In the past two weeks I’ve received no less than 7 emails from “gurus” enticing me to make a purchase of their products by promising to sell  me “the secret to success”.  Normally, I just observe these email subject lines with the critical eye of a copywriter, but today one that I received really pushed my hot button.

It wasn’t the email subject line itself that was really the problem, in fact the subject line really isn’t that important. It was the same old schlock that you probably receive in your inbox on a daily basis. What made me made about this email subject was the tone. It was dripping with condescension. Carrying with it the message of “I’m the guru, I know everything and you don’t.”

I was just about to go into a 2 hour coaching session with my Business Growth Group and I quickly added a slide to my presentation to talk about this topic – a topic that makes many would-be (and established) business owners feel inadequate, hopeless and spend tons of money on products and services for all the wrong reasons.

I wanted to share with you what I shared with my coaching group, because I think it will be helpful and make a difference in the way you approach your business from here on out…

Have you ever looked at someone else’s successful website and wondered what “secret” they know that you don’t?

Well you don’t have to wonder anymore.  Because I’m about to share with you the “secrets” of selling successfully online so you can get down to the business of building a business and not spend one more minute looking for the secret that doesn’t exist.

1. There is no “secret” to success, only information, strategies, and insights you have yet to learn. In eight years online, running a successful business, I have never found a “secret” that unlocked the door to the golden room of success. Oh I’ve bought and paid for “secrets”. Especially in my early years online. I’ve bought enough secrets to fund a brand new car. But did I learn any secrets? No. I’ve learned solid information, gained valuable insights, and implemented sage strategies.  But never once was there a secret in that slick packaged guru product. Not even the wildly popular “The Secret” was really a secret. 🙂 If you’re going to buy from a guru, buy the technique, strategy or information they are selling, but don’t buy it for the secret.

2. If you are not getting the results in your business that you would like, there is a concrete reason. That reason could be that you aren’t getting enough traffic to your website or store.  It could be that your salespages aren’t converting to sales.  It could be that you aren’t selling products people want. But the answer is right there waiting to be found, if you are willing to look for it. Successful business owners have looked at their business found out what is or isn’t working and increased what is working while changing what isn’t working.

3. Just because a business model works, doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Every week I talk to new business owners who want to start an online retail business by purchasing inventory from wholesale suppliers, but they don’t have cash or credit available to make those inventory purchases. Add to that, many have a need for immediate cash flow. They are pursuing the wrong business model. Can you make a go of an online retail business from wholesale products in 2010?  Sure. Does it require cash or credit to buy inventory and build a product line?  Absolutely.  If you have no money at all to invest in inventory, your first goal should be to focus on a  business model that generates cash flow.  I call them mini-profit machines.  A business model centered around affiliate marketing or selling your expertise as a service (trading time for dollars), or selling everything around your house that’s not nailed down 🙂 or doing the yard sale circuit for 6 months until you get enough seed money to invest in your long term business model.

4. You have to give up something. Very few people selling “how to make money from home” want to say this to you.  You need to sacrifice things in your daily life in order to make your business a success. Maybe it’s your nightly TV shows.  Maybe it’s a few hours of sleep a week. Maybe it’s bigger.  Vacations with the family. Putting off buying that new car so you can invest in your business.  As a single parent, if I sat down with you and told you the sacrifices I’ve made and that my children have made so that I could grow a successful business, you’d be shocked. In the early days of running my business we missed vacation after vacation, because I had a business to run and at the time there was not enough money to bring in help.  So the kids and I had staycations instead. I’m writing this blog post at 4:21am, because both my kids have sporting events tomorrow and I have several things I need to get done before we head out for the day.  Would I change things?  Not in a heartbeat. My children love having a role model for hard work and reward. Next to having kids, creating a business out of nothing is the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. It can be the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done. But there will be sacrifices.

5. Learn one new thing and implement it before you move on to learn the next new thing . The other day I got an email from a very nice woman who is a member of my Business Growth Group. She said “Lisa, I’ve read everything you’ve written, watched all the videos and still my sales have not increased.  Can you help me?  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong?” I went to her eBay store and looked at it. She hadn’t implemented one thing that we teach in the Business Growth Center.  I asked her about it.  She said “I know, I’ve been meaning to do it, but I just haven’t had time because I’ve been busy learning.” We now have her on a new Learn 1: Implement 1 program. Each new thing she learns, she implements, then she moves on to the next. After one week on the Learn 1: Implement 1 program, she sold $256 worth of merchandise in one week.  Her previous month’s sales?  Zero.

6. The average conversion rate for online sales is 1-3%. Now this is one secret the gurus don’t want you to know! 🙂  This means for every 100 visitors to your website, you will make one to three sales. I remember the first time I heard this number.  My heart sunk to my shoes. But I was determined, so I figured “Ok, I’ll work with it.” Does average mean that you won’t have a higher conversion rate? Absolutely not.  You never want to be “average” in your business.  You always want to strive for above average. It also depends on what you sell.  If you sell physical products on eBay, a 50%, 75% even 90% conversion rate is entirely possible IF you are selling a hot product. But that’s not the average sell-through rate for most products on eBay. If you source one that sells at an 70% success rate, celebrate your good fortune and go source more of it. But I see people everyday who put up a website selling information products or physical products, or create an eBay listing or Amazon store and expect “a flood of visitors with a high conversion rate to happen just because their product is online. It doesn’t work that way.  There are things you can do to increase your conversion rate dramatically – like getting more high quality, targeted traffic and cultivating repeat customers. But that is the process of Kaizen, which means “continual improvement”.  It takes Kaizen to be successful and increase your conversion rates.

