Chapter 3: Decision Time
A. Target Market
In the chapter, I suggested that you pick 3 or more markets to study in depth…now select one that seems to be the best bet for you and has the most viable market. You may need to narrow the market down. Especially if you are marketing online you may need to focus on a narrower niche. As an example, if you chose bicycling, you should look at mountain biking, or biking over 50, or bike racing and the reason is that the tighter the marketing niche, the more clearly you’ll be able to understand their needs and desires.
This is important because your goal should be to become a trusted advisor for your customers. The more directly you can speak to their real or perceived wants and needs, the more they will trust you. This task is much easier to accomplish if you narrow your niche.
B. Develop your USP
USP stands for “Unique Selling Proposition”.
What makes you unique, standing out from everyone else? The average person is hit with thousands of marketing messages every day, through the various media they encounter. But your prospect only cares about his or her wants and desires.
That is how it should be!
The best way to get and hold their attention is to communicate exactly how you will benefit your prospects, in terms that make sense and matter to them.
There’s a lot of helpful material available on the issue of crafting your USP. Jay Abraham teaches extensively on the subject, as does Mark Joyner in his book The Irresistible Offer.
C. Company name
When choosing your company name you should look at the following criteria:
1. Do you want your own name in the company? If you plan to sell the company later, probably not.
2. If you want your domain name to be the same as your company name, then you will have to check to see if the domain name is available. If so, then buy it before you register your company name with your state, or your domain name may be gone.
3. Try to convey some benefit to the prospective customer in your company name (try using your USP in the name). A good example of this is the company Guaranteed Resumes. From the name, I can tell they provide a resume service, and in some sense offer a guarantee for their service.
D. Domain Name
You should have at least one website, describing what your company does and giving customers and prospects a way to connect with you on the web. A domain name can be purchased for about $10, and once you have found the one you want, you should buy it even if you’re not ready to put up your website. Otherwise, someone else may buy it in the interim.
If you already have one or more domain names picked out and are comfortable with the process of selecting a domain name, great? If not, I’ve included some pointers to guide you.
These are some tips that I have picked up by experience. None of them is unique to me but I think it’s helpful to review them because if you’re just starting out, you might not be aware of all of them.
First, in almost all cases, you will want to choose the .com name. There are three reasons for this.
A. Some browsers will automatically put in the .com if the person types a domain without the extension.
B. Many people put in the .com unconsciously, so if you choose a different extension, you will be sending traffic to someone else’s site.
C. Some experts argue that the .com has a slight search engine benefit.
There are some exceptions, the main one being if you are doing business in another country and you primarily sell to people in that country, then you will likely want to choose that country’s extension. For example, in the United Kingdom, the extension is .co.uk. In Australia, it’s com.au, and so forth.
Now why are people sometimes tempted to use something other than the .com? Well, the reason is that many of the good .com names are taken, and so people look at the .net, .org, or other extension. While that might be acceptable for an informational type site or if you’re not a commercial enterprise, for your company’s main web site you should go with the .com.
The second factor in choosing a domain name is you want it to be easy to spell. In other words, you will want to avoid words which have multiple ways of spelling, or are easily confused with other words. Examples of these words would include the word, “to”. Is the word “t-o”, “t-o-o”, or “t-w-o”? If someone types in your domain name but gets even one character wrong, the traffic will not go to your site and may even end up at another person’s site. So you can see that selecting a name with easy to spell words is a must.
The third factor in choosing a domain name is you want it to be easy to say over the phone. If you’re talking with someone on the phone, or you have a radio ad, or a recorded interview and you mention your domain name, the person will have to write it down or remember it later if they are going to visit your site. Therefore, easy to spell words are important, as I just mentioned, but also consider things like having words that end in the same letter that the next word begins with, like SamsSports.com. This can be confusing for the end user, is there one “s” after “Sam” or two? Also avoid the use of dashes for the same reason. It’s difficult to convey to someone unless in print.
The fourth factor, and this is a little harder to get a handle on, is the domain should be memorable. If you can include some alliteration, anything to make is stand out, it will be to your advantage. A great example is Ralph Wilson’s site WilsonWeb.com.
And that is also why domain names that are too long can be a mistake; they are often simply too difficult to remember.
Now I’ve spent a lot of time on domain names, and it’s important because the domain name is your real estate on the internet. It’s where you are located. It’s been often stated for a brick and mortar business that the three most important factors are location, location, location, in other words the actual real estate where you are located. And on the internet it is no different.
There are many tools available to help you select a domain name, and one that I like is domaintools.com.
One other point about selecting names, and this refers both to domain names and business names, there are professional naming companies. There really is a science to it and while I wouldn’t recommend this step for everyone, it may be worth consideration if you’re willing to pay the fee.
E. Location (If Physical Business)
If you will a brick and mortar business, obviously it needs to be housed somewhere. Even if you will only be operating virtually–on the internet or via mail order– your office will need to be located somewhere.
Will it be in a spare bedroom, or dedicated office space in your home? I can tell you from experience that this is a challenge with young children in the home.
One way around that challenge is to discipline yourself to get up early–before the kids do– and get as much work done as you can before the kids get up.
F. Business Entity
Your choice of business entity is an important one, and has at least three aspects: legal, tax, and image.
The legal aspects mainly have to do with liability management. You want to have liability protection to counteract the effect of someone suing you unjustly. A properly structured business entity will protect your personal assets even if you business loses everything.
The tax aspects refer to reducing your taxes to their absolute minimum. I have in mind here Federal taxes, though you will also probably have state and local taxes you must pay.
I recommend doing some research on your own, and then going to an attorney and CPA or Enrolled Agent for advice on your choice of business entity.
An attorney will be more interested in the legal aspects of your choice, unless they also specialize in taxation, and many do. The CPA or Enrolled Agent will be more in tune with taxation issues. Some attorneys are also CPAs so bear that in mind as well.
I’m going to recommend that you get several recommendations before seeing professionals on this issue, and then try and get some sense of how much they are going to charge to give you the advice, and whether they are amenable to having you file the documents yourself if you choose.
Another strategy is to decide which tax preparer you are going to use, and ask for their recommendation on a local attorney to advise you on the entity issue.
The third aspect, image, may or may not be important to you. The prestige of a corporation is important in some markets, and in others it doesn’t matter.