How to Start Business

The Internet is a pretty amazing tool for business—so long as you know how to use it. It is essential to understand that the Internet doesn’t work like more traditional forms of media. The Internet has changed the way that businesses and consumers interact. In order to help you understand this new paradigm here are a few of the key concepts essential to success on the Internet – especially in the blogosphere.

  1. It’s not just about having an open mind; it’s about having an open strategy. You can’t control the Internet. Once you put something out there for the world to consume, assume that they will consume it but not just in the format you offered. It doesn’t matter if it’s audio, video, text, software, hardware or any other service—they’ll want to use it in ways that you can’t even imagine.
  2. Piracy is the sincerest form of digital flattery. Which problem would you rather deal with: people stealing your intellectual property, or people ignoring it altogether? It’s a tough call, but if you empower your audience instead of offending them with restrictions, you stand a better chance of succeeding.
  3. Mind-share is equally as important as market-share. You can’t have a share of the market if your product isn’t on the minds of the people in that market. If your brand has been mentioned seven times inside your own social circle it’s well on its way to being adopted by the market. Pay attention to your mind-share in the marketplace, but remember you can’t quantify everything: Brand is virtually untrackable.
  4. “Viral” is a buzzword, not a marketing strategy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a PR agent prattle on about how they have an amazing campaign in the works. I cut these people off mid-explanation and grill them on the meaning behind their catchphrases and what they hope to gain at the end of the day. Most of them don’t have an answer. You’d be surprised to learn that most marketing and PR professionals don’t have a clue about how the Internet works.
  5. Community creates itself. Just because you install some forum software doesn’t mean people are going to be beating down the doors to get through. It’s good to have a structure for a community If it’s gaining little traction however, it’s probably not a software problem. If people aren’t interested in what you have to offer, maybe what you have to offer isn’t all that interesting.
  6. Press releases are dead. Don’t stop issuing official documents that explain what’s happening inside your company. I’m warning you though, these things are on their way out as far as the global conversation is concerned. The name of the game is interaction. You’re simply shouting at brick walls with one-way distributions.
  7. Join the conversation. It’s not just about having a blog, a podcast or an account on MySpace or YouTube—it’s about engaging your existing customers directly on their own turf, and attracting potential customers through similar means. The world doesn’t work for you or your company—they’ll see it differently than you do. Your approach should reflect this reality.
  8. People trust people, not companies. Make your name(s) known and be as accessible as you can afford to be. When problems arise your biggest supporters will appreciate being able to connect with another person instead of getting lost in a voice mail maze. Your users will be comforted to know that another human being is going to help rectify their issue. Who hasn’t felt the frustration of “talking” to a machine when all you needed was to ask a simple question?
  9. Transparency is crucial. The Internet has a built-in BS detector. It won’t take long for people to see through any kind of double-speak. If you did something wrong, admit it before people call you on it. The worst thing you can do is sweep something under the rug in the hopes that nobody will ever notice. Dude, it’s the Internet—someone will eventually realize what you’ve done. Your brand stands to suffer if you don’t admit your own mistakes.

    If your product sucks, make it better. Don’t just throw money at a problem it only makes a more expensive problem. Worse yet is pitching resources into a marketing, PR, or branding exercise for a product that sucks. Don’t rely on staged focus groups—talk to your most passionate users and your strongest advocates. Read what people are saying across the World Wide Web (if they’re saying anything about you in the first place).

The Internet is unlike any other kind of media. It isn’t only a way for your company to communicate with consumers, but a way for them to communicate with you. If you remember nothing else from this collection of tips, remember this: The Internet isn’t just a bunch of cables and wires—it’s an interconnected network of people.

44 thoughts on “How to Start Business”

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  9. Press releases are only dead in the echo chamber and among blogs (I hope this is what you meant). It would be stupid (in my opinion) to not send press releases to local newsmedia and instead hope for the conversation to play itself out.

    Otherwise, excellent list and some really great advice!

  10. Am a big fan of your mind, my young friend.

    You are a fantastic tech writer, and you have nailed this very well. Very cluetrainy and love the emphasis on the core values and desired concrete results.

    Seth Godin is my fave internet mktg. guru. Al & Laura Ries explain branding better than anyone I know, esp. see “The Origins of Brands” book.

    Yes. An astonishing product will naturally get buzz and viral effects based on how it serves its user base, how it gratifies customer needs, or corporate objectives.

    To keep hammering away at establishing oneself as an authority, as you are doing is the real secret. No short cuts exist.

    It’s not about traffic or numbers or popularity. The priority is to keep doing something, something that is difficult and meets a need, keep doing it, keep promoting it, improving it, sharing it with others.

    GIve away tons of free stuff, advice, music mp3s, whatever. Free samples get ppl hooked. Later offer paid upgrades, paid specialites, etc. Free generates Paid. That is another huge reality in the Share Economy of Web 2.0 and the Future Net.

  11. When MSM wankers attack the “editor-deprived” realm of journalistic anarchy they think reigns in the blogosphere, they refuse to understand the self-policing nature of the blogosphere.

    The blogosphere itself is the “editor” of any individual’s blog posts. If the post is nuts, it gets ignored or flamed, heavily. If it’s great, it gets memed and trolled, heavily.


  12. These are great tips, even for publicizing a personality (as in “official website”). Thanks so much for posting this!

  13. I couldn’t agree with you more! While traditional media is still here to stay, new innovative ways of engaging, communicating, and forming relationships with target audiences need to start getting more traction in company communication departments. And as you point out, it’s about realising that these new “platforms” need new approaches.

  14. “Viral” is a buzzword, not a marketing strategy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a PR agent prattle on about how they have an amazing campaign in the works. I cut these people off mid-explanation and grill them on the meaning behind their catchphrases and what they hope to gain at the end of the day. Most of them don’t have an answer. You’d be surprised to learn that most marketing and PR professionals don’t have a clue about how the Internet works.


    this point already renders you an idiot and therefore, the whole article. so it happened that you only met the unskilled pr pros? now THAT surely means virals are just a buzzword and has no meaning, no use, no nothing at all. you “grill them?”. stop patting on your own shoulder and shaking your own hand. any pr pro with half of brain should be able to “grill” you for asking such a stupid question in the first place. i guess you are a “pro”.

  15. I love your number #9 – transparency is everything. Just like some would say – “don’t bull sh**t the bullsh**ter ” 🙂

    Great article

  16. Hi Chris, We have had contact over the years with your website supporting my software from time to time. At the end of the day I have always looked to you as an Internet Guru and what you have put together here pretty much sums it up – In other words you point out nicely that there is no set way to do well on the internet. I have taken a different road to you and you to them. Success is all relevant at the end of the day, It’s just that your success is (at the moment) greater than mine 🙂

    See you there 😉

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  18. Great post. I think you’ve succinctly stated what most marketing, PR, and executive-types would spend hours blathering on about. The only difference, is that you make a well stated point, whereas, most of them continue to truly miss the point and could never answer anything more in-depth than, “is having a viral marketing strategy important”.

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  20. Great job Chris. This is the only way for folks to make it today and thats in the online home business.

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