In the six years I’ve been making a living online, I’ve assisted hundreds of bright eyed entrepreneurs as they launch online businesses.

And while I’d love to say they all went on to fame, riches and wild success, it just ain’t so. Like watching ships sink right out of the harbor, many get frustrated, and after looking at the time and money they’re spending…. quit. Before they make a single sale.

Interestingly though, I’ve noticed some patterns that most rookie online marketers seem to repeat (and I’m guilty of these too).

A wise man once said, “the first step in avoiding a trap is knowing of it’s existence.” So here are the five biggies I see people falling into, and most importantly, how you can avoid them yourself!

Mistake #1: Firing Cannonballs Before Bullets

I love hearing my dad tell stories about being an artillery officer in the army. In the 60’s, they didn’t have the laser guided, precision video game style guns, but rather glorified cannons that depended on soldier’s skill to estimate distance, lob some shells, then adjust in order to hit targets.

The problem with this trial and error process is that shells were expensive, heavy, and took time to load. Enter the solution: the 106 recoilless rifle. This was simply a gun mounted to the top of the cannon, which the operator would fire, look for the puff of smoke, adjust, shoot, etc. When the bullet landed close enough… BOOM. The big gun took out the target (old junk cars, in the army’s training.)

What’s this have to do with online marketing?

[highlight]Start with small, easy to create products, then when you’ve zeroed in on your target, launch the big expensive ones.[/highlight]

Far too often I see rookie marketers trying to create MASSIVE products their first go around. The products become so epic, so vast, so involved… they take months, and thousands of dollars to complete. 6 workbooks. 20 hours of video. Top notch graphics. Full blown membership sites.

And then, inevitably, when the sales only trickle in, frustration and anger set in. “The market is cold”, “This online stuff just doesn’t work”, and they throw in their hat.

Think of your first few products as warm ups. They’re research, lead generation… and if they actually make a few bucks for you, bonus!

They’ll help you learn: What does your audience REALLY want? How much are they willing to pay? How good at you at generating content, and finalizing products? Can you overcome your need to make things PERFECT, and get something to market in a week?

Ramp up the scope of your products over time, but make a goal to get something out there NOW!

Mistake #2: Wasting Time Trying to Do Everything Yourself

While this is certainly a mistake, it’s very understandable. Mostly, this is rooted in either finances “I’m not making any money, so I can’t spend any money!” or pride “Why would I pay someone to do what I could learn myself!”

The devastating effect of this thinking, however, has three ugly heads:

1. Your final product is sub par. We all have strengths and weaknesses… but I can spot a mile away when the website/graphics/copy are amateur. Your customers can too. Don’t become a perfectionist… but we DO judge books by their covers!

2. Your “time to market” sky rockets. When you get stuck on little problems (that outsources can do in their sleep) your valuable time is being wasted, you lose sleep, and you aren’t making a dime. Instead of launching products in days or weeks, you’re into months and years.

3. You’ve got no repeatable system. When you’re constantly re-inventing wheels, you’re missing the whole point of an online business- systems and automation. The more efficient you are at packaging your stuff, and making it available to hungry customers, the happier everyone is!

Learning from a master:

One of my heroes online is Bob Bly. Not only is he a great copywriter, he is superb at developing systems to crank out products. The guy is a machine. At a marketing bootcamp, he once shared how he is able to generate excellent products in a week’s time, for a few hundred dollars. It goes something like this:


  • Come up with an idea, sketch out a rough outline
  • Hire a ghost writer to generate a report/ebook
  • Write the sales copy himself (based on a formula he has perfected)
  • Email this to his virtual assistant, who whips up a sales site, and adds the product to his shopping cart.
  • Write a brief, enticing sales email to send out to his list.[/icon_list]


Final Cost: a few hundred dollars for the writer and VA.
Time invested: a few hours to communicate with his people, and write a little copy.
Average profit: a few thousand dollars.

And then if you repeat this dozens of times (which Bob does) you start living that Internet dream lifestyle (which Bob does).

Learn your strengths and weaknesses, learn the value of your time, and learn to be a smart outsourcer!

Mistake #3: Think You Only Need ONE Website

Here’s a simple fact: the top online marketers don’t have one site… they have a fleet of them.

And each site has a unique, measurable task. Every time there’s something new to promote (product, service, niche area, there’s a new site to sell it.

Here’s a few types of sites you’ll want to put in your arsenal:

Sales page – single column, designed to sell a product or service. Click the “Buy” link, enter credit card info, receive your product!

Squeeze page – video or text enticing people to join an opt in list, in exchange for for something of value.

Authority site – a larger site, promoting YOU, your services, products, and your blog articles.

Membership site – great content in a specific niche that is only available to customers who have purchased access.

I can already hear the objections rising in your mind. “Having my site developed was a long, expensive, painful process. You want me to do that on a regular basis?”

The answer is… if makes you more money in the long run, YES.

You may develop the skills to create them yourself (like I did), or perhaps you’ll build a relationship with an assistant who can build them for you (like Bob Bly did).

But like billboards, TV commercials, or any other advertising campaign, the more targeted websites you develop, the more visible, credible, and profitable your online adventures will be!

Mistake #4: Don’t Know Your Stats

Here’s a common discussion I have with people:

Them: “Dave, my website sucks. I’m not making any money at all. I think I need a new (headline/banner color/flashy intro/reduced price/etc).”

Me: “Well, maybe. Do you know how many people are actually visiting your site?”

Them: “Um, no.”

Me: Well, of the people that do come to your site, do you know the percentage that buy from you?”

Them: (feeling sheepish) “Um, no.”

