An online business model is like a good restaurant. The dining room is serene, the wait staff efficient, the food scrumptious. But behind closed doors, the kitchen is a hive of activity.
From the outside your web business may appear simple, yet layers of work and effort lie beneath the surface. When you begin to build your business, it’s easy to see that a variety of approaches will work. The question is, how do you know if you’ve included everything possible to give it the best chance at success?
Your business is unique, so even if you’re following a recipe that others have used successfully, at some point you won’t be referring to specific directions. That is when you need a checklist to help with both the details and the big picture.
The internet business model that we use has four essential dimensions. Focus on just one, two or three of these and your business will be lacking. Think of these four perspectives, which I’ll frame as questions, as equally necessary parts of the whole.
1. Are you getting what you want?
Whether you’re an accidental entrepreneur, or from the get-go you’ve wanted to create an internet business model, you’ve got unique reasons for wanting to make money online.
Recall that initial spark you felt when first deciding to make it happen. Aside from making money, you sensed there would be an emotional payoff and that felt really good. What was it? You may have wanted more peace of mind, or more control over your finances. More time to spend with your kids, or travel with your significant other.
This is no trivial question. Getting what you want out of the deal will help stabilize your business. It creates a nice feedback loop. Building your internet business and getting results motivates you to keep growing your business and getting results. Over time, the rewards increase.
It may be easier to discover what you really want by explaining it to someone else. Pretend you’re telling a friend about your online business (or sit down over coffee – don’t pretend), and touch on your responses to the following questions:
What idea(s) are you the most jazzed about? What size income stream do you want? What do you want your work schedule to be? What do you want to happen when you reach these goals?
Your responses lie at the core of whatever motivates you the most. Primary motivations might be broad and long-term, such as leaving the world a better place for your children. Or they may be short-term and narrow, such as buying a car, paying off your college loan or vanquishing some other debt. How good would that feel?
Now you’ve quizzed your internet business about meeting your psychological or emotional needs. Next, consider your need for web site tools.
2. What tools do you need?
Here’s where we talk about the nuts and bolts, the important stuff. Your tools of the trade.
First off, you need reliable hardware such as your computer, and software to create your web site. You also need a marketing strategy that will bring people to your web site, with the right tools in place so you can integrate others and mingle via the social media. You will want community-building tools such as a forum or a blog.
How will you design your site to increase engagement and usability? Successful web sites integrate the right mix of added features such as widgets, plug-ins, comments, ratings, subscription, portals and membership-only sections.
Your need for each or any of these things will be determined by the core purpose of your web business. For example: Do you need recording capacity for conducting interviews? What about podcast capacity?
Don’t be tempted to stuff your home page with every widget known to man. You have probably seen some of these overly-busy sites. Confuse your visitors, and they’ll just click away.
Instead, engage visitors with an effective design that employs all the tools you need to enhance your web site without overcrowding it.
Now. Take an objective look at your web site through your customers’ eyes to discover: Where they are directed to look. What action they are asked to take.
Your tools fit into and make sense of an overall system, or network of systems. Which leads us to the next question…
3. What systems will you work within?
The word “systems” here refers to all the types of systems that will make sense for your marketing strategy, online and off.
First let’s consider space and time, the ubiquitous systems we usually take for granted–until we discover that we’re running out of them. As you set up your office, consider your need for space and a controlled environment. Your office may be located in a spare bedroom, where you can shut the door for privacy. If you’ve set up shop in a corner of the living room, or if you are working around your family members’ schedules and needs, it makes sense to schedule hours that work best for everyone.
Also this includes the social systems with which you will interact. In real life this might be: Your local Chamber of Commerce Your weekly support meeting with other entrepreneurs Casual networking you do at church, at the farmer’s market or at the gym.
Now consider the social networking web sites. They are a legitimate piece of the system, facilitating the exchange of information and offering new ways to conduct business.
Tracking direct results from social networking may be impossible. However, with millions of your potential customers hanging out on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, it makes good sense for you to be there.
Once you know your way around your systems, and visitors are investigating your site, it is time to ask one more essential question:
4. Is your audience getting what they want?
No bones about it. This is the main reason you’re in business. Your visitors want to know “What’s in it for me?” So answer their prayers. Solve their challenges. Provide them with smart alternatives to their nagging problem.
Can they see how your web business will benefit them? Can they see it immediately?
It is possible to create a need, but you’ll have better luck if you find out what your target audience desires and then sell them the products they really want.
You may establish your authority by blogging about your topic. However, blogging is not the only effective internet business model. You may write articles, press releases, and advertise to drive qualified traffic to your site. Blogging gets a lot of press (from bloggers), but if it doesn’t work for you, just keep in mind that there are many other ways that will.
It is mind-blowing how many online businesses are designed without the customer in mind. There seems to be no overall strategy employed, no obvious reason or mission for the web site. A little mystery adds spice when it comes to human relationships, but not so for internet businesses. There they are: The four essential dimensions
So there’s your checklist for the four dimensions of the internet business model. When you start an online business, remember to include all four. Together they make the whole enchilada. Don’t risk reducing the importance of one over any of the other three. That would be like hiring the best cooks, preparing delicious food, handing out menus and then forgetting to put out tables and chairs.