‘How do I build a successful online business?’ this is probably the most common question I hear aside from the ubiquitous ‘What business should I start?’ The answer to the second question is ‘I don’t know, what are you good at? Do that.’
The first question, however, is a bit complicated because there are many ways to approach it, but I have identified six actions that highly successful lifestyle businesses take.
- Successful online businesses focus on building a brand– too many lifestyle businesses are entrusting their growth to getting backlinks and trying to game Google’s algorithm. The churn-and-burn approach (e.g. trying to spam your way to the top) is like steroids…you might bulk up quickly, but there are often harmful side effects.
Yes you need to do SEO to rank, but it shouldn’t mean having to build a new site every few months.
How can you build an audience and brand recognition if you’re always getting sites penalized?
This is why successful lifestyle entrepreneurs prioritize the big picture and seek to build businesses rather than just ranking websites. One way they demonstrate this commitment to building a brand is by blogging on a regular basis to reach their audience. If you want to succeed in your lifestyle business, you need to generate great content, which leads to my next point.
2. Successful online businesses harness the power of blogging regularly – while you should aim to produce high-quality info on your site, you don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway; what is hugely important, though, is putting something decent and thoughtful out there on a fairly regular basis.
Once you get in the habit of blogging, and see how it complements your lifestyle business, you’ll be motivated to keep going. Some businesses are easier to blog about than others but you must be able to find something to say, even if it just means talking about your product and how it can be used to make people’s lives better.
If you are selling fishing lures, for instance, you could write a blog about fishing tips and tricks, then talk specifically about which of your lures are most effective when trying to catch trout on a rainy day.
Here’s an example of what I did for one of my clients who owns a major restaurant/nightclub in one of the top 10 cities in the world: I blogged about dance steps, how to be a beer connoisseur, what to wear at the club, etc.
Simple, practical, shareable.
In fact I did not have to do that much blogging to move the rankings needle; a handful of solid posts was enough that we could leverage the entries in social media and build backlinks to them, eventually providing the client with a huge uptick for many of their keywords. Along with our linking strategies, we pushed them from nowhere in the top 300 results to the first page. Blogging regularly was key.
3. Build an e-mail list, even if you don’t have anything to sell yet – many people are wary of handing over their email because experience has taught them that nearly everyone has an agenda.
There are a number of authentic ways to address this reluctance, but what I like to do is offer readers something of value that is not merely fluff, is not too long, and is aimed at solving one or more of the problems that they have.
For me, it is delivering actionable content like my complementary lifestyle business survival guide with things that help me run my business.
What is it that people in your niche need help with?
What can you offer them?
Remember this rule: It should be genuinely helpful…there is nothing more aggravating than signing up for somebody’s newsletter or free download only to find out that it offers nothing of value. So try to provide people with at least two really killer bits of information so that at the very least they walk away thinking, ‘That was actually pretty helpful, I hope he/she sends me more good ideas like that once in a while!’ Once you show people that you are likable and trustworthy, they will be more inclined to hear from you once in a while.
4. Treat your visitors like friends and family– when was the last time a bank, airline or insurance company treated you like a friend?
It is so rare to be treated well by businesses that when a company manages to do it, people notice.
People are used to being treated the same way online–annoying popups and flashing banners only communicate ‘You don’t matter to me! I don’t care if you enjoy this blog!’
It is the digital equivalent of the nagging salesperson in the clothing store who won’t leave you alone. Successful online businesses help people, and it is fine to ask people to buy from you if what you are offering genuinely has value, but you will have to back your offer by your actions and content.
The image that some people have of starting an online business is that they will not have to do anything, will not have to care about anybody, will not have to deliver quality products and services, but can still make money in your sleep. That is utter nonsense and a recipe for disaster.
Interacting with people who visit your site is the best way to find out who it is that reads your stuff, what their problems are, what questions they have, how experienced and knowledgeable they are, and where their pain points lie. Just treat them the way you want to be treated and offer a product or service that helps them…that’s the secret to success.
Keep that point in mind, it will serve you well.
5. Speak to those who are at different stages of their journey – I know not all of my listeners and readers are crushing it in their lifestyle business; some are just getting started, which is fantastic.
I want to reach out to the beginner just as much as I want to speak to those who are ‘professional’ digital nomads.
So lets say you start a business that helps people over 40 lose weight. You want to make it your aim to provide resources that address the person who has never exercised before, spouses who want to slim down together, someone who is finding it difficult to lose the last 5 pounds, and so on.
- It might even help to draw a little picture of each type of person and describe their situation, then, when you write, speak specifically to them.
If you are always speaking to people who are at one spot in the journey, you are missing out on a much bigger audience who struggles with problems that are related to what you are already solving.
6. Get offline and interact with people in the real world – I know this sound simple, but you can’t just sit in your home office and hope to build a lifestyle business…that’s being a hermit, and it isn’t healthy.
At some point you have to go public and tell your friends and relatives what it is you are doing online. Make it a goal to evangelize your business a little bit today without being obnoxious.
When my wife and I were having an inspection on the home we were buying, the inspector, after finding out that I ran a SEO agency (I told him), asked for more information so that he can get in touch with me when his present contract is up with his current guy. The same thing happened with the owner of the moving company that helped us move our stuff.
If you want to succeed online, you need to connect with people offline.
Another avenue that has been helpful is to go to local meet ups, with people who are not in your industry. So if your thing is teaching kids how to play polo, then do not spend all of your time with polo people and at polo clubs. Go hang out at one of the young professionals meet ups or check out entrepreneur night; that kind of thing is a great way to spread the word about what it is that you are doing.
Oh, I almost forgot, get some simple business cards made up, they do not have to be fancy, and be prepared to hand them out… I guarantee it will be easy to give away at least five every meet up.
There is a lot more that could be said, but rather than just providing more information, let me encourage you to act on one or two of the things mentioned above that you are doing yet. My experience is that lifestyle businesses thrive when the owners are willing to take action instead of just gathering more information.
Questions for reflection and action:
- Go to meetup.com right now, visit the page for your city, and find three groups that are not in your niche but that you think would be genuinely interesting to check out. Now sign up to go to at least one of those groups!
- What are two things, either products or services, that most people have never heard of but that you use on a regular basis and could not live without? There is your killer info to share with your readers. (I share mine here)
- Write down four types of people who might benefit from checking out your website – make it a point to speak to each one of them when you write and put together your site.