Alright. So you want to be the new AOL or MSN. Well, maybe not. But you would like to cash in on the internet boom that is taking the world by storm. First, not to discourage anyone, but the risks of trying to enter this business might outweigh the possible profits. With all of these big name ISP's pumping millions into their own complex infrastructures and advertising, you are guaranteed not to succeed by competing at that level. However, there are possibilities for competing at a more local level. This I discuss later.
- Introduction to VISPs: Needless to say, if you are looking to start a Virtual Internet Service Provider (VISP), you are aware that being an ISP in the literal sense of the word is impossible. The only exception is if you have access to hundreds of million of dollars. In contrast, starting a VISP is extremely simple and won't necessarily break the bank. As with any other business it is advised that you draft a business plan as your first step. Do it after you have completed this tutorial.
- Getting Started: First you will need to identify a wholesale internet service you would like to do business with. Some considerations that should be made include
- Cost: How much does it cost per person? What set-up fees apply (ie: website, webmail, billing processing, 24-hour call center)?
- Speed: Dial-Up or Satellite? Or both? (Satellite is substantially more expensive and usually requires an extra fee for the system.)
- Availability: Are there many access codes for the areas where you intend to market your services? One or two is not enough!
- Reliability: Has the company been around for a long time? Have complaints been lodged against them (do a google search, check business bureau online etc.)?
Deciding your rates: Now here comes the fun part. You are going to be getting these internet connections at wholesale prices very cheaply so you will want to price your services attractively. Some services will charge you only $2.50 or less if you have over 10, 000 customers. Even if you only have 10 customers it's only $5 a month each. I would suggest that an attractive price for the services would be about $10.00 or less.
You could even use the infamous "bait-and-hook" technique and offer your services for a price that is little more than your costs. This, of course, would only be for a short period of time (two-three months) to attract customers. Then you'd revert to a more profit-yielding price. Just remember to be honest about what you're doing--this is a technique even the big ISPs use.
Adjust these guidelines when reselling high-speed connections (i.e. satellite). You will want to increase the price to compensate for your increased costs, while still keeping your service attractively priced from a consumer's standpoint. Look to your larger competitors of the same speed and price your services more attractively than they do. Before long, if all goes well, you'll make a profit that will allow your business to pay for itself.
Day to day operations: Many wholesale ISP sellers have made it very easy for anyone to run their own ISP. For an additional cost you can have a 24 hour call-center, your very own webmail and/or hosting service for customers, an online billing system (including credit card processing), as well as just about anything else you would need. If you will not have much time to devote to the venture it would be a good idea to appoint or employ someone or several people to help you keep it running.
Promoting your service: Here's the tricky part. Most people already have an internet connection. How are you going to lure them away from their current ISPs? Is it by your low-prices, higher speeds for the same price they're paying now or the great services and packages you provide? You'll have to decide. In order for you to create a customer base you will need to make a name for yourself. Create a logo that will represent your company. If you own a business or are influential in any way, you should use that to help promote your business. You can also add family, friends, and coworkers to your clientele.