We’ve all been sold a pack of lies. Get online; start a business; put up a site; write some content; and success will follow.
The problem is, it doesn’t work that way. Sure you get the few who just seem to have it all fall in their laps – or at least that’s the way they tell it. But the truth is, success in online business, just like any business, is hard.
Not a vending machine
Now, I don’t want you to think that it is out of your reach to succeed online. I want you to realize it is not a vending machine that says put in $.50 and you will get this bag of chips. Just press the button for the flavor of success you want. This is the lie.
Instead, you need to see it as a lump of clay on your potter’s wheel. You can shape it and fashion it how you like, but many factors will determine the results you get.
So, how is the “online business” model broken for many people. First, you have to understand your success is not directly related to the amount of time you spend working on something.
There can be a correlation between time and success, but, in many cases, you have already spent the time to get your specific skills in place to make what you offer valuable.
The problem is not one of time, but in how you package what you offer and get it in front of the right people with the right offer.
Valuable, but misguided
The broken online business model tells you to build a website; write a bunch of stuff; get some followers on social media sites; and people will find you as you rank higher in the search engines. This, it says, will eventually lead to sales.
None of these steps are without merit and each can be extremely valuable to your business. The major flaw with this strategy is trying to find an audience through mass media channels without knowing who the audience is and what they want.
When you put up a website, the general thought is that everyone else has a site. If their website is found by people, then so will mine.
When you go and start searching for people on the large social networks, you figure someone interested will see and visit your site.
When you write a bunch of content, you figure the search engines will like something about it and send you traffic. You may even believe you can help it along by building links yourself.
Again, this stuff does work and can help any business. But the problem is you haven’t figured out who your audience is and what they will buy. So what if you can get a bunch of traffic. Is that traffic relevant to your business?
So the way to solve this dilemma of a broken online business model is to guarantee your product will be in front of an audience that wants and needs it. Although this seems very obvious and easy, it is the process of finding the right product for the right market that is ignored by many entrepreneurs. It is also the step that is necessary to find a successful business model.
When you achieve product-market fit, your customers will charge your doors to get a hold of your offerings. So, how do you find the right product for the right market?
Lean Startup Methodology (aka Customer Development)
There are several flavors of the lean startup approach to building a business. The original, by Steve Blank, is more geared toward building an enterprise software company. Another, offered by Eric Ries, brings the methodology down to the level of smaller start-ups. These methods are not new. They have been used by the Japanese for a long time to create innovative companies.
Whether you want to create a $1000 per month business or an enterprise software company, you can glean some practical knowledge from the lean startup approach to doing business.
One of the main tenets of starting lean is to “fail fast.” This doesn’t mean you want to totally fail at business. What is means is you want to quickly validate whether an idea is worth pursuing. This means taking an idea and putting it in front of potential customers as cheaply, and as fast as possible, with the intent to find out if they will buy it.
The process first starts with coming up with an idea; testing the idea; tweaking the idea based on the test results; and then testing again. Over and over you iterate through this loop until you find a viable, scalable business model.
Between each test, changes are usually made based on what is learned. If the initial hypothesis is changed then it is called a pivot. A pivot may involve changing the product you are offering or could be a change in the type of customer you are trying to reach. In some cases, you may find that a business model can’t be found and you have to end your current endeavors.
Whatever the case, you want to get to a product-market fit as fast as possible.
In the next article, I am going to discuss different ways you can come up with business ideas to get started.
Please let me know what you think about the broken online business model and fixing it with the lean startup approach. Also, what businesses have you started?