• Makheni Zonneveld

How safe is online business?

Updated: Dec 20, 2018

This post is part of the free Q & A Future Readiness service. If you have not yet subscribed please click here or watch the 4-minute video on the homepage of makheni.com. Please click here for previous blogs in the series.

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“Dear Makheni

i would like to add my voice to those who say that you for this valuable free service. I have followed the series from the beginning and I see you promote online business. I have only one question: How safe is online business? Mike (not his real name)


Dear Mike

Thank you for raising an important question. Yes, it looks like I am on a mission to promote online business but in fact I promote entrepreneurship and you will agree that the future of business is online.

I usually respond to ‘How safe is online business?’ with questions like ‘How safe is the world?’ or ‘How safe is offline business?’

I get this question a lot from both sides – from consumers who hesitate to buy online as well as entrepreneurs who have doubts when it comes to doing business online. Let’s briefly look at both.

Online and offline business are safe and unsafe for the same reason – there are honest and dishonest people in the world. The internet does not create the risks but just makes it easier for dishonest people to con unsuspecting consumers by hiding behind the anonymity of the the digital space.

You do not state where you are from. I receive countless video clips from SA via WhatsApp that show the police raiding offline businesses of unscrupulous retailers who sell foodstuffs that expired last year as well as fake goods from fake bottled water to plastic rice. I hope that the South African subscribers are not going to send me more of those clips.

How can I make sure that I do not get conned as a consumer? Now that’s a great question with a very simple answer that I will illustrate with two examples. The first one happened about 10 years ago and the last one happened a week ago.

1. A friend whispering over the telephone: “Don’t tell anyone, we have won the lotto”

“I didn’t know that you play the lotto” I responded

“No, we don’t play the lotto. It’s not the SA lotto, it’s the UK lottery.

“Please don’t click on anything – that is a scam”

“You don’t understand, we were selected”

‘Lizzy, you don’t understand, you have not won anything. Please delete that email and never open such emails again.

This discussion went on with Lizzy adamant that she had won millions of pounds.

2. I received this from someone who got my email address from my website. Over the years I have received phone calls from Binary Options scammers with +44 numbers. They are the people who are aware that they work for companies that scam people. I have now received emails from two South Africans who are not even aware that this is a scam. They use their real email addresses and even give their real cell numbers.

Copied and pasted as is from the email: “Are you interested in binary option investment and earning formidable profits from it within 10 to 14 days, do you know binary option trading has really been of help to a lot of people worldwide helping them achieve their financial dreams and has made many people reach their various business aim and goals.

Invest with a legit platform with the education and guidelines of a trusted account manager/professional and earn formidable profits within 10 to 14 days depending on the plan you’re investing on, get your trading account well traded and managed with 100% trading software 85 to 95% accuracy, investment is 100% safe and payout is guaranteed.

You invest $500 earn $8,100

Invest $1,000 earn $16,200

Invest $2,000 earn $21,400

Invest $3,000 earn $37,600

Invest $4,000 earn $51,000a

Invest $5,000 earn $76,000

Send me message for more information on how to invest on whatspp …”

I hope that you have already figured out the two main reasons people get caught in scams and the fact that those reasons have nothing to do with the fact that those scams are online. If you get caught in such online scams you will get caught in offline scams too because this is driven by ignorance and not using common sense.

Ignorance is very costly. The lottery is taxation for not knowing statistics or to be exact, not knowing probability theory. The chances of getting 6 balls out of 49 right are 14million to 1 (rounded off) – that’s probability theory. I’m glad I paid attention in the statistics class). The chances of winning the lottery without buying any ticket are two – nothing and zero – that’s common sense.

The objective of the lottery is to make money out of ignorant people, thus, the lottery makes more money than it pays out. Why on earth would the UK lottery select someone from a foreign country who has not bought a single ticket? Why didn’t Lizzy and her husband ask themselves this simple question? Greed and laziness always override common sense. Ignorance - because this message was delivered on email, their ignorance of the simple fact that there is nothing magical about online took over.

Greed overrides common sense when you want to make a quick buck like $76 000 from a $5 000 in 10 -14 days. That’s laziness and greed – wanting instant effortless success. People who throw their hard earned money into the bottomless pit of Binary Options do so because they do not realise that there is nothing magical about online business. That’s ignorance.

