Affiliate marketer David Ralph recently quit his well paying job to concentrate full-time on his websites.
It's a nice milestone for a marketer who describes himself as “just a beginner” and says, “I don't know HTML or CSS at all.”
David, 43, made a post on a private forum recently describing how he'd taken the big step of becoming his own boss.
I interviewed him to find out more details.
David was one of 250 employees of a company in the financial industry. He was a trainer, creating products and courses. The pay was good, but he hated taking orders from people he “wouldn't put in charge of a bicycle”.
His route to Internet marketing success over the past two years followed a surprising path.
First, David became involved in get rich quick schemes, in which he made a lot of money and then lost it.
Next, he built a website about the Florida Keys.
Although he lives in Essex, England, where he was born and bred, he's passionate about the Florida Keys.
He first went to the Keys, to work, when he was about 18. “I thought I had died and gone to Heaven,” he says. “The lifestyle just fitted me like a glove. It was like I had come home … if there is ever a place where I feel that I belong. It's there.
“Funnily enough … I have realized that my desire to live a different lifestyle, of freedom, sunshine and web based freedom could well have been planted back then.
“I can see that from those days I have felt that an office is not for me. And even more so office hours. I can feel a circle becoming completed. And what a feeling that will be when I can finally call the Florida Keys my home for good.”
He put his “heart and soul” into building his Florida site – What's At Florida Keys. (But that's NOT his surprise success.)
Almost every available minute that he wasn't at work, he would spend on the website – even sometimes while at work, too.
“The only time I would stop was when the wife moaned that I hadn't spent any time with her.”
Then one day, about 18 months ago, David's parents, who have a small car spares business in England, said, “Do you think that we should get a website?”
So David “threw together” about 15 web pages and created Car Spares Essex for them, made it look reasonable and left it at that.
He followed a system he believed in but…
“Never in my wildest dreams did I realize that this would be the one that would get my life changing in oh so many ways,” he says.
“After all I was busy. I had my own Florida site to work on. This was my escape route. This was where my future was going to be.”
His Florida site was going slowly, but well, he says.
The Google Panda and Penguin issues had brought him to a halt but, little by little, traffic was climbing again, and the money it was bringing in was paying a few bills.
It still hadn't made the life changing income he was looking for, but it was creating “a nice little expense slush fund”.
Surprise Internet Marketing Success
However, his little “effortless” car spares site was starting to make a big difference to his parents' shop.
It was a tiny niche, with only 1,600 people a month searching for “car spares essex”.
“But now the home page sits at number 1 at all the three search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing),” David says.
His parents' car parts business is getting 50 extra customers a day.
“My family are delighted that they are seeing more profits than ever.
“And then the penny dropped. I was focusing on the wrong site. – at least in the short term.”
His parents' little shop, which had been around for 30 years, had a good reputation, and provided great service, was where the money was, he realized.
So David has agreed with his family that he will work on improving the car parts site, until he can replace his salary on a monthly basis from the increased profits.
“They wouldn't be any better off, but I would and then I could work on their site full-time. And that is where their extra profits will come from,” he says.
“I will be analyzing trends, adding more content, and improving everything in line with what people are actually keying in (Ubbersuggest has to be added to everyone's favorites for this).”
David and his wife, Debbie, “the love of my life” (pictured, RIGHT) have five children, one grandchild, “and a future that I can only dream about”, he says.
Here are some questions I asked David…
Do you enjoy working on a website about car parts? Is that a passion, too?
“If I was being honest I would say no. But it has given me the opportunity to change my life in ways that I couldn't express.
“As I sit here typing this, I am on free Wi-Fi in a bar in Tenerife, Spain. I have a cold beer next to me, and can hear the sound of children laughing and splashing in a pool nearby.
“So, no, the car parts website is not a passion, but I would happily spend eight hours a day working on it to get it where it should be if life is going to remain like this.
“The long-term plan is that I focus all my energies on the car parts site, until I can start replacing hours with my true passion – The Florida Keys. I have an aim that in two years time, one site will be fully functional, the second will be just maintenance and I have an idea for a third.”
How much time did you spend creating the spare parts site?
“About two weeks. I really just threw some pages together, so they were happy, and I walked away from it.
“In a very short period of time, their profits had increased, and people stated that they were finding us online, so I considered it job done.
“Now I have started working on it full-time, I've realized actually how big it is going to become.
“For example in the next two weeks we are adding a full e-store, with over 200,000 parts being able to be bought online. I didn't consider this an option when I started, but there are so many sites out that there you can affiliate with and self brand.
“The beauty of this system is we are going to be able to sell parts before we actually stock them. The customer finds the product online, pays for it, and then comes to us to collect, once we have received it from our supplier.
“This is a huge win, which I hope will increase our profits exponentially,” David says.
Escape Route For His Parents
“Both my Mum and Dad are now in their seventies. Mum is 73, and Dad is 76, and still working full-time down the car shop. Which brings me to one of the reasons for starting the site.
“I started focusing on the web side of things for them when I realized that unless Dad increased profits, the shop couldn't afford to pay a salary for someone to replace him. He had built a good business which had trapped him. Even with the small increase that we have made so far, he has now got his escape route.
“In October this year, he is now going to walk out and only come back in if he fancies it. On a rainy December day, he might want to pay a visit, serve some customers and drink some tea with the staff. The choice will now be his.
“This is what I would like to do for them both. Allow them, too, to gain some well deserved freedom, while still being paid a salary from the shop which will run without them.
