Ten Top Tips: Make your digital start-up commercially viable

Before you launch your blog, microsite, digital presence or e-shop, make sure you check out these ten tips on commercialising a digital product from e-commerce experts and Can-did founder Bree Stamp and Chris Kerwin.

by Bree Stamp and Chris Kerwin
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

1.    How will it make money?

Too many companies, small and large, build their destination site before giving any real thought to the revenue potential. The idea may be born out of a need to digitise the business’ content or it may be very unique. But each business needs to think about its revenue streams at conception - will you rely on subscriptions, ecommerce, advertising or all three for example (see point three). If you don’t start to think about commercial strategy from the very beginning, you could have a very expensive website that has to be re-engineered and eventually re-launched.

2.    The ‘If you build it, they will come’ attitude doesn’t always work

There are a few lucky companies, such as Facebook or Pinterest, that can build a site and go from a few users to millions almost overnight just by word of mouth. But the majority of businesses need to have a well thought-out strategy on how they are going to attract their user base. There are cost-effective ways to achieve this now with CPA networks, (ad networks where the client pays per customer acquired), social platforms and SEO/Pay Per Click but it might need some initial investment.

3.    Implement your quick wins

There are a number of potential revenue streams for digital property from advertising to ecommerce to affiliates. Most sites will have a few streams that are easy to implement with limited resource but will make a huge difference in terms of revenue. Don’t wait for the long-term options to come into play (the homepage takeovers, dependent on 100,000 page views a day), make commercial changes straight away, add in that MPU or newsletter ad, and benefit from the upside sooner rather then later. 

4.    But maintain focus on longer-term goals

Once revenues start to flow it becomes easy to lose focus on the original aims and goals of the business.  Too often managing the existing revenue streams becomes the focus of activity.  Try to follow a multi-year strategy, as well as having annual business plans. And be nimble: if a few tweaks now will benefit your site down the line, do it.

5.    Bend a little

This industry moves quickly. What was new and innovative this year may have been superseded the year after. Too many companies stick to the plan rigidly for long periods of time, watching their revenue decline. If part of the plan isn’t working out, change it and move on.

6.    Keep your finger on the digital pulse

Don’t wait for your revenue stream to disappear all together. Keep up to date with what’s happening in the market and what the factors affecting your revenue streams. That could be, in some cases, what is funding the project. A government grant? A charitable trust. Wise up to challenges before they happen. Take Facebook. It's not serving ads in its mobile content, yet their mobile traffic is increasing rapidly. You can bet your bottom dollar that this is something it will address.

7.    Choose the right partners

Take some time to think about what you will need in the long run and ensure the partner you choose will be able to keep up with your plans. Also, remember you will have to work with this team daily or weekly for a long time, so choose a company that matches your work ethic. If you don’t, you won’t want to work closely with them and it will be at the cost of the project.

8.    Get the right tech

Companies often invest a considerable amount in their website or mobile application, making them look great, but they keep the platform fixed. If the site isn’t flexible, the increased expediential cost to maintain and enhance it as the business grows will start to make the project untenable. Have a long-term approach to ensure you can maximise new innovations, and continue to increase revenues as your business grows.

9.    Learn from your competitors

Don’t be afraid to look at your direct competitors and other players in the market and learn from their commercial wins.  Having original money-making ideas for your website does not always equal commercial success.  Sometimes implementing the ideas of others, but in a better way, can be much more effective.  Other times, simply reworking a revenue generation idea for your business can open up significant revenue streams.

10.    Strive for multi-platform  

It's 2012 and the year of mobile has finally arrived. Tablets are increasingly the chosen method of accessing digital content. You may not have the resource and/or investment to do everything all at once but make sure it's part of your imminent roadmap to ensure you are successful both in user generation and commercials using these platforms.

Bree Stamp and Chris Kerwin are co-founders of Can-did

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