Day 2 – more baby steps

Moving on from yesterday’s post I’ve begun to work on my to-do list for Mummywear Maternity.

Logo ideas for Mummywear MaternityI’ve created a favicon, uploaded the favicon file and added the relevant code to the index page of the site. I’ve also been working on some logo ideas based on the same theme.

I’ve also been investigating the best content management system to use in developing the site. My initial feeling was to use Joomla! with the Virtuemart component providing the ecommerce functionality required to provide the comparison aspects of the site. I’ve also been considering three other major contenders for content management, each of which have much to recommend them:

  1. WordPress
  2. Magento, and
  3. Affilistore

WordPress is undeniably one of the best blogging platforms available, and I have for some time admired it’s suitability as a platform for the speedy development of not just blogs but informational and marketing websites generally. It comes highly recommended by those within the affiliate marketing community and across a number of affiliate marketing forums. Were I looking for an affiliate model which involved more of a blogging model, with recommendations as the model for lead generation it would probably be my CMS of choice. In this case however I am looking to provide the customer with more of an ecommerce shop interface. The site will however incorporate a blog centred around news, media reportage and celebrity maternitywear and given the current lack of an outstanding open source blogging component for Joomla I may still use WordPress to provide this.

I’ve also been looking closely at Magento for some time. It has a clean look and feel, and it provides a lot of features that would work well for the kind of the Maternity Clothing comparison site that I have in mind. I particularly like the “Compare Products” feature and the built in support for adding to  a wishlist. The Community Edition is free to download and offers much the same functionality as the (very expensive) Enterprise Edition, with the exception of support. However, the dealbreaker for me is that I intend, at least initially, to run the site using a shared hosting platform. Feedback seems to indicate that Magento has significant performance issues on this platform, and I don’t really wish to invest in a VPS solution at this early stage in development.

AffiliStore is a PHP and MySQL based solution that “allows affiliates to quickly and easily build and maintain multi-page affiliate marketing price comparison websites directly from multiple merchant product datafeeds”. Again I like the look of it a lot. Once Mummywear Maternity is up and running I have a number of ideas for further affiliate comparison sites and intend to  look very closely at Affilistore for those. However, I feel it is probably better suited to a straight comparison site in a market with homogenous or identical products such as books or brand products. The essence of my site will be to provide an overview of the different lines of maternity clothing available from different maternitywear designers and retailers. Furthermore, whilst it can be skinned or templated to an extent, all the stores I have seen seem to carry much the same look and feel and I’d like a little more artistic and creative freedom.

So after researching the available solutions I am back to Joomla/Virtuemart. I am experienced in developing with it and know enough about making it SEO-friendly to feel confident of securing good search engine returns for my targeted serach terms.

My next stage is to take screenshots of my target retailers sites and of the competition in my niche with a view to coming up with a best-of-breed design, both in terms of  “look and feel” and functionality. Oh, and do some paid work! More later.

Day 1 – baby steps

Update on day one of the creation of new maternity fashion site, Mummywear Maternity.

Today I have re-jigged the holding page, tweaking the layout slightly.  I’ve also signed up for a new Google account for Mummywear and added the latest Google Analytics code to the website. I wanted to get a good web statistics package in place from the very outset, and although for simpler sites I am a strong proponent of Statcounter, Google analytics would seem to provide many of the tools required for more complex marketing analysis.  I’m also considering the use of some ppc (pay-per-click) advertising at some future point, and there are useful integration tools within Google Analytics which I’d like to explore. I’ll blog in greater depth on the subject of Google Analytics when I have some feedback on how effective a marketing tool I find it.

I’ve also been doing some fairly intensive reading around the subject of affiliate marketing online, and have been further investigating competing sites in my niche. One thing I am keen to find out is whether or not I need to develop an information-rich site before I approach potential new retailers.

