Starting a Small Online Business? Think Big

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It doesn't take much money to start an online business.  And it doesn't necessarily take a

This is a picture of the Zappos fulfillment ce...

This is a picture of the Zappos fulfillment center in Kentucky. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

lot of money to grow your online business into a large company.

It's not money, but mindset that will hold you back.  Stop feeling intimidated by your bigger competitors.  Learn from them and learn from their bigger competitors.

"Every company was once small," says Raz Silberman, a growth consultant for small, mid-market and Fortune 500 companies. "Coca Cola began as a pharmacist’s concoction, Apple started as a hobby for a couple of geeky friends and WalMart launched as just another discount store."

How did those once-tiny companies grow into Fortune 100 companies?  More important, what can you do to generate serious wealth from your new online business?

If you want to grow big, Silberman says, you must think, grow and act like a corporate giant.

Let's begin with the "thinking" part.  Are you thinking big or small?

Which is Weaker -- Sales or Mindset?

Let's say you've opened an online shoe store.  After a month of weak sales, you type "online shoe store" into the search engine and get upset to learn that your website is on the fifth page of Google for the keywords "online shoe store."

If your attitude is, "Why can't I get a page one ranking like Zappos does?" your ranking might remain unchanged 30 days or even 30 months from now.

But, if you ask yourself, "How do I get a page one ranking like Zappos ?" you have the mindset of someone who wants to learn, not someone who just wants to bemoan his misfortune.

Why Not Why?

It may seem like a small thing, the difference between, "Why can't I?" and "How can I?"  But framing the question the second way can yield positive results. (You will make more money from your online business.)

The first question assumes a negative answer, such as "You're not as big as Zappos or you don't have a billion dollar budget like Zappos does."

The second question considers the possibility of repeating Zappos' success.

Zappos is, after all, a young company.  In 1999, Zappos was launching its online shoe company, much like you're launching your online company today.  And it doesn't matter if you're selling shoes, instructional videos or a new mobile app -- if you're selling anything online, Zappos is a good company to study.

Finding Your Niche

Why?  Because, when Zappos opened, they faced a lot of the same hurdles you're facing today:  How do I get the attention of customers I can't see?  How do I gain their trust?  How do I distinguish myself in the market?  How do I compete against the "big boys" in the shoe industry?

They answered the question by carving out their own niche in the market.  They made selling shoes -- about an old and ordinary business as exists -- into a brand new business.  They invented worry-free online shopping by offering free shipping -- both ways -- and a 365-day, no-questions-asked return policy.

Big Questions

Thinking big is the first step to becoming big.  (We'll talk about how to act and grow like a big corporation in future posts.) But, to get started on your  "think big" attitude, here are some questions for you to ask yourself:

  1. What do I have to offer my clients or customers that no one else has?  What do I do differently --or what can I do differently -- to carve out my unique place in the market?
  2. How do I increase my value to my customers?  What do I offer that will make them turn to me for repeat business?
  3. How do I turn this increased value into increased revenue?  (If you give customers something extra, how do you make it profitable?"
  4. What should I stop doing?  What am I doing that limits my ability to grow my business into a successful, wealth-creating company?
  5. What big company do I most admire?  What can I learn from them?

Learn everything you can from the success of others -- and someday you'll become the big business that everyone wants to learn from.