Ever since the invention of the internet, entrepreneurs have wanted to know how to make money online. The answer to that question was to do online marketing. But how does online marketing make money?

Online marketing makes money when it’s tied to a single marketing strategy. There are three basic marketing strategies; paid ads, content marketing, and direct marketing.  Your job is to pick one of these marketing strategies and then use online channels to drive prospects and customers to your business. If you want online marketing to make money for your business, start by gathering and building an engaged email list. Then move on to other online marketing tactics.

Is Online Marketing Profitable?

In reality, online marketing is not profitable for many small business owners because they jump into a variety of tactics without taking the time to profile their ideal customers and understand what these ideal customers want.

My Facebook feed is loaded with dozens of success stories from marketing experts who run an online business and boast insane results.

Some use online marketing to promote an online course, others advocate affiliate marketing and affiliate networks as an easy way to make money. You’ll also see experts who advocate using a niche blog, SEO, YouTube, and eCommerce strategies to promote your product or service.

In my experience, these experts are legit.  I’m personal friends with several of them and I know for a fact that the results they share are real.  Many of them were on the brink of bankruptcy when they committed to a specific strategy and doubled down on their efforts and achieved success.

But none of these experts can begin to guess where you are in your entrepreneurial journey.  That’s your job.

What are the Most Profitable Online Businesses

The most profitable online businesses are those that solve specific problems for specific customers.  These include:

  • Online training and education
  • Digital information products
  • Online software and tools
  • Niche blogs and YouTube channels  that use affiliate marketing
  • Selling products via Amazon FBA (fulfilled by Amazon)
  • Flipping websites

Why are these businesses the most profitable online businesses?  They all have several important attributes in common; they solve specific problems for specific customers.

And that’s what you need to do if you want to make money online.  And if you have all these things your online marketing will make money.

Let’s get started.

How to Start Earning Money from Digital Marketing

For your online marketing to make money, you need to follow a process that will help you focus on an ideal customer, the problem you want to solve for them, and the marketing strategy that you’re going to use to reach them.

Focus on a specific customer.

I always say that “You can’t sell anything to everybody.” Believe it or not, the more you focus on a specific customer with a specific problem, the more of these ideal customers will flock to your online business.

How to find your ideal customer

Your ideal customer is someone who isn’t very good at what you do well, who values what you provide, and is happy to pay the price you ask. Think about the customers and clients you have right now that fit that profile.  If you are a startup and don’t have any customers, think about the people you’ve worked with in the past who fit this description.

An even better approach is to find that “inspiration customer” or client who fits this description and look for ways to find more of those people.

Before you move on to the next section, brainstorm a shortlist of clients or customers who fit these criteria:

  • People who would rather stick a fork in their eye than do what you love doing all day every day.
  • People whose eyes light up when they experience your product or service.
  • People for whom your product or service is a regular part of their day and enthusiastically recommend it.
  • People who frequently refer you and whose referrals become customers.

Be clear about the problem you are solving.

Instead of focusing on your products and services, focus on a specific problem that your products or services solve.

If you want to earn money online, then you have to think like your customer when they search online.  When your customer has a problem, the first thing they will do is search on Google or on YouTube. And typically, the search will actually mention the problem they are trying to solve.

Here just a few of the most popular questions people searched for on Google:

  • How to lose weight fast
  • How to make pancakes
  • How to download videos from YouTube
  • How to get rid of bed bugs
  • How to make money online

See how these questions are focused on problems?  None of these questions mention a specific type of product or service.

How to identify a business problem

The easiest way for you to identify a business problem you solve is to notice what you complain about.

Think about it.  Behind every complaint is a commitment in disguise. When you think about your industry or topic, what do you find yourself ranting about?  When you’re with your friends or your team, what do you guys complain about?

Behind that complaint is a problem your ideal customer is trying to solve.

So, if you want to make money online, then you have to think like your ideal customer and give them the solution they are looking for.

Speak to your ideal customers and find out what they want in their own words.

Use your brainstorm list and call each and every one of these people.  Ask them these questions and transcribe their answers word for word.

  • What’s the most important problem you’re dealing with right now?
  • What would you say this problem is costing you?
  • How does dealing with this problem feel?
  • If I were a camera and was recording you dealing with this problem, what would I see?
  • What do you wish it looked like?
  • What’s been stopping you from dealing with this problem?
  • What do you need from me, so that you can move forward?

Create a core offer that transforms your ideal customer’s life.

I once had a professor that said “If you don’t A-S-K, you don’t G-E-T.”  No truer words were spoken.

Stop guessing what people want and stop wasting time trying to write fancy copy.  Just ask them.

Assuming you’ve taken the time to interview your ideal customer or inspiration customer, and transcribed those interviews, you won’t need to be a genius rocket scientist to use this information to create a core offer that they can’t wait to purchase.

Download this Irresistible Offer Worksheet

Identify other experts and influencers who speak to your ideal customers.

Your network is the most important element of online marketing that makes money. So your first order of business is to start making connections with other experts who speak to your ideal customers and who have a thriving, engaged audience of your ideal customers.

Take the time to engage with these experts, connect with them and help them market online and they will help you generate traffic and start to sell your products online.

Choose a marketing strategy.

The best two strategies for online marketing that makes money are direct marketing and content marketing. You’ll want to choose the one that’s most comfortable for you to implement.

Direct marketing is a selling strategy.  Without a doubt, direct marketing is your fastest path to get paid.

