I’ve just got back into the office having been out today speaking at two conferences. As ever it’s what people say to you in the breaks that prove to be the most fascinating and interesting. One member of the audience came up to me with a corker of an idea for an Internet business. He has registered a few domain names but done nothing concrete yet with his idea. I’ve agreed to put him in touch with some people who I think will be able to help him get his idea off the ground. And our conversation reminded me that some of the most successful online entrepreneurs have depended upon conversations and other “offline” strategies in order to make their millions. The chap I met today has been searching online for help for several months, but it was a coffee break conversation, away from the Internet that could prove to be a significant step forward for his business plan. Equally, Internet entrepreneurs who make millions from selling marketing information online, are often only able to do so as a result of joint ventures they enter into with people they know offline. In other words, success on the Internet is wrapped up with the relationships you form outside the online world. Don’t neglect networking, meeting people and talking to people – they can be immensely valuable to any online business.

Another coffee break conversation was also illuminating. One member of the audience had asked a couple of questions and then spoke to some people over coffee and discussed with them my answers. Another member of that small group of people came over to me and told me that the person who had asked the questions was enthused by what I had been speaking about to make more use of the Internet for his business. But then my coffee break partner added something extra: he told me that the man who had been inspired by what I had said was a real technophobe who had been putting off using the Internet because it was technological and “new fangled”. The fact is, apparently, I made him realise that doing business online is no different to doing business offline. Many people mistakenly believe there is something fundamentally different to doing business on the Internet; there isn’t. The principles are the same – find people who want what you have to offer, build a relationship with them, sell to them, get them to recommend you. Don’t try to make Internet business or e-commerce any more complex than that.

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