“They have worked so hard for so many years, and through the web you can bring cash in like nowhere else on earth. It's a global market.”
Do many customers use the order form, or do most use the phone number?
“At the moment most people use the phone, but we would like to change this, and are trying to retrain our customers to go online.
“Some of them never will, but with the option of the e-store becoming available soon we hope that this will change.”
Apart from the order form, how does the parts business track which sales are coming through your website? Do they ask every phone-in customer?
No they don't track phone calls, and I don't think they ever will. You have to play with the staff and the technology that you have.
“I love the computers. However, the staff are wary of anything new. They have been doing the same things for 30 years and don't like to change.
“So at the moment we track purely by profit. Are the takings increasing? If so, job done.
“Down the line, we will of course be able to track through our e-store, which will tell us most popular items being sold, and stuff like that. That will make things easier to see which products fly off the shelves the quickest.
Is the newsletter successful? How many people sign up for that? Does it generate sales?
We don't actually use a newsletter as such. The way we have connected to people is by gaining the email address, and most importantly what car they drive. And then if we get offers for say … 1980 Vauxhall radiators … we then contact them and say ‘Hi there, not sure if you are interested but we have a radiator for your car at great prices.'
“Although they don't need one at the time, quite a few people have responded to us and bought one for later. We would never have been able to clear out so much old stock, without the collection of email addresses.
“Some people have actually told us that they have resold the item for a higher profit, which we consider to be great.”
You say the traffic to the spare parts site is tiny. How tiny?
“Well, the market I began shooting for had a local search of 1,600 people per month. However, of these I was hoping for 10% to 20% at the most.
“I don't think we will get them, but bear in mind we now have about 50 extra customers a day, and most spend between £20 and £60 (about $30 to $60 US) each time. You don't need thousands and thousands of customers if you have a good product to sell.
“It's much easier than going the infoprenurial route, I can assure anyone starting out. If you can have a product which people want, then just try to find the people and put that product in front of them. They will buy.
“I remember someone asking where the most successful place for a burger van would be. To which the answer is, where people are hungriest.
“Get the product first and then find the market, or of course the other way around, but have something to sell.
“I would love the 20 percent and higher traffic, but that can cause its own problems too.
“Our fear actually was, were we to be successful and most of these 1,600 people checked us out. We were concerned that our reputation of providing brilliant customer service could have been damaged if we were suddenly not able to cope. However, things seem to be moving slowly forwards. Profits are going up. And most importantly everyone is comfortable with the changes I am making.”
I see you used the SBI system to build your sites. What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of SBI? Its strengths and weaknesses?
“As I sit here at the moment I can't see any disadvantages. I think the whole system is truly brilliant. For the monthly cost and all the support you get, you couldn't do better. I don't think that I will ever go elsewhere.
“Some people have stated that with SBI you don't get the glossy, sexy looking sites that 1&1 offer, for example. Which isn't true, by the way. I have seen some amazing sites that have been built by using SBI.
“But what you get is traffic, if you follow them to the letter. Build a free one with a web hosting company, and that is it. You can find it but will anyone else?
“My sites are very functional, and I would like them to look amazing, but really whenever I have that little voice speak at me, I try to shut it up.
“Spend your time on getting more people, instead of making things prettier. Pretty doesn't make money, but traffic does. SBI in my view should be at least an option to investigate for all people starting on building a website … I love it.”
Motor Industry Not Too Competitive
“The beauty of working on the car parts site is that the motor trade market generally either has a professional website built for them, that doesn't change in content from the time it is made live.
“It looks lovely, but as for SEO and the other stuff that SBI helps us with – zilch.
“The companies get paid to build it, and then go on to the next website building project…
“Or it is one that a mechanic who just about knows enough to make things live, manages to get a simple website out to promote their business, and scribbles down some stuff about what they offer.
“They don't have Analyze It, to make sure that we are optimizing. We do!
“So now I am targeting all of these tiny little micro niches, and although the traffic is still tiny at the moment, it is increasing and the profits are huge.
“And I know that I can build the traffic to much larger levels, as I have already done it before with my first site.
“So I suppose the learning from this story … is to say you can do it.
“You can honestly – so go do it!
“SBI does work, as long as you work with it.
“You don't have to kill a huge market, and I guess the best way is not to. Find one that fits bang within what SBI tells you and work like crazy.
“And don't worry if your plans have to change along the way, as long as you keep working on it you will get there.”
If you were starting again now, what would you do differently?
“This is easy to answer. Spend more time analyzing the numbers as SBI teaches you to do. They help you find a market that you will win. I don't think with hindsight I spent as much time in this phase as I should have done. I was too eager to get building.
“It wasn't a mistake, as in the long term, I probably have learned more by realizing my mistakes, but it would have been easier. And who wouldn't want to start anything knowing that if you put the work in you will succeed?”
Persevere. David figured out how to create his own Internet marketing success story, becoming his own boss when staying stuck in a job he didn't enjoy might have been easier.
Be flexible. Recognize opportunity and grab it. Keep your mind open to the hints all around you. Where you end up may be a long way from what you had originally envisioned.
Monetization. The higher the value per sale, the narrower your niche can be. With high “dollars per action”, you can make good profits from small traffic numbers. Small niches are often easier to win.
SBI. As David says, “the SBI system is truly brilliant. For the monthly cost and all the support you get, you couldn't do better.”
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