Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Saying goodbye to 2008, lets say goodby to some bad habits

If you build it, they will come. The famous quote from the film, Field of Dreams, became a rally call in the 90's and early noughties in the newly discovered "Web of Dreams". This is easily one of the biggest myths about owning a web business and selling on the web - and it's rampant.

Everyday I meet and talk to people who believe in this so fervantly that they refuse to listen to advice, no matter who gives it or why. They'd rather believe that as I work in SEO, clearly my advice must be biased and aimed at making a sale.This myth is strongly tied to the misbelief that a website is a marketing tool. Fact is, both statements are very wrong, even though 90% of people with little web experience probably believe it.

The worst thing about this myth is watching the slow realisation that dawns on the would-be Internet Business Owner as they watch the visitor stats that never seem to grow. It's painful because you've seen it 100 times and you really want to help.

Compounding this, we refuse to accept that if we're going to enter the web world, that we have to try to understand it. "I'm not technical" has become a standard gym-class excuse note for all manner of people throwing money at websites. Clearly building a web-business is just like having your car serviced - you go to a mechanic, get a price and job done. You don't need to know how your variable valve timing system works, he does. It's his problem.

People believe all too commonly that a website is a cheaper way to open a shop in O'Connell Street. It is a shop. And everyone knows that when you open your shop people come in the door. Can you build an e-Commerce site for €3,000? Certainly. And a very nice one at that. Can you kit out a new store in town for that? No, you certainly can't. Can you set up a serious retail store for less than €25k? Possibly, now that tradesmen aren't as expensive, but I wouldn't say you could do it for much less.

So why do people think they can setup a web-based business and take on Ryanair or Amazon for €2,000? Because they believe that their website is their business, shop and marketing tool rolled into 1. Add to that the next common myth suffered by many businesses and agencies - the Automatic right to Google #1!

That's right - so many companies, agencies, organisations and NGO's believe they have an automatic right to be number 1! That Goolge will just call them up and ask them where they'd like to appear.

New Golden Rule for 2009: If you want to get into business on the web, you've got to be prepared to understand how the web works for business AND how it doesn't. It's not about being "technical" (God I hate that) - its about being responsible to you, your business and your investment.

If you want to try your hand at an internet business, apart from whether or not there is space for your business or it's a good idea, know at least these things:

  1. Chances are if you build it, nobody will come
  2. You don't have an automatic right to be #1 or to be found at all!
  3. You need to go out and promote your website on the internet and off it
  4. You have to compete on the web, maybe even harder than if you had a store
  5. You may have to spend more on marketing it than you spent building it - this is because the startup costs web-store can be cheaper than a real store
  6. At least web marketing can be cheaper than traditional marketing (TV, Print, etc)
  7. You are going to have to write your own, unique, readable, interesting content
  8. You are going to have to connect
  9. You cannot hide behind the excuse of "I'm not technical" - because nobody cares. Understanding the web and social media, networking and marketing are not technical. Programming computers and assembling space rockets - that's technical. This is business.
  10. Forget branding. If People used SE's only to look up brands, we wouldn't need them. SEO is the opposite of brand-based marketing. It's used by people to launch products against the big brands as much as it's used to sell big brand products.
Best of luck to everyone setting up an online business in 2009 - Don't be afraid to ask !!!!

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