If you take the time to peruse the web offerings of your local merchants by simply following the URL’s listed in traditional advertising, it won’t take long before you’re asking yourself the question, “Why don’t these businesses take their web site seriously?”
Ok, maybe you won’t ask yourself THAT question… perhaps for those without a “marketing mindset” the question you might ask would be along the lines of, “Why did this business spend MONEY in/on/with [insert traditional advertising venue here: radio, television, newspaper, billboard, direct mail] to send me to THIS website?!?!”
When it comes to the web, keep one thing in mind: no where are users more likely to be managed by expectations than on the web.
Credit goes out to Mark Riffey who got me started on this thought train with his post, Why don’t real estate agents take their websites seriously? Mark lives in a resort area where home buyers are likely to be dreaming and searching for their next home via the internet. So, he decided to take a virtual tour of the websites of local realty companies. During his virtual tour, he was baffled by the carelessness of many real estate “professionals” in his market when it came to crafting their web presence. After all, real estate professionals are selling their services of marketing your property… so reason would dictate that if there were a category of service professionals who have great online marketing, it would be Realtors. Mark found that wasn’t the case. Most of the sites he found were created by a large “do it yourself” company that provides cheap templates for Realtors to use in crafting their web sites. The sites he visited don’t offer any interactivity and many sites don’t even show photos of the property being advertised.
Unfortunately, it’s not just Realtors who don’t take their web presence seriously. Many small business owners in other categories fail to give their web presence the time and attention it deserves. Perhaps it’s merely a matter of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt), but I suspect there may be more to it than that.
I suspect that the at some level, the “problem” many business owners have when it comes to their website lies in their expectations.
Deep down, I suspect that many small business owners don’t EXPECT the web to play a significant role in their marketing efforts. Since their expectations are low, their willingness to invest the time and effort into learning how to use this potentially powerful marketing tool is low as well.
As a parent, I’ve learned that the expectations I set for my children determines their performance. There have been studies on the effect teacher expectations have upon student performance. Not surprisingly, time and again studeis show that students will “live up” to the expectations their teachers have for them. If human beings performance is affected this powerfully by the perceptions of authority figures… how much more powerful are those attitudes on something like a web presence, which has no will of it’s own?
Is it possible that web site success is merely a function of the owner’s expectations?
I’d have to just fallen off the turnip truck to think that the question of website performance being a function of expectations was indeed that easy. Since I’ve been doing this whole “advertising and marketing” thing in one form or another for more than 2 decades, I know that the answer is not the easy or simplistic.
I have personally seen that some clients have low expectations for their website and those expectations definitely come into play when it comes to creating an online presence. Many of my clients are blown away to learn the volume of traffic that a moderately successful web site attracts on a daily basis.
In a previous post, “The Biggest Marketing Mistakes Made by Small Business Owners” I shared some commonly held misconceptions by small business owners about their marketing. On of them was in many cases, in order to get 10 contacts from potential clients in one week, you’ll need to deliver your advertising message to over 1,000 tightly targeted prospects.
Many of my clients are taken aback hearing such figures. “WHAT?!?! I need to touch 1,000 people to get 10 to contact me?” Um… yeah… and that’s with a tightly targeted, carefully crafted creative and compelling marketing message.
However, on the other side of the fence, we have the business owner who, thanks to opening far too many “spammy” and MLM style email messages, has incredibly unrealistic expectations which run the in the other direction. Here’s a highlight from the SEO Igloo post on the subject, “Not Such Great Expectations – or – The Client Who Got Away” which shares a very common case of a “potential client contact”
1) Their hope was to sell a variety of unrelated stuff, most of it fiddly items in saturated markets like cell phone accessories. With over 13 million entires in Google’s index for the broad term cell phone accessories, we are looking at a market that is going to be borderline impossible for a small business owner with a limited budget to break into.
2) Their desires for their website was to look ‘cute’ with Flash graphics and lots of popups. This plan, if acted upon, basically spells out the death of this business idea. The only way I could think of a small business even beginning to crack into such a market would be with a very plain website, loaded with a huge inventory of compelling, longtail text articles, and designed with such clean, intuitive navigation that it could be effectively used by a sleepwalker or crawled by a bot on NyQuil. Choosing, instead, to trip up the bots and arrest any potential paying customer with flashing imagery and aggravating popups is simply the worst way a business owner could go in this competitive, challenging situation.
I love the wording used here: “in this competitive, challenging situation”. My experience with this type of contact is, had the conversation continued, this “potential client” would have next expressed a desire for such a website developed for a ridiculously modest fee. What’s really, really sad is that someone, somewhere is willing to give that potential client exactly what he/she is requesting instead of trying to educate the person, as the company above tried to do.
If yours is a market with any value at all… then your business is operating in a “competitive, challenging situation”. The more lucrative the market, the more challenging the competition will be. That is why everyone can’t be #1 in Google and why it follows that if your market is really lucrative, then it takes real Know HOW to rank on the first 4 pages of a really lucrative keyword, because everyone knows Google Rankings Drive Sales. I don’t think most small business owners are aware of just how much income a high ranking on Google for a lucrative keyword has the potential to generate. When there is the potential to get thousands of visitors EACH HOUR, things can get competitive. (See the Alan Boyer quote above.) As a result, it takes real focus to get a #1 ranking on any search engine for any term, I don’t care HOW long the “tail” is for that particular keyword.
That brings us full circle back to the whole “crafting creative and compelling content” gig and the fact that small business owners really have to work at getting more done by doing less because there aren’t enough hours in the day as it is for them to do all the things they have to do.
Which is why, I think that self hosted WordPress blogs ROCK as a primary web presence for the average small business owner are the KEY to increasing your small business happiness factor!