How Do You Define Success?
by Bob McElwain
Many people have selective hearing. That is, they hear only
what they are listening for. When such people tune in to the
notion of getting rich on the Web, they can't seem to hear
anything else. They are deaf to the news of dot-com failures in
mass. Deaf to the certain doom that lies at the end of any path
claimed to be quick or easy. And deaf to any mention of how
tough it is to succeed in business anywhere, online or offline.
If you have fallen into this trap, there are only two
options. Continue on your chosen path and fail. Or redefine
what success means to you, then begin working to achieve it.
Getting Rich Is Unlikely
It is no easier to become wealthy online than offline.
The only advantage to beginning a business online, rather than
offline, is in the lower startup costs. The rest of it is work,
learning, then implementing what you learn. Which, of course,
is more work.
What are your chances of opening a new business in your home
town and becoming a millionaire? Unless you have very special
talents and skills, it's unlikely. The chances of doing so
through a website are no better.
Would Making A Living Suit You?
Do you have what it takes to open a business on main street
and earn a comfortable living? If you lack essential infor-
mation, are you willing to take the time to hunt it up? If
there are things you do not know, are you willing to learn them?
If you lack needed skills, are you prepared to develop them?
One who can answer a resounding, "Yes," to the above
questions, can succeed. Online or offline. Until you can shout
this right out loud to your family, friends, neighbors, and even
strangers on the street, any effort to build a successful website
will break your heart. And waste a ton of your time. And more
than a few bucks.
If you want to succeed on the Web, you must first come to
grips with what you mean by success. If your definition can be
simplified to making a good living with the opportunity to make
more, then all is quite doable. And one of the best ways to
start is to begin part time and grow your business as you learn.
For a description of such a path that works, send any email to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether you have started a business or are still only
thinking about doing so, you may find it informative to check
out some successful sites. Successful, that is, according to
the definition of their owners.
While the following sites may appear quite different from one
another, they have much in common.
Nobody is making a million bucks a year; this was not the
goal. Rather they are making a living (their definition) and are
in an excellent position to increase their income.
The site designs are quite simple; very few fancy graphics
are to be found.
Each site is well focused.
Each site is loaded with content.
Some face stern competition; others have carved their niche
and conquered it.
You will probably note ways in which each site can be
improved. But this is true of any site, large or small. And
it's true of yours. And mine.
Features hot peppers, sauces, and such. A great example of
niche marketing. Not many are into hot in this fashion, but
those who are search constantly for more and hotter. Note there
are a few such people in your community. Every nursery stocks
pepper seedlings in the spring, labeled, "HOT!" This site tapped
into this wide, if thinly spread interest. Something impractical
in even a major city, but easy to do on the Web.
A super smooth catalog site. They resell TV direct sales
merchandise. Their growth has come through the site and all
business is transacted on it. Beyond what you see there is
undoubtedly at least one person who spends a good part of each
day with routine business chores, solving problems, dealing with
customer complaints, and above all searching for even better
deals for existing customers.
This company began as a marginally successful local wild
flower seed company in Wisconsin. They grew significantly when
the owner took the business online, expanded the product line,
and reached out to a national (and to some extent, international)
audience. In the reply to a message, Deb Edlhuber said, "It [the
site] has totally amazed me and continues to grow."
Malcolm Simmonds launched his first site in late 1997,
selling herbal products, which he had been making and selling
offline since the early 80's. He learned HTML and did the entire
site himself. Within a year, it had paid for itself. Since
then, he has expanded and enriched the site enormously,
increasing his profits in the process. While looking ahead to
even further increases, he is doing quite nicely now. All this
in addition to his continuing success offline.
Dan Poynter had a successful self-publishing company
going before he launched his website. What used to be a
travel/phone/direct mail company is now strictly a web-based
company. In a reply to a message, Dan said, "This morning I
checked the order-email account and found we sold 21 reports
overnight. The customers benefited because they received the
reports instantly (on a Sunday) and did not have to pay for
shipping or sales tax. Para Publishing benefited because we
did not have to print, inventory, wrap, ship, or place postage
on the reports. This is truly a win-win situation made possible
by the Internet."
This site was built by a mother-daughter team. They first
learned the brick and mortar catalog business, then expanded to
the Web. The site is now a profitable component of their
business. For their delightful story, see "Net Lessons from the
Monster Girls" by Rob Spiegle. http://sitetipsandtricks.com/art/a082900b.html
(An Aside: Rob also pointed me to a couple of the sites above.)
A while back, a visitor asked, "Do you know of a small site
that is successful?" I referred him to one of the above. A
short while later, he replied, "You gotta be kidding. That's
If you visited any of the above sites and found "nothing,"
then you probably need to know more about business and the web
in order to build a successful site. Revaluate your definition
of success, learn what is needed, then take another look. These
sites are successful. That is, successful in the eyes of their
owners. And in the eyes of their customers. What else matters?
Want to build a winning site? Improve one you already
have? Fix one that's busted? Get ANSWERS. Subscribe
to "STAT News" now! mailto:email@example.com
Web marketing and consulting since 1993
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