Back in the early 2000s, I was privileged to be part of a US-based global networking organization as their Asian Bureau Chief.  It was a heady time.  Our reach was extensive, but I faced a problem I could not solve:  how to sufficiently monetize the effort on my end.  The owner, Adam Kovitz,  and I had talked about it but we couldn’t see the solution.  And then the platforms arrived and we folded.

That was over 2 decades ago — see Part 1.  Since then I’ve seen the rise and fall of many platforms.  And when I was invited to start Nusantara Collection in 2016, I decided to revisit my past failures and near misses.  This time, I repeated the question my business mentor asked me:  “Raymond, what did you learn?”  It has since become my mantra.

So what did I learn from this networking company?  Back then there were no global platforms and we all built our own independent websites and worked within independent networks.  So what’s the difference?  When we build independent websites, we’re creating an expandable virtual real estate… which, in essence, was just what the networking company was.  We can extend and extend the website at the click of a button so long as we have the hosting bandwidth and the network.  This is a critical point.  Here’s a good way to look at it…

Website Owners are like Real Estate Developers:  we need Architects & Engineers to design the layout and infrastructure… Builders to build on that real estate… and Designers to create beautiful functional spaces.

Remember, the Website is an expandable asset.  In theory, at the click of a few buttons, we can acquire new ‘real estate’ to expand the site whenever the need arises.  What this means is that if we work within a synergistic Business Model, multiple income streams are again possible — for example, income from advertising spaces, etc.

Note:  This was why we reactivated It’s My Life e-magazine (our expandable real estate).  We then created the It’s My Life x designbyshoi.com partnership… initially to provide value-added promotional support to Shoi’s web & graphic design clients.  As the partnership evolved, we started to build a community of like-minded publishers — it gave us a bigger reach to better serve and support solopreneurs & small businesses/brands in the lifestyle niche.  And we could grow together.

So, apart from what I’ve written in the earlier articles of this series, what else did I learn from the platforms? — I see the rise of vloggers, influencers, short messaging systems, podcasts, short-form videos, book writing made easy, etc.  And I also see the rise of advertising that serves local communities, etc.  But the general trajectory is services selling other services, gig economy — jobs without a safety net.

But what I don’t see are facilities that cater to a certain niche — artisans & slow fashion brands, for instance, who want to move up the value chain and develop a brand via short storytelling (standalone stories or a mini-series).  So why the need for short storytelling?  Today’s web is very different from the web in the early 2000s — there is a flurry of frenetic energy, and attention spans today are not what they were back then.  To get traction today, you need to present your material in bite-sized pieces — and be able to deliver that presentation in an orderly manner (sequentially) — so people have the time to buy into your story.  Building authority & trust takes time, patience and iteration.

And so this particular niche, which was my remit for Nusantara Collection, is extremely handicapped… especially if you are a small business without the resources of the big boys.

Note:  Nusantara Collection is now in discussions with synergistic parties with the expertise to manage the supply chain, logistics, etc.  But as partners.  The right partner will create value and the ‘real estate’ now becomes more valuable… and transferable as a legacy at any point we desire to exit, assume a different role, etc.  (Rather than trying to be all things, with our limited bandwidth and expertise, we focus on finding the right partners working in community with us to forge win-win relationships.)

And what about those who still want to have a global reach in today’s environment?  I don’t see a way forward for those who eschew the frenetic platforms that cater primarily to the giants in fast-moving products in intense price competition, and those without deep pockets for advertising & marketing.

What else did I learn?  Today, the number of ‘likes’ and ‘followers’ in social media is not a reliable indicator — I’ve realized that it has little to no correlation to whether our offerings are gaining traction, or not.  Instead, we now look at our ‘opening rates’ where our database is populated by real people… and we measure our performance & improved iterations based on real data (instead of following what the algorithms are programmed to do, which I’ve previously said is misleading).

Summary…

  • Online businesses are better served by owning ‘real estate’ instead of renting.

  • The non-platform model creates a more supportive environment for small businesses & brands… while the platforms best serve the big boys with huge marketing budgets.

  • To get traction the best pathway is via email marketing in an environment populated by real people… instead of bought subscribers & hits which tell us nothing about where we need to improve.  We need real measurements to do that.

  • Build a business with legacy value — ie. building a business that can be passed on as transferable assets, supported by a nurturing structure of teams, partners & shareholders… which is what we’re currently building for Nusantara Collection.

  • Build multiple income streams — eg. by offering ad spaces & promotions via a networked community of publishers.

Namaste.

Join Raymond in The Spiritual Realist in Business FB group if you have questions for him, or wish to discuss a post or topic.

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RAYMOND SIEW is the Managing Partner at EMasters …where his vision is to build a community of businesses rooted in authentic partnerships that are nurturing, sharing & respectful (as inspired by M Scott Peck in his seminal work “Community Building in Business”).  He also documents his journey in his Walking The Road Less Traveled blog.

When Raymond is not immersed in business development for EMasters and her suite of partnerships & assets, he enjoys a good game of bridge.

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