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Keys to Online Success

Keys to Online Success

In 1999, Michael Dell gave a presentation to the Detroit Economic Club. His message was simple — how to create a successful online business. At a time when few people owned a home computer, some scoffed that such advice was even necessary, but others embraced it. The substance of that talk is the basis for the majority of online corporations today — there are three keys to becoming successful online.


The first key to online success is commerce. One must have something to promote, whether it’s a product, service, message, or even, in the case of authors and celebrities, yourself. Most online businesses promote a combination of products, services, and personalities. As Christian authors, we promote our message (the Word), our books, and ourselves. We may also have other products and/or services to sell.

Commerce is comprised of everything from product development to delivery to customer service. It is the “what” of an online business.


The next key to being successful online is content. Basically, content is the presentation of your commerce. There are many types of online content — blog posts, videos, podcasts, images, screencasts — the list goes on. The main thing for online marketers (and yes, we fall into that category) to remember is that to grab the attention of today’s short-on-time, long-on-need-for-take-away-value online crowd is that content must be compelling. Catchy images, headlines, and opening lines must compel site guests to not only continue reading the post de jour, but to come back for repeat visits to our sites.

Content is comprised of everything from website design to writing to other methods of content creation. It is the “how” of an online business.


The final key to online success is community. Without customers, consumers, people, an online business can never succeed. For bloggers, our community is our readership, often called a “tribe” in today’s online lingo. The true value of an online community doesn’t come from getting readers, but from retaining them and providing value to them. If your community doesn’t know, like, and trust you, you won’t succeed online.

Community is the “Who” of an online business, and it is made up of everything you do to attract (driving traffic) and retain (building relationships) your site’s readers.

Building Your Online Community

Social networking, through blogging and participating in online communities, is a great way to “get” readers. Once you’ve acquired some readers, the very best thing you can do is build a relationship with them by providing useful solutions to their problems. Sometimes, as is often the case of the unsaved, they don’t even realize they have a problem. That’s part of the beauty of Christian fiction — it not only brings awareness of one’s unsaved condition in a non-preachy manner, it provides the solution as well.

The best way to build a relationship with your readers is not with the public online content, but through email. That’s right. First, you must get their attention and trust through creating compelling content for your site. Then, make sure you have a means of both capturing their email address and communicating with them once you have it. A “lead capture” form and an auto-responder system work best for this, but it’s always a good idea to offer some sort of gift in exchange for a reader’s email address.

Some online business owners mistakenly attempt to “sell” their products, services, and even their books, straight off their website. This method will provide few sales at best. The key is to build a relationship with your readers by providing personal, useful information through to your email list. Then, when you have a book or product launch, they will be not only receptive to purchase from you, but eager.

Do you have a lead-capture system set up on your website? That little opt-in form (along with your free offer) is quite possibly the most important module on your site. Pair it with an email autoresponder, and you’ve got all three C’s of success — content, commerce, and community — all in one system.

  1. Jenny Carlisle04-13-11

    Thanks for this very practical advice! I’ll refer back often as I build my new business.

  2. Sheila Covey04-19-11

    That’s how I get the blogs I want to read. They come to my inbox and I read from there. I save time that way.

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