Unscrupulous people who hide behind postboxes advertise bogus products like luck charms in newspapers classifieds. That is offline and the same gullible people who fall for those those scams throw their money into online scams.

I can hear you thinking okay I get it, do you have any other tips?

- Switch on your Common Sense

- Beware of greed and laziness

- Always treat unsolicited emails that you cannot even unsubscribe from with suspicion

- As with everything else, when in doubt ask

- Educate yourself for free online – I know about many scams that are doing the rounds in SA because instead of watching soapies or sending ‘Good morning’ Good evening’ ‘Good Monday’ WhatsApp messages or reading about so-called celebrities I read free online publications such as MyBroadband Daily Tech

Is it safe to do business online?

Contrary to popular belief, doing business online is not limited to ecommerce - selling products/services from a webshop.

I know people who have offline business like coaching or training or consulting face to face. They have online presence like a website, Facebook page, a LinkedIn account, blogs, e-books and they say they have nothing to do with doing business online. Safety is not the only reason that keeps people away from doing business online. I live in a country where one side of ecommerce (buying online) is part of the culture but I come across entrepreneurs who are sceptical about doing business online.

I know someone who has all of the above and even boasts that he has more than 4 000 Facebook friends. He has a problem finding clients for his workshops, tasks and books and he got very hot under the collar when I suggested online marketing. He said that he did not want to sell his books to people he had never met. This is the same dude who shares his life with 4 000 total strangers on a personal Facebook page. I think the reason he is against online marketing is that like many people, deep down he believes it is wrong to make a lot of money.

Even if you have an offline business you can reach more clients by marketing your services online. If you don’t, your prospective clients will be reached by those who market their services online. For example, as an online coach I have clients all over the world and I have no doubt all of them have coaches within a 10 km radius of where they live or work. If you have an offline business you should not take the people within a 5km radius from you for granted. They can be reached online by a competitor who is 30 km away and by countless online competitors. The fact that your business is offline does not make you immune from offline competition.

When you run an online business or use online marketing, the normal rules of life apply. People do not want to be conned and since they have heard of many online scams they will always be suspicious before you build a relationship of trust with the. Mike, I don’t know you. I don’t even know where you are from. All I know is the name and email address you used to subscribe. Ask yourself why you trust me. How did I build trust in myself as a person and in my services? If you want to be trusted, do the same. I will go into more detail as the series continues.

How do we build trust in personal and business relationships? It is in fact far easier than people imagine. Trust comes from consistently keeping promises – nothing more nothing less. People trust you when you consistently do what you said you would do, the way you said you would do it, when you said you would do it. If people do not trust you as person they have no reason to trust your products/services. This also applies the other way round – if people do not trust your products/services they will not trust you as a person.

Products/services also make promises. I recently bought a cordless vacuum cleaner. It promises that the battery lasts for a certain amount of time. If it does not last that amount of time, then the promise is broken and it is unlikely that I will buy that brand again. That applies to all appliances of the same brand and it also reflects on the retailer. Is that fair to the retailer, trust is not always objective – it also has to do with feeling betrayed so I will probably tar the retailer with the same brush. That is why as an entrepreneur you should be careful what you sell, what you promote and which brans you get associated with. I will go into more detail on that when I deal with the new gold rush called affiliate marketing.

It is very difficult and expensive to restore broken trust. I still remember this interesting statistic from decades ago when I first studied marketing: ‘A satisfied customer only tells 4 people but an unsatisfied one tell 10’. Social media has changed the rules of the game. Power to the people! Now an unsatisfied customer can tell the whole world with just one post.

What then should you do as an entrepreneur?

- Keep your promises

- Keep your promises

- Keep your promises

- As an entrepreneur you are your suppliers’ customer. What I said above about trust and consuming products/services online applies to you too and not only apply to retail customers.

As the Q & A service continues there will be more on how to succeed in online business.

What next?

Go back to the question on what got you to trust me and feel like you know me. Think of what you as an entrepreneur can do to achieve the same.

Next week’s topic

A continuation of last week's topic - great tips for getting more clients. Last week's link http://www.makheni.com/blog/7-great-tips-for-getting-more-clients.

Till next week

Makheni your Future Readiness Coach

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Makheni Zonneveld has extensive experience in helping organisations, teams, individuals and entrepreneurs with real transformation. She employs these communications tools: Online and face2face coaching, speaking, training, storytelling and writing.

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