Ah, the dream…

You are sitting on a white sand beach with the crystal blue water lapping at your toes as you sip a cocktail. Your laptop computer makes a pleasant sound, informing you that another order has just been placed on your website. You smile, knowing that the process is completely automated and the order will be drop-shipped from the manufacturer. All you have to do is sit back and watch your bank account grow.

I’m not sure who is responsible for perpetuating this myth, but having been in the internet business since its inception around 1995, I can assure you, this is NOT how it works. Any internet business involves on-going work. As new tools are introduced, the work load increases rather than decreases. A successful website owner today not only has to worry bout his or her site, but their blog, MySpace account, YouTube, Digg, monthly eZine, podcast, and on and on. Customers expect fresh new content on every aspect of your web presence. You cannot sit back and relax. To be successful on the internet demands that you are as serious about doing business online as the effort you put into your business offline.

Most entrepreneurs are not, and will never be an amazon.com. The vast majority of small businesses are in fact micro-businesses, having 5 or fewer employees. How can a small shop owner with only a few employees possibly compete? We’ve been told, and have come to believe, that it’s e-business or out of business. If you are going to be successful, you MUST have a website. Yet, you can’t just put up a website and expect to get rich. You have to work it, and that is where most micro-businesses fail.

All too often I see business owners put up an obligatory brochure-style website. The site never changes, and a few years later they are disillusioned with how the internet has not helped their business. They decide what they really need is an ecommerce site so they can actually sell products on the internet. So they get a shopping cart and have their site re-designed. They sell hundreds of products in their physical store, hoping that something will appeal to a customer once they walk into their store. They rationalize that their webstore should be the same – sell lots of products on their site and surely someone will be interested in something they offer. After a few months, they have made a half-dozen sales and decide the expense wasn’t worth it. They aren’t making any money.

This situation happens more often than not, and the reasons are almost always the same:

  • Never updating the site
  • Not telling the world that you did update your site (lack of marketing)
  • Not providing enough information about what you are selling
  • Trying to sell too many things

Notice that I never said anything about getting listed as number one on Google. That is not the reason most internet businesses fail. Once you understand what the issues are, you can devote a couple of hours each day to working on those things, and start making the web work for you.