Selling stuff online is harder than you think. Just because you have some items for sale on your website doesn’t mean people are going to magically start buying them. You can easily lay out a lot of money to design and launch an online store, so you need to think carefully on what a realistic return on your investment will be.

Even on the web, real estate’s value is largely determined by traffic. The more people who pass by, the more likely some of those people will buy something. Same for your site: more visitors increases your exposure to potential customers.

So think about how you’ll get people to “stop in” at your site. Will you buy ads on Google? Will you promote posts on your Facebook page? Will you use word of mouth in the real world to get people in the door online? Will you hire a SEO (Search Engine Optimization) expert? Any of these things could be right for your organization. But figuring out which can be a daunting task.

All of them, though, require putting in some serious thought about who exactly it is that you’re trying to reach online. I once asked this question to someone who had asked me to help start an online business, and his response was, “People who are surfing the web, of course!” But of the hundreds of millions of people surfing the web, which ones are likely to want a connection with you on the web?

For example, if you’re an agency providing services for the hard of hearing, you may answer the question, “We want to reach elderly people in nursing facilities.” And, while some of the better nursing facilities do offer online access for their residents, most of those people are probably not spending hours surfing the web. But their 57-year old daughters are. You might better focus on them and their needs, and let them provide you with an entry into their hard of hearing parents’ lives once you’ve gained their trust.

This isn’t a matter of scheming. It’s a matter of really being trustworthy. None of this happens if your website screams, “Help us!” It just comes across as desperate.

Online, just as in other areas of life, the primary focus is building relationships that expand everyone’s horizons. You do that online the same way you’d do it face to face. You take time. You listen. You are generous. And then, when you know what someone’s real needs are (not what you imagine they might be), you help.

Then, sometimes, you get paid.