50 Keys to a Successful Online Business

What is the difference between failure and success in a startup company? Why do some companies develop a good product or service and use effective sales and marketing strategies to help customers and to generate revenue and profits and to grow a successful company while other companies fail somewhere along with way?

I think it has to do with the company “blueprint” that is in the mind of the founder or the management team.

A complete business blueprint has to address the design of every part of a business in order for a successful company to emerge.

But some companies are founded by engineers who know how to create great products but don’t know how to design a proper sales and marketing system.

Some companies are led by a sales oriented CEO who can land customer accounts, but without solid business processes in place, the company can run itself into the ground. As one of Phil Burn’s wall calendar’s says: it can take months to find good customers, but you can lose them in a second.

The weakest link in a company or its blind spot can kill it.

Companies that are led by a sales or marketing oriented CEO are far more likely to succeed. I recall one study of Inc 500 CEOs–I believe that 80% of them had a sales/marketing background.
I would like to see more startup companies succeed.

I think more new companies could succeed if the founders were able to follow a blueprint showing them all the aspects of a company that need to be well-designed, and show them actually examples of a good design.

I recently got a copy of the book “Blueprint to a Billion.” I haven’t read it yet, but it discusses 7 essentials to achieve exponential growth. I don’t love business books that generalize about why large companies succeeded. I much prefer individual entrepreneurial stories, biographies, or case studies, where a single person describes exactly what they did that led to their success.

In large companies there is so much complexity with people, products, and competition, that it is sometimes impossible to pinpoint the individual actions that created success.
But in small startups, a single entrepreneur can often point to an advertisement that the company ran in a single periodical that generated the first $20,000 in sales, or to the trade show that brought the company its first contract, or the telemarketing campaign that worked best, or to the search engine campaign (pinpointed down to the single keyword!) that brought in its best customers.
I think CEOs of brand new companies need a complete blueprint for building a successful company that addresses every aspect of a startup.

I’d like to build such a blueprint for online businesses, since all my Provo Labs companies are primarily online, and then to see it expanded to cover other types of businesses.

The Entrepreneur’s Manual, published in 1977, sold more than 250,000 copies and was extremely helpful in its time. But it is pretty out of date.
I will be working hard with one of my Provo Labs team members to identify the critical areas that online businesses need to address — we’re up to 45 already — and importantly, the correct way to address each one. In other words, the best practices, case studies, and entrepreneurial interviews (podcasts, vidcasts, articles) that best explain the right way to do things.

For example: purchasing the right domain can make a huge difference in the long-term success or failure of an online business. How do you find the right domain? How do you test a domain name with potential customers before paying a high price for it? Can you buy a domain with dashes between words or not? What about .com vs .net vs. .org vs. .biz or .tv? If the domain is owned by a squatter, what do you do? Do you use an escrow service when paying a large sum for a domain? Which one?

There are actually dozens of important questions that should be asked when looking at a domain name. Same with each step you take in an online business.

We will identify the questions entrepreneurs should ask and the best answers that have ever been published or recorded. We will also the top experts that we know to weigh in on the best practices and share personal experiences and case studies.

And we will do this for all aspects of web development, marketing and sales.

If we build a great blueprint, we believe that more Provo Labs companies will succeed and that we will be able to teach hundreds or thousands of other startup companies the most important things they can do to succeed as well.

The companies that join our Provo Labs incubator (coming to Provo in June!) will have weekly training on these best practices; but we also intend to podcast or vidcast our presentations as well and make them available to internet entrepreneurs worldwide.

7 Comments

  1. DBrock

    Paul,
    Slightly off-topic here, but I’m curious if you’ve had a chance to check out JotSpot’s new family website offering. Given your background at MyFamily and the many thoughts you’ve shared on the change in focus from family sites to genealogy, I’d be curious to know what you think about it. It seems like a nice alternative to what’s out there, although they could clearly take it a lot farther.
    http://familysite.jot.com/index.php

  2. […] Paul Allen: What is the difference between failure and success in a startup company? Why do some companies develop a good product or service and use effective sales and marketing strategies to help customers and to generate revenue and profits and to grow a successful company while other companies fail somewhere along with way? […]

  3. Hugh Roper

    I’m looking forward to your blueprint. I hope you share it with the public.

    My first real startup will be coming online this summer.

  4. Another way to look at this, in case you’re a technology oriented person instead of sales-and-marketing oriented, is to admit that your strength is in developing products, not selling them. So keep your company small, limit the amount of external investment that you take in, develop something really cool that the people that know about it love, and target yourself for an acquisition in the $5-10M range.

    One of my friends recently sold his 3-person technology-oriented company to a large internet company. Another is probably not too far away from selling his 2-person company. Peter Norvig from Google recently told me that Google likes to acquire small, single-digit person companies for their technology and their technical talent.

  5. Paul,

    I am looking forward to your review of “Blueprint to a Billion”. I started on this journey as I was in search of the success pattern to grow great companies. As a business executive, I realized after listening to my inner voice of experiences as well as those of many others(and friends), that our approach to growth is a product of our experiences. After researching into the success rate, which was worse than some lotteries, I concluded I needed identify the success pattern in order to increase my odds. What took me 3 months took me 3 years to identify this pattern. After sharing it with over a 100 executives, many suggested I write the book. So you have it!

    By the way, Google “Exponential Growth” and you will find no business topic. It is the only growth pattern to create great companies. Check out chapter one or the search-inside capability on Amazon to read the chapter. You will see what I mean.

    I can only wish you the best and that the Blueprint will serve you as well as it has served me and many others.

    I look forward to your feedback.

    David G. Thomson
    david@blueprinttoabillion.com

    PS. I agree with you regarding the application of big business books to entrepreneurship.

  6. Gabe Larsen

    Always fun to read your blog Paul. It reminds me of taking your internet marketing class, you always something interesting to discuss. I found your comment striking about the fact that most CEOs come from a sales/marketing background. That sales/marketing experience must give them that “visionary” or creative side that is a must when starting a business. Something to definitely ponder about.

    Thanks Paul!

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