How to build a site that sells for 6 figures

In January this year, I sold Net Free Stuff, my very first website, to Internet Business Group plc for £120,000 cash. It’s a very satisfying feeling, knowing that something you created out of nothing could be sought after by a stock-listed company, who are leaders in the Industry. I thought it would be worthwhile looking at how to build your website in such a way that companies will be falling over each other, waving wads of cash at you to sell.

If I had implemented all the following ideas from Day 1, I would have sold NFS for a LOT more than £120k, but hey, I was still wet behind the ears back then, and anyway, I was following Rule Number One – I just didn’t know there were any rules back then…

Rule Number One – Don’t build a site “to sell”

If you’re reading this thinking “Great. I’ll build a site tomorrow, follow these rules and flog it for a million”, then you should prepare to be disappointed. You should always build and run your site with the enthusiasm and professionalism that you would if you planned to never, ever sell it. If you’re building a site with the only intention to sell it, that will come across, and you’ll have a rubbish site that no-one visits (an therefore no-one wants to buy)

Your site users are the lifeblood of your site. You have to build it for them, and you have to keep them happy. If you get a complaint, remember that someone has taken the time to give you feedback on something you’ve created. Not everyone who emails you will be polite, but you must always be polite in response, and always reply to everyone. Never under-estimate the importance of giving impeccable customer service – Remember if you make someone happy, they might tell three people.. P*ss them off, and they’ll post about on a blog or forum for thousands to see.

Rule Number Two – Get them registered

This is my biggest regret, and one of the main reasons we could have sold NFS for a lot more money: We had been running the site for two years before we offered people the chance to register with us, and another year before we made registration compulsory.

One of the first things IBG asked was how many registered users we had, and the final price was very much determined based on that figure. Imagine how much more we could have commanded for NFS if we’d been asking people to register for those 3 more years?

Of course, your selling price is not the only reason to get people registered with your site – It means you can email them to highlight your best offers, offer them incentives to let their friends know about your site, or very simply keep your site in their thoughts, and encourage repeat visits.

Rule Number Three – Build a Brand

The first 2 years of Net Free Stuff’s existence saw it go through a number of different “brand identities”, with NFS being the third name (answers on a postcard for those who remember both the original ones!) and about 6 different logos. Once we had settled on NFS though – that was final. The name was set in stone, we’d had the distinctive “splodge” logo professionally designed, and from there on we worked on making NFS a brand in itself.

We sent out free Fridge Magnets to our registered users – all had the logo and URL on (I’ve still got a few lying around if anyone wants one?), and as many of our users were students, they ended up being stuck on the fridges of shared accomodation and student halls, thus exposing our “brand” to our target audience several times a day (and many, many times on a Friday night no doubt!)

We ran exclusive competitions and giveaways with merchants, and shouted from the rooftops that they were “exclusive to Net Free Stuff”, re-enforcing the brand, and the “something for nothing – that you won’t get elsewhere” mantra. Same goes for discount codes – we had a number of exclusive codes with merchants, and the code they had to enter to get their 10% off? Yup, “NetFreeStuff” of course!

It’s a very proud feeling to look at the Overture Search Tool today, and see that in June (5 months after I sold the site), hundreds of people were searching for the brand I created out of nothing one night in 2002. Obviously, that’s just OT (sorry, Yahoo.. I know), so when you take into account Google etc, we’re talking thousands of people every month. If I can create a brand like that, then so can anybody.

Rule Number Four: Do some PR work

This is something I wish I’d done a lot more with NFS, as we did receive an awful lot of press coverage without really trying too hard. There was a period back in 2003, when you couldn’t pick up a womans magazine like Bella, Woman’s Own or Family Circle without reading about NFS, and it helped bring in a tremendous number of new users, most of whom became regular users of the site.

That exposure cost us nothing at all (except a couple of hand-written press releases sent out, and a few hours doing interviews with journos), and yet to put a value on it now? Well, the members it brought in probably earned us around £60,000 over the years and contributed around £15,000 to the final sale price. That’s a fantastic ROI, better than any PPC we’ve ever done – Imagine what those figures could have been if we’d taken PR seriously?

Rule Number Five: Don’t sell!