Me: “How about we start by getting some baseline figures on what’s really going on, then we can make some informed decisions.”

Them: “Great idea Dave! You’re probably the smartest guy I know.”

Ok, maybe that last line doesn’t happen very often, but you get the point- if you don’t know the problem, any changes you make are really just guesses about the solution. And you don’t have the time, money or energy to be guessing about this stuff.

So what’s important to measure?

There are four things you should know about any site you own:

1. Unique Visitors – how many people are visiting your site each day? Keeping an eye on this helps you to know the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, SEO efforts, and growth trends as your site develops.

2. Sales Conversion Ratio – How many of your visitors buy from you? If you have 1000 visitors in a month, and 50 make a purchase, your Sales Conversion Ratio is 5%. If you know this number, you can tweak your sales copy, product price, even button colors, and see how it affects your conversions. If you want to promote your site to joint venture partners, they’ll expect to learn your conversion numbers.

2. Optin Conversion Ratio – Of the visitors, how many take the action you desire (buy something, opt in, call you)? If you have 1000 visitors in a month, and 200 opt in to your email list, your Opt-In Conversion Ration is 20%. Like the Sales Conversion, you can tweak things and measure the effectiveness. The faster your email list grows, the faster your profits grow.

3. Average Visitor Value – What is a new visitor worth to you? If you have 1000 visitors in a month, and you sold $2500 in products, your Average Visitor Value is $2.50. This is critical for determining advertising spending. If your average visitor value is $2.50, and you can buy clicks on Google for $1.25, you’ve got a situation with a 100% ROI. Without this number, your advertising decisions become gut feelings… dangerous grounds.

I can track all of these numbers very easily using two programs:

Google Analytics – free software you can add to any site, it measures all visitors and their behavior while on your site. Easy to set up, even easier to check what’s going on. They even have real-time reporting (i.e. watch a map overlay to see people currently viewing your site). Cool stuff.

Web Marketing Magic – This is my shopping cart, product manager, and list building system. I can see product sales, opt-in subscribers, and track them over time.

Just like a doctor would want to know your “vitals” before he starts prescribing you for medicine, or scheduling you for major surgery, you being on top of your site’s numbers will help you stay on top of your website’s health!

Mistake #5: Failure to Take Action

This deadly mistake goes by many names: Information overload, Paralysis of analysis, Fear of failure (or success), or even the big P (Procrastination).

Regardless of what you call it, the result is always the same.. you’ve learned a lot, you’ve spent a lot, and you start to wonder if you’ve got what it takes to really make this work.

Maybe if you just tweak your website a bit, or post to some message forums, or buy that new program you heard about… Maybe you should try affiliate marketing. Oh wait- someone said SEO is where it’s at. But this “guru” said iPhone apps are the future! And you never stay focused, you never complete anything.

If you find yourself here- STOP. Ask a trusted friend to come and give you an invigorating slap in the face. Break free on the trance.

Set a goal to create a money making product, and GET IT DONE. Then launch it, knowing full well it’s not perfect. Then do it again. (the product, not the slap.) Keep doing this until you stop failing, and you start making money.

I can’t stress this enough, mainly because this is so tough for me. I think of a killer idea, I buy the perfect domain, and then next thing I know it’s six months later and I’m saying “I really should do something about that idea.”

Do your homework, and find a winning idea. Build it with as much efficiency and excellence as you are able. Then LAUNCH IT, and move on and repeat!

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” – Calvin Coolidge

Published by Dave

Dave Hamilton is a passionate dad and husband, a serial entrepreneur, and a recovering techno-geek. He lives with his wife and three kids in sunny Tampa Florida, where he can be found frequenting the beaches, basketball courts and wifi hotspots.

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  1. Dave,

    I’m guilty of Mistake #5: Failure to take action. I can say I’ve been in a trance for about five years and my wish to replace the income I lost from my last job with a successful online marketing business still has not happened. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I’ve spent over ten grand on my credit card on marketing blueprints, memberships, software etc and haven’t gotten it. They’re either way over my head or I don’t trust them.

    I’ve listened to audios, watched videos, read hundreds of sales messages and bought into many of them and participated in webinars and I’m the bigger fool for letting it happen for so long. I’ve been going in too many directions and have 0 results to show for the time and money spent.

    Enough is enough! I’m kicking the habit. It’s addicting just like smoking or drinking. I’m unsubscribing from all emailers except for Fred Gleeck and Bob Bly. I’ve had plenty of time to compare the quality coming from them. They are well seasoned and believable and best of all they provide low cost training.

    I know I can do this. Driving the Internet Superhighway shouldn’t be any different than driving on any Interstate Highway, and I’m confident with doing that. So I need to start from scratch and get focused. Fred Gleeck recommended I go to your Web Marketing Magic website as one my steps so here I am.

  2. Hi Dave, great post! I think no.1 is opinion because many online product creators now say to do your “money site” first, then build all your small products around the money site to send traffic, sales etc. I guess it depends on a lot of factors too hard to toss up in one blog post… 🙂 Kate

    1. Thanks Kate, and valid point. I suppose my point (with #1) was about the testing out of a new market, as opposed to an overall marketing funnel.

      Much like McDonald’s will test out a new sandwich in a few stores to gauge opinion before nationwide roll-out, some small products can help you decide if a marketing is profitable before you develop out the big money sites and traffic streams (which take a lot of time and money). I’ve seen some wonderfully massive product systems which went no where, because the owner “assumed” there were a flood of buyers.

      But the more important issue here… I really wanted to use a cool picture of a big cannon, and this first point allowed me to do just this. 🙂

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