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Making money from the right customers

5 October 2012


Mid September the SMILE team hosted two workshops on monetisation strategies for websites and how to get your User Experience (UX) right. First up, monetisation strategies.

Alex Guest, our workshop presenter, has run a number of start up companies and currently mentors a couple of SMILE companies. He started by asking attendees to think about which category their business fell into: service provider (e.g. Accountant), a product producer (jewellery maker), a distributer (retail shop), a promoter (advertising events), a lender (renting gardening tools) or a combination of the above types.

The type of business could affect the different monetisation strategy(ies) you chose to adopt. Then onto the different types of monetisation strategies:

  • affiliate commission
  • advertising
  • subscription
  • support a cause and take a fee
  • freemium
  • sponsorship
  • get acquired
  • draw information from a social network (e.g. Facebook) to target advertising messages

Alex emphasised the need to think about the business model - does your chosen method of making money suit the business? You might think strategies for monetising your website will help your cash flow but they could also detract from the core business and annoy your customers.

Before embarking on creating and setting plans into motion you need to assess whether the plan fits your business. He also notes that as your business grows and changes, so might your clients. For example, if you run a website your first main clients might be the purchasers on the website but over time you might change to your main client being someone you formed an affiliate agreement with.

Keep in mind who is going to pay for monetisation strategies - if you decide to use a subscription model, users are paying for access to better content which will cost you to produce this content. Think broadly about this - you could spread this cost over different types of customers.

Some points to think about:
1. Think beyond the monetisation strategy - what is your business model?
2. What are your capabilities?
3. How many customers do you have and who are they?
4. Is your core business producing, distributing or promoting?
5. Consider applying multiple strategies and combinations to your business

Get Your User Experience Right

Sitting in tables of 4 with a bowl of Skittles per table, one could tell from the start that this workshop was going to be fun and interactive. Indeed, within 10 minutes, the speakers had the groups working with flip chart paper and post-it notes, then using 3 different types of scissors! All to demonstrate that functional shouldn't be the end goal of a business service/product; it needs to be flexible and redesigned until it is right for the target audience.

User Centred Design is topical in businesses these days. Business decisions are the foundation for a design decision. For example, it was pointed out that Starbucks has uncomfortable chairs in their cafes but that was a business decision so as not to encourage patrons to spend £3 on a coffee and then sit in the cafe for 6 hours.

Research is the foundation of all services and products - you need to understand your users and test what you've designed. This may involve standing outside a shop and surveying people, calling a random selection on the phone, or making specific appointments to interview people in their own homes. Then, you follow that with personas which capture exactly who you're designing for. Create about 5 personas based on research and interviews to understand the various users. Undoubtedly you could splinter your users into more than 5 but then it becomes less useful when making decisions. Take those personas into your meetings to discuss new products and services and see if your audience will like and use what you're proposing. Finally, put together a storyboard that maps out the context of what your users go through before and after your proposed service. This helps you to identify points of pain and what the new journey should do to help.

Both of the workshops were a great success with a good turnout and we hope to run them again in the new year.