A Bird in the Hand

There are so many things I want to do. Sometimes I lie awake in bed and I can’t shut off my mind. I drive myself crazy because I’m terrified to miss anything that I perceive as an opportunity. I look at the world and see dollar signs on everything. What you say is weighed by how marketable or profitable it could be. Everything is a potential business idea. I need a break from it. I need to take a step back from the world of business because I simply can’t do it all. And because I already have a bird in the hand.

Anyone who knows me is familiar with my company (or companies). I sell knives, self defense products, survival & outdoor gear, emergency preparedness items, watches, even dehydrated food. But all of that is the very tip of the iceberg, ladies and gentlemen. There is so much more we could sell. And so many nights I simply stay up, obsessing over new products, combing the “www” for information. Sometimes I just wish time would stop so I could find everything, learn everything, know everything. But that’s obviously not going to happen. I have to pick my battles.

And so, I present to you some of my findings. Something that I would pursue if I had the time and didn’t have projects that interested me even more. The research I’ve compiled here isn’t complete and obviously there are certain proprietary things that I won’t share, but I think if what I outlined below was initiated (competently) the result would be a viable side business. The methodology for approaching this project is 1) find s product I’m interested in 2) determine market interest 3) review competition 4) find available Internet real estate 5) determine barriers to entry 6) totally up to you.

The product of interest: Laser Pointers

The first step is to do some basic research. I love Wikepedia’s general information. In the case of laser pointers it outlines the various types, uses and even provides some regulatory info. Good stuff. Wikipedia Laser Pointer Article.

The next step is to determine is there’s any market interest. I think Google is a great resource for this (get ready for a life changing tool). Google will actually tell you how many people are searching for a specific thing or things (using keywords). For example, in Google’s keyword tool I have typed in “laser pointer” and a few different variants of pointers I learned about from the Wiki article. Next (on the left of the screen) I checked the “[exact]” box to see how many people typed the exact keywords I have entered. I can instantly gauge the demand for a laser pointer. Roughly 12,000 people search for one each month. I can also see that people type the singular “laser pointer” far more often than the plural “laser pointers.” And people are big into green laser pointers with over 6,000 people Googling them each month. Google also shows you other keyword or keyword strings with high search volumes. More good stuff.

Now we check out the competition. If we google “laser pointer” or “laser pointers” the first website we come to is www.wickedlasers.com. They have a pretty nice looking store and it only take s a few seconds of browsing to see that they take lasers seriously and (more importantly) have built a nice little business around this product. You can generally guesstimate a company’s success by visiting their “about” page, by checking their Facebook account (WickedLasers has over 11,000 fans!) and doing a Google search for the company’s domain name to see how many search results are returned (77,000 in this case). Seems pretty healthy!

You can also buy laser pointers at places like Amazon, ThinkGeek, RadioShack, Dragonlasers, etc. Well cool, looks like there are some laser pointer stores out there. Why not be part of the action. [As as aside, digging deeper will show you that WickedLasers is Japan based and they actually do some B2B].

Now in order to make your Internet business a reality you’ll need a domain where your website resides. There are two schools of thought on this. 1) You can find a domain and create a brand around it (i.e. WickedLasers) or 2) you can buy up exact match domains (i.e. domains names that are keywords people are typing into search engines such as Google) and try to dominate search engine results. Either will be tough- there are no short cuts to the top.

There are plenty of brand-able laser domains you can pick up from places like GoDaddy for $11.99 a year. Things like AwesomeLasers.com or LaserPointerDeals.com are readily available. But to be clear- these domains are not keywords. People won’t find your website unless you’ve done a good job marketing or advertising.

My personal choice (this time) would be to pick up some more expensive exact match domains and build out information websites that drive traffic to my actual website (maybe something brand-able, maybe an exact match domain, no idea at this point). Looking at my Google keyword search list I can see what people are looking for. So, I head over to one of my favorite places to search for domains. I type in my keyword string, “laserpointer.” Look at that- there are actually two exact match domains for sale! [As another aside- you’ll have to figure out where to go to buy the domains on your own, but it should be pretty simple].

A trip to another place for domains and I find this:

At this point I’m only really missing one color. So I head over to RedLaserPointer.com. And:

If I was pursuing this dream of owning an online laser pointer company (and assuming I had determined the barriers to entry were not insurmountable) I would actually go ahead and make an offer on RedLaserPointer.com. Based on the traffic and sale prices of the other domains I’d offer between $800-$1000. Anyone reasonable would accept it. After getting it I’d buy up the other domains and I’d have a sweet little laser pointer domain portfolio. If red laser guy didn’t want to sell, not a big deal. It would have been a minimal part of my traffic.

At this point I’d be fantasizing about how well my info sites would do. First or second in the search engine results for exact matches. I could reasonably expect about a third of the people searching to click through to my websites if I have the first or second spot (and I’ve got a good chance with my exact match domain and my amazing little content sites that I’ve set up with relevant and unique content). If I’ve got all four sites running I can expect about 3000 visitors each month and targeted traffic is money). Yeah, okay- I got ahead of myself a bit.

The Barriers to entry are an important consideration. They should have probably been carefully assessed prior to making any investments. However, I have not given them too much consideration at this point so I added them here at the end. Here’s what you’re dealing with:
1) Product availability. Can you get the product? Can you sell it for a profit?
2) Competition. How established is your competition? How extensive is their product line? What are you up against?
3) Website. Obviously you’re going to need a place to sell them and websites aren’t free. There are some great websites like WickedLasers, but you’ve also got websites like LaserPointersForSale.com.

If you had this website (or were going to make one like it) I would actually consider it to be a barrier to entry (and by the way, I might think hard about making an offer on this website. It has a lot of exact match searches and the person who built it can’t be too invested in it). You’re going to need a good website to sell your product so determine your ability to provide your customers with a good shopping experience (and consider things like order fulfillment at this time a well).
4) Regulatory issues. Some lasers can’t be imported and other have restrictions on sales. Some states have laws that cover the use of lasers.
5) I’m sure there are plenty more barriers to entry, but that’s about where I gave up. I simply ran out of time to answer these questions and map out a coherent business strategy for this particular product.

Laser pointers are cool. There’s a demand. There are some great domains out there. But I’m not going to do it. And I’m actually scarred not to do it. I feel like I’m missing out. But in an effort to face my fear I’m walking away from this one and leaving it for you, the reader. As I said before, I’ve got a bird in the hand. That’s not going to stop me from going after a few birds in the bush, but the ones I have my eyes on right aren’t laser pointers. Iceberg.

Posted January 26, 2011

One thought on “A Bird in the Hand

  1. Great article! I really enjoyed being inside Cam’s mind as he breaks down an idea and how you would approach the attack.

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