The Loser’s Guide to Not Being Successful

I write a lot about the signs that might show that a certain project might go in the right direction, or the way of the dodo. Nothing is guaranteed, even practically failing projects can become successful, but to what price?

I have been part of a lot of projects  – when if I look back – of which a lot of them failed, and a nice number became successful. Working on other people’s projects I deliver a service that also includes my advice outside of the service I deliver for development, design and management tools.

And this blog I use to write some things down that are mostly my experiences, or based on them. How easy it is to see reflections of what is going on online compared to the ‘real world’. The web is not an uncharted goldmine anymore, it has become a pretty stable world; with chances of success, and even more for failure. Just like normal life.

I have noticed, over the years, that a lot of clients started to realize it too. Being present on the web is usually not an afterthought anymore – although it still happens – but a real part of a business plan. And there are a lot of services that might make your venture online easier, or more convenient.

And it should be. Because the web is not a cheap place to be. Sure, you can go online practically with no money down. You buy a ‘property’ without having to go to a bank and cough up a huge APR to just ‘be’ there. But as a good friend of mine mentions to his clients all the time who also notice that ‘you can be online for free’; building a site, or even maintaining a blog or twitter feed is NEVER free. Because the problem with being online is time.

The web has many advantages, one of them is that it is direct. You read the news online instead of waiting for tomorrow’s paper to read today’s news. If you have a store, and you have something on sale; it needs to go out right now. And with list based postings like Twitter or Craigslist; if you want to stay on top of the list that people receive, you have to post a lot.

And this is what people still seem to forget. Being online is not having a website anymore. It is ‘being’ online. Live it, breathe it. If something happens with your business, make sure it shows up there.

I have it easy, since my company is mostly working in the backgrounds through networks. I myself am not always practicing what I preach. I admit. I can afford it, although, should I want to raise the business, I should. But gladly I don’t have to be in that position yet.

But a lot of clients are. And more often than not, they usually think that ‘going live’ is the moment that their online endeavor is finished and they can just watch and see the people flock to them.

Oh, those times are gone. As I mentioned before, the two biggest problems online; creating an audience and maintaining the content. And both are a never-ending full-time job. My wife, who recently brought her antique business from only being online to a brick-and-mortar store (visit her, please, at http://www.yardleyantiques.com , although it is a Flash-only site) is spending all her spare time in updating her Facebook, website and twitter feeds. Taking pictures as soon as a new item becomes available, updating the website and all the postings in Craigslist and eBay. Even with all the tools available, it is hard work. She loves it, gladly, but it is very hard work.

And this earlier mentioned friend also provides the advice an training to clients to keep paying attention to the online movements. Even if your core business is solely offline. Because even if you are – and his clients are mostly politicians – if you don’t attract them, someone else will. And not only that; there is always enough competition that will try to take a share of your audience.

And I still see it too many times, that clients only are paying attention to their website, and their website alone. One client is redesigning their website, for at least another $40,000, for the fourth time in three years. Because – and this is their argument – the previous designs (that all got great reviews on design) were flawed and because of that there is no traffic.

And in that is already the problem – that last sentence – because, how can people even see your design if you simply do not have the traffic? Traffic is not generated by design, it is generated by marketing; advertisement, word of mouth, references, reviews…

I am terrible at creating audiences, this blog hardly had any readers before Computer Weekly and IBM nominated it for best IT blog and suddenly it was featured on different sites.

This client has spent, in the last three years, at least $250,000 in simply building their quite simple website. That was good three years ago, even if they would have kept it the same way. But they don’t want to spend time in searching for an audience.

Because, without an audience, how will you even know if your product could be successful?

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