As a specialist in the smaller business sector, I get to hear all manner of reasons as to why small business operators aren’t progressing their online presence.
“We don’t think online will work for us”, “we prefer personal service” and “we tried it and it didn’t work” are all common retorts when it comes to not investing in ‘digital’.
Much of the resistance is around the business owner’s own computer literacy.
To a degree that’s understandable. It’s difficult to throw your hard earned cash at something you know very little about. It’s also not particularly wise.
But I often wonder if the digital industry is not doing themselves any favours by blinding their potential customer with science.
It’s about results
Sure there is a whole lot of new technology that is underpinning the digital world, but at the end of the day it’s results that count and they are essentially unchanged.
As we bang on about in this blog constantly, the very first thing to understand is that ‘digital’ is predominantly a marketing discipline, not a technology one.
Sure it is delivered using technology, but the end game is about marketing.
Your whole digital presence is to deliver sales, conversions, leads and enquiries. There is certainly nothing new about these goals. They’ve been around since business has.
So fundamentally, how a business goes about these goals is kind of irrelevant.
You do need to have some idea of what you are spending your money on but all the science in the world is useless unless it’s going to deliver these goals.
Time is still money
The other massive benefit of digital is productivity gain. Because the more the customer can help themselves to your product or at least information about it, the less physical time you have to spend with them.
For those who enjoy the physical interaction with customers, that news may not be good. But when you consider that a good and seamless web presence can attend to up to thousands, or in the case of the big players millions, of customers simultaneously, that physical interaction becomes a whole lot less important.
While we all have our individual preferences for dealing with customers, from a business perspective our own preferences are really irrelevant.
It all comes back to that well worn fundamental of business: provide your services the way your customer wants to access them. Because if you don’t, your competitor surely will.
Giving control to your customers
With this in mind, it’s really your job to provide customers with the tools they want to be able to buy from you.
If they want to purchase online, let them. If they want to enquire online, let them. If they want to ‘chat’ instead of phone, let them. If they want to stay in touch by way of an e-newsletter or social network, let them.
Because the less control you give the customer, the greater the invitation to go elsewhere. Which comes back to your own level of technical competency.
Who you gonna call?
If you feel you are lacking technically, there is literally no shortage of assistance available to you. At the basic end there are ‘virtual assistants’ who can organise things for you affordably.
Higher up the chain there are ‘webmasters’ or ‘digital producers’ that can pretty much run your entire online presence, allowing you to get on with what you do best.
You might even hire your own digital director or manager to run your online world for you.
The more things change…
It’s really no different to other advertising media.
Nobody expects you to be able to create or broadcast a radio or television advertisement on your own. The creative and technical skills needed are just too advanced to be able to do this professionally.
Despite the emphasis on DIY in the digital world, it may just suit you better to have someone else manage it for you.
Provided it delivers the results you need, the actual person managing it is irrelevant.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.