Over the last couple of days, I’ve exchanged emails with a number of people who are frustrated with technology. I can’t tell you how many people tell me, “oh I’m not techie” and kind of virtually throw up their hands. Unfortunately, these same people also want to market their products and services online. The Internet is a great tool for marketing many things, but like any form of marketing, there is a learning curve.
As someone who has been online for a long time, on any given day I’ll hear about all the things I “should” be doing right this second or my business is going to go belly up. Right now for example, the big thing is social media and using Facebook. Before that it was article marketing, podcasting, and blogs. The problem is that as soon as a technology becomes a fad, an online marketer becomes an “expert” and starts harping on the latest, greatest thing that you HAVE to do right now (hype this, hype that, hype something else). Unfortunately, in some cases, these hyped-up ideas totally ignore the basics of business and can turn into gigantic time sinks.
For those of us who have been exposed to the technology industry for many years, it’s much easier to shut out a lot of this “noise” because it’s been this way forever. (Remember when Windows 3.1 came out and DOS was dead?) But for people just getting started it can feel overwhelming, like everyone else “knows everything” about technology and you don’t know anything. For example, here’s something someone said to me yesterday relating to her options for a specialized type of Web site:
“I am in “tech advice” hell because I don’t know enough to make an informed decision.”
From my years as a Web designer/developer, I know she is not alone. This situation is a huge problem for entrepreneurs. Many experts suggest a “turnkey” or “business in a box” type solution (for which they of course get a kickback). Turnkey packages are fine for some situations, but many people have good reasons for not going with a particular product or approach. There is no “one-size fits all” when it comes to business, particularly Internet business.
For example, if someone tells me again how I “should” be using a particular shopping cart system, I may scream. This cart is the same one that is too stupid to be able to tell when someone is on more than one email list, so your customers get duplicate emails if they have purchased more than one product. No piece of technology is perfect. Ever. (When you accept that reality, you’ll feel better, I promise.)
The key to dealing with the ever-changing nature of technology is to go back to basics. As an entrepreneur, you need to figure out what is right for your business and formulate your own strategy. To start, look at your requirements and the features that are most important to you. For example, if you need to add a shopping cart to your site, your price could range from $0 to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on your requirements.
Also realize that you may need to learn some terminology. If you don’t know what an “affiliate program” is, you don’t know if you need that feature in your shopping cart. Once you have your requirements set, only then can you start evaluating options, reviewing what the “experts” have to say, and separating the hype from reality to determine the real business value of the technology.
You should consider business value when it comes to the “latest and greatest” technology-related marketing methods as well. For example, contrary to what you may hear, social media is not new. Facebook and its ilk are merely the latest way for people to connect online. Before that we had forums and discussion groups. Before that, we had face-to-face networking. All of these marketing approaches make sense at a certain level because of one basic business fact: people are more likely to buy from people they know and like. Whether you use Facebook or go to an in-person networking meeting to get to know people, that basic principle remains the same.
However, for certain types of businesses, networking isn’t a good use of time. Other marketing methods yield a much greater return. For example, you wouldn’t spend thousands of dollars advertising in a magazine that has nothing to do with your products or services. It’s equally stupid to spend your time on social networking sites if they are not where your customers are and it’s taking time away from other things you could be doing to make sales. Time is money, so you always want to use it wisely! You should be spending time on things you are good at and enjoy. Then delegate or outsource the rest.
The bottom line is don’t be swayed by hype and blindly follow some “party line.” Think strategically to determine what is right for you and your business.
Is Technology Bringing You Down?
Learn about marketing your business or Web site in our book, Web Business Success: the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Web Sites That Work. This book is the book you need if you have been thinking of starting an online business or adding an online component to your existing bricks and mortar business. Targeted at business owners (not propeller heads), the book is free of gratuitous jargon and “geek speak.” Plus it includes niceties like a glossary and an index, so you can look up nerdy terms you run across later.