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Marketing: traits of successful small online business entrepreneurs 

Over the years that I've been involved with web marketing and ecommerce, I've had  the pleasure of communicating with many of the real small business "movers and shakers" - the guys and gals earning 6 figures plus annually from their ecommerce ventures. I've learned much from the good and bad that online business strategy has to offer; especially regarding the mindset of people who claw their way to the top.

I've mentioned before that success in web marketing, or any marketing for that matter, is applied basic psychology, responding to the WIIFM (What's In It For Me) motivator of your target market. The more involved psychological strategies come into play when convincing a person who doesn't want or need a particular product or service that they actually do. Successful marketers would probably also make very good (or very evil) psychologists :).

Often I'm asked questions like, "how do I succeed in online business" or "How did X make so much money?" or "how do I promote my sites effectively, for next to no capital outlay, while working only 2 hours a day in my underwear?"

No doubt you've also come across many products and services touting that you can generate a six figure income by using them - and in many instances, you can. We've all seen the "Make $x In Just 2 Months While You Sleep" type blurbs. What isn't mentioned on many of these sales pages is one very important element in order to make the tool successful  - you.

Regardless of the amount of money you invest in tools and  the number of people you employ, if your head isn't in the right space or you don't have the personality traits that accompany success; your ecommerce venture will more than likely fail.

The following are some tips I've jotted down based on the common traits and strategies that I believe have been the major reasons for some marketers and site owners achieving massive success in online small business. 


If you're a person that's easily discouraged, shy, or someone who retreats when told something can't be done; then the online world is not for you.  You must have total faith in yourself and your goals. 

If you're not prepared to forego a lot of "normal" pleasures in life while pursuing your goals, it's better to stick to a salaried position - although bear in mind that at the end of your days, you may be left feeling unfulfilled and bitter.

The 2nd job

Almost everyone I know who has a successful home based online business started out working two full time jobs - one being their salaried employment, the other their biz. The salaried employment provides a source of funding and security, and sometimes experience, until the online business is generating real revenue. 

Sure it's tiring, but it's better to spend a couple of years like this than to lose everything you have and then have nothing to fall back on. Those couple of years can set you up for life. 

My business was funded through cleaning toilets in a club early in the morning, 7 days a week for a couple of years, plus a job in administration where I could hone some of my computer skills. The toilet cleaning wasn't a particularly pleasant job as you can imagine, but it was humbling and strengthened my resolve to make things work.

So many times I've come across people who dream of having an online business but just can't make this sort of time commitment or aren't prepared to do "menial" labor to get kick-started. Due to their tertiary qualifications, or self perceived competence, they expect success to come served up on a silver platter and try to take all sorts of shortcuts to get there. It usually backfires.

Passion for success

Being passionate about your products and services surely helps in creating a positive vibe with your prospective clients. Being passionate about customer support is a fine thing too. Equally important is the passion to succeed, for *yourself* - not so much as a "head" thing (determination), but in your heart. It must be a burning desire.


Very important - most of the marketers who say that they earned 6k in 6 days selling X product fail to tell you something - they may have spent hundreds of hours in prepping the product and promotion *before* it was released. The most successful marketers I know get "in the zone" and then keep going until the product has been released, which cuts down the duration of the ramp up stage.

For example, you should only sleep as much you really need to. Sleep is beneficial and necessary of course, but a great robber of time when you are building a business. Think about it - the average person spends 1/3 of their life in an unconscious state. Some people need 8 hours I guess, but imagine what you could achieve with 365 extra hours of productivity each year.

In the words of the great philosopher, Jon Bon Jovi - "gonna live while I'm alive and sleep when I'm dead" :). 

Get yourself into good working habits and stay in them - routine is essential, especially when your business revolves around you. It's so easy to let things slide for a couple of days because you're tired or you've been kicked around a bit - and then so hard to get back into routine again. Lighten up the pace a little if you need to, but never totally ignore your business, even for a single day, unless it's absolutely necessary.


There will be many time-burglars along the way. Recognize them and drop them quickly. Examples of time burglars include too much time spent on hobbies or recreational pursuits (although some R & R is essential); people who suck up your time without giving anything back, and as mentioned, excess sleep. 

Sometimes tasks in your online biz are better farmed out to others - outsource where you can, which will leave you to focus on your core strengths; but do endeavor to gain some experience in each area of your business. No-one will give the level of attention to your business that you can.


