What sort of business is this?

For those of you thinking of using our software to start a site like WP Questions, I have some

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feedback for you. Below I’ll respond to some questions that I just got in an email. These questions are representative

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of questions that I’ve been asked repeatedly.

What are some biggest mistakes you’ve done, which you would advise to avoid?

So far, we have made at least 4 mistakes:

  1. Overly broad sites, with large topics.

    Micro-consulting sites need to focus on a small niche, like WordPress. We did try to do a general PHP site, but no one used it. Instead, several people wrote to me and asked “When are you starting a site devoted to Drupal?”

    I would respond: “Why don’t you just use the PHP site?”

    They would respond: “No, we need a Drupal site.”

    So, focus on a niche. Focus on markets that have a definite community.

  2. Refunds.

    Apparently a lot of potential customers have been afraid to use the service because they were not sure if we would refund their money, if they failed to get an answer. Only this month have we started featuring our refunds. I wish we had done this much sooner.

  3. Our blog.

    At first, we did not emphasize our blog. Our customers did not realize that we were responding to their concerns. Our experts, too, missed many important announcements. Only recently did we move the link to our blog to the top of our designs. I wish we had done this sooner.

  4. Marketing instead of education.

    Steve Blank has written that when an idea is new, the focus of one’s marketing needs to be on educating the customers. We started out doing some traditional marketing, with links to a landing page that had a straightforward “call to action”: sign up, ask a question, spend money. This got us nowhere. Only recently did we realize the need to focus on education. This is a long term investment.

Any clues for social networks marketing? Was it efficient for you?

Twitter has been essential for us. When people want to discuss our sites, they mostly do so on Twitter.
Because there are few ways to respond to people’s complaints on WP Questions, Twitter has been useful for us as a way to talk directly to people. And of course, this blog is important.

However, we have not pursued much else, in terms of social media. We do not have a Facebook page.

Is this business idea (micro consulting) worth to be developing? What your experience says?

I am excited about the possibility, but people getting into this should realize this is a long term investment. The behavior we are trying to facillitate (micro-consulting, small sums for a small amount of work) is new, and it will take a while to catch on. A lot of customer education is needed.

We have been making a little over 10% of the prize money that goes through our sites. Between WP Questions and Symfony Experts, we have made a little under $2,000. We decided to reinvest that money, spending it on advertising. We did this because we think this basic idea holds vast potential, and we want to educate people about it. Our traffic is now at an all time high and I am excited about what next year will bring.

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2 Responses to What sort of business is this?

  1. Aleks Cast says:

    Education is a good question. Not always it will be remunerated with increased income, while it is good for positioning.

    In our situation the term “When the niche is new” I understand mostly as “When the technology is new”. Therefore in my niche I will be providing education on two issues:

    1) how to ask precise questions to get exact answer (a tool to minimize clients’ dissatisfaction and refunds) and

    2) Propaganding added value of Micro consulting as new resourse of relevant information.

    Did I you mean something different under “education”?

  2. Lawrence Krubner says:

    Aleks, I think you understood me fairly well. The #2 points you raise are good ones. There is also the more general question that I face, often, of “Why should I pay for this information when there is already so much free information on the Web?” Customers need to be educated about the added benefit of paying: faster answers, better help, more information. The money is best used for urgent situations.

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