EF Staff

February 11, 2016

As someone who manages multiple websites across a number of niches, one of the biggest problems I face on a daily basis is the sheer volume of stuff that’s out there. Every day it seems like there’s a new article that I should be reading, a new plugin that I should be using, a new course that I should be buying. It’s the business equivalent of information overload.

This kind of distraction often stems from a lack of appreciation for the things we already possess. The goal here is to try and help you understand how to make the most of what you have. Before spending time and money on new stuff, you should attempt to leverage your assets to the fullest extent. In this post, I’ll go over a couple of different assets that you may already have, which are relevant to doing business online, and discuss how you can take full advantage of them.

What counts as an asset?

So, what exactly counts as an asset in your online business? Businesses that are primarily run online typically don’t have much in the way of physical assets like factories or machines – chances are most of your assets are intangible. Things like email lists or strong social media followings aren’t physical things that you can touch, but they’re definitely valuable to your business and they should be considered assets. Almost any asset that your business has should be leveraged.

All of the following should be considered assets that are a part of your online business:

  • Specialist or industry specific knowledge
  • Relationships with peers, insiders, and influencers
  • Web related elements like established authority sites or strong social media followings
  • Tools, themes, and memberships (e.g WPCurve)
  • People/Employees (e.g VAs, writers, developers)

Knowledge is an asset – use it!

Knowledge is perhaps the most important asset for any entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship, in most cases, is about adding value for your customers and clients; the ability to consistently deliver this value comes from knowing things that others don’t.

Knowledge is probably the asset that is easiest to leverage. This is doubly true for online businesses. For example, if you know a lot about SEO, that’s a skillset that you can apply not only to your current business, but to all future businesses and projects that you work on. The same applies to other online business skillsets – if you know a lot about PPC, that’s something you can tap into time and time again as a tried-and-true method of growing your base of customers.

It’s never a bad idea to try and pick up new skills, but one mistake that entrepreneurs often seem to make is getting sucked into trying new things at the expense of what’s already working.

I often see successful online entrepreneurs start new projects, while attempting to utilize entirely new business models that they’re unfamiliar with. For example, if you’re already successful driving traffic through social media, it may not make sense to start a new project that will rely heavily on SEO.

This kind of approach is fine if you’re primary goal is to acquire a new skillset. However, if you want to maximize the chances of success for a new venture, it probably makes sense to focus on what you know first (e.g social media) and only begin to branch out with other methods (e.g SEO) when you’ve already leveraged all you can out of your existing knowledge asset.

Another good way to leverage your skillset is to trade services with other people who have specialist knowledge. For example, you might want to find someone who’s great at SEO and give them advice on their social media marketing in exchange for an SEO audit.

Also, if you’re looking to pick up a new skillset, it’s important to focus on fundamental concepts. If you acquire a new skill and understand it at a deep level, you’ll be able to apply that skill to all your projects. For example, if you’re trying to learn PPC, you don’t want to just learn how to perform PPC campaigns for ecommerce stores. Rather, the goal should be to understand the underlying principles that lead to successful PPC campaigns. That way, you can leverage that new skill on all the future projects and businesses that you’re a part of.

Business relationships are give and take too

Relationships are an immensely valuable resource, but they’re especially relevant in the online business space where a single guest post or podcast interview can launch a business overnight. The important thing to remember is that you don’t want to just be a taker – your relationships are assets, and assets need to be maintained.

You should be looking to help people out whenever you have an opportunity to – and in return, when you need access to expertise, people will be more than willing to help you out as well. Don’t be cynical about the idea of ‘maintaining relationships’. All it really means is that you should check in on people from time to time and try to help them out when you’re in a position to do so. Another thing to remember is that you shouldn’t be embarrassed or hesitant to ask for help when you need it. If you’re open to both giving and receiving help, you’ll find that your business relationships will strengthen over time.

There are a number of ways to leverage your relationships. For example, if you want to get featured on an authority site, or you’re looking for an expert opinion on a specific problem, don’t just reach out directly. You might want to see if anyone you know is already well acquainted with the person you want to reach out to. The online business world is a small one, and in many cases, there’s only 2 degrees of separation between yourself and the person you want to get in touch with.

Leverage your knowledge and expertise by sharing it with people you know – chances are, the next time they come up with something useful, they’ll share it with you too. If you leverage your own knowledge to the benefit of others, you’ll find that most people will reciprocate.

Another type of relationship that you can leverage is your customer/reader base. If you’re looking to launch a new product or service, and you genuinely believe that your new product or service will be useful to your current customers or readers, then there should be no hesitation when you reach out to your subscriber base. In fact, if you want to really get the most out of your customer/subscriber list, you should be segmenting your email list and tailoring your messages to specific segments.

The important thing to remember here is that you should be sincere – don’t spam your email list or your social media followers with irrelevant offers or sub-par products. Most people can figure out if they’re being exploited. You want to leverage your relationships in ways that don’t damage the asset – that means that you should only offer things to your audience that you genuinely think they’ll find useful.

