Modern successful entrepreneurs have become household names. Who can deny that the likes of Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg or Bill gates all had great business ideas that solved problems or made people’s lives easier or more enjoyable?In business it is often said that the first person into an untapped market will have success. But how many uptapped markets are there today and often the sheer cost of entering these markets is prohibitive.Traditionally, great business ideas would mean great expense. The cost of a ‘bricks and mortar’ business means spending money on rents, rates, staff, equipment, inventory etc. These are all items cost money and it is often this money that has to be spent before you even start selling your product or service to your potential customers.However, with the dawn of the ‘digital age’ and the incredible opportunity provided by the internet, great business ideas are much easier to put into action. Industry is becoming more information-intensive and less labour and capital-intensive. This means that the traditional barriers to great business ideas are being removed.The secret of great business ideasIf the internet is the place for great business ideas, the real secret is not to start inventing your own product or trying to take on the established businesses. Who really wants to compete with the huge online retailers or with start-up businesses that are funded, through venture capital, with millions of dollars?The online world of business is like the early gold-rush days of the 19th and early 20th century. In places like Australia, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, and the United States entrepreneurs would head off into the hills or the mines trying to find a few nuggets that would make them a fortune.However, it was not the people actually looking for the gold who made their fortunes in the gold rush. More wealth was created servicing the Gold Rush than from the gold that was discovered. It was the people selling supplies and providing services to the prospectors who made the real fortunes.And that is the secret to great business ideas. In other words, don’t dig for gold but sell the shovels. Don’t pan for gold, sell the pans instead. There have always been people with problems, wants, and needs. There will always be people creating solutions, products and services to meet these problems, wants and needs. And, most importantly, there will always be a need for people connecting these two groups of people and these people are the merchants.A merchant is business person who trades in products or services that were produced by others, in order to earn a profit when these are sold to somebody who wants or needs these products or services.Great business ideas for the modern entrepreneurThe modern merchant on the internet is known as an affiliate and affiliate marketing is one of the great business ideas of the modern age. The internet as a giant marketplace where people can come to buy and sell products. These products can be actual physical items or digital items that the buyer downloads. The online affiliate simply connects the buyer with the seller and gets paid a commission.Affiliate marketing is online business model where you, as a seller, promote the products or services of a merchant and get paid a commission when somebody buys the product or service from you. Affiliate marketing is a popular way for budding online entrepreneurs who are looking for great business ideas. You do not need any stock, you can sell what is currently popular and what people want and you don’t have to worry about any of the fulfillment or delivery of the product as the merchant does all this for you.The affiliate does not create or produce the product. He doesn’t stock, ship, or service it either. In most cases, the affiliate does not even have to create the marketing materials, or process the payment. All the affiliate does is connect the buyer with the seller and get paid a commission.ClickBank is a digital marketplace which sells products that the buyer can download instantly. It has paid out over 2 billion dollars in commissions in the last 10 years. If you had a tiny slice of that revenue does that count as one of the great business ideas?All of this is now possible thanks to the digital commerce. Once you have learned digital marketing as a skill-set, you will be able to write your pay cheque for life.