Next tasks also include:

  1. Creation of a favicon and perhaps a standalone logo.
  2. Investigation into whether Joomla/Virtuemart, Magento, or another platform represent the correct content management system for the site.
  3. Mocking up a site layout and getting some feedback on design/colour scheme/navigation.
  4. Installation of CMS.
  5. Checking which Affiliate Programmes I currently have relationships with – I’ve signed up for a couple but without going any further in terms of marketing or development – offer suitable retailers.
  6. Making a list of target retailers.
  7. Signing up to new affiliate sites.
  8. Developing content for the site in terms of original articles and web copy, suitable topics for blogging and useful tools or applications. I like the idea of a newsletter for expectant mothers, date predictors, links to baby name sites and so on.
  9. Generating some income by making that first sale.

More tomorrow I hope.

Day zero – a brand is born

mummywear_maternityOver the past 5 years I have developed a skillset combining graphic and web design, web development, ecommerce, Joomla! development, Virtuemart customisation and search engine optimisation, along with an in-depth understanding of internet marketing. Every time I develop a client project there is a part of me that resents the fact that my work will provide a continuing business tool and income stream, of which I share no part except for ongoing hosting and maintenance income.

I’ve long flirted with the idea of developing my own affiliate marketing site and applying my skills to give it search engine prominence. I’ve even bought a number of domains with projects in mind and have a joint venture in development for an ecommerce bookshop. Affiliate marketing appeals because it offers the enticing prospect of developing a (relatively) passive income stream, using a model which can be duplicated in a number of niche markets.

Talking with friends over dinner at the weekend the idea of a comparison site for maternity clothes cropped up. When we got back late on Saturday I surfed around and had a cursory look at the maternity wear market and competition. Jude and I talked it over, and yesterday I purchased three domains: www.mummywear.co.uk, www.mummywearmaternity.co.uk and www.mummywearmaternity.com – a brand is born.

The idea is to set up a website featuring a range of maternity fashion from a number of UK maternity retailers. Customers will be able to compare products from all the major retailers before going on to purchase the products on the retailer site. I’ll take a commission on the sale, without the headache of order processing or fulfillment.

Day zero involved purchasing the domains, setting up shared hosting using my reseller account, creating a logo (which will no doubt evolve as I develop the site) and putting up a holding page.

I intend to spend a working hour each day on managing the project and any free time I have developing and promoting the site.

I’ll blog, hopefully daily, on progress. This will act as part social marketing, part blueprint for further niches. I intend to give the site a full year to develop, but to keep a tally of income vs expenditure as I go along.

Day zero expenditure:  £18.93 (domain names)

My Seven Year Plan

Buy a hill in SpainOver the years I have developed and refined a theory which I call the 7 Year Plan.

It is based on my experiences of my dad’s roller-coaster business life, and in particular the decade from 1970 to 1980 which he started assetless in Australia and ended as chairman and managing director of a public company in New Zealand, with a small property portfolio.

Essentially from any starting point I believe that it it possible to reach a point where you can cash in and retire within a period of seven to ten years.

My seven year plan is not quite so ambitious – I fear that achieving full retirement would demand too many compromises in terms of work/life balance , particularly as central to the plan is to shift the balance increasingly onto the life side. The reasons for this will become obvious later.

The plan need not be purely wealth or business related. It works on the premise that by defining and visualising your goals you are able to quantify and achieve them.

The key points of my plan, which will take me to the age of 50, are to:

  1. Become near fluent in Spanish.
  2. Run a sub 4 hour marathon Achieved in 2010.
  3. Send the children to private schools Achieved in 2010.
  4. Buy a second investment property in the UK Achieved in 2011.
  5. Buy a family house in Spain.

I intend to achieve these by further developing my existing business, Generation X, and developing a number of additional web-based projects which will provide the required income or capital. I’ll blog about these in more depth as they develop. [*update – the first of these is Mummywear Maternity]

Incidentally, the image accompanying this article is the view from a property in Spain I have my eye on, which would nicely satisfy point 5 of the plan, at a budget of 87,000 euros in 2009 terms.