4 Crazy Online Business Ideas That Worked!

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What The Hell?

When you’re building your own online business, I’d always recommend going down a proven path.

Pioneers are the guys you find lying dead on the trail with their backs full of arrows!

Having said that, some of the most successful online pioneers had ideas that seemed really off the charts crazy even to savvy marketers.

And those marketers were even more amazed…when those wacky ideas worked!

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Sometimes what seems to be a crazy idea ends up being a huge home run and we can draw inspiration and get ideas from the crazy online businesses that defied logic and ended up being huge.

The reasons behind the success of these businesses can also give us some concrete principles that can be used to help most online businesses...

 

   YouTube: How Will People Watch Online Video On Dial Up?

If you were online in 2005, then you know that YouTube has to be one of the most astonishing rapid success stories in history.

Why?

In 2005, the average internet surfer was on an incredibly slow dial-up connection.

Add to that, the average user not having a great way to record video and the early online videos being mainly really awful musicians doing covers of equally awful songs…

Things didn’t look too promising for YouTube to “savvy” online marketers.

The first video uploaded to YouTube was from co-founder Jawed Karim talking about how elephants have long trunks…

 

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The videos that followed from users weren’t much better. Some were actually worse!

But what the YouTube founders saw was the reality that people prefer video over audio (think of the success of television compared to radio) and that technology would quickly catch up with the needs of online video.

YouTube also embraced a concept that was quite new at the time…sites built around user submitted content.

At the time this wasn’t considered to be the greatest way of building content on a site.

In fact, the majority of marketers saw it as a terrible way of trying to get a site filled with content people would actually want to consume.

As it turned out, the majority of marketers were wrong.

When people can interact on your site and feel like they’re a part of things, you dramatically increase user engagement and that dramatically increases the time they spend on your site and the chances they’ll come back over and over.

On October 16th 2006, just 18 months after the first video was uploaded, Google purchased YouTube for 1.65 billion dollars and at that point, the site was still running at a significant loss!

YouTube is now the world’s second largest search engine and every day, over 1 billion users watch hundreds of millions of hours of video. And yes, the site now makes significant profits from advertising.

Take home principles from YouTube’s success that you might embrace in your online business:

  • User submitted content and allowing user comments increases the engagement of visitors to your site, increases the time they spend on your site and the chances they’ll come back repeatedly.
  • Video is highly engaging compared to other media. That’s why movies and television have so much more impact and higher user engagement than radio. Video on your site can dramatically increase visitor engagement.

 

   Amazon: Operating At A Loss For 6 Years…

Today, we take for granted that you can buy almost anything you want online but this wasn’t always the case…in fact this has only been a fact for less than a decade.

The pioneers in internet retailing were considered both likely to get resoundingly rich and…depending on the year…crazies who were squandering the money of investors in wacky schemes that had no chance of ever producing a positive return on investment.

In the mid-90s, there was a huge boom in investment in Internet ventures.

Amazon was born during this boom and launched as an online bookstore in 1995.

Amazon’s stock went public in 1997 and during the .com boom, the value of the stock grew at an astonishing rate quickly re-valuing the stock of the company at over $1 billion…on paper.

When the .com bubble burst in the 2000s, Amazon survived but after 5 years it was still operating at a loss.

At this stage most online businesses were looked at with suspicion and many were considered pie-in-the-sky ventures that would be unlikely to ever turn a profit…

 

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Online retailing was still considered a bit of a pipe dream (which is hard to imagine now).

Amazon was considered a curiosity with a high paper value but dubious genuine business value because in 2000, after over 5 years of trading, they weren’t looking too good in the profit department.

In 2001, the company finally made its first profit…a mere $5 million from sales of more than $1 billion.

The founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos understood early on that the Internet was different to offline retailing and reputation and trust were huge keys in any online business.

Why did Amazon end up becoming one of the world’s most successful online retailers?

There are 2 keys you can take from Amazon’s success.

 

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The first is Amazon’s transparency. They allow reviews of all kinds on all of the products they offer.

Product reviews are now commonplace online but they certainly weren’t when Amazon made them a part of their product listings.

Think about the power of transparency.

If you see a website where all the reviews from people are 100% positive these days, your immediate reaction is that the reviews might be fake! We’re such a skeptical, suspicious bunch.

But even a few negative or lukewarm reviews are enough to convince us that the reviews are probably genuine.

Second, Amazon understands that trust is at the heart of online retailing.

When you’re buying a product, you know that if it’s recommended by Amazon, there’s a good chance you’ll get a quality product without having to worry about any dubious online retailing practices.

