw up their positioning, their brand, and their reputation by chasing after the latest tactic or the last dollar that… well, it's just downright sad. The good news is that if you take the long view (and in this business, the long view seems to be anything past the next three months), then you'll instantly stand apart. With your marketplace being so connected (and getting more connected every day), you have to deliver quality, and you have to be congruent. Chasing today's dollar too hard can have long term collateral damage. Giving away last month's flagship product as a bonus to spur sales this month is horrible for your positioning, and it WILL negatively impact your business in the long run.
4. Don't Depend On Any Single Source of Traffic: If you're dependent on your search rankings, you don't have a business. You've temporarily won the lottery… and the gravy train will NOT last. Same with other sources of traffic… none of them are permanent. Diversify your traffic sources. If you only have one primary way of getting your message in front of people, then you're living on borrowed time.
5. Sell Your Own Stuff (and Other People's Stuff): If you're going to have any control over your business, you need to be selling your own products. So get over it, and create those products.
AND you should also sell other people's products – either as an affiliate or by getting paid to run ads. This is smart because it helps diversify your revenue, and because you're not going to be able to create all the products that your clients need. More about this here.
6. The Purpose Of The Sale Is To Generate A Raving Fan: When you make the sale, your job has just started. You need to deliver a great product and a great experience. Your raving fans will return to buy from you over and over (which is where the real money is made), and they'll become your evangelist in this uber-connected world.
7. It's All About Relationships In Your Industry: I don't use the word “competitor” in my business. I only think in terms of “partners” and “future partners”. I suggest you try that out for a while… because your net worth is equal to your network.
8. Get To Dollar One: I always want to get to my first dollar of revenue with any new product or business. I've heard so many grandiose plans that never got off the ground… often because the plan was just too big, or because there was no real plan for revenue. The danger in any new business grows exponentially for every day that goes by without revenue. Force yourself to figure out how to get at least some revenue flowing as quickly as possible.
9. Opportunity Cost Is The Most Important Thing (And It Becomes More Important As Your Business Grows): I wrote about this here… bottom line is there are always more opportunities than there is time. You can only do so much. Every time you choose a project, it comes at the cost of another project. Choose wisely.
10. Get Out Of The House And Go To Live Events: My business changed radically after I started going to live events – that is where the connections are made, it's where the deals are done. I met nearly every one of my top Joint Venture partners at a live event, long before any of them ever promoted for me.
11. The Power Of The Mastermind Is Enormous: I wouldn't be where I'm at today if I wasn't actively engaged in various mastermind groups over the last 13 years. Get in a mastermind group now. More here.
12. It's A Lot Easier To Sell With The Human Touch – The “Corporate Voice” Is Death: I've always been happy just being me, and not pretending to be some big corporation. I didn't refer to myself as “we” in my emails… and that set me apart from the very beginning. Back in the early days, everyone was trying to sound big and important – I was just writing my emails like I write to my best friend. It worked. People want to connect with people, not corporations… that corporate voice will kill you.
13. Live Below Your Means… Don't Buy That Ferrari Yet: When the money starts rolling, it's easy to let your lifestyle grow very quickly. Fight that urge. Remember Rule #3 – the long view. It's a lot easier to do the right things and make the right decisions when you aren't chasing the next dollar… when you aren't worried about making the payment on that Ferrari.
14. Baby Steps: I have a video about this here… your first site will suck, that's OK. Your first sales letter will suck, that's OK. Your first email will suck, that's OK. The important thing is to have a rock-solid plan, and keep moving forward. You'll get there… just get started. Be gentle with yourself, forgive yourself for mistakes, don't expect to be perfect – just get moving, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
15. It's All About Creating Value: In the short run, you can use tricks and tactics to create some level of success. But if you're doing that stuff without delivering real value, then you're just spinning the karma wheel… and that doesn't usually work out so well in the long run. The path to long term success is by creating massive value for your clients… and your clients are the ones that will be measuring that value.
16. Invest In Yourself… No One Can Take Your Skills From You: I spend a lot of time, energy, and money on my skills and knowledge. I've been doing that from the start, and I'm not ever going to stop… no one can take that away from me. I've been fortunate enough to have long term success… but I've also had set backs. I've had significant revenue streams disappear overnight – but it never slowed me down. In fact, it really wasn't even very troubling, because I knew I had the skills to bounce right back. Once you've developed your chops, you have the ultimate control over your destiny.
So there's my 16 Rules of Internet Success… I'm not claiming they are all-inclusive, or that they're a fit for everyone. After all, I only had 16 to work with. But they've been working really well for me…
So let me know – what's your #1 law? What was the one you learned first? Which one was the most painful to learn? What did I forget? Leave a comment below and let me know… I read all of the comments.