If you think that life can be confusing, the world of internet business is at least twice as confusing sometimes. However, the heart of ministry, serving others, is also at the heart of any successful internet business. You can only succeed online when you have built trust by serving your audience. There are hundreds and thousands of others, many doing exactly the same thing that you are, and what keeps people loyal to you will be trust, because you are serving one of their needs.
This is part Eleven in a Twelve part series on Living Debt-Free from University to Ministry. Parts ten, eleven, and twelve deal with different aspects of internet business to help you avoid debt and have freedom to pursue your ministry calling whole-heartedly. Parts one through nine discuss different aspects of money, raising support for ministry, university, learning, and avoiding debt in general.
Service is the Heart of Business:
Business is about service, not those dollar and number signs. Those are an outworking of honesty, good business practice, service, and building trust with your audience. They cannot be the motivation for having an online business. Pursuing the dollar sign is a recipe for failure. Pursuing serving your audience and providing them valuable resources that will actually help them, is a recipe for success.
In village times, farmers were the entrepreneurs of choice. They had, or rented, land and sold the produce. But, if a man made a practice of selling rotten or sub-prime food, and didn’t practice good service, the whole village would soon know to avoid that seller and his business would crumble. The village store was the same way, if he didn’t serve the village well, they would find someone else who did.
With the internet around, the analogy of the vegetable seller can be multiplied a thousand times. While a scoundrel may have more opportunity for finding unwary people online, there is also more opportunity for spreading news of said scoundrel. Remember, what happens online is not isolated from your real life, and may impact you at unexpected times.
In line with this, jumping into a business attempt solely because “you can make money” at it, is likely to not turn out a success. I have a few online business people that I consistently follow. One of them mentions in his podcast that the only business ventures that failed for him, were the ones where he was pursuing money, not service. Ironically, when he focused back on service he was later able to have success with the same style of venture and a different product.
Finding Someone to Serve:
If internet business is about serving the needs of your audience, then how do you find someone to serve?
Some suggest having a person in mind, an “ideal client.” This can be a real person, or it may be a mental caricature. This client is the person you analyze when trying to figure out the needs of your audience. Sometimes, asking questions after you have a small audience is a better method. Possibly the needs you think need addressing, are not the needs that your audience actually has.
Another way is to build a target “avatar.” This avatar is your picture of the client you are targeting. Again, an avatar works well until you have built an audience. Once you have an audience, even if only 100 people, you can start asking them questions to gain a true understanding of the needs you can meet. Creating an avatar is relatively easy for a writer, if you’ve never sketched a character before then basing your service audience off a real person will likely work best.
Once you know roughly who you want to serve and some of their needs, your next step is to start meeting those needs. That can be through blogging about things that audience is interested in, or might be interested in. Blogging can be a good way to build an audience. It can also be through using social media and posting things that that audience would find helpful, useful, and beneficial.
Focus on free and service when you are just starting out, and gradually you will be able to build your ideal audience. Once you have an audience, even of 100, you can start asking and find out more about their actual needs. Once you know their needs, you can create a freemium or a paid product to help meet it. An e-book or an e-course is a good option once you have gotten relatively established.
Remember, in the discussion on different income types, there is the effort for money model, and the effort for long-term money model (aka passive income). Your own e-book or course is one of those helpful passive income tools, because you make it once but can sell it hundreds or thousands of times. And, if it meets the needs of your audience and is high quality, they will tell others that it can help about it, and you’ll get more business.
Word of mouth is as powerful a tool in online business as it once was in village markets.
Methods of Serving in Business:
We live in an information age, nearly anything you could possible write on for pay, can be found for free somewhere online. But, if you are offering it in a nice convenient form, people will often pay for the convenience, and/or your expertise.
A case for convenience is that of an e-book creator who blogs their books. They write and publish 90% of their books content online, before the book itself even launches. Then, when the book is published, their audience already knows a good bit about it and may have even read all that content for free. But, they will still buy the book because they know it is good, are interested in the subject, and like the convenience.
Don’t be afraid to give away 90% of your content and knowledge. When starting out, blogging or otherwise, giving away your knowledge is the main way to build your audience. With free content, you can monetize slightly by ads. However, ads are a challenge since they are dependent on your audience leaving your site by clicking on them. They work well until you have your own product, then those ad spaces may serve you better by advertising your own product rather than that of someone else.
We also live in a very visual and auditory time. YouTube videos, podcasts, and other non-written media are prevalent and many people prefer consuming information through videos or auditory means. In business, this may mean creating videos or podcasts as part of courses or to draw your audience. I’m a writer, but the amount of writing people consume now is less than the amount of visual and auditory media they consume. For me, this will mean turning my fiction books into audio books eventually. If I decide to ever create a course, it will mean adding video and audio to that. It’s not how I learn, but it is how millions of other people learn.
Of course, if you are selling a service online, there is even more to do.
Back To You:
What do you think it takes to thrive in an online business? What more would you like to know about online business?
Leave a comment, I enjoy hearing from you!