7. Time spent on Facebook  with Farmville is not time spent working. I love social media. And I’m not surprised by it’s mammoth success.  Why?  Because we humans are social creatures. We’re pack animals. We love to hang together and communicate. With so much of our lives and time spent on line in the period of time from the mid-nineties to the two-thousands, it was only a matter of time before our socializing moved online too. It’s the rare person who can sit isolated at their computer, not connecting with people.  The same is true of social media marketing and social commerce.  Shopping has always been a social activity.  Now we’re shopping socially online. Word of mouth marketing has always been the most effective marketing offline.  Now we’re doing social media marketing online.  But… just like there’s a difference in corporate America between sitting at your desk and working versus hanging out around the water cooler chatting, there is a difference between spending 30 minutes a day using Facebook or Twitter to do some marketing and playing Farmville or sending people jelly beans on Facebook or tracking Ashton Kutcher on Twitter. As an entrepreneur, you have to be very clear and very defined about when you are working and when you are not.  Can you schedule in a break to connect with your friends on Facebook?  Sure! But when you are in there for the purpose of marketing your business, you have to ignore all the friendly communications that are calling for your attention. Separating your play time from your work time will dramatically increase your success.

8. A true guru makes things easier not more complicated. The inspiration for this post was the gurus who are trying to sell you the secret to success, so I want to get back to that for a moment. Someone who is truly a guru will take a complicated subject and make it as simple as possible to learn and implement. They will empower their students by telling you and showing you that you can do this.  Gurus make things seem more complicated to make themselves look better and make themselves look indispensable. I’ve been online for 8 years now and I’ve never studied an online marketing subject that can’t be learned and applied by just about everyone. Not everyone can solve the Poincare’ conjecture (thought to be the world’s most difficult math problem). Most everyone can achieve success at some form of entrepreneurial online business if they apply what they learned to the right business model.

9. There is more than one way to skin a cat (my apologies to cats everywhere 😉 ) Gurus who try and sell you “the secret of success” will also tell you that their way is the right way.  The only way. That everyone else is wrong and that they are the only ones that have the answers you seek. Beware of gurus who tell you how complicated something is and then in the same breath tell you that they are the only ones who understand it and are the only ones who can help you.  After 8 years of running my own successful online business, I can tell you unequivocally that there is always more than one way to do something successfully. It doesn’t matter what you sell or where you sell it. Whether it’s information products, selling on eBay, affiliate marketing or straight up ecommerce, I have seen thousands of people achieve success using different techniques, different methods, contradictory methods and unlikely methods. Does this mean that there aren’t best practices? Not at all! Does this mean that there isn’t a right way and a wrong way to approach building a business?  Absolutely not.  What is does mean is that there is more than one right way to achieve success. And if someone tells you that their way is the only way, you need to learn what you feel is right for you from that guru, but don’t follow blindly. I’m frequently referred to as a “guru” in helping people start, run and expand their online business. But sitting here right now, writing this post, I could give you the names of at least 5 other “gurus” who you could successfully learn how to build an online business with. We each have slightly different approaches, slightly different communication styles, slightly different specialties, different programs and services, but we can all show you a path to success. How do you choose?  You have to choose the mentor/teacher who is right for you at this time. I’ve studied with some of the best on the Internet.  As I change and grow, and my business changes and grows, the people I study with and learn from change too.

10. Thomas Edison was right. “Genius” said Thomas Edison” is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.”  And considering the man tried 1000 different times to create the light bulb before he succeeded, I think he’s qualified to speak to the topic of perspiration and hard work. Thomas Edison also said when asked about how he felt about failing 1000 times to invent the light bulb “I didn’t fail 1000 times.  The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps.”  The same holds true for your online business. I like to say “There is no such thing as failure, only lessons learned.” The path to your successful business will entail a series of steps.  Some that work.  Some that don’t. It all gets back to point #2.  If you are not getting the results you want in your business, there is a concrete reason. The answer is right there waiting to be found, if you are willing to look for it.

As you can see there is a reason I rolled out of bed this morning at 4:00am to write this blog post. I felt this topic was important enough that I needed to share it with you in-depth.

I hope it has accomplished three things:

  • Made you feel more confident in your own abilities to learn the ropes
  • Stripped away any misleading beliefs that there are secrets only the chosen few know
  • Saved you some money by not purchasing “secrets” from the next enticing email that lands in your inbox
  • Shown you clearly and specifically ten of the factors that it takes to successfully build an online business.

There are more than just these 10.  And if you are interested in hearing more about them, pop me a note in the comments box below.

PS: Don’t just read this and think “great post” and go on to the next blog. Take this, print it out, post it on your wall. Read it regularly.  It will help you stay clear, focused and motivated. It will also save you time, money and disappointment on your path to success.

– Lisa