As much as I enjoy it, I’d be lying if I said that creating websites and other digital assets for small business operators was a walk in the park.
In fact, the opposite is true.
Providing digital communication services for smaller business operators is in fact one of the more challenging career paths you can choose.
It’s all well and good when your client is on their third, fourth or later digital project because they have well and truly got their ‘sea legs’ and have come to understand what’s involved.
But if it’s one of the first digital communications projects you can expect that much of your time will be spent educating the client around the many and varied components of creating a professional website or digital marketing campaign.
New kids on the digital block
Even more challenging if they haven’t created professional marketing materials of any sort, like a brochure, a radio ad or anything more than a quarter page local newspaper ad.
It simply takes considerable time, effort, skill and consequently, cost to get a truly professional and effective result.
Larger business typically don’t have this issue. So specialised are larger business employees that they are typically well-versed in managing the various complexities of a communications project.
So provided you don’t stray too far from standard project practice, you can’t go too far wrong.
But if you are about to embark on your first professional website, here are the types of surprises you might be in for, be they good, bad or downright ugly.
1. Quality costs
Most smaller business operators have been reasonably exposed to the various creative components of a professional website such as writing, photography, artwork and so on. But relatively few are familiar with the time and cost associated with achieving a professional – as distinct from amateur, result.
Take photography for example. We all can now take a snapshot from our mobile phones so their value has become somewhat commoditised. However, anyone who has ever had a professional photographer spend the time and effort required to get a professional result knows that it’s far more than pointing and clicking.
The same goes for all creative aspects of your website.
2. No set and forget
Smaller business operators typically prepare and arrange a promotional piece or campaign periodically, perhaps every few years. But the internet doesn’t sit still for that length of time.
The web is virtually heaving with brand new content every minute of the day. That means that if a visitor to your website or social network doesn’t see much change since the last time they visited, they may well be disappointed or get the impression that you are either slow or sloppy – two flaws that might cost you their business.
Small business operators can take some time to get their heads around just how much time and/or money is required to create and promote regular content.
As mentioned above, websites are far more complex than the bulk of traditional small business promotional projects. That often overwhelming convergence of marketing, creative, technical and co-ordination expertise is enough to dissuade even the most experience business operator.
The result is a journey not unlike a marathon, where the weakest simply don’t go the distance.
4. What do you mean ‘news’?
The notion of ‘news’ is commonplace in larger business. They typically have teams of marketing, writing and publicity professionals constantly coming up with new angles and/or offers to pitch to both the media and customers directly.
But this constant flow of new information about your business, particularly in news-hungry social media, is foreign to smaller business who are far more familiar with the set and forget methods outlined above.
5. Customers from everywhere
One of the real penny-dropping moments for a first time website owner is when they get a sale or even inquiry from a location well outside their normal catchment area – sometimes the other side of the world and sometimes not even an English-speaking region.
Suddenly, they understand the notion of the world being their oyster.
6. Adwords aren’t for everyone
Even some 15 years after their introduction, ‘pay per click’ style advertising, as offered by search engines and other online advertising media, are still fascinating to most small business operators.
As the closest thing to the familiar Yellow Pages style of advertising, most smaller businesses have at least given Adwords et al a shot, only for many to come away disappointed. Whilst the notion of paying for a response instead of a supposed ‘view’ like most traditional media is far fairer and more accountable to many, the low barrier to entry mean that pretty much every competitor they have is competing for the customer’s eyeballs and subsequent click, and consequently driving up its price.
There are still lots of excellent niches to be found in Adwords, but they may take some time, effort and price to identify and make good return on Investment.
No industry embraces and spews forth jargon like the digital communications industry. Just keeping up with the latest catchphrase or terminology can consume a fair chunk of your week before you know it.
Despite being challenging at first, in the right hands digital projects do get easier over time and will eventually prove an ally in attracting and managing new business, so its worth the blood, sweat and tears.
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.