The Internet has revolutionised almost all aspects of life. Even if you have never actually been online, it’s impossible to ignore its influence in the media and the technology we use. Billions of people use it each day to communicate, buy products and find out what’s happening in the world. It’s so integral to modern life that many countries now recognise Internet access as a fundamental human right.
So it begs the question, why are some businesses so reticent about marketing themselves online?
There’s a world of opportunity out there and yet some still don’t even want to test the water. Of course there is no guarantee of success, nor can you be assured of getting a full return on any investment; but a fear of the unknown shouldn’t hold you back. As long as you have the resources, a little expertise and plenty of enthusiasm, you’re already half way there.
Let’s look at a few of the possible reasons for why businesses may hold off from launching online:
We’re doing fine already, why do I need a website?
If you’re receiving regular custom and making healthy products without any form of online presence, a certain amount of reluctance towards investment in an unproven environment is understandable. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is justifiable.
Sure, you genuinely may not want to rock the boat or perhaps you feel comfortable with the size of your business as it is; that is completely understandable. Not everybody wants to grow ad infinitum and it would be wrong to assume that everybody is chasing untold riches. However, if you are in the process of expanding your company or are looking at ways in which you can grow your audience, the Internet ought to be right at the top of your agenda.
Even if you’re a local business offering goods or services to your surrounding community, there is always room for more exposure. Who knows where it might lead? Tiny start-ups have blossomed into major global enterprises having taken their ideas online. Sure, sending products to North America, Asia or Australia might seem alien at first, but as your orders swell, your business – including stock, staff and suppliers – can grow accordingly.
Of course that’s all extremely hypothetical, only a select few will ever manage to achieve global success; however, there are many degrees of success that come between abject failure and the next big thing. Even if you only ever achieve a modest level of exposure and income to support your offline efforts, then it will pay for itself. If you’re fully online of course, then you will be looking for more in the way of returns and probably investing a little extra too. Essentially, it’s an economy of scale.
But I don’t know anything about the Internet, what can I possibly do?
Learning is rarely easy, but it is almost always rewarding. This is certainly no different when it comes to online marketing for businesses.
The beauty of the Internet is that it is still a relatively new medium. As a result, everybody is constantly adapting and learning to keep up with the latest techniques. Therefore, no matter when you decide to take the plunge, you are never going to be too far behind. Sure, there are some basics that you’ll need to pick up and a few mistakes that will be made, but it’s impossible to know everything about something that is in a constant state of evolution.
The sooner you start to learn, the quicker you can progress. While you may choose to outsource certain elements, such as copywriting or SEO, increasing your own knowledge is still hugely important – if only for your own peace of mind.
It’s really expensive, isn’t it?
While there will always be costs involved in marketing your business online, the level of investment is entirely your choice. So while some pay thousands to have the full package, including a professionally built and designed site with branding thrown into the mix, others prefer to start small.
While a website should always be functional and professional in its appearance, there are cheaper freelancers available and even free templates if you should so wish. It should always give visitors a good first impression, but that doesn’t always require a massive outlay.
In terms of marketing; well, that’s also your call. As mentioned earlier, it’s possible to set up profiles on business directories and social sites freely and easily. You don’t need to be an expert to fill in a few basic details, just as long as you get listed in the right places. Equally, if you’re looking to optimise your site, there’s nothing to stop you doing this yourself. Again, it’s all about economy of scale.
For instance, if you’re in an extremely competitive sector and want to make some early headway, you’re going to have to push resources towards achieving the desired results. Whether that’s online training for your team or outsourcing to an agency, it’s going to cost money. However, if you’re happy to build at a more organic pace and maintain control, then it’s certainly possible to do it all yourself. Whatever happens, time, money and, in most cases, both will be needed to get your online marketing off the ground. How that is split though is entirely up to you.
I’ll be open to criticism and legal complications, won’t I?
The Internet can be an unforgiving place. If you make a big enough slip up, somebody is likely to pounce. Equally, there are hackers and snake oil salesmen who are out to make money and do damage. However, this shouldn’t put you off. With security in place and a customer-focused approach to business, you can fend off most potential issues.
The good thing about being online is that you can respond to criticism if it should arise. While you don’t want to pre-empt difficulties, there’s certainly no harm in safeguarding against future issues. For instance, if someone were to take to Twitter to complain about the service they received, rather than contacting you directly, it can quickly gain traction and others may contribute to the conversation. If you already have an established profile on the social platform, then you can quickly identify these messages and contact them directly – taking the conversation away from the public pages.
You don’t need to be online to face criticism on the Internet, nor is legal red tape and bureaucracy the sole reserve of online legislation. The environment may be different, but the same fundamental rules of good honest service and upholding quality standards still remain.
So if you’re still undecided about going online, now may be the time to put those doubts to one side. There are risks and costs can mount up, but it’s still one of the most versatile and effective marketing platforms around.
With a good strategy, a little hard work and some skills training, you should have more than enough to get started on the road to online success. Don’t run before you can walk though, and be careful on whose advice you take. Following leading online marketing and SEO blogs should keep you up-to-date with the latest news, while professional training courses will help to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of the environment, as well as the unique challenges and rewards it has to offer.
This Guest Post has been provided by, GBO Training, a website dedicated to helping businesses expand and grow online.