Amazon has built that trust through millions of sales where they’ve made sure every refund is honored and poor vendors are weeded out of their system.

Take home principles from Amazon’s success that you might embrace in your online business:

  • Be transparent. Having your customers see that there’s a problem with one of your products is not a big issue. It’s how you deal with it that builds loyal customers who’ll buy from you and recommend you for years to come.
  • Build trust by acting in a way that deserves trust and by weeding out and severing associations with vendors and other marketers who don’t act in a trustworthy way.

 

   Facebook: How Many Friends Do You Think People Have?

Facebook may have been the dumbest idea in history…until it worked!

Originally designed as a way for Harvard students to keep in touch with each other and rate which students were hot, Facebook has grown into a monster social media site.

As you’ll see shortly, this initial copying of the popular “Hot or Not” site ended up being a huge key to Facebook’s success.

When Facebook first started spreading beyond university students, most people saw the whole thing as a fad. “How many friends do you think people have and why would they want to communicate with them on a website instead of just emailing them?”

What Facebook did more effectively than most other sites is it expanded virally.

There were 3 main reasons for this.

First, Facebook makes it very easy to share content that you post and content that other people post…

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That means interesting content quickly goes viral.

Second, Facebook allows you to “Like” content…also a method of sharing. The key here is that “liking” is emotional. The site allows you to share how you feel about the content.

This emotional component is surprisingly effective at increasing the number of people who will share content. Clicking a single button to do it also makes it very easy…

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The Like button on Facebook is an evolution of the old Hot or Not website which influenced the design of Facebook and of YouTube.

Third, on Facebook you can build your list of friends and your number of friends is displayed openly on your profile.

This makes it easy for your existing friends to make friends with your circle of people and it also makes it almost like a competition to see who can build the biggest list of friends.

This increases the viral growth of the website.

 

Twitter: You Think People Really Want To Know What You Ate For Breakfast?

Twitter may be the craziest idea of all the ideas here.

When Twitter was launched in 2006 critics were asking, “Who wants to know what you’re doing every hour of every day except possibly some crazed stalker?”

What the critics missed was the huge growth in mobile phones and devices over the preceding years and the even bigger growth to come…

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Twitter made it easy to send and receive really short messages (tweets) on mobiles letting people know what you’re up to.

The real key to Twitter’s success is giving users that ability to share from a mobile phone easily.

Mobile phone use exploded from 2006 to the present day and Twitter’s user base exploded right along with it to over 284 million active users as the the time of writing this report.
The simple take home principles from Twitter’s success:

  • Make your site mobile friendly.
  • Make it easy to share content on your site from mobile phones and devices.

 

Principles You Can Apply…

This exploration of successful online businesses that were once considered crazy ideas should help you realize that no matter how much you know about traffic and online marketing, you can’t afford to assume your knowledge is 100% correct or anything close to complete.

There’s always more you can learn, more you can discover and the newest thing that is sure to catch you by surprise will be just around the corner.

Here are a list of the principles that some of these crazy online business ideas used that you can use in your online business:

  • Consider encouraging user submitted content on some of your websites and blogs to increase engagement.
  • Consider allowing user comments one some of your websites and blogs to increase engagement and returns.
  • Use video to increase visitor engagement.
  • Be transparent. Let customers see how you deal with problems and deal with them quickly and effectively.
  • Build trust by being honest, open and trustworthy and associating with vendors who are trustworthy.
  • Make it easy for visitors to your site to share your content.
  • Make it easy for visitors to your site to share how they feel emotionally about your content (you might use the emotional traffic optimization widget Wookle for this).
  • Make your site mobile friendly.
  • Make it easy to share content on your site from mobile phones and devices.

What crazy online biz ideas are happening right now that have huge potential over the next decade? Post in the comments below…

 

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Comments

  1. You know this may be a long shot but I believe that the advent of drones and package delivery via drones could and would change online marketing for the better. Moving forward I feel that VR technology will bring content creation and other things closer (literally) to the consumer. In addition, the new sharing economy, surely it you are not fine tuning your website and content to be able to participate in this new economy to compete with the ubers of the world, you’re going to be left behind. With the dollar value at an all time low, WHEN the market crashes, I believe the sharing economy will survive. I am currently attempting to see how I can be apart of this niche. All the best. Please let me know how I can help move this forward.

  2. jack says:

    i have 2 sites that are e-commerce and for the first 6 month didn’t see any result but then the twist came and i have to say i’m glad i did not closed that sites! the key is not to give up!

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