My Failed Business Idea: Online Business Failure (an example) 

 July 22, 2023

By  Jake Lang

My Failed Business Idea

My first attempt at online business was a total failure. A complete and total flop. Let me tell you about my failed business idea.

This comes straight from my book Step One, where I talk all about my failed (and successful) businesses to help you find the perfect online business idea.

Online Business Failure (my first attempt)

The year was 2013; I sat in my bedroom anxiously awaiting my first sale.

I was a senior at the University of New Hampshire and had just launched buymaillist.com, my first online business; I was selling residential and commercial addresses to local small businesses for their direct mail marketing campaigns.

I thought it was an amazing idea. I leveraged a database that I was given access to from my university to export thousands of addresses into an Excel file based on the demographic criteria filters that I had set. I would send this Excel file to small business owners for their targeted mailing campaigns. I launched the business and started blogging, tweeting, and making cold calls. It was time to get rich and pay off my college debt. I had the idea, I launched the business, and I assumed the money would follow.

There was one small problem; I was not solving anyone’s problem.

No one wanted what I was selling. I called dozens of small businesses in the area: pizza parlors, CPAs, even the University of New Hampshire marketing department. I pitched hard to sell my service. I was laughed off the phone more than once; those who were nice enough not to laugh explained that my value proposition was way off the mark. Their business did not need my services, and it was unlikely that any other small business would need them either.

The Reason (for my failed business idea)

The reason for this failed first attempt at entrepreneurship boils down to one glaring flaw in my business plan: I never talked to anyone in my target market.

I did not understand the pain points of a small business owner; I did not understand their struggles. I assumed that all small business owners struggled with marketing, and I assumed that all small business owners struggled to find leads for their direct mail marketing campaigns. I was wrong. I was not solving anyone’s problem with my business. Furthermore, I did not analyze the competition. I did not understand that small businesses already had access to free databases that could pull thousands of addresses for their marketing campaigns. I did not realize that there was already an oversaturated market of full-service marketing corporations meeting this need by compiling mailing lists, creating marketing flyers, and mailing the flyers directly to prospective customers. They were doing far more than I was offering for half the price.

I learned the hard way. Research your competition and talk to your target market first. Learn the struggles and pain points of your market before launching your business.

Don’t make the same mistake that I did. Talk to your target market first. Do the research. Don’t dive in until you fully understand the pains and struggles of your target market. You can learn how to do exactly that here.

Jake Lang

Jake Lang is an author, entrepreneur, and founder of over seven online businesses. Jake now helps new entrepreneurs start and scale their first online business at TheEntrepreneurRideAlong.com where he shares his experiences along the entrepreneurial journey starting and growing new businesses.

It’s Jake’s mission to start a new online business every year and share everything behind the scenes on The Entrepreneur Ride Along Podcast and The Entrepreneur Ride Along Blog so that new entrepreneurs can learn from Jake’s mistakes, understand the struggles of starting a new business, and find the path to entrepreneurial success.

Jake Lang

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