I couple of weeks ago I felt so inspired by a few successful entrepreneuship stories that I shared them as a guest post 5 Hugely Successful Self-Made Web Entrepreneurs to Get Inspired. I am now lucky enough to feature one of those entrepreneurs here: Kyle James. Enjoy!
1. Kyle, please tell us a few words about yourself. What has brought you into affiliate marketing?
I live in northern California, have 3 young children, and work out of my home office. Which means I lock the door a lot and blast iTunes. I own and operate an online coupon website called Rather-Be-Shopping.com which collects and organizes thousands of coupons to online stores.
I have been running Rather-Be-Shopping.com since December of 2000 (Full time since 2004). So yes, I am a fossil when it comes to affiliate marketing. Originally, I started the site not really knowing about affiliate marketing. I thought I could make money by selling banner ads to local businesses. Then as I discovered commissioned based marketing I changed my business model.
2. Why coupons? What prompted you to choose that highly competitive niche?
I love a good deal. That was what initially started the coupon concept. At first Rather-Be-Shopping.com was just a store directory but then as retailers started sending me these great coupons, I had to start adding them and the site just grew from there. Also, when I started 10 years ago the number of coupon sites was much smaller and barriers to successful entry into the market were much less.
3. Who (or what) was your main source of inspiration when you started?
Well, back in the day, there were a couple sites that I remember following and admiring their business model. One was AmazingBargains.com and the other was a site called eDealFinder.com. These were the first 2 coupon sites that I ever stumbled upon and they laid out a clear and easy to navigate website. Back then there were so many bad sites that just copy and pasted banners on to their site. So the quality of these 2 sites really stood out to me.
I don’t think either one survived the test of time, but back in 2001 they were on top of their game and really inspired me to push out Rather-Be-Shopping.com.
4. Through all these years working on the site, have you ever wanted to quit? Do you remember the hardest times? What made you move forward?
It can be a rocky road, no doubt about it. Things can be going along just fine and all of the sudden Google will change their algorithm and you lose a good chunk of your traffic and you’ll want to throw the towel in. But my advice would be to focus on creating a useful and interactive site and not to focus on the search engines. Sure you want to optimize where you can, but focus on valuable content above anything else. People will want to link to it and people will tell their friends about your resource. If you do this, the search engines will follow.
5. How is the web different from what it was when you were just starting?
10 years ago you could throw up a site, stuff it with keywords, and within a month or 2 you could start seeing some pretty good traffic. Those days are long gone now, which I think is a good thing because now the focus is on quality content. You have to differentiate yourself from your competition. In the long run this is a great thing as it inspires creativity and better overall websites.
6. Have you tried building your social media presence? How do social media sites help affiliate marketers?
We have a Facebook page for Rather-Be-Shopping.com along with a Twitter feed. The Facebook page has been a great way to interact with my users. I will use it to promote our giveaways and ‘coupons of the day’ and to just goof off and crack jokes from time to time. I like to have fun with it. After all, I deal with online coupons, it isn’t brain surgery. So it’s important for me to NOT take it too seriously and to just be myself. Our Facebook page and our blog allow me to do that.
7. On your site you mention several times that it’s a family effort. How is your family involved with developing the resource? Are your kids using the web to make money already?
My wife does all of our accounting and tax work. Which I am very thankful for because crunching numbers are not my strong suit, I would much rather be writing a post about how one of my kids knocked down an entire grocery store display of cereal boxes. My kids are still quite young, but one day I could see them helping for sure. They are already pretty computer savvy.
8. Which online marketing and web development resources, blogs and guides do you recommend for people who are just starting out?
I would say WebmasterWorld.com and ABestWeb.com are great resources for people starting out. I found them invaluable in terms of online marketing and content creation.
9. What’s your most important entrepreneurship advice (that has helped you to succeed)?
Find your passion. In order to get through the rough periods, especially at the beginning, you had better really enjoy what you are doing and the type of business you have started. Plus, your passion for the topic will make it so much easier to write useful posts and articles and thus promote your business. Oh, and never let somebody tell you that you won’t succeed. If I had listened to all the nay-sayers when I started, I would be stuck in a cubicle right now making somebody else rich.
10. Where do you see your site in the future? What are your plans?
I see Rather-Be-Shopping.com being even more interactive and customizable. As of 2 months ago, we have a new website design that let’s you register and sign up for personalized ‘Coupon Alerts’. Essentially, you pick your favorite stores and shopping categories and we send you an email when we add a coupon that fits your criteria. This type of personalized user experience is where I want to continue taking our website. The next thing will be a smart phone app and after that, well, I won’t know until I get there. But I am looking forward to the ride!