How to Market Your Products, Beat the Big Guys, and Build an Authentic Life for Yourself
By Richard Bergman, DecksGo.com
Richard comes from a family of builders and engineers, which instilled in him a love for building things with his own hands from a young age on. Today, his speciality are outdoor decks, fences and innovative building tools that he develops himself.
Richard knew that he had the right experience and knowledge, and that there was a hungry market out there for his products, but how should he reach that market without having a huge marketing budget?
He was determined to not having to sell parts of his company to an investor, like most startups do in his industry. In the information age, surely there must be a better way? He had dabbled with the Internet before, and even hired a web developer to build a website for him. It didn’t go very well.
Far from giving up, Richard woke up one morning and decided that now he’d do it himself. He’d build his own web site, establish himself as a thought leader in the world of outdoor decks and bring his products to market.
That life changing morning was in 2003. Now, in 2015, Richard has what he always wanted: an authentic, fulfilled life, with a business that gives him a sense of deep purpose and that earns him and his family a full-time income.
We’ve asked Richard to share some bits of wisdom from his entrepreneurial journey with you, our readers.
1. Tell us about your website, www.DecksGo.com. When and why did you start your site?
I started my site in June 2004 from my spare bedroom office while I still had another full time job/career. I decided to start DecksGo.com which was originally called Ideas-For-Deck-Designs.com – yes that is a handful for a name – because I knew that I needed a web platform from which to promulgate my message to the public at minimal cost.
2. You develop and sell your own products. How has your SBI! site helped you with this?
I had just experienced building a previous site in 2002 from which I sold a guitar learning product that I had developed. So I had learned some of the basics of product development and writing content around the process of learning to play guitar but I hired a web developer to build it all. The structure of content in a three tier arrangement was all wrong. It was a boilerplate site they built for me that I could not ever update or control on my own without having to pay them to do everything.
It cost a lot of money and it never ever really got any traffic. The site is still up (www.easyleadguitar.com) and I keep it going because I like to have an ever present reminder of my failures to keep me focused on the future. So even though I used some of Ken Evoy’s (Ken Evoy is the founder of SiteSell) tips about using good content for this site I had decided to try it all on my own without using SiteSell. I had been researching SiteSell while I was developing this first site.
Long story short, it did not succeed but neither was it a total failure because by going through that process I absolutely confirmed in my mind that SiteSell was going to be the perfect choice for me. There was a moment in 2003 where I woke up one morning after having been thinking about how I was going to get my new building product to market and I saw the future of the web as described by Ken as a world of ideas of humanity. Everything we know will be on the web, a literal and visual compendium of human knowledge and it was in its infancy at that moment. So Ken’s advice was to establish yourself as a thought leader in whatever little area you may be predisposed to.
I realized that I had enough knowledge and connections in the construction and carpentry business to claim my stake as a thought leader in that area, and that my experience and passion for the topic would shine through. Time was ticking, so I had to start learning this web thing right away and build the site now, not tomorrow because it was going to take a number of years to get it running right and have the traffic I would need to promote my products to. This was my path. And of course I had been developing my first building product – a surface mounted wood post anchor since 2001 when I drew it on a napkin at a restaurant in Vancouver overlooking the beach and mountains.
So that was the start and the product was finally tested in 2005 and in production for 2006 and I sold my first one in March 2007. The site was bringing in over 2000 visitors a day at that time. It worked exactly the way Ken said it would and how I had planned it. I kept my day job, paid my mortgage and was working twice as hard to manage both things.
3. So far, what has been the biggest challenge for you?
The challenge I have faced is continuing to curate content, keep the site up to date with all the latest changes in technology, all while growing a separate business that develops, makes and distributes the products we often refer to at DecksGo.com. DecksGo is not my main source of income, although it does generate a handsome profit via its store. I do not derive any affiliate income and never have. I don’t rely on AdSense. My site’s primary job is to get me and my message “out there” in a big way. It also has a world class store built into it where all my unique products are presented and sold and over the past few years, products from other inventors and companies that need to launch and get their products out there.
My main business is my building products company which is a separate website and where we promote our products but with a dealer network map to show our stores and show our dealers and distributors we support them. So if I did not have DecksGo I would never ever have been able to sell enough product through stores to be able to fund the growth of my building products company. And if you look around in my industry virtually every startup I know of has had to give away part of the company to an investor to fund the growth. A very wise man told me right at the start to make sure that I have my own retail operation or the same thing would happen to me.SiteSell is an absolutely fabulous platform for people starting out who have very little money to get going.Click To Tweet
We will always host DecksGo at SiteSell for a million reasons. The resources and the tools and the wisdom of the minds at SiteSell is exceptional.
