Is Web Marketing Worth the Investment?

Downtown-Coeur-dAlene-Coeur-dAlene-Resort-and-marinaOwning a small business is no easy feat. If you grew up in a tourist town like I did, you come to understand this even just by simple observation.

One spring day, you’re walking down main street and you suddenly notice a new shop. It has a newly painted rustic sign, contemporary interior, and an aesthetic display window. You nod in its direction and think: Its got potential.

As May and June approach, downtown Coeur d’ Alene explodes with the all-too-predictable demographics: roadtrippers passing through, snow-birds, and beach bums with longboards. College students that are home for the summer; their grandparents visiting wearing visors, fanny packs, and Hawaiian shirts. Middle-aged couples trailing the jetskis that have been sitting in their shed all year, large families with a boat and half a dozen kids, and all the locals in between that appear to be spending every waking hour they can away from their house and out on the town.cda

The business booms. Profits climb. Employees work overtime to reorder and restock the products that are at a seemingly insatiable demand in an attempt to accommodate the sudden influx of customers.

Then, the summer ends. Tourists go back to where they came from, and so does their money. The locals settle down for the looming winter. The once hectic business grows desolate. Mere months later, you see the “For Lease” sign replace the once brilliant lettering, and watch as the windows board up over the former eye-catching display. It is sad, you concede, but it is just one of hundreds.

Does any of this sound familiar?

My town is not so different from countless all over the world. Whether a city’s economy is fueled by tourism, education, or agriculture – in and through it all, how does a small business stay afloat when its primary source of stimulation depletes?

The Numbers

Young mixed race woman smiling while standing in the door of her cafe with her arms folded proud to be the owner of a small business

Small business success rates have improved significantly since the Recession. So often it was claimed that only 2 out of every 10 small businesses survive their first five years, but that number has notably risen. The updated statistic is now about 50% of businesses succeed the first five years. And about one third – so, over half of that half – survive ten years or more. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

While sure, these numbers look like better odds nowadays, a 50/50 chance still does not console everyone worried about failure. It is like blindly answering a True or False question, or playing a game of Russian roulette with only two people.

With that said, the word “failure” can be ambiguous. Some companies benefit from switching to being home-based. Some close while they are ahead to re-invest into something greater that ends up benefiting them far more than their original prospect. And while these may look like failure from the outside looking in, it can end up being a better route for everyone involved.

In this day and age, providing a service that is not mandatory must take extra steps in marketing. Meaning, unless you are an independent accountant, agent, attorney, plummer, realtor, or anything of that sort – your service, trade, or product is not necessary for civilian survival. (Even if it is, you still must put yourself out there, outshine the competition, and appear creditable!) This is all to say, very few businesses anymore can afford to be exclusively by referral.

The Evolution of Advertising

In the 1970s, marketing experts determined that the average American was exposed to 500 advertisements every day. In 2016, that number has multiplied by ten. Thanks to internet, satellite TV, mobile devices, and more, it is estimated that we are subjected to over 5,000 advertisements in one single 24 hour period.

Hundreds of years ago, if you wanted to know about anything that was going on in the world, you purchased a newspaper. Up until fairly recently it was not uncommon to read it in its entirety. In 1895, radio was discovered and became our lifeline of entertainment and information. Families would gather around it and listen for hours. Then in 1927 came the television. Music, film, news, and corporations were forever revolutionized as they were projected into homes all across America. Commercials followed not long after, forever changing the way we shop and buy.

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Today? One needs only reach into their back pocket, pull out their mobile device, and swipe. Facebook and Twitter have nearly replaced newspapers. If you listen to the radio at all it is probably broadcasting from your smartphone. If you watch television, news clips, or music videos, it is probably from your smartphone. Anytime, anywhere. The internet has undoubtedly changed everything. From the way we perceive the world around us to the way we interact with everyone we know.

Newspaper, Television, Radio, Email. These are the marketing avenues of the past. Why? Newspapers are not utilized nearly as much as they used to be. Television commercials can now be skipped thanks to the invention of the DVR. Radio advertisements can be avoided thanks to Podcasts and radio apps. And email? When was the last time you opened a promotional email that was clearly “just an ad” before deleting it?

Marketing Like It’s 2016

Gary Vaynerchuk, successful entrepreneur, author, and founder of VaynerMedia in New York City, addressed a sea of small business owners in 2013, and said: “The quickest way to go out of business is to be romantic about how you make your money.” This blunt statement could easily be called the cornerstone of his entire career. In 1994, he invested thousands of dollars into parents’ small company: a website where wine collectors could purchase rare bottles online. This was long before eCommerce was commonplace. His colleagues told him it was a terrible idea and it would indefinitely crash and burn. After hard work, numerous setbacks, and several other business ventures, he is now one of the most well-known and successful independent entrepreneurs in America with millions of dollars to his name.

Why? Because he invested in the market of the future.

“I think people are massively underestimating the culture shift we’re living through. This is much, much bigger than we give credit to. The communication, the way we buy things, the way we think about things, the way we share things… we’re morphing into a completely different animal, right [before] our eyes.” – Gary Vaynerchuk, 2012.

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Most avenues of social media are free. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr, Periscope, etc. Utilize and seize every opportunity to put your name out there – especially if you do not have to pay for it! Focus on the next big thing in advertising, and stay ahead of the game.

While free advertising is something to be taken advantage of, there are crucial money-making schemes that are worth paying for. There will certainly be some costing commodities one cannot afford not to have. In fact, its lack thereof is listed in Business Know-How’s article as one of the top 7 reasons Why Small Businesses Fail.

A website.

Not an outdated web page with a crude color scheme and small, underlined print leading to broken links. A functional, informative, and easy-to-view website especially from a mobile device. Steps beyond this could include upgrading to a mobile app; and you can read more about the importance of having one here, and if not, at least mobilizing your site.

Having a web presence is extremely important. Especially if you decide that renting a physical location is not financially feasible. A mobile website and/or app is fundamental to the success of your business. It is the most basic investment that your entire web presence will stem from.

These are the 5 reasons according to Entrepreneur.com why having a website, or a web presence, is important.

It creates Visibility.

Simplistically, it puts the brand out there. It is the cyber equivalent of creating a banner, a billboard; a projected image. It is also instrumental in SEO (search engine optimization) – this means where you rank if someone searched your type of business. GrowIT Media discusses this topic in detail here.

 

It provides Reach.

You are no longer confined to the walls of your shop. A business, if necessary, can survive solely on customers that live in a different city, state, or even country.


 

It helps Service Customers.

To get information on the product being sold, business hours, and direct contact via email or phone instantly provides utmost convenience for the customer.


 

It levels the Competition.

A proper website can rank you at the top of a web search alongside, or even ahead of the same competitors in your field.


 

It displays Credibility.

Funding a quality website shows that you believe in your business, in your product, and in your employees, enough to invest in it.

“The quickest way to go out of business is to be romantic about how you make your money.”

Do not get stuck in a rut. Do not spend hundreds of dollars on newspaper ads that will only get recycled. Invest your time and money into the here, the now, and the future of advertising. Is the financing of a web presence worth it? Statistics and experienced from very successful entrepreneurs say “yes”. Granted, this does not mean a website will provide instant popularity and overall profit without bring paired with relentless hard work. It is not a one-size fits all answer to a business’ problems. But marketing like it’s 2016 is paramount in excelling in today’s marketplace. There is no telling whether any company is ready to take on today’s wide world of capitalism by storm that is unforgiving and waits for no one. But one thing is for certain: nobody that decides to take this giant leap of faith is hoping to see the “For Lease” sign placed back up in their window.