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Can I make money online if my business is not helping people build their businesses?

I see a similar question pop up a lot in some of the entrepreneurial groups I’m in, when people ask, “Can I be successful online if I don’t serve other business owners?”

While it’s true that in some of these groups, it seems like the business-to-business entrepreneurs have a much easier time because they’re all selling to one another, I don’t think that’s the truth in the real world.  So my answer is YES! You absolutely can be successful with a business-to-consumer business online.  And here’s why.

People will pay to have a problem solved

I’ve touched on this before, but the way you know if you have a viable business idea is when you know you have identified a problem that people will pay to have solved.

So the question becomes:

Do only business owners have problems?

Of course not!

People have just as many problems in their personal lives as they do in their businesses (if not more!).  In general, people want to:

  • Make more money (or save money)
  • Feel better
  • Have better relationships
  • Have unique experiences
  • Look better
  • Improve performance/save time
  • Protect themselves from future loss

Only one or two of these have to do with business, so no, you don’t have to help people build their businesses to make money.

Think about a personal trainer; they help people get fit and healthy, which has nothing to do with business!  But how can they take that online?  Well, Erin Stutland has successfully taken what were in-person fitness classes with a spiritual component online and created a membership community around them through video.

DoYogaWithMe.com is a wildly successful online yoga portal that offers all its content for free – but offers the option to download and keep the videos for a fee. Again, they’ve discovered a way to take what was an in-person experience to a broader online market.

Health and fitness is just one category like this, but whatever you have a talent for, if it solves a problem that people are hungry for a solution to, there’s a market for it.

What if you’re really good at teaching people to help their babies sleep, or get their kids to eat their vegetables, or train their dogs, or play tennis, or take better photographs?

All of these have been turned into profitable online businesses – and none of them is focused on a business owner audience.

Choosing a pressing need

The key, really, is choosing a pressing need – one that people will readily pay money to meet.

What constitutes a pressing need will be different based on your audience and what you’re selling.

Obviously, a desperate, sleep-deprived parent is going to feel a pressing need when they go looking for a baby sleep whisperer.

But a wealthy person decorating a new home may feel an equally pressing need to find original artwork that she can hang and impress her friends and family.

The key is finding the exact person you want to reach and discovering what their most pressing need is.

It is true that helping people to make money is one of the easiest ways to get them to invest in your services

This is because the path to the return in investment is more direct – which is why it can seem relatively “easy” for business-to-business marketers to become successful.

As a beginning entrepreneur, if you have an option of different markets it makes sense to choose the one where people have the most to gain. That is why you see that happening a lot in the online world and also why, depending on a client’s skills, I at times steer them in this direction – to get a foothold.

Making or saving money is often the most pressing need for any audience – and people are more likely to spend money to earn money rather than save it.

Whatever problem your business solves, knowing and understanding it and how important it is to your customers is a vital step in building a successful business online or off.

Now, I’d love to hear from you

What problem do you think your business or business idea solve at its core?

I’d love to hear your answers in the comments below in order to give other readers more examples.

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