Life from an outsider's perspective…

Creating an online business. The importance of networking.

spider-web-networking.gifThe first step in creating my online business was to start with a good quality website. I improved the content by taking spectacular photos, providing free information, maps, bike routes, altitude profiles & even filming several good quality cycling videos.

Despite advertising all this with google adwords, posting countless links on cycling forums, and creating numerous in-links from cycling holiday directories, it still was not receiving many visitors (between 30-50 per day). Moreover, web visitors do not always equate to cutomers! So I paid for one magazine advertisement in which I turned out to be a complete waste of £100. 😐

Obviously, the only way to get any internet business to work is to increase web traffic. The first thing any online shop needs is a good website design, preferably with interesting content and something to sell. But was still not receiving the level of exposure required to generate sufficent income.

Clearly something was not working. The idea of selling any product is effective & appropriate marketing. If no one knows you exist, how can you suceed? I realised that my niche is incredibly small & it would be extemely difficult. I knew I needed to target hard-core cyclists, and cyclo-tourists who have the most probablity of hiring a bike when they come to train & tour this island. How could I reach them all?

An online friend of mine encouraged me to initiate a cycling in Tenerife news blog to facilitate regular updates and increase the number of return visitors. The unique cultural perspective of an expatriate in another section also makes it more personal. I then joined several online blog communities, by submitting a blog profile and a photo to: blogcatalogue, mybloglog, spicypage, blogarama, topblogarea, blogflux, blogtoplist and bikeblogcollection.

I also created two other cyber-space zones; I’m now represented on myspace, and have my own youtube channel, showcasing my great road & MTB cycling videos.  I continue to add friends to these three online communities like there is no tomorrow. To a lesser extent, I joined, and created a Technorati Profile. I have no idea what these do yet. I’m sure they have potential. In fact the real reason for the post was to include that link so they can check this blog belongs to me! Alas, it didn’t work, and I had to confirm it another way…

Now I’m in the phase of inter-linking all these online information points. By creating direct links to and from each of them, posting bulletins, promotions, videos, comments, etc. That is the real networking part. It doesn’t happen by itself. At least not yet.

I began the remainder of my online marketing campaign by asking several online European cycling forums for help. I asked them to provide links to their local bike clubs, official cycling organisations, cycling directories, bike shops, magazines,  and even other forums. I then went and contacted the majority of those reccommended links, especially the cycling directories. I’m still yet to finish gathering all the bike clubs, only because there are so many out there. When I will do I will add them to my e-mail newsletter campaign.

I scoured for individual cyclist’s e-mails from many sources, and directly sent them my information, etc. I did all this with my own undulating level motivation, of course without any other source of income (apart from selling practically everything I once owned). I’m slowly expanding my fleet of bikes that are available for rent. I’m also offering a free delivery service to hotels in Puerto de la Cruz.

Meanwhile, I created several promotions to really get the ball rolling. Actually, these have not been popular, to say the least, but I’m sure when I post up a picture of the next winner on my blog, I’ll get more entries the next time around.  

For now, all the money goes back into the business. I don’t have anything left for myself. Sometimes we even have to ration our milk supply, and I can recall many times when I scrounge around for lost change for bus money, etc. Right now I feel like a poor loser, but I know it will all pay off eventually. So for anyone that wants to know, THAT is how I set up With a dream, inspiration, shitloads of ambition, and non-stop work. Slowly, ever so slowly, after more than 18 months work, the word is slowly getting around…

It’s like I have created a huge splash in a pool, and the ripples are only just starting to bounce of the walls and return.

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