The secret to standing out in a cluttered online market

by | Mar 12, 2019 | Business, Marketing

My biggest fear with starting an online business was that my work would end up obscured in some distant corner of the internet, collecting dust and dying a slow, painful death.

That’s not an unreasonable fear. There are a LOT of other websites out there. More than ever before. There isn’t one single niche that isn’t saturated. Health and fitness. Beauty. Money. Relationships. Pasta making. Every category of human need has been addressed. You’ll probably never create a piece of truly “new” content.

And you know what? That’s OK.

So why you?

Why would people be willing to visit your site, listen to your advice or buy your products when there are so many other businesses out there doing the same thing?

The answer is community.

I learned this early on, but only now am I realizing how true it actually is. You have to create a community around your work and a space for people to improve themselves that is about more than you selling to them. More than any other business model, building an online business requires you to create an environment that people want to return to…often.

As the owner of the digital business, you have to treat it like a physical storefront and welcome people to your humble little shop, even before you have merchandise to sell.

At a core level, we crave togetherness. We need a place where we can feel understood — like somebody “gets” us. When we can find that place, not only will we frequent it, but we’ll bring our friends to it. That’s how a community is grown. Person by person, one at a time, until everybody there is somebody who you’d love to sit and have a beer with. In the digital world, this translates to interaction and engagement. You have to be present.

I did this aggressively in the early days of Rich20 to build my community. I would respond to every comment on my blog — often asking a follow up question to incite more thoughtful discussion. I would answer people by making personalized video responses on YouTube and emailing them back. I would pick up the phone and call people to thank them for reading and chat about what they thought I should write about next. And this was when I barely had a readership — maybe less than 500 email subscribers total.

(Just scroll back to some of the earliest posts on the blog for proof.)

I responded to every single email until the day that I physically could no longer keep up with the volume. And that took a few years. This was not easy work. I was specifically, purposefully, intentionally doing work that was NOT scalable.

Yes, automation is part of the sales process when it comes to internet business — but you’ll never get the opportunity to sell to people if you don’t first make an impression and build a relationship. It’s up to you to cultivate that relationship.

It’s easy to get obsessed with numbers when your business revolves around clicks, likes and subscribers.


But behind every one of those digital actions is a real, breathing human being who came to your work for a reason. And if you acknowledge that, you’ll get the opportunity and the privilege of offering them something in exchange for money.

That’s why they’ll pick you. Not because you have the fanciest site (I didn’t and still don’t).

Not because you are the smartest person (I don’t consider myself a “guru”…although I did let Amazon use it in my author bio. LMAO).

And not because you’re the most persuasive marketer on the planet (although I like to think I’m fairly convincing!)

Not because of any of that — but because they feel close to you. The people at the beginning of your journey are your “ride or dies.” These are your 1,000 true fans, and in the online business space this is often enough.

Take careful watch of these people, because they will be the people who stick with you as you grow. As you gain more momentum and your audience expands, you’ll begin to attract “tire kickers” — people who just want to poke around, take some freebies from you and bounce.

Not everyone will be as engaged as they were before. But that core group, those 1,000 true fans will stick around and buy time after time.

Be great,