Make 2012 the year you finally embrace the web
As the Chinese say, in crisis there is opportunity. Indeed, nearly half of all small businesses still lack a proper website. Try Googling "local dentists" and you will probably discover that many local businesses can only be found on Google Places, Yelp or some other third-party website.
But don’t despair. In this post, I'll describe why this late adoption actually may be a significant opportunity in 2012.
For the small business owner late to the game, there are three options related to finally embracing the web:
- continue to do nothing
- adopt a content management system (CMS)
adopt a business management system (BMS)
Option 1: Do Nothing
While I wouldn't recommend it, you could keep pretending that the web doesn't matter. Much like a two-pack-a-day smoker who never heeds his doctor's warnings to quit, there's always the "pretending it doesn't matter" option. We've all heard this before: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But I don’t recommend continuing to ignore the Internet. Change is here and isn't going away, as the bestselling book That Used to Be Us describes in vivid detail.
Option 2: The CMS
CMSs such as WordPress and SquareSpace allow companies of all sizes to store and publish content for all to consume. In fact, I manage seven separate websites for my books, products and different lines of business. My home page is just one example of what I think is a pretty good web presence.
And I really have no complaints. It's very easy for me to generate and publish content, whether it is videos, blog posts, podcasts, cartoons or anything else I can think of. When configured properly and rife with relevant content, CMSs improve SEO (search engine optimization) or "findability."
Option 3: The BMS
While I'm a huge WordPress fan, I realize the limitations of the CMS as a platform. In other words, I still have to do the following:
- run separate accounting software
- cut checks from my bank account to vendors
- manage my sales leads
- track inventory of my books (I sell autographed ones via www.theageoftheplatform.com)
- keep "to do" lists in Google Docs
Unfortunately, WordPress doesn't help me do any of this.
Is this totally efficient? Of course not, but I run a really small business composed of one person: me. Luckily, I don't have to worry about other people (mis)handling my transactions. If I expand and hire new employees, my entire "system" could break down. Companies with five or more employees that do what I do run the risk of losing control of their data and, ultimately, their businesses. So what to do?
It's increasingly important for small businesses to think of their websites as integrated parts of their business--not as standalone entities.
"There's an 'aha moment' when a business owner realizes that his or her website can be an important tool in raising their prospects and revenue opportunities," said Mark A. Cenicola, president & CEO of BannerView, a vendor of affordable website lease programs for small and medium-sized businesses. "A business management system provides uniform standards that collectively assures constant uptime of a website’s operation. At the same time, it provides tremendous flexibility, both in function and in what the website can do for the business."
Cenicola is spot-on. Through a BMS, a small business no longer needs to stitch together several independent (read: not connected) systems and modules in order to get financial results. Many large organizations do this; they develop spaghetti code that takes a great deal of time and resources to fix.
"There's a major difference between having a solidly built and contained fortress and a fort built with Popsicle sticks," Cenicola said.
So, if you've been late to the web, remember it’s not too late. Consider leapfrogging to systems exclusively designed to push content to the masses over the Internet. Then, think about using the Internet to run your business with a business management system.