Past history has shown that it's not necessarily the companies
with the snazziest websites that do well, or even the companies
with the most money. The 'small guys' -- that is, Internet home
businesses typically run by 1 or 2 people -- may not make the
news like the big 'dot-coms', but there are many who quietly and
steadily continue to turn a profit, even while big companies
report huge losses or go out of business entirely.
So what's the secret? Here are a few tips from small but
successful 'netrepreneurs' on how to build a thriving online
__1. Find a niche with a demand.
Select a specific market to which you can offer unique products
or services. You can't be everything to everyone, and trying to
offer a giant selection of goods to a huge and generalized
market is the route to frustration, disappointment, and even
failure. We can't all be Wal-Marts!
As a small business, focus on a promising niche market and work
hard to offer them the products and services they want.
__2. Care about the quality of your product or service.
Sell only what you would be proud to sell to your family and
friends, and insist upon consistently high quality. This will
help to encourage referrals and repeat business -- both powerful
ways to keep the profits rolling.
__3. Be smart and frugal.
Avoid unnecessary expenses, and be particularly vigilant when
you're first getting started. One of the nice things about doing
business online is that it's possible to begin earning an income
while operating on a shoestring budget. Try to minimize
expenses. Once your business is pulling in profits, you can
reinvest part of it back into marketing and expansion.
__4. Focus on marketing strategies that return the most profit
for your dollar.
One of the biggest myths beginners face is that people will
flock to your site once it's built. However, there are literally
billions of web pages available, and every business has to find
ways to attract their target audience to their little corner of
the web. Track the success of each of your marketing campaigns.
Drop those that don't work, and focus on those that yield the
__5. Provide the best customer service that you can.
Fast, helpful replies to inquiries and requests for assistance
help to create and keep happy customers. This is particularly
true of the Internet, where people have come to expect 'instant'
responses. Genuinely helpful answers also help to ensure
customers feel as if they're *people*, and not just another
generic, faceless entity in cyberspace. Treat customers as you
would like to be treated.
__6. Build your business slowly but surely.
Instead of attempting to build your business into an overnight
success, strive for gradual but steady expansion. Small
businesses operating on tight budgets generally cannot afford to
throw a pile of money into a marketing campaign that's
'hit-and-miss'. Instead, they find out what works, then build
upon their successes.
__7. Create multiple streams of income.
Your business can continue it's growth by branching out to offer
a variety of products or services. For example, an online
business may earn income from sales of its own primary product
or service, sales of website or newsletter advertising, and
commissions from affiliate programs. Start with one income
stream and gradually add to it when you have the resources to do
Multiple streams of income will also help to 'buffer' your
business against income fluctuations. While one product or
service may experience a downturn in sales, the others may not.
Similarly, if it turns out that one income stream disappears
(for example, an affiliate program shuts down), then you can
fall back on your other products and services.
__8. Work together.
Use the Internet to find like-minded entrepreneurs. Develop
mutually beneficial working relationships with carefully
selected businesses. This will provide you with the opportunity
to cross-promote your products and services, as well as give and
share advice. A strong support network can help to build your
own business as well as the complementary businesses with whom
you choose to partner.
__9. Keep educating yourself.
What works online today may not work quite as well tomorrow.
Invest in continuing your marketing education and put what you
learn to good use. You don't want your business to simply
'survive' online; you want it to thrive!
__10. Enjoy what you do.
If you don't, then business will only be a chore, not a
pleasure. Being passionate about what you do will give you that
extra energy and desire to build a business that continues to
offer your customers quality products and services -- while
earning a profit.
About the author:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Angela is the editor of Online Business
Basics, a practical guide for beginners to the 'net. Packed with
instantly usable tips, you'll love its focus on effective fr*e
and low-cost marketing methods, specifically chosen for people
operating on shoestring budgets! Get the details here: