How to Ethically Copy Your Way to Online Business Success
Have you listened to the radio lately? Whether it’s hip-hop, country, or pop… each of the top songs from any genre sounds pretty similar, right? That’s not by mistake.
You see, when a songwriter or producer comes up with a sound that resonates with the public and becomes a hit… the rest of the industry “copy cats” and tries to remake the song so they can ride that success. And it works. Certain melodies.
Certain sounds. Certain styles. Even certain looks, clothes, and hairstyles of the artists.
They’re just replicated again and again… just different enough to not get sued for plagiarism or copyright violation. It’s a story that goes back decades. And making money by following a proven model is just part of it. It’s also about not taking risks.
It happens all the time, with all sorts of products and services. First, there was Gatorade… and then Powerade. The Fitbit… and then half-dozen imitators. The Harry Potter series… and then several books about magical schoolchildren.
Let’s face it. In any industry, it’s tough to be first in market, a pioneer, so to speak. You have to break ground, test the waters… and if you fail, all of your investment goes down the drain. It’s true in music, books, beverages, and exercise equipment. And it’s true when it comes to starting a successful online business.
And if you’re brand new to internet marketing, it can be especially tricky to try and be a total original. That’s why I recommend following in the footsteps of those successful internet entrepreneurs who have come before you.
Ethically Copying the Competition
Listen, I’m not advocating “ripping off” another internet business or selling their products under your name.
Instead, you’ve going to conduct some in-depth research, discover what consumers want based on what they’re buying from the competition, and then sell that sort of product yourself.
This way you can get in on a hot proven niche market where you are virtually guaranteed sales. You can avoid the guesswork in trying to find a profitable market and focus on perfecting your own marketing strategy. You just have to find the trend and figure out a way you can fit in it. You can sell your own products. Or — this is much easier and cheaper — sell the products of others as an affiliate. This could be your whole business… or just part of your business. You could even sell in several trends at once.
Let me give you a quick example.
Diets are always big business. This was true before the internet, and it’s true today. Diets have been around for centuries… and diet fads have been around almost as long. Several years ago, low-carb diets were all the rage, like the Atkins’ Diet and South Beach Diet. These days, gluten-free is where it’s at. Gluten-free cookbooks, gluten-free foods, health guides about what conditions and diseases being gluten-free will cure… they’re all over the place.
Why not take advantage of that hot market while it lasts?
Sure, you can’t ride a trend forever. People will move on to something else. But what a ride it’ll be while it lasts and just think of the money you can make.
That’s part of it… judging how long you can ride a trend before you have to jump off the horse, so to speak. It’s a matter of watching the industry, paying attention to your competition, sales on major e-commerce sites like Amazon, and your own sales and marketing efforts.
When sales are dwindling, it’s probably time to find the next trend.
Spotting Hot Trends
So how do you find out what the bestsellers are… what markets or family of products you should use for your own online venture?
First, keep your eyes and ears open. Bona fide hot trends will be on the nightly news, in online forums, on your Facebook feed, on Twitter, on BuzzFeed lists… and your friends and family will be talking about it.
You can also use some online tools to find trends as they are breaking and becoming bigger than ever. Here are some of them:
- EBay Market Research highlights the most popular product categories on the massive e-commerce site.
- You can go to Kickstarter Discover and check out projects by popularity, level of funding, and several other categories.
- The website CraftCount shows the top sellers on the popular e-commerce site, Esty.com.
- A great place to spot up-to-the-minute trends is Amazon’s Movers and Shakers list, which tracks the biggest sales jumps over the past 24 hours.
By the way, it’s important to not be prejudiced when trend-spotting and then trying to incorporate those trends in your online business. For example, you may not understand the whole gluten-free movement… but that doesn’t mean you can’t sell gluten-free products to those who do.
Taking the Next Step
Once you’ve identified the hot market or markets you want to go after with your online business, it’s time to figure out what you’re going to sell. It is possible you could create and sell your own products. In this case, information products like videos or books or audios, which are cheap to create, store, and deliver, would be your best bet.
But ideally, when you’re just getting started in internet marketing, you’d want to sell products as an affiliate. Affiliate marketing is a proven online business model in which entrepreneurs like you sell the products of others. You market it to the best of your ability… and every time you make a sale, you get a commission, from 5 percent to 75 percent or even more, depending on the company.
Your affiliate partner handles the actual order and delivery of the product, as well as any returns, refunds, or other customer service issues. No hassle for you. The fact you sent them a customer is tracked through a unique link and you get paid your share regularly.
When it comes to selling digital information products as an affiliate, there’s no better site than Clickbank.com. It’s also a handy market research tool. You can bet hot products will be heavily featured in its pages.
Amazon.com is a great affiliate partner for physical products, virtually everything they sell, you can promote as an affiliate. And for other manufacturers and brands, be sure to check out CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction).
Dropshipping is also a great option. In this business model, you maintain your inventory with a fulfillment house or sometimes even the manufacturer. You market and sell the product and send your partner that orders. They handle the physical shipping of the product for a cut of the money or a flat fee. You can find dropshippers all over, and in all sorts of markets. This is a major business model in the supplement industry. Often you can even private label your own supplements.
If you’re deadset on sourcing and selling physical products on your own, Alibaba.com is a great place to check. It’s a way to connect you, as an Internet seller, with product manufacturers in China.
Guiding Your Marketing
So you’ve done your research, you’ve found the hot trends… and the products that match with those trends, those best-sellers that are taking the world by storm. Now it’s time to start selling.
The great news is that you have a big head start because you aren’t searching for a market… and you’re sure you have a hot seller on your hands.
When starting out it is best to have just one product or a few related products. Keep it simple. Sure the sales might not be enough to buy that yacht just yet. But this will be invaluable experience in learning how an e-commerce business works… and you can quickly ramp up your venture with new products and new niches as you gain experience and expertise.
So find the product that most resonates with you and create a simple website to sell it. Content marketing is important these days, so fill the site with articles, blog entries, videos, and more that educates the prospect about the benefits of the product. That’ll catch the eye of Google and slowly but surely raise your search engine ranking.
Of course, you should also have a sales page with strong direct-response copy and a compelling offer to make the prospect take that final step and buy.
You could also set up an email autoresponder so you can use email marketing to keep prospects warm by sending them a newsletter with valuable free information, as well as sales offers. That will convince them over time to buy the product.
Social media like Facebook and Twitter is also a great way to reach your audience. Let the world know about your business through posts and tweets.
Wrapping It Up
There’s no shame in riding trends… you’re not “copying” anyone. It’s a sound business practice used by the largest companies in the world. And it’s a great way for you to kick off your internet business and make money online. Best of luck to you. And happy trend spotting!