Leverage your web properties

Since we’re discussing online business, it would be remiss of me not to mention web assets like authority websites, social media pages with large followings, and more controversial things like PBNs (Private Blog Networks).

The first thing I’ll talk about is leveraging authority. When I say authority, I’m mostly talking about authority in SEO terms – e.g., a site that already has a strong backlink profile.

High authority sites can be leveraged in two main ways.

The first way is to try and rank new content on the authority site itself without having to worry about building backlinks. Authority sites get a big boost when it comes to ranking new content quickly. Oftentimes, established sites can get ranked on the first page for longtail keywords in a matter of days; whereas, it takes months for the same to happen for new sites.

This means that if you’re offering a new service or product, it may make sense to blog/post about it on an already established site that you own – not only can you reach out to your current audience, you’ll also be able to drive SEO traffic to your new offering through your existing site.

The other way to leverage an authority site is to use it as a way to build links to a new site. Let’s say, for example, that you want to separate your new product/service from your current website because they’re aimed at different customer bases. You can still use your established site as a source of backlinks to your new project. You’ll get a bunch of strong links that are totally under your control.

You can apply the same principle to your social media followings and even more controversial assets like PBNs. Once you have a strong social media following, you can leverage that as a marketing channel for multiple businesses. If you’ve built up a PBN, you can use that asset to link back to multiple websites.

This is why it’s typically a good idea to stick to just a few niches, rather than trying to build businesses across many niches. If you stay focused on a specific niche, you’re building a network of businesses that can harmonize with each other – this applies to SEO, social media, email lists, etc. The more closely aligned your projects are, the easier it is to cross-market between them.

Keep great people and get great results

If you have employees or if you work with freelance VAs, writers, or developers, it’s often worth doing the work yourself first, so that you can then document and scale the processes when needed. You should have Standard Operating Procedures for any freelancers that you hire – this way, you’ll rarely have to spend time retraining new VAs. Create an asset that the people you work with can refer back to. WPCurve actually has a great post about scaling content creation that demonstrates this principle very effectively.  Here’s the Empire Flippers article on how to create those processes.

Another way that you can get the most out of the people you work with is to treat them well. Don’t be afraid to pay a few dollars extra per hour if it means that you can keep an excellent VA or writer on board. I’d much rather pay slightly more to have a single, highly competent VA than have to constantly find new people to perform new tasks. Great freelancers are easier to manage, more efficient, and pick up new skills quicker. You’ll spend less time training and managing them, and you might even save money in the long run, because they bill you for fewer hours by virtue of being more efficient.

If the people you work with are competent and can pick up new skills quickly, then you’ll find that you can reuse the same core team across multiple projects. If you manage to put together the right team, you’ll have an asset that can be used to scale almost any online business.

The same concepts apply to almost anybody that you work with. Working with the same writer over time allows them to get to know the tone that you want them to write in, and eventually they’ll know your niche well enough to independently come up with article ideas.

By treating freelancers well and paying them fairly, over time you’ll have access to a group of highly competent individuals at your disposal. This is an extremely valuable asset that few people have access to because they’re too focused on finding the lowest cost providers.

Choose versatile tools and stick with them

In general, I try to avoid tools that are extremely specific or overly complex. If you’re going to learn how to use a tool, you want that tool to be applicable in many different situations. Owning one theme that is 80% suitable for 10 sites is better than owning 10 themes that are 100% suitable for each individual site.

People often obsess over finding the best tool for a specific functionality, but in my case, I’ve found that good enough is usually good enough. Don’t waste your time trying to figure out if Aweber or Mailchimp is better for what you want to do. The truth is, both services are pretty good, and time that you waste trying to figure out which is better is time not spent on actually building your email list.

This is particularly true if you’re already using one tool and thinking about switching – if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. The time you spend on trying out different tools and signing up for free trials is time that you’re not using to try and build your business. This applies to tools of all kinds – themes, plugins, kw research tools, etc.

Another thing to note is that, if you plan to work on many projects or businesses for the long term, things like multisite licenses and unlimited use packages are often worth it. While the upfront cost differential can be daunting, if you’re buying something that is versatile and useful in many contexts, it will pay off in the long run. If what you’re buying is not versatile – well, you might want to reconsider paying for it at all.

Also, in the cases where it’s legal and appropriate, you should be leveraging your access to tools, themes, and plugins by sharing them with others – this includes employees, VAs, and people in your network. It costs you nothing to do this, and again, when you’re generous with your resources, in most cases people will reciprocate.

Summary

By focusing on how we can fully leverage the assets that we already own, we streamline our businesses and lessen the chance of spending money or time on things that are ultimately unproductive. Stop spending your time thinking about what you could have and start focusing on what you do have. Chances are there’s an asset that you currently own that you’re not getting the most out of. Once you figure out how to leverage your assets to get the most out of them, you’ll probably find that you don’t need anything extra to bolster the success of your business.

George Do is a website investor and writes about website investing, due diligence, and earnings optimization at WiredInvestors.com. In a past life, he was a trader at an investment bank, but nowadays he spends most of his time in coffee shops browsing reddit whilst he should be working.


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