Last week, whilst waiting for my wife, I was browsing my emails on my trusty iPhone and came across a great article by Chris Guillebeau on How to Conduct Your Own Business Audit.
I thought this was a timely reminder to have a look at my own business and here I’m going to share the results with you:
Business owners and entrepreneurs should regularly undertake a business audit. A business audit for those unfamiliar with doing one, basically means taking a closer look at your business and making improvements. (Sometimes it’s called a business review).
So, I thought with my first year of the blog approaching I’d start the month with a review of some of the business aspects of The Big Red Tomato Company – the intention is that we revisit this each month to provide an update.
The Big Red Tomato Company splits into two components – physical activity (Interim Management and consulting) and virtual activity via the blog. The purpose of the two components are to support each other.
Although the business splits into two components these aren’t equal, as 99% of all The Big Red Tomato Company income comes from physical activity. However, a major objective for me personally over the next year is to move towards a more equal balance of virtual and physical income.
As the business is in this transitional stage I’m taking some time out in this post to analyse the virtual side of the business.
If you work in a regular job you’ll be familiar with the annual review process. Indeed, we subjected ourselves to at the end of last year! However, for this business audit, instead of doing it at the end of the year, I’m conducting a smaller review to focus solely on this subject of generating external passive income.
Building the foundations
The Big Red Tomato Company Blog in it’s current form went live in August 2009. Although articles were being written from this date at the rate of 1-2 a week, I made no real effort to drive traffic until January 2010 when my Alexa ranking stood at around 1.7m. Then I upped the number of times I posted to around 5 times per week and spent more time driving traffic – with benefits to the Alexa ranking – it’s now standing at 153k.
Over the last few months I have developed a number of strategies for growing my site trafficl which range from commenting on other sites to guest posting and using social media (Twitter/Facebook and Linkedin) – the use of which was in no small part to Gary Veynerchuk’s excellent book Crush It!: Why Now is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion
Anyway, the benefits of my efforts in driving traffic are definitely paying off and will be the cornerstone of driving the passive income streams going forward.
The sections I’ve used from the audit below are taken from the first lesson in my series How to Grow Your Business series.
My first information product was How To Achieve Your Dreams The Tomato Way which I pre-launched in May and again in June and launched fully on 1st August. This product sold very well at both the Pre-Launches and I expect big results later in the year when people start to plan for New Year resolutions.
My second information product which I launched on 19th July was the No.1 Product Launch Checklist – this is a bit of a niche product for those looking to launch information products, so it has a less broad appeal. Although it hasn’t met it’s initial sales targets, it has continued to sell post launch – this product will be kept under review and may ultimately disappear from sale and be bundled with another product.
I’ve not personally come across a direct competitor for the Big Red Tomato Company Blog. This is mainly because the niche we’ve defined – is aimed at entrepreneurs whether they work for themselves or someone else with advice to grow their businesses, is quite defined, but that’s not to say that competitors don’t exist! As there’s competition in most of the subject areas where we write, if not just for reading time!
All the products were compared in value terms with what could be purchased on Amazon, but that’s not to say the products are directly comparable, especially when the bonus extras are thrown in – so I think the offers have been good, offering a fair bit for the money.
Ask the Customers
I spend a fair bit of time interacting with the commentators on the site and in replying to the questions I get either by email or Twitter. However, one area where I could make more use of is in reader surveys. I’ve ran one for the original eBook launch and I’ve ran another about Facebook landing pages. They gave me some good insights, which is why they are going to be part of the strategy going forward.
I’ve had mixed success with affiliate marketing – I know a lot of people have big success with Amazon affiliates – but I don’t think I’ve made £25 since I’ve been a member – I think that’s mainly becuase I’m a UK affiliate and I know a fair amount of readers are located in the US or overseas, so they are probably ordering any recommended books from their local sites – I don’t know if I can have a US affliate memership, but I will definitely look into it as I personally get a lot of value from books and I know, from the comments I recieve, that our readers do too.
Our other Affiliate Products (E-Junkie, Aweber, 31 Days to Build a Blog Etc), I’ve had much better success with becuase these are products that on non geographic (priced in $ and delivered digitally) and I know people like to use the products we use ourselves.
Undoubtedly, one of the best things that I have done this year is to recruit our affiliates to help promote our products – what could be better than multiplying the potential market by the readership of each affiliate?
The good thing is that I learn more about the blogging platform and ‘the business of blogging’ I see a big opportunities for this site, not least as an extension to the physical business, with consulting/one hour brainstorms and supporting of The Big Red Tomato Company as a brand, but as a virtual income source too.
Here’s some of the opportunites that I see in coming months which I hope to be updating you on very soon:
- webinars or conference calls
- recruiting more affiliates
- finally launch the ebook on ‘How to Write an eBook’
- run a start up school – membership site
- grow the email list substantially
- partner with photographers rather than use stock images
Before I close, here’s a great quote by Chris Guillebeau when looking at opportunities:
Just because you have a big opportunity doesn’t mean you should pursue it. I pass up a lot of things because they aren’t a good fit for my overall strategy.
Great advice have a plan and stick to it. Overall though I follow the maxim of Tom Peters – Try Stuff.
So, that’s my audit, I’m going to update you on the progress each month. Stay tuned.
What about you? What are the plans for your business?