I very much enjoy having my former students visit my classes and today was definitely no exception as my Internet/Social Media Marketing class was visited by Melanie and Devin Duncan. Melanie Duncan graduated in 2008 and met her future husband Devin Duncan while he was also studying at Chapman University. As true serial entrepreneurs, they have worked on, and successfully launched, a number of businesses together including Custom Greek Threads, Luxury Monograms, as well as a business around the Melanie's personal brand.
As usual, Melanie and Devin were extremely generous with very specific advice on how students can become successful Internet entrepreneurs themselves, and in the following, I will list but a few of their recommendations.
Avoid investors. Try to bootstrap your business and prove the concept before you or anyone else spends any significant sums of money in the business. The entry barriers are also lower than ever as the tools to get off the ground get cheaper by the day and many of them are even free.
- Work on your business, not in your business. Melanie and Devin systematically try to identify ways in which they can automate or delegate the operations of a business that they have gotten off the ground in order to free up time for themselves and to allow them to have the geographic flexibility of living on Manhattan even if their factory is located in Orange County, California. The time they free up they also use to look for ways to grow their existing businesses or start new ones.
Split test. Devin explained how they try to do split testing (or A/B testing) on many aspects of their offerings. For example, adding a countdown timer in the banner DOUBLES sales as it generates a sense of urgency.
- The amount of time they spend on their multi-million dollar business is actually shockingly low. Devin says he spends about two hours a week online mainly monitoring stats on Google Analytics to ensure they have keep the traffic coming and the conversion rates high. He even stated that he rarely visits the actual factory in Orange County. Instead, he prefers to treat the management to a Lakers game once a year. Melanie and Devin admits, however, that the first two years of setting up this e-commerce business were not that easy. Even if they came out of it successfully, they learned the hard way that running an e-commerce business with physical goods also can get very complex, time-consuming, and costly to operate.
This brings us into their enthusiastic suggestion that students should consider going into Information Product Marketing as opposed to selling physical goods online. Information products such as instructional videos on password-protected websites have proven extremely profitable for them with a very small, upfront investment, mainly a few weeks of their time.
- Riches in niches. Instead of selling services about many things, be very specific in terms of what you offer as this makes the sell so much easier.
Free webinars in which you share even your best ideas are extremely effective tools in terms of converting browsers into buyers. Webinars help build trust in the person behind the product much more than a text-based landing page can ever do.
- To establish a personal brand, use the frequently visited About page wisely to talk about how you can add value to the visitor. They don't care so much about you, if you talk about yourself, do it further down on the page after that you first have explained how you can add value to them.
In conclusion, thanks for a long list of inspirational advice combined with an enthusiastic delivery, welcome back next year, Melanie and Devin!