Traditionally, there have always been two distinct and exhaustive routes of pursuit within business – the delivery of a service, and the delivery of a product. Whether it be a family owned outlet selling a hamburger, an individual offering consulting or a multinational corporation contracted to build an aircraft, the idea has always been simple: Offer a product or service, something of value, and then, ultimately, sell it. For centuries this has been the way wealth through goods and services has been pursued, and for centuries the formula has remained the same – until the last few years.
The Internet has, in many ways, revolutionized the way we live. Before you shout “Yeah, that’s obvious!”, consider the facets you may not have – the facets, in specific, that relate to product and service delivery, and indeed the way you run your own business. If you deliver either a product or a service, you have undoubtedly faced these two questions at some point:
o How do I communicate to my market what I am offering, and how do they contact me if they’re interested?
o How do I deliver my goods/services to this market?
And herein lie the limitations of the conventional method. Communicating your products and services to your market is expensive – sometimes prohibitively so – and even with the most ambitious advertising campaigns it is unlikely you will reach a significant portion of your potential market. Those you do reach may not be interested, and you may be competing with many other enterprises offering the same, or similar products. Even if you do manage to communicate to your audience the merits of your business, enticing a consumer to contact you and take action is, as you will have undoubtedly experienced, a whole different ballgame. The pursuit of this goal is once again wrought with difficulty, both financial and administrative, as extensive marketing teams, campaigns and infrastructure are set up, all in the hope that revenues will, as a result, increase – by definition, a gamble. Calculated, yes – but still a gamble. Depending on your industry and the goods/services you offer, you will also experience difficulty in delivering your products and services. Say, for example, you are based in the USA and a company from China wishes to contract you; for most businesses that aren’t multinational corporations, and hence do not possess an infrastructure capable of breaking through the language barrier, many profitable pursuits may be lost. Even if this infrastructure is in place, the pure logistics of such activities indicate that the undertaking enterprise needs to be very, very well-established prior to being successful in such deals – adding a formidable barrier to entry and discouraging entrepreneurs and startups alike.
Not anymore. The Internet has granted us the ability to conduct business, at whatever scale and on a multi-national level, with next to no capital, very little infrastructure and overheads that are a laughable fraction of a hard-good equivalent. The concept is very simple, but it’s power is not fully appreciated by many budding entrepreneurs – you can offer whatever good or service you want, and in order to market that product, you need to pass on one, simple piece of information: your website address. That’s it. No longer are you marketing to the few million in your city, but rather to the worldwide virtual population – billions of people, and growing at a rapid rate. To contact you, your market / traffic need click a single link, and in terms of delivery – well, more and more, that’s automated. Even without a hard-good service, your business may be able to generate substantial passive income – many site owners these days make in excess of $40 000 profit a year by this method alone, some hardly out of their teens. And that’s not all. Many of these people are 1-man companies.
Yes, much of this is obvious – and yes, you may have thought about it. But have you really THOUGHT about it? Ask yourself that the next time your bills arrive.
Wedge Michaels is a resident finance commentator and stock trader for [http://ww