You can think of it as a “push” digital strategy. Speaking, online events, referrals or affiliates are all components of a direct marketing strategy. Direct marketing is the ideal choice for someone who loves sharing their message with the world face-to-face.

Content marketing is a teaching strategy.  It’s more of a “pull” digital marketing strategy.  Content marketing is a long-term play and can take a while longer to get paid.

It’s critical that you decide which of these two strategies will work best for your business.

Build an email list so you can do email marketing.

The secret to profitable email marketing is connecting with your ideal customer and providing them with entertainment, education, or expertise.

Email marketing is the one marketing channel that applies to content marketing, direct marketing, and paid advertising.

You’ve probably heard the popular statistic that email earns $44 for every $1 spent.  Unfortunately, only savvy online marketers are making that kind of return.

The online marketers who are getting that kind of return have two things; traffic and engaged email lists.

Here’s are the top 3 digital marketing tactics to build an email list and sell products.

  1. Run online events, webinars and trainings

The fastest, cheapest, highest value way to build an email list is to partner up with experts in your topic or industry and run an online event.  The name of this game is to get traffic from trusted expert’s email list.

Create a topic, invite experts and enroll them to help you promote your event to their audience.

The result will be a targeted email list with an audience that is eager to get more information from you.

Email marketing experts, coaches, consultants and thought leaders recommend that you do this first.  It’s the lowest-cost way to build an email list without ads.

  1. Survey or quiz your audience

Another way to build an email list and learn more about your audience is to run a survey or offer them a quiz or assessment that provides them to become better consumers of your product or services.

You can build traffic to your survey or quiz by leveraging your online community and network and/or Facebook advertising.

  1. Offer Checklists, Templates, and How-to Guides

Similar to surveys and quizzes, creating checklists, templates, guides, and ebooks is a popular way to build an email list. The secret to succeeding with this list-building method is to keep your lead magnet super simple and promote it widely to build traffic.

Use social media platforms to present content to your target audience.

Everyone is always asking how to sell products on social media.  This is the wrong question.  Social media is a presentation platform – not a marketplace.

No matter how big your community is or how many followers you have, you don’t own any of them — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest own all your followers.

Use your social media marketing as a way to build connection and relationship with your audience.  Build the know-like-and-trust factor with your audience.  Use those strong relationships to invite your audience to events and offers where you can earn money online.

Instead of selling, use your wide reaching social media platforms to reach a broad audience, feature your skills, talents and advice.

Then drive those visitors to an event or resource where you can grab their email and add them to your email list.

Always be making offers.

You can’t make money if you don’t offer your audience something to buy. That means you have to always make at least one offer.

I get it, you feel uncomfortable making offers.  But, if you’ve created an offer that solves a real problem your customers have, you’ll be able to make money online.

Supplement your offer with affiliate Marketing revenue for programs and tools you use and recommend.

Another way to earn money is to add affiliate marketing to your offers.  No matter what you’re selling there is an opportunity to use affiliate marketing to supplement your online earnings.

You can be an affiliate (or a recommender) for products or services that you believe in.  Affiliate marketing just makes it more of a strategy.

You can find affiliates by joining affiliate networks where you can find an affiliate program that best matches your own business and what your customers would like and appreciate.

The only sales pitch you make using an affiliate marketing strategy is to insert an affiliate link with books, products, services or software that you recommend.

When it comes to subtle marketing, affiliate marketing is a super easy way for your online marketing to make money.

Measure and adjust your digital marketing to reflect expanding customer wants and needs.

If we’re talking about how to make money online, then we also have to talk about measuring your online performance.

What to measure and how to adjust it to make money online

  • Marketing email performance: Your email marketing service will track the most important marketing email performance metrics; open rate, click through rate, etc.
  • Affiliate marketing and affiliate link performance; A good affiliate marketing program will help you track your affiliate link performance. Check out Lasso.
  • YouTube channel performance: Check your YouTube Channel analytics. Pay special attention to the number of views, total watch time and audience engagement such as likes and comments.
  • Website engagement and blog traffic per day and per hour: Because traffic drives how you earn money online, it’s critical that you track how people engage with your website. Use tools like Hot Jar to see how visitors engage with the marketing content on your website. Check your Google Analytics and Google Search Console to see what visitors searched for and what page they landed on. Take special note on which pages visitors spend the most time.
  • Advertising pay per click: Most likely, if you’re using any ads to drive traffic, you’ll be using Facebook ads. Typically, a Facebook lead that comes from a Facebook ad costs between $12 – $50 per lead — and sometimes even more.  Your goal is to get that cost per click as low as possible while attracting your ideal audience.

Start Making Money with Online Marketing

The first step in making money online is having “making money online” as a goal! I’ve already covered some specific steps you can take that will help.

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Online marketing means that you are sending marketing messages and offers using online channels such as SEO, email, social media marketing, ads, or affiliate marketing.
  • This is different from generating passive income from your blog via affiliate marketing or digital marketing products.
  • Digital marketing campaigns are a profitable way to make money from products or services that you deliver directly to your customers.
  • Sure, you can make money online by haphazardly doing affiliate marketing or digital products, but this “winning” it approach will not earn you full time income, nor will it help you in selling your products or services.
  • To make the most money and get paid for the content that you create to a full-time income level, you’ll have to FOCUS!
  • Focus on a specific customer niche so that you don’t need as many people on your email list.
  • Start building an email list! You can do this through your blog or by creating SEO optimized content that answers niche questions.
  • Become an expert in your niche! Connect to potential clients through other experts and thought leaders.