Sunday, October 07, 2007

Turning down new clients

Your life as a new entrepreneur will bring you to the crossroads of 'I need the money' and 'I don't want to do this work', more often than you think in the early days.

When we started SmartSkim my first year's income was well below the poverty line, a statistic my daughters now wear as badges of honor because they lived through it with us as young people old enough to recognize what was going on. Startups can be financially challenging, but you don't need me to tell you that.

What you may need me to tell you is that as a new entrepreneur you don't have to take every job or every client that appears. The goal of smart startups is just the opposite.

I turned down a potential client this week even though the money would have been great. As Business Diligence rolls out, all new additions to the client list are helpful.

My problem was the client. He was a new economy guy who wanted to start a business in such a way that he could 'monitize it' by automating a web site to generate income. He assured me he'd read all the articles about gaming Google and been to several 'keyword seminars'.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge believer in using the web to communicate the stories and values of small enterprises. There has never been a more powerful tool in the history of the world of entrepreneurship. Back at SmartSkim, we were a very small manufacturing company, yet we had devoted customers on 6 continents. We did it with only four people on the payroll, due largely to our ability to leverage the web.

But this new world of monitizing web sites by generating keyword searches and selling Google ads while having very little content of value leaves me cold.

Small business startups are like making meat loaf. You've got to plunge in. You've got to commit to mixing up improbable ingredients. You've got to clean up the resulting mess. The process is not automated or done without effort. Yet the results can be wonderful and nourish you well beyond the event.

I turned down this potential client. He will not be the last.

The way to make Google work for you is to choose a truly great name that Google can find quickly and then build out your site with great content and a great offering to your end users. It's your job as a marketer and a salesperson to then make that name known. I helped several new clients pick names and launch last month. Within 2 weeks Google had found them and put every one of them at the top of searches with hits numbering in the millions because they had a unique name that served their offering well.

It's not keywords. It's content.

The world needs startups that solve real problems, not ones that are launched to scam Google algorithms.

SmartSkim™, my last startup

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