How to Build an Unshakable Business Online Jessica Lunk Let’s take a quick ride in the wayback machine. It was 2009 and for a hot minute, I had a store on Etsy. You know, that site for handmade goods. I sewed and sold handmade mittens. It wasn’t so much that I had a deep desire to make mittens (though I do like projects and making things). It was the platform. It was so easy to set up “shop” in this digital world. I loved every aspect of marketing my mittens on Etsy, from capturing the perfect photo and crafting a snappy product description to making my own packaging and sending my mittens on their way. It made me feel like I was running my own little shop. But I wasn’t. I didn’t have a brick-and-mortar storefront. I didn’t have a web presence outside of Etsy. I didn’t have an opt-in email list. I didn’t have a really business. What I had was a hobby. The problem was, I didn’t have any say in what direction Etsy took next, no real ownership. Etsy decided if they changed the pricing for a product listing or a featured ad. Etsy controlled the rules for what types of products could and could not be sold. If Etsy would have gone up in smoke, my nifty little mitten shop would have been gone, too. Poof! Now, I didn’t really have an online business on Etsy, but many thriving companies have presence there. These are real businesses with a website. They have an opt-in email list of contacts that they can take with them wherever they please. They are involved in commerce outside of Etsy. Their business model doesn’t rely on Etsy’s existence. That’s what makes them legit. Etsy isn’t bad. It’s just a platform. Things only get bad if you’re relying on a platform that you don’t own to generate business. In that case, you’re just not standing on solid ground. There are a lot of great platforms that can supplement your business, but it’s always a good idea to step back and make sure you aren’t leaning on them too heavily. If Google switches up their algorithm, will your business go kaput? If Facebook filters you out of their news feed, are you doomed? All of these digital platforms – from the niche-y Etsy’s of the world to the behemoth that is Google – can be part of our marketing mix. But they’re just another leg on our marketing stool. That’s why your opt-in email list is so important. It’s made up of your best customers. Your biggest fans. It follows you wherever you go, and with a little bit of email nurturing, it breathes and grows. If you don’t have an opt-in email list, there are a couple ways to get started: Capture emails from your website. Provide a sign-up sheet at your storefront. Send out a sign-up form on social media. If you have a good list, remember to give it the respect it deserves: Follow spam guidelines. Send relevant information that your contacts are looking for. Monitor your email frequency – sometimes sending a great email once a month is more effective than a so-so send every day. Grow your list by providing interesting, forward-able content with an opt-in link. Keep all of those handy platforms in your marketing mix, but don’t over-rely on their role in your business model. Instead, focus your energy on building an unshakable, owned platform through opt-in email nurturing.