Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Focus on Serving, Not Monetizing

"Monetize" is the new buzzword all over the Internet. Everyone is asking the questions: "How do I monetize this? How do I monetize that?" This is a fancy way of asking, "How do I make money off of these people?" Some may misunderstand and think I have something against money or using blogs and websites for selling products. Well, if you look to the right of this article you can see for yourself this is not the case. The problem with focusing too much on monetization is it causes entrepreneurs to ask the wrong questions. If the first concern of starting a business is, "How much money can I make and how fast?" then you are in for a tough ride. So, what should be the first question?

How May I Help You? 

Real entrepreneurs seek out problems to solve, and then go about creating solutions. They understand no one makes money, except for those who work in the Mint. The rest of us have to earn it by offering something of value others want or need. This can be in the form of service we offer to an employer or products and services we sell to the public.

Take the example of two entrepreneurs overlooking a crowd. Entrepreneur one says, "Wow, I can make a ton money off of these people?" Entrepreneur two walks into the crowd and starts asking, "How may I help you?" The funny thing is if you ask people how you can be of service to them, they often will tell you! So, while entrepreneur one is busy planning his strategy for "monetizing his list," entrepreneur two is solving problems, offering value and getting paid to do so.

The New Gold Rush 

Today's Internet entrepreneurship is the modern day version of the California gold rush. There's gold in them thar hills! The gold miners are those looking to monetize, not mountains filled with gold, but people and lists. Similar to the miners of the gold rush, most Internet entrepreneurs will not make a dime because they start by asking the wrong questions. The result is mediocre products and services no one wants. These entrepreneurs seek only to solve their own problem of earning a living and not the problems of those they serve.

During the California gold rush, most of the eager miners who stormed the mountains in search of quick fortunes came away empty handed. Those who became rich were the clever entrepreneurs who sold the shovels, wheel barrels, pans and pick axes. Ironically, the first millionaire of the gold rush was a businessman by the name of Sam Brannan, but he never mined for gold. Instead, he bought every shovel, pick axe and pan in California, and sold them to the miners. He earned over $36,000 in seventy days, the equivalent of $950,000 in today's value.

Whereas the miners focused their attention on how much and how fast, Brannan focused on opportunity, supply and demand. Granted, he took advantage of the miners, in similar fashion that today's Internet Brannan's sell inflated products and services to those rushing to the golden hills of Internet entrepreneurship. Everyday we see a new crop of them eager to sell us the sure fire secret formula for making millions on the Web. However, this issue is not the point of this article but I will address it in a future piece. People need to be warned against this band of bandits.

Same Old Game, Same Old Rules 

The rules of entrepreneurship are no different today than they were in the days of old when a man would offer sips of water to thirsty travelers moving through the desert. He did not ask, "How can I monetize these people." He asked the same questions successful entrepreneurs have asked and answered for years. How can I best serve? What value can I offer? What problem can I solve?

The next time you catch yourself asking how you can monetize a list of users, stop yourself and reframe the question. How can I best serve them? Which of their problems can I solve? Answer these questions and the monetization question will answer itself.

Godspeed and I look forward to seeing you in The Players Lounge

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