At every twist and turn of the online pathway to business success, you will find the journey paved with endless amounts of “secrets” to making it all work. But every time you learn one of those “secrets” you soon discover that there is yet another one on offer.
I have bad news for you, though. There are no secrets.
The answer to online success is the same as the answer to offline success – hard work.
However, if you want a “formula” for online business success, you could do worse than look at a recent study on the usage of e-books. The researchers wanted to find out how well students were engaging with e-books. They interviewed more than 300 university students in Spain and discovered that there were three main reasons why they carried on using e-books, rather than giving up.
E-book usage was predictable. If the e-book was useful to the student, if it was easy to use and if other students were also using the e-book, then individuals were more likely to carry on using it.
This should come as no surprise. If something is useful, practical and has social proof, we tend to love it.
So, what does this mean for your business?
It means that rather than spending time searching for some secret to success the answer is probably much closer to you than you realise.
All you need for online success is the following:
- A useful product or service
- A method of buying and using the item that is straightforward, with no complexities
- A large number of buyers all saying how good the article is
That’s it. That’s business success in a nutshell.
Far too often companies produce items that interest the owners, that the people within the company think are fantastic, but for which the actual customers cannot find a reason. Even if they can find a reason, far too often businesses make things too complicated. This is typified by online stores that take too many clicks, or a telephone number that requires you to go through an endless menu of options, or a product (like Google+) that requires a degree in computer engineering to truly understand. Simple works; complex does not. Finally, if you have produced an item that customers want and made everything about it simple, then all you need is raving fans. But how do you get them? The answer is to see steps one and two – have a product they want and which is easy to use and you will get loads of fans.
In reality, there are two steps to business success:
- Focus on what customers want; only provide what they want
- Make everything about your business simple. Every process, every system, every contact should be straightforward
If you do those two things you will automatically get the third step – social proof.
The study of students reading e-books shouldn’t surprise us. It says the same thing. Provide your customers with something useful, make it easy for them to use and use the resulting social proof to attract more customers.
This is what has worked for businesses for thousands of years. It still works, even in the online age.