Business at Warp Speed

If you can develop a product or service that sells well in Bangor , Maine … why couldn’t you also sell it in Toulouse , France or Bonne , Germany ?

This is what BB did. Twelve years ago – when his publishing company was in the $30 million to $50 million range – he moved to London , where he bought into a foundering newsletter marketing business. By applying the lessons he’d learned in the States to England ‘s market and hiring and training great local talent, he built up a valuable, profitable $20 million ancillary business.

From England , BB branched out into Germany , France , Ireland , Spain , South Africa , and Australia . Today, the international side of his business is about as large as the entire business was 12 years ago. That’s a great deal of growth in a relatively short length of time. It happened because BB was able to transfer successful products, procedures, and marketing protocols to new markets quickly.

The strong success that BB had in globalizing his business would not have been possible 30 years ago. Thirty years ago, most of the world knew nothing about McDonald’s, shopping malls, or mail-order marketing. Yes, there was Coca Cola. But that was about it. The French had their own department stores, their own brands, and their own ways of transacting business. Their ways were very different from U.S. ways, just as they were different from those of their German, Spanish, and English neighbors.

To be successful in business back then, you had to become a local expert. Most business seminars and books (including a book I wrote for Rand McNally on doing business in China ) made that case: When in Rome , do as the Romans do.

With some notable exceptions (like Coca Cola), building an international business meant linking together a group of unique, nearly independent, companies with their own markets, merchandise preferences, and methods of doing business.

It was certainly possible to build a global business in those days – and many large companies did. But it was a slow and painful process because of how specialized each country and market was.

Gradually, over time, all that changed. Modern advances in transportation made it cheaper for ordinary citizens to travel abroad. This led to a boom in world travel that made it economically feasible to establish stores and services (banks, restaurants, shops, etc.) on a worldwide basis. Today, it’s almost impossible to visit a city of any size that isn’t filled with ATM machines, fast-food franchises, and upscale urban malls.

And it’s not just the shopping malls, banks, and restaurants that have been globalized. It’s culture itself. More and more, we are all enjoying the same movies, books, television shows, music videos, and magazines. And this trend has been accelerating because of the advent of DSL, fiber optics, satellite communications, and – most powerfully, perhaps – the Internet.

ETR is a good example of what this can mean to a fledgling business. Our first complete year was 2003, during which our Internet sales were less than $1 million. In 2005, sales -which were more than 90 percent Internet-based – reached $6.5 million. This year, sales are projected at $10 million.

This is not an exceptional case. Based on discussions I’ve had with several of the larger businesses in our industry, it’s clear to me that the acceleration of sales and profits has been the rule rather than the exception.

What’s going on? Two megatrends are coming together to create the biggest profit opportunity for entrepreneurs that has ever existed.

Everything today is moving faster and farther – industry, transportation, communications, and commerce. And the chance that a trend will go international is greater than ever before.

The speed at which trends are becoming big and global is directly related to the speed at which information technology is developing. If you can recognize these trends and exploit them on the Internet, you can take part in what I think will be – in the next five or 10 years – a tidal wave of multi-billion-dollar profit opportunities.

Faster and faster each year, the human population is being interconnected by all these communication technologies. And since the Internet and satellite technology are fundamentally global, the acceleration has taken place on a global basis.

I am writing this at a hotel in a small city in Nicaragua . Across from me, side by side, two Internet cafes are crowded with local people. Even in a country where the average per capita income is only $430 a year, ordinary people are surfing the Net and registering for all sorts of marketing services. At the table next to me, three local businessmen are meeting, all of them are talking on cellphones. Eight years ago, when I first came here, there wasn’t a cellphone or an Internet portal in the entire country.

The effect of all this is apparent on a billboard across the square: “Torneos de Texas Hold ‘Em,” the sign proclaims. I almost don’t believe my eyes. Texas Hold ‘Em – the poker game that was popularized by cable television in America just last year – has not just grown in the States at lightning speed but has found a market in Nicaragua!

A person could get rich simply by introducing American trends to Central American economies … or Eastern European economies … or Asian economies. And you don’t need a ton of cash or a big operation to make it happen.

All you need is (1) a gut instinct about which mini-trends have the potential to go global and (2) a solid education in Internet marketing.

When you’re planning your own online business, avoid the majority of information being sold about Internet marketing. Most of it is designed for people with big (multi-million-dollar) advertising budgets; lots of administrative, legal, and accounting support; and an existing marketing base. All the stuff being written about website optimization, for example, is fine to learn if you are a hundred-million- or billion-dollar company – but what if you are a small businessman just starting out? 

Answer: You will waste your valuable time and money bothering with those ideas.

That’s why, beginning next week, we’ll be offering a free weekly supplement called The Internet Market Rant. It will give you lots of good ideas for making possibly thousands of extra dollars by imitating our success. The Internet Market Rant will offer you at least one powerful way to make money … each week. Different from other Internet publications of this kind, its advice will be limited to techniques and strategies that you can put to use immediately … and without great expense or unnecessary omplications. 

Think about what you could do with that kind of information.