Posted Saturday, September 18, 2004
Day after day news media warns us the world's economy may be in serious trouble. Storm clouds are on our economic horizon. Japan, once the most profitable nation in the world, is having deep money troubles. Experts say Japan is now where the United States was at the start of our Great Depression back in the 1930s. Russia, Latin America, and Southeast Asia are also having serious economic problems. Hunker down, a world depression could be on the way.
Does this gloom and doom apply to the Internet? Will thousands of small Internet business be forced to close down? I don't think so. Here's why.
Internet business is still brand new. Even the old-timers have only been on-line for three or four years. In many ways, we're just now figuring out how Internet business works. And guess what? It appears to be very different from regular business.
Small and versatile is a big advantage. Big businesses dominate the traditional business world. The Walmart's and MicroSoft's have steadily forced smaller, family-owned businesses out of the way. Not so on the Internet. Three out of four Internet businesses are very small, often only one person working from home. Some of the most successful web sites are run by a single person still working a regular job. They take care of the business before work, during lunch, and late into the evening.
Small businesses are versatile. They can change directions at a moment's notice. That's a big advantage when times are hard. A big company has specialized employees and materials stockpiled to fill a particular need. If the economy changes and that need dries up, the big biz is stuck. Meanwhile, the one-person Internet business can change its direction in an afternoon. You can take down your big web site offering investment advice and put up an equally impressive web site showing people how to get out of debt. No employees to retrain. No leases to get out of.
Internet business can personalize. Every indicator of how the future will be points to a much greater demand for personalized services. Instead of buying a one-size-fits-all service from suppliers, you will enjoy services and products that are closely tailored to exactly what you want and need. Internet leaders, including Bill Gates, have said they believe the future of the Internet lies in personalized services supplied by small companies and individuals.
The Internet may be at odds with the Market. This idea is a tad complicated, but I think it's important to understanding why the Internet probably won't feel the pinch of a bad economy. Market economics, the basic principles that govern business, doesn't seem to fit the Internet. Market economics generally encourage big companies to get bigger, buying up and out-maneuvering smaller companies. The biggest companies dominate their industry. Sometimes they grab a huge percentage of all sales in their particular field. This is very hard to do on the Internet. It may be impossible to build an Internet-based monopoly. I may raise millions of dollars and create the biggest, coolest web site business in history. That doesn't keep you and 1,000 other aggressive folks from doing the same thing tomorrow and taking my advantage away.
What can you do to profit from coming hard times? Economic downturns can be scary times. It's hard to know if you should start or expand a business or keep your money in the bank. Don't spend money you don't have to. Yet economic hard times can pose a terrific opportunity for people working in a new area like the Internet.
While traditional business models stall, Internet business surges ahead on the shoulders of a very different way of doing business.
Make your Internet presence BIG. Expand your web site. Jazz up the look. Add lots of helpful articles, add links to useful sites, and create alliances with other entrepreneurs. Keep your web site as focused as you can. Let people know you specialize in an area or line of products. When customers need a particular thing, they'll know you're the specialist that can give them personalized help.
Finally, remember the wise old saying: When business is bad, advertise. The Internet shows little honor to those who come in with lots of start-up money. Instead, the Net rewards those who are popular. The more visitors your web site and email box have, the more power you have on the Internet. Publicize your web site, your business, and your name. Distill your name and main benefits down to a short, easy sentence and put that sentence everywhere you can without spamming. Advertise in email newsletters. Put banners on sites like your own. Send out press releases to media. Participate in newsgroups.
Paint your promotional efforts with big broad strokes. Spend as much as half your time promoting. By looking big and providing tightly focused products and services to a well defined group of customers, you can ride the Internet wave into the future. It may well be a future that gives the Internet new and greater prominence.
About the Author
Kevin Nunley provides marketing advice and copy writing for businesses and organizations. Read all his money-saving marketing tips at (http://DrNunley.com/). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (801)253-4536.