4. What do you enjoy most about being an online business owner?
The best part of being a business owner is that I wake up every day with a deep sense of purpose. I am a husband and a father and a business owner and I am self sufficient in this world. It is a sense of freedom to make authentic decisions that are true to who I am and to be a force of good in my small sphere of influence.The best part of being a business owner is that I wake up every day with a deep sense of purpose.Click To Tweet
I feel as if I have never worked a day since I started my company. The paradox is that it’s been very hard work but it’s never felt like being work; and in 2015 I can say we are finally building up some wonderful inertia. I left my daytime job in January 2011, and the following four years were not easy. 2013 was an especially tough year, but I managed to correct and it made all the difference.
5. If you had to review SBI! for someone who never heard about it, which features or benefits would you highlight?
As far as features and benefits of SBI! consider the tutorials on how to set things up, the brainstorming tool, the forums, the SiteSell Pros that can actually do some of the work for you, the ease of building and maintaining the site. Consider how SiteSell nevers sits still and keeps advancing all the tools no matter how hard the online world gets. Consider the cost of any similar tools on their own. Now consider the value of an annual SBI! subscription. Excellent value.
But none of this will appeal to the person who knows it all or thinks they know it all. I have tried to explain this to some friends, some have listened, others are still trying to show they know it all.
I saw first hand how hard Ken, yes Ken, dug into the deep strategic thinking around the path forward at the time of the major Google algorithm changes. From my perspective I had no doubt this was an existential moment for SiteSell. Ken and the team showed they were truly world class at what they do and are in this for the very reasons they say they are. They want to offer a solution that cuts out the noise and makes it possible for the average person to get lift off in the world using the power of today’s online technology.
6. Has your life changed since you started your site? Can you describe these changes for us?
Since I started my site my life has done a complete 180 degree turn. I was stuck in a job that paid me well but had a dead end. I was full of ambition, light, energy and vision but none of that would ever be tapped into in my job. But it paid well – the perfect trap. My personal life was also lonely and there had been a number of disappointments.
So upon reflection about what I wanted in this brief life I knew I wanted to live an authentic life for me. That meant authenticity in my relationships, with a wife, a family and of course a business that I loved. Those underlying beliefs pointed me to research about the internet and how it might help me get my ideas to market which lead to SiteSell which underpins the entire success of how I created my building products company.
These decisions were not easy to make and they will not be easy for you either because each morning when you look at yourself in the mirror you know exactly what you really want to be. But you also know the effort and courage it will take – and thoughtful, realistic planning. I would use SiteSell over and over again because of the quality of the tools, the support, the ideas and guidance, the professionals to help, the ease to update my site myself and the affordability of it.
7. What one piece of advice would you give someone who is just getting started as an online entrepreneur?
As you are starting out, take time to research various ways of building a site that can grow free organic search engine traffic. Do not rely only on SiteSell at this time. Read everything. Then read about SiteSell and you will start to generate a vision of how you can use the web and the internet to create your platform.
Be very honest with yourself. Choose an area you are fired up about. Pick something with an economic future but that you really enjoy and will enjoy for the long term. I started with a guitar site/product. I love guitar to this day but will never be a guitar authority. So that is not my long term play.
I loved building from a young age and always will. That was my long term play and so you must figure that out before you spend precious time and money on something that won’t work. Ken has said it takes as much time and effort thinking about how to build a small site or business as it does to plan and create a business in a bigger market. The difference is a business in a bigger market has room to grow and evolve.
Learn From More High-Traffic, Profitable Solopreneurs
- Recent Success Stories With Takeaway Lessons. Read more recent inspiring stories from our blog. They deliver useful ideas and takeaway lessons from folks who’ve “done it and won it.” If they can do it, you can, too!
- Multi-Year SBI! Reviews. We take a deep-dive into the long term, full business stories of several different types of solopreneur successes. They periodically update their progress so you can see how they and their businesses grow over a period of years. This gives you excellent insight into what solopreneurs can accomplish with real online businesses.
- Hundreds of the “Top 0.5%.” Every one of these SBI! businesses (hundreds of them) rank in the top 1 million active websites (out of approximately 200 million!). That’s all the more impressive because 1) we are such a small community and 2) many Top 0.5% sites are mid-sized or large companies.
Solopreneurs fail at astronomical rates. SBI! makes you 100x more likely to succeed (that’s not a typo!). It will never be easy, but we do make it way more doable.
Scan the wide variety of solopreneurs who are winning in real niches. Use it to get a feeling for what SBIers do, as well as to generate ideas. What do you know? Turn it into a business.