For quite a few years the web has become easier and cheaper.
And there is a consensus that being online is necessary for a business to thrive and even to simply continue existing.
So what stops people from getting a website or use the web more?
This is what I am trying to figure out by meeting successful small business owners.
Some have decided not to use the web beyond email,
some others have gone the whole distance to eCommerce and cloud accounting.
First some personal observations
The nature of the business is and is not important in the decision.
Some business have nothing to show, but they have a website.
Conversely some business have lots to show, but have no website.
Some businesses showcase their brand, while some showcase their products.
Some businesses have a Facebook page, some have a shopfront, some have a shop…
There is no clear correlation between the technicity of businesses and their web adoption.
In some cases, web adoption is a necessity (art galleries and showrooms).
In some cases, web adoption is only a marketing channel (Ralph’s former employer)
In some cases, the web is a sales channel (example fashion).
In some cases, the web is the delivery channel (example music, video,reporting…)
In some cases, the web is a product or service pre-requisite (Atlasssian)
- The nature of the business does not count as much as the owner’s brand’s perception. Good examples are cars and art.
One strategy is to push the product front and centre and adopt a mass market approach (Toyota…objective, price and features driven).
Another strategy is to place the customer front and centre and adopt an exclusive market approach (Mercedes…subjective, feelings oriented)
At face value, core products can be equivalent (chassis, hull, wheels, engine…), but the actual product, its price and sale is very different.
- The web is not as much a marketing channel as a media for a marketing strategy.
Depending on what one’s website says, different marketing strategies can be supported. For example “AbInitio” is super tech, but the marketing approach is one of exclusivity almost to the point of secrecy, while Microsoft’s approach is one of mass market for most things except a few (example MS dynamics).
Most open source projects are mass market to the extreme, the code, the documentation, the comments and discussions are all “out there” sometimes without even moderation…
- The web is a multi-factor form of advertising
The “website” is the equivalent of a shop front, it must provide an amenable public image of the business and entice customers inside.
In the real world, location is everything. A mediocre restaurant in the CBD will perform better than a good one in an industrial zone.
In the digital world, you “bring the street to the shop”, with traffic…
Traffic is generated by searchable content of interest. A site must have searchable content. If you sell art, you must have art related content. When content is not searchable per se (example a video) it must be accompanied by text or meta data containing the necessary searchable items to leads to it.
While the landing page is a shop front, each page is an aisle. It needs to have an underlying theme (product category), still represent the business brand and be visual as the web.
The website is part of the whole web, so links must be provided to find the website from everywhere. Example, if you want to build a shack at the back of your garden, chances you are going to google or youtube it.
The website is a medium for people to talk to each other about things they like (example expedition centre is a way for Land Rover and Drive About people to talk about their favourite subject…People talk using social media and can share a reference to the website to substantiate their arguments)
- A google channel is not a bad option to showcase one’s activity and provide a link to one’s business. In fact any searchable video channel is good for it (Daily motion…others). All that can be shared with social media as well.
None of these things cost much (or anything).
So what can stop a business person?
Mostly facing unpleasant prospects.
Running a business is a time consuming exercise, each new work load needs to be weighted against an outcome for the business. If you fare well without the web there is no compelling reason to change anything.
- TIME again.
If you struggle as a business, you can be either very idle or working increasingly hard for diminishing returns. This is not ideal to find time to spend on a web strategy.
- MONEY – cash flow
Business people understand that investments are not expenses.
They are also acutely aware of the importance of cash flow, especially when disposable assets (cash, inventory…) are limited.
- MONEY – return on investment
As a business person, you have a choice between spending a buck to earn two and spending the same to have a web page.
That only works if the web page returns/saves/protects you two dollars…
A business person will think beyond the web.
While easy to use software is great, it does not provide marketing or publishing skills. These are also workloads therefore indirect costs. And while one might have the skills and resources to deliver on a certain amount of products and services, the same may not be true if you double it…By the same token, every sale result is a number of administrative tasks for which scalable process exists.
What can you do alone? With your employees? With trusted suppliers?
What can you do now (already)? What can you do after (in one month..in one year…)?
- PANDORA BOX
If I open that can of worms…what comes next?
Digital this, web that, mobile app…How much for all this?
Technology is good to use. But that’s not what I do.
- NO DRIVE FOR GROWTH
The idea that a business must grow is a common fallacy.
Some businesses just stay at their size forever and the owner is happy with it.
You don’t change something that works, repeatability is a business person’s best friend or worst enemy.
You keep on doing what works and you stop doing what does not.
It is good however to let people know what you do. To reinforce the business image (where do you get a burger? what do you what to drink? Where do you buy that pair of jeans? Where do you get your tools from?) or to alter it.
- MARKETING OCEAN – How many channels do I need
Print, News papers, Radio, TV, SMS, Email, Road Shows, Exhibitions, Conferences…
Web, mobile, social media…Where do I find the time?
- MARKETING SWAMP – REFLECTION ABOUT THE PRODUCT AND THE CUSTOMER
It can be that the customers have made that work rather than the business owner.
“I will get that boat from David”. They can also be the main marketing channel by word of mouth. In that case, success may happen in spite of the owner, who is aware of it and is concerned about “stuffing it up” by changing something they don’t understand but which they benefit from. That is actually wise to a degree.
Rhymes with ignorance. A business owner can “know what I am talking about”.
For example, one can know all about renting DVDs…or making great pizzas.
Comes change, a new competitor, a new delivery channel, a new sales channel…
And no one comes in anymore…