Now you’ve created a site that is a brand, has plenty of type-in-traffic, people searching for it by name, a plethora of happy punters all telling their friends how great your site is, plenty of free press coverage, andhundreds of thousands of people you can email your latest offer to at the touch of a button. Why on earth would you want to sell?

Most people are probably screaming at the screen now “Well, you bloody sold.. Why shouldn’t I?”, and they’re right. Selling was the right thing to do for us at the time. Over the years we had rejected a number of offers, but when IBG approached us last year, the timing was right to sell – We needed a large injection of cash to help our other sites prosper, and running the site had become very tiring and repetitive after 6 years.

My point is, think about whether you really do want to sell, or whether just by following these rules, you’ll have created a site that you’re so proud of (and makes such good money), that you would never let it go for all the tea in China.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

If you enjoyed this article, please consider submitting it to the readers of Affiliates4u so that they can enjoy it too! Just click the following button:


submit to affiliates4u

11 Comments

  1. avatar John Cronin Says:

    John

    Great post and thanks for sharing your info and advice.

    Goes to show that offline publicity whilst often neglected is way more effective than PPC.

    Personally need to be doing a bit more on some (ok, most!) of things you suggest. I’ll have a new site on the go soon and as you suggest it’d make sense to get users to register their email addresses at least.

    You hanging out for £1m next time around?

    Thanks again for the advice.

    John

  2. avatar Jason Dale Says:

    Some good tips there John, will follow them and see how I get on 😉

    Jason

  3. avatar Moose Says:

    Good solid advice John & once again congratulations on the sale.

  4. avatar Serios question for the Pros...dare you answer! - Affiliate Marketing Forum - affiliates4u Says:

    […] Serios question for the Pros…dare you answer! Hi all, Just been reading ‘How to build a site that sells for 6 figures’ by John (inspiring article btw) and, along with lots of other advice I’ve read, the same ‘newbie […]

  5. avatar john Says:

    Hi John, great post but i was in shock when you sold your site NFT for only £120k you should have made a post on A4U and
    given other members the option to bid too ; )

  6. avatar Annie Says:

    It was really helpful and encouraging to read your comments. I have spent a year
    working on an affiliate site which I can’t imagine I would ever want
    to sell as I really want to see it grow and I won’t kid myself that I
    would get any offers. I am however beginning to get a lot of interest
    from users and affiliates. I am also being approached by advertising
    agencies who want to place adverts on the site which has surprised me
    and also posed a number of problems. I really want to keep the integrity
    of the site but it is also tempting to get more income. I have no idea
    what I should be charging advertisers and no-one seems to give this
    information away on their sites.

    Do you think it is better to stick with affiliate advertising only?
    If not is there anywhere you can guide me to find out what it is
    reasonable to quote for banners and skyscrapers with a run of the site?

  7. avatar Mel Says:

    Food for thought. I am currently redeveloping my site and I think the points you raise will be useful. I aint gonna sell my baby though ;p)

  8. avatar John Says:

    Just my personal opinion Annie, but I’d concentrate 100% on affiliate earnings. By all means if you want to spend an hour knocking up a rate card for banners etc, do so. But of the hundreds of “I’d like to advertise on your site” emails that we used to receive on NFS, not one actually transpired into a profitable partnership.

    Too many ad agencies just send out “feelers” to hundreds of sites every day looking to buy up adspace for peanuts. As soon as you reply with figures anywhere near the going rate, you never hear from them again.

    IMO, the time spent replying to emails, negotiating rates, uploading creatives, and collecting the money etc would be better spent building your own site and integrating ads you know will make you more than a crappy cpm banner ever could.

  9. avatar Looking to sell your business? at Lammo.net Says:

    […] blogged about how to sell a site for £100,000+ back in July, and the same advice is coming up in this interactive discussion, particularly with […]

  10. avatar How do I choose the Best Affiliate Blog of 2009? | MarkBoyd.co.uk Says:

    […] Net Free Stuff, which is still going strong today, although no longer under my ownership after I sold it in […]

  11. avatar Stu Says:

    Interesting read’it really gets the brain in gear trying to replicate your fantastic achievement

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Written by Lammo · Filed Under Affiliate Marketing, Affiliate Marketing Success Stories