How to Effectively Market Your Business Online

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(Part 1 of 3 Parts)

A lot of very successful people know very little about marketing.  But, those same successful people depended on experts who did.

As you launch your online business, you may not have the luxury of a marketing department.  You may, in fact, be the marketing department -- and every other department -- if you're starting an Internet company from scratch.

If you're currently clueless about marketing, that's OK -- most people are.  But, if you want to succeed and make money online, you can't continue to think that marketing is just another word for grocery shopping.

To help you get an idea of what marketing means to your business, here are three questions to ask yourself:  1) What business are you in? 2) Who Needs What You're Selling? and 3) Who are Your Competitors?

Let's take a look at the first question:

What kind of business are you in?

This probably seems like a no-brainer.  If you sell shoes, you're in the shoe business, right?  If you sell information technology products or services, you're in the IT industry, aren't you?

Maybe.

But, let's say you've just designed a mobile app.  We'll call it the Time Traveler, an app gives that helps users predict prices of discounted airline tickets based on past selling patterns.  Are you in the mobile app business or the air travel business?  Or in an entirely different kind of business?

The answer depends on how you make money.  If you sell the app to airline companies, you're in the mobile app business.  If you're an airline company and provide the app as a customer service, you're in the airline business.  If you give the app away for free and rely on advertising to make a profit, you're in the advertising business.

The kind of business you're really in has nothing to do with what your product looks like, how it's used or the story you tell the public about it.

The kind of business you're in -- really in -- is the business that makes you money.

Google, for example, promotes itself as an Internet search engine company.  It's probably the way you view the company.  But Google makes its money from advertising.  Google, as well as Yahoo and virtually every type of media company is also in the advertising business.

Why do you need to know what kind of business you're in? 

If you're the owner of the Time Traveler app and you sell it to one or several airline companies, you make money the second they buy and pay for your product.  Whether they use the product or not, you make money.  But if advertising is going to be the source of your profit, the number of people who use the app -- and the frequency of their use -- determines your success.

Tell the world anything you want about the kind of business you're in, but define it for yourself based on the source of your revenue.