"A lot of the tactics and strategies in the Web marketing realm are not appropriate for many small business owners."
There, I said it!
This post will probably get me blacklisted at the Web marketing conferences on grounds of heresy. Whatever. They are not my clients.
Instead, I am talking directly to small business owners and managers, as a fellow business owner for over 30 years.
While I do provide various Web-related services to my clients, I always take the business owner's perspective first. The Web is a complex maze to most business owners, and they are busy trying to keep the cash flowing and production humming.
They need some guidance from someone who is on their side. So here we go.
The Unspoken Truth In Web Marketing
To repeat: A lot of the tactics and strategies in the Web marketing realm are not appropriate for many small business owners.
That might be due to the cost, the time required, the technical complexity, the skill required, or the lack of a reliable return-on-investment.
This thinking runs contrary to the many voices in the Web marketing industry that proclaim that you must "do it all!" Or at the least, you should be doing whatever service some expert is selling at the moment. Otherwise, you are guilty of the sin of leaving piles of money on the table.
It is a well-honed skill in Web marketing to use the "guilt of inaction" as a sales tool against an uninformed business owner. So let's relieve your feelings of guilt, starting now.
STOP and THINK!
Let's back away from the hype and analyze some of this. Along the way, I will present some hypothetical examples that might help you relate to your own business situation.
Please bear with me, as this is a lengthy article, but if you are at all interested in your own bottom line, I think you will find it to be very engaging. We'll cover these issues in a way that gets very little airplay out here.
I do read a lot about this subject, and I am not aware of many examples of Web marketing gurus telling business owners to use restraint. That runs counter to their goal, which is, of course, to sell you something.
First – What's Your Full Production Capacity?
Before spending any additional money on ANYTHING with regard to Web marketing, a small business owner needs to determine what their full production capacity is with their current assets, and what percentage of that is being deployed right now.
If you are consistently operating at or near full production capacity and you have no plans to add any more, then you can probably skip this whole discussion, go back to running your business, and conveniently forget about all of this. You won the war.
Example: You are a self-employed locksmith, in business for 20 years, with one truck and a small shop, working in medium-sized metro area. You are as busy as you like to be, nearly every day.
Solution: You probably just need a one page website so people can find you on the Web. Just make sure that your website "tells" the search engines (in plain text), what services you provide and where you do it. Be specific. If you do that, you will probably rank near the top in Google and Bing for "Locksmith [your city and suburbs]".
You really don't need an SEO guru to accomplish that. If you don't rank well in search after covering the basics, maybe you need some very modest help to get you there. You certainly don't need "monthly SEO maintenance" from anyone.
Then put your domain name on your business cards and be done with it. Whatever you've done in your career to get to this comfortable point, keep doing it. Stop worrying and enjoy life.
Analysis: There are tens of thousands of small business owners in the USA who are well established in their communities. They get regular business from other business owners, past clients and friends that keep them very busy, all with minimal marketing effort. These could be painters, dentists, lawyers, and other contractors. The list goes on and on.
Closing Summary: If you are operating at or near your target production capacity and you expect that to continue, then spending a bunch of money and time on a wide variety of web marketing tasks might sound like you are "covering all the bases", but at what cost to you and your sanity? Count your blessings, and save your money.
Granted, not everyone is at full capacity…
Crunch the Numbers
OK – maybe you could use a little more business. Some form of Web marketing might help. Let's run some numbers.
Maybe you are using only 80% of your current production capacity. If you bumped that up to 100%, then that extra 20% in gross revenue sure looks enticing.
If you'd fill that capacity with some online advertising, and earn an extra $40,000 in top line sales income, at a 25% marginal net profit, then that's $10,000 in additional profit. Sounds good so far.
Example: Since you already rank well for search engine traffic, let's say you've been advised to try Facebook ads or maybe some kind of pay-per-click (PPC) program, like Google AdWords, and it works. You can prove that you are bringing in some new business from it, and maybe even turning down some of the low-value leads.
Analysis: Let's say you ramped up gradually and you now spend $8000 annually on Facebook ads (~$650 per month) to get that additional revenue. Remember, your NET profit from the additional income (before advertising costs) was $10,000. You've now made only $2000 on a marketing project that probably consumed a lot of your "free" time in management and oversight.
However, if you spent $10,500 on those ads, instead of $8000, then you just lost $500 while making your life a lot more complicated.
These big ad platforms can bring in new business. Google and Facebook are huge businesses, for that very reason.
Yet margins can get very thin when you start using these online ad platforms. Just like print advertising, you are paying for views, or clicks. It takes a lot of views and clicks to generate a sale. So a lot of companies use these tools as "loss leaders" to build their client base.
Who Can Benefit: If you are a new business with no clients, or you have a lot of unused production capacity or you can expand capacity as needed very easily, then marketing on the Web with ads might be the right place to go. After all, you do need people to know that you are there, and the Web can be a lower cost way to reach the right people. But plan carefully, limit your spending, and review the results.
Remember this. If you are not willing to spend your time carefully tracking your results by digging into your website traffic stats and doing some net profit analysis, then you can easily will spend yourself into a loss condition with this stuff.
Takeaway: All Web marketing costs money and time. The incremental increase in revenue that it gets you also has more cost on the production side, in order fulfillment. Always examine the cost vs. the marginal profit that you will earn.
Like this post? Go ahead and share it!
Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of this post where I will discuss your market, competition, and marketing strategy.