Why Running an ONLINE Business is so Utterly Different Than Running an OFFLINE One

online-vs-offlineShush! This is the kind of knowledge many marketers and online gurus don’t want you to know. Or maybe they do, but they don’t know how to say it out loud… Anyways.

Let me tell you what the main problem is. It happens when someone wants to start an online business having only the experience from running an offline one, and trusting this experience too much.

If you’ve been running an offline business you find opening an online one almost too easy. Here’s what you might think: “I don’t have to hire people, I don’t need to pay rent, I don’t need a nice mall placement, I don’t need to clean the place up, I can be doing this out of my bedroom in my underwear, and at the same time I can sell to millions of people around the world? Sounds easy, like finding a hooker in a red light district!” So you hire a design company, get a website built, launch the business and wait. But. Nothing happens.

Here’s the problem and one of the top internet marketing tips. The if-you-build-it-they-will-come approach works great in big malls, works sometimes if you have a good city center location, but doesn’t work at all on the internet. There’s no such thing as “good location” on the internet. Everyone has a location equally good.

The first rule of online business: If you build it they won’t come

What’s the most important thing when it comes to doing any business? You have to find someone to sell your whatever-you-are-selling to. And even bloggers need a strategic business plan.

Wasn’t the internet supposed to be the land of opportunity with millions of people waiting to be sold to? Well the people are there, they just don’t know you exist.

For some business environments this comes natural and the constant stream of prospects is just something that “happens by itself.” I.e. a situation when you don’t have to worry about attracting customers because you just happen to be standing in a place where they can’t possibly miss you.

Imagine you own a store in a big mall. In this case people (customers) are already there. You don’t have to do anything to get them to the mall. You can leave that to the bigger players who are there with you. No one forces you to do any advertising.

This is one of the biggest advantages of some offline businesses over their online sisters – the magic stream of ever-hungry customers. Of course, it’s not always like this. If you build your store in the middle of nowhere then don’t expect myriads off people to appear all of a sudden.

Running an offline business has its disadvantages as well, obviously, and many additional costs that need to be taken care of. The biggest of which – rent. If you want a good placement in a big mall it’s going to cost you a lot. But wait, there’s more! You have to take care of your storefront, make it look interesting and inviting. Not only this, but the inside of the store has to be nice as well. You have to hire the right people. People who can provide exceptional service making the whole sale process pleasant to the customer. You have to keep an eye on what everybody else around you is doing (other store owners), and so on, and so on… In the end there’s a lot of hustle involved if you want to make it.

Why online business is totally different


Hustle is something you’ll be doing a lot of while running an online business as well, only this time it’s a different kind of hustle which focuses on different key points.

You see, online people are not walking around visiting different places like they would in a real mall. On the internet what they are really doing is teleporting themselves from one place to the other having no idea what else is out there.

That’s why the number one thing you have to be doing is working on your marketing (try being drunk while doing your marketing… just a thought), i.e. getting people through your online door. What’s the point of having a cure for cancer if you’re sitting in a locked basement buried in the middle of a desert? (And that’s a good definition of any website, I think.)

If, for some reason, you can focus on just one thing when it comes to running your online business focus on traffic generation. Focus on grabbing people and dragging them to your site. This one activity alone should prevent you from starvation.

Let’s take a look at the comparison: “Online vs offline – the fight of businesses“.


  • Main challenge: get people at your doorstep.
  • Main expenses (excluding the products themselves): Design, website maintenance, copywriting, traffic generation, advertising, marketing in general.
  • No cost: rent, employees, furniture, all the having-a-physical-space related expenses.


  • Very often the least important challenge: get people at your doorstep.
  • Main expenses (excluding the products themselves): rent, employees, furniture, all the having-a-physical-space related expenses.

“How to get some damn people to visit my site?!”


There’ve been thousands of blogs written on that topic alone, and I have my share in the pot too. Check out my post on 9,200,000+ Traffic Sources for Your Blog or Website to get some in-depth information.

However, if you don’t have the time to go through this massive list let me just sum it up quickly. There are basically only two main ways of getting traffic:

Buying traffic

Some of the bigger ad networks and distribution channels: AdWords, Yahoo/MSN, facebook, media buys, miva, 7search, looksmart, pulse360, myads, plentyoffish, buysellads.

Getting free traffic (which isn’t really free)

…It isn’t free because you have to commit your time (or someone else’s) to perform the tasks required to receive this traffic.

Among others, these are: SEO, email marketing, social media, video marketing, article marketing, podcasts, photo sites, guest publishing/posting, blog commenting, forum posting, website directories.

Is running offline business easier?

Not at all. Business is business. You still need a USP. You still need a plan. You still need an elevator pitch. Both on- and offline are equally challenging. The challenges are just slightly different.

(Plus, there’s the #1 thing you have to understand if you don’t want your business to tank)

What’s your experience with the offline – online transition of business? Was there something you didn’t expect to become a problem which turned out to be extremely tough to deal with later on?