In marketing, the online world and offline world aren't much different. Businesses "make" it because their product is more unique, more superior, cheaper, ect., do it in a cost effective manner and they are able to convey their message in a way that their market readily understands. "Businesses don't "make it" when their product isn't unique, more superior, cheaper, ect and their costs aren't worth the amount they make AND they aren't able to convey their message properly.
By the way, time does have a cost associated with it and if you are doing SEM, the cost of "free" traffic is usually the cost of the time that it takes to do all the things associated with getting ranked. In other words, if you are working 20 hours a week and generating $25 in sales, then it is most likely that the "cost" of working is going to outpace the money you are making
Leads are what drives sales...you gotta have them....
Leads come from a variety of places. In the offline world, you have ad mediums and walk in traffic (which is dependent on the traffic around the business) and referrals.
In the online world, you have ad mediums (ppc, SEM, banner and media buys), "walk in traffic" (forum sig links, blog comments, ect.) and referrals (other sites freely referring you).
These "leads" are all different with their own personal agenda as to what they are looking for. In some cases, it is simple. In other cases, not so simple.
Most marketers can't get past how to get leads (this is just another way of saying how to get traffic btw). Others have figured out how to get leads but they aren't targeted enough. The more general your market, the less targeted they are going to be in most cases.
So, you, as a new marketer, have to figure out the most cost effective way to generate targeted leads for your business (whatever that is).
Leads are real people.....not blips on a screen
The fact of the matter is that off line businesses typically aren't going to lie, cheat or manipulate their way to the top of their market. Their leads won't have it. Just because you can hide behind your computer doesn't mean that the rules change.
Real people can be fooled. But this isn't good business. In the real world, businesses rely on repeat business...they rely on referral business. Good business practices generate repeat business and referrals. Bad business practices may generate sales but you have to work on them much more in the long run. This is because you aren't getting any "help" from the market's community. Makes sense, right?
Becoming a master of your domain
A real business will tend to focus on one thing and become really good at it. For instance, if you are a restaurateur, chances are good you aren't going to own a store that sells sewing machines. The reason for this is because the better you understand your market, the more likely you will be successful.
In the online world, it seems like people teaching stuff, teach it in a completely different way. Most will tell you to become an opportunist and go after many markets that make a little money rather than become an authority in one market.
If you can become a knowledgeable person in even a competitive market, chances are good your "competition" will be much smaller than you think. The reason for this is because many of these competitive markets tend to be saturated with folks who have bought into the principle that you should know just enough to get by and nothing more. In reality, the more you know, the more REAL authority you have on a subject and the more sway you will have with your market. And then, it is only a matter of how to become visible.
Alternatively, someone who actually knows their market is more likely to know what their market wants and needs and can actually address their problems in a way that solves a problem. Compare this to someone who is basing their decisions on keyword tools &
Just to use a car salesman as an example- A car salesman who doesn't know the difference between an automatic and a manual transmission probably isn't going to sell many cars....
A salesman that can knows every nook and cranny of a car has a much better chance of making sales.
The whole point of this rather long post is that real businesses and online businesses aren't really that different. They both rely on leads and a knowledge base of the market. If you can generate leads in a cost effective manner and actually know what you're talking about, then your chances of actually building a worthwhile business are much higher than building a gazillion small websites based purely on opportunity....
Would love to hear comments...