Can I Buy An Online Business If I Have No Online Experience?

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If your background consists mainly of working in the offline world, you may wonder whether you could buy an online business and successfully transition into an Internet entrepreneur.

There are a lot of reasons why someone would want to move from a traditional brick and mortar background or service background into the online space: the freedom it provides to work from anywhere, the automation available to systemize any business, and the ability to rapidly scale any business without having to hire an army of employees to manage the growth are all common reasons people look to transition into the online world.

So it is no surprise that one of the most common types of buyers are business people who have had success in the offline world and now want to transition into a new lifestyle as an Internet business owner.

But how realistic is this? How easy is it to transition from the offline world to the online world?

In this article, I want to explore this topic in more depth: where you’ll struggle, where you’ll thrive, and some practical tips to take with you as you look to make this leap.

Here’s Where You Will Struggle

In order to succeed in an online business, you need some business acumen and the willingness to take on a learning curve. So let’s now take a look at some of the problems you may face when wanting to establish your first foothold on the Internet.

Getting Familiar With Internet Jargon

Like any business, industry, or niche, Internet business ownership has its own lexicon. When you first come upon these acronyms and phrases, you’ll likely feel out of your depth.

But fortunately it is not difficult to learn most of the phrases that people in this space throw around. A simple Google search on just about any topic should get you started.

If you want to get a jump start on some of the common terms you’ll hear, check out this article in Business News Daily.

Understanding Principles Of Analyzing Web Visitors

Imagine, if you will, that you own a restaurant and that you want to increase your profits in the restaurant. Wouldn’t it be great if you could find out exactly:

  • Where your customers came from? Did they search for you online, or did they spontaneously come in while passing?
  • What parts of the menu they spent the most time examining?
  • What aspects of the restaurant caught their eye the most?
  • What small little decisions lead to bigger tickets?
  • How often they considered your restaurant before they decided to eat there?

Information like this would be invaluable in the offline world. But in the online world, this information is standard.

Now you just need to learn how to use this information.

Sharon Hall put together two very useful posts listing must-read analytics blogs. You can find those posts here and here.

Using Analytics To Optimize

One of the greatest advantages of having a web-based business is your ability to measure, track, and test variations to see how potential customers react.

If you want to see how this works in real life, take a look at WhichTestWon. This site has over 500 real-life tests demonstrating how granular you can get when testing how users interact with your website, and how you can use this to maximize your website’s effectiveness.

WhichTestWon

Of course, understanding principles such as bounce-rates, CPA’s, and advanced user segmentation of analytics isn’t a topic you’ll jump into overnight. Knowing how to read these measurements and how to run proper tests will take a little time.

General Marketing

To say that you do “internet marketing” is similar to saying you are an artist: you could be a sculpter, a musician, a poet, or an interpretive dancer. The field of Internet marketing is extraordinarily wide and varied.

And while many of the disciplines within Internet marketing can be combined for an overall strategy, if you were try to have a hand in every type of Internet marketing, you’d likely find yourself stretched too thin.

Fortunately, if you are buying an online business, the previous owner most likely already has some marketing plan implemented. Focus first on what they are doing, then explore other types of marketing options.

Here’s Where You’ll Thrive

While there will be some struggles switching to the online world, there will also be some areas where your traditional business background will give you a boost and possibly an advantage over someone who has only spent time as an Internet entrepreneur.

Let’s examine some of these areas.

Developing Strategic Relationships

Since the Internet is so focused on metrics, systems, and automations, many Internet entrepreneurs tend to lack basic people skills. We often forget that behind all of the digital assets are people who are buying and selling services.

I’ve found that those who have a more traditional background are much more comfortable developing strategic relationships, working with vendors for favorable pricing, and negotiating partnerships that allow businesses to rapidly scale.

Hiring/Firing Employees

Internet entrepreneurs love to enjoy the benefits that Internet businesses can afford – sometimes to a fault.

Rather than hire an employee, most Internet business owners like to rely on systems, automation, or virtual contracted workers to handle key tasks. This allows them to not have to deal with the issues of maintaining a permanent staff and the overhead that comes with that.

While there certainly is some sense to this approach, it can also be done to a fault. In speaking with several Internet entrepreneurs who made the leap to hire permanent, full-time employees, most have cited this decision as being one of the best decisions for their company.

Scaling

You may find it surprising to see just how many online businesses are bootstrapped by their owners. Rather than seeking outside funding, partnerships, or bank loans, these owners build their businesses through their sheer force of will and their entrepreneurial smarts.

But while they may be good at bootstrapping a startup, many of these entrepreneurs struggle mightily at scaling a business beyond themselves.

The typical makeup of a business valued under $5mm has an owner/operator and a handful of contracted employees (usually less than 5 people).

Of course, if you want to scale any business, you need to invest in systems, people, and processes. If your background is in the offline world, you’ve likely lived in this world for some time and will have more knowledge as to how to accomplish this.

Conclusion

So to sum up, if you have no online experience, then yes you can still own an online business. Many online business owners who are selling their companies will quite often train you in their Dark Arts. So if you are willing to take on that learning curve, then there is no reason why a lack of online experience can hold you back from owning an online business.

Saying that however, if you have any offline business experience, then you bring a lot more to the table so to speak. Offline skills are transferrable, and if you have been in similar work situations before, you are able to make faster, more effective decisions.

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