You may not have many staff, or any at all to start out with, but you will have service providers to deal with and yourself to lead. Be a good leader; listen and act on solid counsel, give clear instructions, and draw the line when someone you are dealing with oversteps their mark or fails to deliver. 


Many people fail in online business simply because they've had a really good idea, but no-one else, especially their target market, has shared their optimism. Just because you think something's great and should sell, it doesn't mean that will translate to sales. 

The only people who can take a product that addresses a yet to be existent need and sell it successfully are the well established marketers, often using what I call "The Inner Circle" strategy. 

For everyone else, solid researching skills must be in place before launching into ecommerce - the ability to gauge actual need, pricing points, required features, associated costs and target market demographics.

Family co-operation/planning

Family issues have killed so many potentially successful business. Before you embark on your journey, ensure that your family is there with you; supporting you, or at least tolerating you while you strive for success. Have a timeline that you can relay to them - i.e. "I will be working this way until X date, please hang in there with me until then". 

Don't just have a plan in your head - write it down, broken down into milestones. By putting a dates on your milestones, it will let your family know that the ridiculous hours you may be working has a definite end date - to leave it open ended causes a great deal of stress on all.

Explain to them what it will be like during that time, don't try to deceive them, but at the same time relay to them the benefits that will come as a result.

By having a written plan it can also help you to stay on track and pat yourself on the back as milestones are achieved.

Realism balance

Be optimistic, in fact, be very optimistic about your venture - but season your optimism with a dose of realism. Sure, the guy selling you a marketing tool or service says you can make 6k in 6 days - but he's a pro; realistically you'll take a lot longer than that. Set *achievable* goals, not pie in the sky targets - you'll feel more fulfilled along the journey that way.

Dollars and sense

Treat your venture a little like responsible gambling - only spend what you are prepared to lose - if that's everything, that's probably a little over the top, but a personal decision. 

Also bear in mind that as the revenue does start coming in, given the nature of the Internet, it can also dry up literally overnight. Put a decent percentage away for emergency use; ideally maintain 3 - 6 months living and business expenses in reserve at all times. Wherever possible, do not get into debt to finance your online business, get an extra job if you're short on funds. 


There's millions of people with millions of good ideas, but only a very small percentage have the drive to be able to execute them and see them through to the end. Procrastination in the online world is very dangerous as things move so quickly and trends appear/disappear every other day. Do your research and once you are satisfied that a particular strategy or tool will work - implement it immediately.

If you engage the services of ecommerce or marketing consultants, follow their instructions and counsel closely. Remember that consultancy is a two way street - if you're not providing your consultants with the information they require in a timely manner and then acting upon their recommendations; you'll run into major problems. 

A good analogy to illustrate this is when a doctor prescribes you antibiotics, he tells you that you must take them all within a certain amount of time and in the proper way. Failing to do so can mean the infection flairs up again. 

Promote, promote, promote

At every available opportunity, promote your business to others, even to the grocery store checkout person you are on semi-familiar terms with. Don't be shy - you'll be surprised in where you can generate interest. Even if the person you are talking to you about your business isn't really interested, they may know of someone who will be. Sow seeds wherever you can, without being overbearing of course - try to talk about other things with people too ;).


The ability to network is a very important skill.

Networking is essentially about communicating with clients, suppliers and others within your industry with a view to personal gain. But it isn't all about taking - don't bleed your contacts dry for any information of benefit to you; ensure you give something back.

Firstly, network with your clients through regular contacts, requesting and acting on their feedback. Remember that word-of-mouth is still one of the most powerful forms of referral. Get clients to network for you by implementing affiliate/referral software and compensating them for their efforts. Many good quality shopping carts also contain affiliate functions. Once your affiliate program is in place, then lead by example by providing your clients with the tools and advice they need to refer others, plus relay the strategies you used to attract them to you in the first place.

Sometimes small business owners tend to get very paranoid about what the competition is doing, but will also shun communicating with competitor merchants. This can be quite counterproductive. There's a whole swag of profits to be made through what I term "co-opetition" and the "Inner Circle Strategy" - the subject of another marketing strategy article I've published.

I hope these points have given you some insight into what makes some of the well known online small biz entrepreneurs so successful. Good luck to you in your in ecommerce venture - "have a dream, then make it real"

Related learning resources

Marketing - creating need / the inner circle strategy

Successful affiliate marketing

Developing an ecommerce site - part 1

Developing an ecommerce site - part 2 

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
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