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Profitability is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. One of the biggest challenges people have when growing their business online is trying to determine the best strategy and fastest path to profitability. It’s confusing, in part, because, many times, people jump into online marketing without a real plan.

They know they want to have their own business. They have a skill set which they want to start offering virtually, but the pathway to convert skills to dollars is fuzzy. They may not have a clear sense of their offer, but, if they do, they may not understand how to create a sales funnel leading people from one offer to the next.

Or, let’s just say that the offer is crystal clear- then what’s not fully formed is the marketing processes and methods to get that sales funnel filled up.

So the first step is to recognize that you need an overall blueprint for your business- what you will sell, how you will deliver it, and how you will sell it. These are three unique pieces that often get mashed together.

Then what happens is the business owner is putting in lots of time, lots of hours, but is not making any money.

So let’s take each of these in turn and try to delve deeper.

The first component is what you will sell. This can be products or services, both as distinct lines of offerings or both as a hybrid offer (for example, 2 hours of consulting bundled with your ebook and audio program.) Although direct coaching or consulting can be slow and tedious, it is often the fastest way to sell anything, and doesn’t require a lot more infrastructure than a basic web page, a means to accept payment, and then a way to deliver services, either in person or by phone.

The second component is how you will deliver what you sell. If you are offering coaching or consulting, you can offer this in person, by phone or videochat, or in some combination. How you deliver your services will often have impact on your pricing models and client availability. If you only deliver services in person, for example, you are limited by your immediate geographical region. If you only deliver services online, it might be difficult to command the highest fees, as, often, high fee ranges lead to an expectation that there will be direct in person contact with you.

The third component is how you will sell whatever you are selling. There are many ways to build interest in your products and services- blogging, social media, joint ventures- are just a few. But even in this component, there is a fast path to profitability and a slower path. The slower path is along the lines of blogging, social media, video marketing (in most cases)- where the faster path is through direct networking and joint ventures. The reason for this is that direct networking and joint ventures tend to reduce the barrier of hesitancy where people don’t know you that well and therefore don’t want to invest with you.

The fastest path to profitability is always found where what you sell, how you deliver it, and how you sell it all meet- what we might call the right offer to market match.

When I consult with business owners about how their business might grow, it is often clear that people are experiencing stress because of a lack of offer to market match. They are, generally, adopting longer term marketing approaches, like blogging, when they really need cash flow right now. Similarly, they spend a great deal of time on the social networks, without recognizing that social media is best as a lead generation strategy, or a mechanism to send people to lower cost products or free trainings or calls- as opposed to trying to do a direct sale of high value .

Your goal, as a business owner, is to have the best offer to market match that you can, and to be able to promote this offer as effectively and efficiently as you can. One of the best ways to do this is to reduce your marketing efforts to focus only on what’s been most effective to so far- the idea being that if it has worked before, it will work again.

So if you think back to the last method that worked to bring you a client, or how you got people signed up for your most recent program, you’ll start to see where you might focus.

Then, when you find where you will focus, really commit to those strategies, and put all the others on hold. Work to become profitable, first, and then you can bring in all the other marketing tools and avenues you want or need after that.

The key is to find the fastest path to profitability in your business, and to maintain solid cash flow as a foundation of building a strong and lasting business.