I was doing a business course last week and the days were largely focused on uncovering why I (as a business owner) do what I do, who my target audience is, what their problems are and piecing it all together to form a compelling offer. As I sat in a room with other business owners and we went through these items, I was immensely grateful for my experience and formal learning to date. 

I’ve got a business degree and I majored in marketing and international business. Whilst university learning can sometimes seem distant and irrelevant at the time, learning key principles about business and marketing have set me up well to be where I am today. Not only that but I often think that “international business” as it was called back then was a precursor to online business which is now effortlessly cross-border.

Unlike some business owners from other industries, taking time to learn about my customers and know my target audience comes pretty naturally to me. I’m familiar with tools and methods to find out more about my customers like quick online surveys or testing via Facebook ads. I know how to do competitor research, the online tools to give me insights and I can quickly find demand for items by looking at things like search volume. My formal learning and industry expertise is so closely linked to running a business that surely it has to be an advantage?

This argument suggests that it has to be more straight forward for a digital marketer to start an online business than someone with no business know-how? I’m helping a friend with a new website business at a moment and she, with no online experience, is going through a pretty steep learning curve right now.  Her first email to me included the line “I don’t come up in google” and now I’m taking her through a previously unexplored world of Google analytics, webmaster tools, wordpress plugins and search term popularity. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Are successful online businesses being started by digital marketers?

So given this natural business advantage, is this translating into more online businesses actually being started by online marketers? To explore this further, I’ve taken a look at some top performing Australian online retailers of various sizes to see what the founder’s backgrounds are. I looked at Temple and Webster, The Iconic, Shoes of Prey, Appliances Online, ShowPo, Style Runner and Vinomofo.

And the results? Somewhat to my surprise, nearly every one of these businesses had a founder who had either worked in, or studied marketing, business/commerce or consulting, or, had previously worked for an online business.  Notably Appliances Online founder John Winning had no online experience and the Iconic founders were all from a consulting background (which may not have had included specific digital experience), but in these cases they had other inherent advantages. One of the great business success stories, Shoes of Prey, had all 3 founders with various experience in online.

How good is it to see that digital skills are translating into business success! Of course one solution for founders who don’t have online expertise is to hire it, but in the early stages when finances are tight this can be an expensive exercise and there are definite benefits to having existing skillsets in this space when answering the big questions around “who is my target audience and where can I find them”.

What does this mean for me?

So for you as a digital marketer, know that you have an unfair advantage should you decide to go out on your own or enter the world of business.  You already know how to start, what’s involved and the keys to drive targeted relevant traffic online. You know the tools to use, what works and what doesn’t and what kind of response you can expect. Starting a business is never easy of course, but you do have an unfair advantage. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking of an idea?