As a virtual assistant I enjoy business relationships with my clients, most of whom are highly Internet savvy. But as I’ve stated here in the past, I have come across many small business owners in my career who show a great deal of reluctance to put any effort at all into building an on-line presence. I’ve actually had discussions with small business owners about the subject and always walk away shocked at how little respect some of them have for doing business on-line. True, many of these business people are a generation older than I am, and for many of them the idea of an on-line community is as foreign as setting up shop on Mars is to us. But in today’s economy, lack of familiarity with the Internet is a pretty poor excuse for business owners not to be using it to grow and possibly keep their business alive. Below are five excuses I’ve encountered from small business owners, particularly service business owners and why it’s hurting their business.
- They think that having a website, any website, is having an on-line presence. To them a website is simply an electronic version of a print advertisement. They totally miss out on the fact that Internet users today are looking for more than just an advertisement. They want to experience just what that business does and who is behind doing it. They want information that will help them answer their questions. The Internet is not going away people, it’s not even the wave of the future, it’s the here and now. This is how people get their information now and if you’re not giving them what they want, they’ll find it somewhere else.
- They fail to see a market on-line. Incredibly, there are individuals out there that don’t understand the sheer numbers of people they can reach on-line. They are dyed in the wool, old fashioned marketing people who don’t feel that you can market to someone unless you’re face to face. Granted, there are instances when it doesn’t hurt to provide face to face, hand shaking contact. But it’s not the most successful means of marketing anymore. In fact, the time and energy it requires provides very little Return On Investment. Which would you rather have, two or three clients you landed through that Chamber event who require you to bend over backward to keep them as clients or hundreds of clients who seek you out because they are specifically looking for what you’re offering? Don’t believe me on the sheer volume of people seeking information on-line? In July 2008 Google hit 235 million searches a day. Trust me, your area of business has plenty of people searching for information and if you’re not doing something actively to be found in those searches, shame on you.
- They don’t understand it, don’t feel they can do it, so write it off. The fear of the unknown has kept many people with great ideas frozen while someone else overcomes the fear and becomes successful. The secret is, you don’t have to do it all yourself. If you don’t know how to build a website, write a blog, tweet on twitter or create a Wiki there are people like me out here who do. I can hear you whining now. “But that costs money!” I bet it’s less than the cost of that newspaper or magazine ad, or the radio spot you purchased. And just how many clients did you gain from those advertisements? Did it cover the cost? Exceed it? The money you invest in making your business known on-line will be worth every penny. The more well known you become, the more people will begin seeking you out. Besides, it’s not as expensive as you think it is. Honest. I know about these things.
- They really haven’t heard of, or seen the results of, on-line marketing. Many small business owners and marketers tend to run in circles. Social circles that is. They go to the same events with the same people and businesses over and over again. This is probably why they aren’t hearing about all the businesses that have become hugely successful by marketing on-line. Because lets be honest, the people that making money by marketing on-line probably don’t go to those events very often…if at all. They probably don’t have time with all the on-line marketing and new business they are having to take care of. Take the blinders off. Have you opened an issue of Entrepreneur magazine lately? Or better yet gone to their website? Stop judging all business by your small circle of marketing contacts.
- They lack the time to devote to an on-line presence. Between keeping website content up to date, blogging, twittering, etc, how are you going to have time to actually do business for your clients? I have one word for you. Outsource. You probably can’t do it all, especially once the clients start rolling in. So get someone to help. And that person doesn’t have to be an employee. Yes, I’m singing the praises of virtual assistance again. After all, that’s what I do. But it really is an excellent way to get expert help while saving yourself the additional costs and concerns that come along with employees. You can outsource the on-line marketing tasks, or if you’d prefer, you can get someone to help you provide service to your clients. Lack of time is no excuse.
In this recession atmosphere, allowing these five excuses to keep you from getting your business on-line could very well spell the end of your business. The good news is, if you’re willing to learn and do what needs to be done to provide your business with an on-line presence, all of that old fashioned hand shaking and bending over backward to get business will be a thing of the past. Give your market what they want on-line and they’ll be beating a path to your door.