If you profit from your work, that means someone is paying you.
If someone is paying you, that’s because they’re satisfied with your service.
If a person who’s satisfied with your service ceases to be satisfied, they will also cease to pay you.
This is part and parcel of doing business.
None of these fundamental truths are negated by technology.
Here’s a tweet I saw today from Tiago Forte:
It reads “I think the biggest misconception with starting an online business is that you will reach success faster just because it’s online. Many of the feedback loops may be shorter, but building a successful business still takes years.”
One of the reasons building a successful business takes years is because there’s no way to consistently make a profit without building a genuine connection to human beings.
The key to online business success is remembering that the person you’re sending emails and shipping products to is “A Real Person, A Lot Like You.”
The possibilities of what technology can do are nearly infinite. We can create new tools that help us communicate more efficiently, make securer/faster payments, deliver goods without gatekeepers, automate menial tasks, and so much more, but none of our technological tools can save us from the following fact: If you want someone to pay you for something, you have to the pay the price of doing the difficult things necessary to build trust.
Working for yourself ≠ Being only accountable to yourself.
Providing your services online ≠ Bypassing the messiness and complexity of dealing with human beings offline.
The advantages of doing business online are accompanied by a significant trade-off: having a narrower margin for error. The more your business model depends on technology, the more your customers will expect you to be efficient, up-to-date, and competitive in your delivery of the product. Your processes for troubleshooting problems, resolving concerns, and creating new forms of value will need to improve fast and regularly. And since you won’t have the intel and intimacy that comes from “being on the ground”, you’ll need to be even better at figuring out where people are coming from and assuring them that you care.
Technology not only increases the speed with which you can sell and scale, but it also increases the speed with which your customers can lose patience, misunderstand your intentions, and feel overlooked. Moreover, technology increases the speed with which your customers can move on to the latest and shiniest new thing.
If you’re thinking about doing E-commerce or internet marketing, you actually need to be better, not worse, than the average person at understanding and supporting your customers.
No matter what platform you use to do business, your business will need to be constructed on a social foundation. So if your goal is to stay away from demanding and challenging people, stay away from online businesses.
On the other hand, If you’re ready to care and you’re committed to treating every transaction as an opportunity for personal growth, get online and sell some products. Because if there’s any medium that could use a little humanity right now, it’s the internet. I hope to see you there.