This excerpt is part of Entrepreneur.com's Second-Quarter Startup Kit which explores the fundamentals of starting up in a wide range of industries.
In Start Your Own Online Coupon or Daily Deal Business, the staff at Entrepreneur Press and writer Rich Mintzer explain how to start a business in the competitive online and daily deal industries. In this edited excerpt, the authors explain the advantages of targeting a niche market and then offer tips on attracting visitors and building a following on your site.
Building a following for your coupon or daily deal site is what will help your business grow and succeed. Your first goal when looking to build a following--your subscriber list--is to determine who makes up your target market. While it's hard to compete head to head with Groupon, LivingSocial or Coupons.com, one of the most fertile areas of potential growth in the coupon or daily deal industry is being part of the niche market.
There are two ways to approach finding a niche market. One is to utilize your current environment and build from that base. For example, if you're attending or working for a college and have a means of reaching 20,000 students to ask them to subscribe to your new discount site, then your niche should be in line with what students at your university really want. A well-known chef, for example, might tap into his foodie following and culinary connections with a deal site featuring anything food related.
If you don't have such a potential following on hand, you'll need to use your knowledge in a particular area of interest and do your homework. Are you going to build a site centering on sports-related deals? Coupons for fashion and clothing? Travel items only? Become the place to go for products and/or services in your niche area, and you can corner the market. Add blogs on the topic, interviews with notable people in the field, ads from related businesses and even endorsements from celebrities, and you can have a very successful niche website. Sites such as CellarThief.com for wine lovers, BarkingDeals.com for pet owners and Jetsetter.com are examples of successful niche deal sites.
There's always the simple niche of a local coupon site, not unlike the sets of coupons that are sent in the mail. Only now, you can expand from local merchants to online businesses, which can be based anywhere, with special deals for your ZIP code (or ZIP codes) in your regional area.
WhereYouShop.com, for instance, takes a localized approach, providing members with a local map where they can pinpoint places frequently visited. Offers are then emailed to members based on these predefined areas only, so their inboxes aren't flooded with offers outside of their area and interests.
You can also select one segment of the market, whether it's the millennial generation of young people born between 1982 and 2002 or the ever-popular baby boomer generation nearing retirement. You should research the buying trends of this target group to find out what they purchase. Technology can also help you localize and/or specialize by targeting a demographic area or group.
Once you've determined what type of site you'll have, planning how you'll build your following is imperative to your success. Some of your sources will include the following:
1. Social media. As you build your site, plan your Facebook fan page, and look for as many people to "Like" you as possible. Invite everyone you can think of and ask everyone to invite their friends. Grow your following!
Start tweeting on Twitter and try to attract attention. For example, you might hold a contest, take a poll, make a Twitter-only free offer, ask a question or start a hashtagged discussion thread.
Use LinkedIn to talk about your new deal or coupon site in groups and build your number of connections. Don't blatantly promote yourself, but enter discussions and let it be known that you're looking for people who want to save money.
Make a short YouTube video about your niche area of interest. Make it entertaining and "unusual" within the bounds of reasonably good taste so it can go viral. Remember to let people know about your great discounts!
Use your Twitter, Facebook or other social media sites to offer friends and followers a special discount. Make the promotions compelling so your followers feel special. You can also create Facebook and Twitter accounts that will broadcast online deals with status updates that direct viewers back to your website.
Start a blog on your website with links to your posts all over the social media to draw people to your site.
2. The brick-and-mortar world. Don't ignore real people in real places. Promote yourself in all local businesses that will let you, especially your merchants. You can offer to hold a contest in a store and give something away. Have people put their business cards in a bowl, and collect it at the end of the week--those are all people that are now on your email list. Have fliers, posters and other means of drawing people to your site as well as sign-up sheets where people can put their email addresses to receive a newsletter about saving money. Then do a short online newsletter with money-saving tips.
Once you get people to your site, offer them rewards, discounts, bonus points (toward something free) or additional savings if they come back for more. Also, providing regular content can help you bring them back.
3. Advertise. Use the power of Google AdWords, Yahoo! Keywords or other online advertising to get the word out--just know your keywords in advance and watch your expenses closely.
4. Public speaking. You're now a new expert on saving money. Use that, or any other area of expertise, to speak at local libraries, meetings of groups or associations, community centers or any place else that has public speaking opportunities. Have a sign-in sheet to collect names and email addresses.