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Making the Leap from Bricks to Clicks

The Internet is a gold mine. I’m sure you’ve heard that by now, right? Or perhaps you’ve heard the other lie – Nothing makes money on the Internet (except… well, you know).

Almost every small business owner I’ve talked to with no web presence is a firm believer in one or the other. It’s either “Man, I HAVE to get in on this Internet thing” or “Nobody is looking for a [insert product or service here] on the Internet.” There never seems to be any middle ground. But the truth is, there’s more middle ground than anything else.

Now I’m not going to sit here in my tiny office and try to convince any successful retailer or service provider that I know more about their industry than they do. I don’t. But I do know that, like Jell-O, there’s always room in your business for a website.

Let’s look at the world hypothetically. Pretend for a moment that you run a small janitorial supply warehouse. Regardless of which camp you fall into (all or nothing), ask yourself this: What products do I sell that are available for sale online through other retailers? As a janitorial supply retailer, you probably don’t know the answer to this question – When you need something, you just go to your warehouse and grab a box. Go to your favorite search engine and do a search for “Janitorial Supplies”.

On Google, there are currently over 1.7 million results for this term. Think about that for a second. That means there are probably thousands of websites selling janitorial supplies on the Internet. Are they all losing money? I doubt it. Are they all making millions? I doubt it. But somewhere in the middle there are hundreds of sites that cost very little to maintain and are providing their owners with a steady stream of additional revenue every month.

Now look at it from a customer’s point of view. Why would anyone go to Google and type in “Janitorial Supplies”? Let’s think about that. It’s probably not June Cleaver looking for a great deal on a 6-pack of fluffy quilted toilet paper, is it? No, more likely it’s a property manager, a small business, or a janitorial firm trying to source out the basic necessities.

What if you could be the supply company they found when they did this search? Would you be worried about the hundreds, perhaps thousands of potential customers who didn’t do a web search at all? Or would you say, “Wow! I just got a customer I might not have otherwise reached through my current advertising!”

I think you see my point. As a small business owner, the Internet probably isn’t going to be the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow. You won’t put up a website today and retire to the Caribbean tomorrow. But if you put a little bit of effort into it and treat it like any other advertising medium, you’ll be rewarded with profit you would have never otherwise seen.

The key to this lucrative middle ground is diligence. You must be prepared to incur some expense. You must persist in making it work. Like any other advertising medium, there are campaigns that are successful and those that fail. Once you find the magic formula for YOUR business, your website will quietly generate revenue month after month with very little effort.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult for a person with limited technical ability to get over this initial hump. One of the expenses you would be wise to incur at the outset is the help and guidance of a professional. If you’re the do-it-yourself type, you can easily find all that you need to know on the Internet, but be warned that it will take much longer to see a profit and it will be much more trying on your nerves.

As I said before, I would not presume to tell you how to run your business. All I will say is that in almost every industry, someone is making money off of their website. Find them, do as they do, and you can make a little extra yourself. Brush it off and you will only make your competition richer.

The Internet may be a gold mine, but you still have to work to get the gold out. Some mines are richer than others; some just don’t pan out. But you’ll never know how much is in there until you start digging.

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