I imagine almost everyone here who owns or has owned an Internet business wonders if it is working. Of course it is common sense to look at it and if sales are slow or nonexistent then it is easy to say no it is not. But is this a proper barometer? It might be the farthest thing from one.
I remember the days when eBay first started and almost 100% of the transactions there were Pez dispensers; that is collectors selling to each other. Forget eBay Motors, eBay Express, jewelry, books, Half.com, Skype.com, etc. etc that now all belongs to Ebay. Pez was their specialty At first, it was like a ghost town there. I can remember when they had less than a thousand members. But was it "working"? Indeed it was. That is, the foundation was being built.
So eBay "hung out it's cyber-shingle" and was known as "THE place to buy Pez collectibles". Was that their "end game" or their "lack of vision as to what they could accomplish?" Obviously not. But they knew the importance of building a foundation. It really didn't matter (yet) if they were making a million dollars or (in their case billions now), it was their instinctive business knowledge to become "the experts" or "the place to buy" for a specific type item, niche item if you will and go from there.
Too many Internet entrepreneurs look at explosive websites such as Ebay, Google, Amazon, et al, and say "Gee, I can do that and tonight I'm going to sit down and do that and show the world". Oh if only that is how it worked. If it did, everyone would be doing it and making a fortune on the net. If you listen to "the Internet gurus" (I happen to believe there is no such thing), they will tell you they are making a fortune and you can too if you just a. download their e-book or b. buy their software, or c. affiliate with them, etc. Again, if only that were so.
So how does one go from kitchen table to monster corporation? Take your first step and don't try to conquer the world at one time. If you think because it is the Internet and you can now start-up businesses cheaply, don't buy into the "group think" that you can circumvent hard work simply by using the net. Yes, a lot of it, that in "the days of old" is already done for you, that is, if you learn Internet marketing and what works for you. You don't have to call or drive down to the nearest television station, make an ad, or wait for a newspaper ad salesperson to drop by your office that you had to drive to early that morning. Times have changed. The way we do business has changed.
Please do not fall into the trap of "top ten sellers". Many wholesale drop-ship firms list how "hot" a particular item or brand is. Yes, you might make it by becoming a reseller or rep, but you have to realize that the "hot" items are the ones that the travelers on the "road more taken" travel. If Gucci men's shirts are on the "hot list", look for something else; not a poor seller, but maybe one in the middle; one with which you feel comfortable.
Learn about pay per click advertising. Heard Google was "the most used"? It is. That is why I use MS Adcenter owned by Microsoft. I've used Google and Yahoo and got lost in the shuffle. I often found my ad way down at the bottom of the tenth to twentieth page. But that is not to say not to try Google or Yahoo, certainly they are effective for many; it is just that my businesses seem to do better on the lesser used pay per click engines; not the obscure ones that nobody uses or has low quality ROI hits.
Adcenter does just fine for my clientèle A good idea is to test each of them for a few months and keep track of which ones are bringing home the bacon.
Another key is to learn article marketing. Article marketing is not just writing an article, but writing one in which you provide some "extra-value". My views tend to be contrarian to a lot of traditional wisdom (though I like to think not radically so, my stores do very well, but we are not in the Fortune 500...yet. If I am even close to an "Internet guru" at least I'm an honest one.
Write about what you know. It need not be a "hype" article, in fact, the less hype it is, the more people appreciate it. Please refrain from repetitiveness, that is, lifting bits and pieces from other "gurus" articles to sound like a guru. It is an insult to the Internet community's intelligence. I do not say that judgmentally, I did it myself (when I was learning, to sound "smarter); but there is an old saying "The Internet always finds you out". And that is very true.
So now you are building a foundation, article marketing (making certain to add a link to your store or website at the base of every article), exploring pay per click. How about blogging and social networking? Podcasting? Do they work? You better believe it. But they don't (necessarily) work the same day or even year.
I started building my foundation in 1997. It was merely a hobby, cartooning. I didn't even know I could sell things on the Internet. I was just having some fun. Little did I know, I was building "that foundation" that you keep seeing.
Now I have stores that sell thousands of items with my cartoon images; they came to me, I didn't go looking for the manufacturers. I really didn't even know anyone was noticing. It slowly evolved into a business. Keep in mind this was pre-Google, pre ppc search engines, pre blogging, pre everything that we now take for granted on the net.
Have you tried search directories? You would be astonished the amount of quality traffic come from them. Be sure to place your blog in the more popular blog search directories. There are many. Some are free some cost a bit. Do a Google search for "blog directories" and find your product niche and list there.
Blog as often as you can. I try to every day. Many gurus says two or three times per week is fine. It really depends on if you have something "newsworthy" to say. Or want to show the public some special you are running. Always think from a journalists point of view when writing. Is this something that is useful to the public, or am I just stroking my ego? You will soon see the difference in the amount of sales and visitors it brings to your site. Always remember that the base of your blog should have your store's URL.
Learn to ping. Its very easy now with automatic pinging services such as Pingoat and Pingomatic and Kping, etc. Don't abuse it or they will not let you ping. Ping your blogs only. That is what they are for, to alert other blogs of a story they might want to see and include. It works well. You can do a "Google vanity search" of your blog every few days after pinging and see that others have picked it up.
Join groups at flickr, myspace and others. Make friends. Don't go in full-force and start selling. Make friends and build a community. Let them ask you about your business. Just keep feeding useful information that is helpful, or make friends, or share about other common interests and sooner or later someone is going to ask you about your website or business. It always happens; and when it happens that way you've created a loyal customer.
There are so many other methods to think about in the building of a business. I've seen so many web businesses with potential close their doors right before "they made it". I cannot be sure of the problems, but 9 out of 10 times it is giving up on continuity (the blogging, the article marketing) etc.
Every word your write can turn the tide and make business come your way if you write it with sincerity and goodwill; that is, not simply to make a sale, sure, that is very nice, but if it doesn't, and more times it does not than does, you have still given some valuable information that will help another person in their business and you never know, (and this has happened to me many times); the reader may not need my products but knows someone else who collects licensed art products, mousepads, tee shirts, or whatever it is they like in my store, and sends them my way. I can't begin to tell you how many times that has happened.
Keep in mind, I started simply putting up my cartoons on a free web host in 1997. I had no idea what would become of it. I did not open my first store until September of 2006. I realized just what a "foundation" was (remember we mentioned foundations?) when I discovered we'd had millions of visitors to my cartoon site; and now many were being converted into buyers at my cartoon store buying everything from coasters to wall clocks to sweatshirts It happens every day now because I simply "water the garden" a little. You will find the same thing. You will get back what you put into it.
Give it time, be patient, and watch. Good luck. Hope to see you along the way to the top!