Yesterday, I wrote about the start of a new project that will see my trying to launch an online business with zero cash out of pocket with a goal of turning a profit by the end of 30 days. (You can learn more about why I'm doing this in the Day 1 article.)

(If you're just catching up with this series of articles, be sure to swing into the ongoing discussion thread at the Small Business Ideas forum. You'll be able to link to each day's article and participate in the discussion going along with it.)

Day two is when I really started to appreciate the amount of work that goes into starting up a business as a side project. Add in the zero cash bit and you start to see that it takes some true creativity to get something rolling. In the "real world," I'm used to having a budget for things like web analytics, site designers, copywriters and search marketing campaigns. In the life of a shoe-string entrepreneur, those luxuries don't always exist. What's a girl to do?

Add More Products

My first focus of the day was to add more products to the store. While I had about half a dozen or so designs online, I knew that I needed to have more. Most of what I had was designed to do a tongue-in-cheek job of supporting breastfeeding, but based on my target audience, I wanted to add some that focused on child-led weaning and breastfeeding in public. I spent about an hour working on some new ideas, uploading them and getting new sections of the store set up. After all, what good does it do to draw in customers if you don't have a nice variety of products to offer them?

Expand AdWords Options

Next I shifted my focus to the AdWords campaign that I was running from my free $100 coupon. I'd started off day one with only about two dozen phrases because quite honestly, that's all I'd had time to setup. Since I knew that seeing the products that I had to offer was going play a big part in sending visitors to the site, and since I had that $100 burning a hole in my AdWords account, I figured that I'd take advantage of the image ads option.

I hadn't yet run image ads for any clients, preferring to stick with text based search ads. That meant I needed to take the time to read through how the image ad system worked. Once I had a basic grasp on it, I went to work creating some ads to upload. Having limited time, and plenty of other things that I still needed to do that day, I had to settle for a simple banner ad and a simple leaderboard ad. (I'll add skyscrapers and block ads down the road when I get a bit more time.)

I had no budget for a graphic designer, and I'm certainly not one myself, so that meant playing around in Photoshop for a bit and mashing together whatever I could come up with. The results aren't going to win an Addy, but they get the point across.

Next I took the time to search for any breastfeeding related site that offered an image ad option via Google AdWords. I recognized a few, clicked to view a few others and decided on half a dozen or so to start advertising on. By now, I'd spent a good two and a half hours working on the site. Since I was doing this in my free time, I needed to move on.

Learning About Cafe Press

While there are literally thousands of Cafe Press stores in operation, I'd yet to have any experience with one, other than playing around with the free store a few months back. That means that there's quite a bit about the system that I still know nothing about. I wasn't sure how to setup categories for my products (as opposed to listing them all on one page), nor did I know what I could do as far as search engine optimization. Could I edit my title tag? Could I create a feed for Froogle?

Thankfully, Cafe Press has a discussion forum for their community of publishers. I spent a good half hour in there searching, reading and even stopping to answer a few search marketing questions. It was quite handy and it reminded me of just how important it is to stop and listen to what other people have to say about things.

Almost every type of business has discussion forums where experienced individuals are willing to offer up their advice, experiences and insight. It's absolutely essential to take advantage of this type of knowledge when you are trying to build a new business. Why make the same mistakes that everyone else has made before you if a little bit of reading can save you the hassle?

Start Brainstorming Viral Marketing Ideas

I knew from the start that viral marketing was going to be my best shot at spreading the word about this project. I also knew that I'd have two things going for me. First, people in the marketing community might be interested in following the project simply for the sheer curiousness of what would happen with it. (train wreck?) Secondly, the online community of mothers, especially breastfeeding mothers is a pretty strong one. I've been a member of some well-known discussion forums on parenting, childbirth and breastfeeding for well over a year and I knew that this group of people spread the word like wildfire.

I hope that I'd be able to take advantage of that on two fronts. First, I dropped an email to a friend of mine that runs a marketing blog to see if he might be interested in covering the project. I wasn't sure what the response would be, but I hoped it might get the ball rolling. Secondly, I stopped by one of the discussion forums that I frequent to ask the ladies there for feedback on one of the t-shirt slogans that I thought might be a bit too controversial. I didn't post the URL at the forum, just shared some of the slogans and asked for their input.

To find out what the responses were, you'll need to tune in tomorrow for Day 3. I'll also share some information about how the viral aspect of the campaign starts to fall into place, why it's important to use landing pages, and what happens when you realize that you've made a big mistake.

Jump to Day Three.

(Want to read the entire 30 Day article series at once? Download the free 30 Day ebook!)
November 10, 2005

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Zero Cash, A Little Talent and 30 Days - Day 2 - This Business Stuff is Hard!