Generating revenue on the web has a few predominant approaches. I have built and worked with businesses across the spectrum and thought I would give a bit of an overview from an entrepreneur’s point of view on what revenue strategies could be a fit for you. It’s important to consider the trade-offs and opportunities for driving different revenue models.
The three primary methods for revenue generation on the web are products, services and advertising. Let’s take a look at these:
Products, first and foremost, are the hardest of the three. However, they scale better than any of the three revenue generation options. Digital and information products, especially, do not require inventory. You can create it once and sell it many times over. This includes:
- Audio books
- Training videos
The up front work requires a lot of discipline to get done and may involve a group project to coordinate. Pricing such products is rarely at a premium. Anything from $1.99 to around $1,000 is the typical range.
Aside from subscription software, it’s difficult to find a recurring revenue model in these products and it requires a lot of viral sharing of your content, assuming it is world class. It is a volume game which requires strategic marketing and promotion online.
Services are easy to get going if you have valuable approaches to problems that can be packaged. If you can identify the talents and work which you can provide that is scarce in demand, then your pricing can reflect the market demand. If your skills are commonplace or able to be replicated, then the market can pull you down to a low price point.
Services involve commissioned work and you are being hired to do work because of your special knowledge or the inconvenience a person faces. You will have to decide on your pricing approach. Packaging your services over time can create easier transactions with your buyers and present a more product-like approach.
While many common services such as IT work or graphic design can be on the lower end, injecting creativity, brand and strategy into service packaging can create pricing and recurring revenue for thousands of dollars.
The complexity, scarcity and acuteness of pain will dictate how you are able to price your service.
Setting up Google Adsense is pretty easy on a blog or site. However, it is a numbers game which requires extremely high traffic to make a living off of it. Advertising has changed over the years and is extremely competitive with low benefits in our attention economy where everyone with content has diluted visitor traffic.
You can also set up or participate in affiliate marketing programs which sell your products and services or promote other people’s stuff.
For higher returns, building a platform which drives affiliate revenue from transactions can be powerful. The key is to find an unconsolidated industry which will eagerly pay for referrals. Your customer is not only the visitors to your site but also the advertisers and affiliates that depend on you for lead generation. If you are good at generating and converting leads, then creating a platform based on convenience, process and/or content can create a recurring revenue model.
In an affiliate model, you will have to make deals with vendors for what they would pay for leads, how to qualify the leads and then track the results. The great news is that you own the platform and content which become your central assets that others get to lease via affiliate deals or subscription.
Overall, advertising and affiliate marketing systems require an ability and continual work in driving visitor traffic. If you can find and serve a niche industry, then you can start small and serve a few vendors while expanding. You will have to build the right systems to support the logic for lead capture and tracking.
Practicing Your Entrepreneurship
Any of the three approaches to generating revenue on the web will take a lot of work. The barriers to entry are low and there are millions of people buying and selling in various industries.
I think it is best to start with content and build a small audience that you can bring value to over time. Create engagement and interaction over time. Then create services which allow you to engage further. While servicing your customers, you are getting to know the deeper pains and issues in an industry.
If you can observe and think through ways to build a product that you would need to service them or a product they would need, then the opportunity to build something more scalable while driving revenue is there for you. Thus, service first then products would be the formula over time. Providing high end services will allow you to buy time and provide value while you consider products that make sense for the market.
So, what about you? How can these strategies help you generate revenue on the web? Is there a service which you can start with a very specific audience?