Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with its constant testing of the status quo when it comes to looking after the online needs of smaller business.
The reason is because the digital industry is dominated by specialists who are usually very good at practicing their own speciality, but aren’t so good at balancing the needs of their discipline with the needs of others.
For example, much attention is given to web design for small businesses, and yet technology, usability, scalability, writing, animation, search engine optimisation, social networking, email marketing, mobile marketing and integration with other systems are often more important for small businesses.
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Not to say design isn’t important, it is.
But how many designers will spread your hard earned budget on all aspects of your web presence rather than just design aspects? In reality, very few.
Big end of town well catered for
The issue is less prevalent for larger business.
Larger business tend to hire professional digital “agencies” that look after their online presence. These agencies will employ most of these specialists in house and have account managers and project managers to pull the disparate elements together – usually with very impressive but expensive results.
But these agencies won’t get out of bed for less than a month of the turnover of most small businesses.
Conflicting opinions proliferate
In the meantime, digital specialists are bombarding the blogosphere about every topic that can affect smaller business. They often mean well with their advice, but end up confusing the Bejesus out of small business owners.
The result is that a smaller business operator hearing the thunderous noise about the merits of social networking may approach a social networking specialist to help promote their business.
Which is all well and good, but that specialist is often sending traffic to a website that needs more than a touch of TLC, bouncing visitors away from it faster than a speeding bullet, wasting the social networking investment in the process.
And as we have discussed here, social networking may well be the wrong strategy for that kind of business anyway.
But these dilemmas aren’t new in business.
Health a good precedent
The health profession has been dealing with it for centuries. Hence the emergence of the tried and true model of a General Practitioner as, in the main, the first port of call for any health issue you are having.
General practitioners resolve most issues themselves, and refer patients to a specialist if further treatment is required.
This approach means that we essentially have a health “partner” who is charged with guiding us through the various treatment possibilities.
And now the web industry is spawning a similar model.
Now small business operators can call on a web generalist, often called a “webmaster”, in much the same way they can a local GP. The webmaster can take the all important holistic view of their online presence.
Still on training wheels
Admittedly in the absence of decades of industry standards, these generalists may lean towards one area of expertise over another.
For example, they may be technically proficient, but know less about the driving force of most digital activities, marketing.
Or alternatively, they may be stronger on the analytical side than the creative side.
Either way, as the industry continues to diversify and become even more complex, the need for this kind of business partner will make more and more sense – at least to smaller business operators who are in danger of being so overwhelmed that they do nothing at all.
Which is a risky strategy in these increasingly digital times.
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.