The First Five Common Assumptions That Often Hurt Small Businesses

[Infographic] Effective Business Websites: Key Features That Make a DifferenceThe First Five Outdated Assumptions Small Business Owners Should Avoid:

1st: “I don’t see my competition investing in their web-based marketing yet, and because they appear to be doing just fine, I don’t think I need it either.”

In today’s competitive market, to gain a substantial edge over your competition, you need to put together a smart marketing plan that will help you get ahead of the game by adjusting to current market trends. While responding directly to your competitors is a good idea, it does not apply in this situation because web-based marketing for businesses today is no longer an option—it’s a must.

Today the internet is THE place where people go to find information on almost everything they want, including your products and services. Web-based marketing is often the wisest investment you could make when it comes to your business marketing campaigns.

2nd: “I have a few business partners who refer the majority of customers to me; therefore, I don’t think I need Internet marketing.”
Things change over time, and you can’t be 100% sure that your current referral partners will be around in the future. They may move their business to another location, sell their business to another party (who might have their own interests regarding business referrals), go bankrupt, or retire and move to Fiji.

Therefore, you should diversify your marketing channels to prepare for these scenarios by investing in online marketing, including: website marketing, social media marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO). Try not to rely on a small number of direct referral partners. As the saying goes: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

Today, experts confirm that successful businesses (now and in the future) are not necessarily those with big budgets or long client lists, but those who have a lot of strong, ongoing connections and highly sustainable search engine rankings.

3rd: “As long as my business is listed in the Yellow Pages and/or appears in newspaper ads (printed or online), the majority of my target customers should be able to find me.”
Unless your business is food delivery for seniors who live alone and don’t have the Internet, it’s unlikely your customers will find you through paper advertisements alone. Even senior housing communities are found online (through search engines, websites, or social media) by family members who arrange for elder care for aging parents or relatives. While advertising in the Yellow Pages and newspapers might help, they likely will not provide your business the exposure needed to fully capitalize on today’s market trends.

A majority of people search on and for things they want to purchase. People also rely on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn for recommendations and referrals. If you assume that the Yellow Pages and newspaper ads alone are good enough to attract the majority of your target customers, you might want revisit your marketing plan. It’s a good idea to diversify your investment by establishing web-based marketing efforts, including a website and social media sites.

4th: “My $5 per month website is good enough to promote my business online.”
This likely depends on how you define “online business success.” If your success means generating two to three times the return on your investment (ROI) which is $5/month, then that is reasonable. However, if “online business success” means using your website to generate hundreds or thousands of dollars per month, your cheap website likely won’t get it done.

Why? Because most often this kind of website is a template website and uses shared hosting in order to provide you with its cheap price. These two factors alone will prevent you from optimizing your brand for online marketing success. For more details on this topic, please visit: , and also the related articles at the bottom of this page.

It’s always a good idea to have your website custom designed to set your brand apart from your competitors and host it on a premium host (a non-shared host) to enable your site to load faster for end-users, especially during high web traffic hours.

5th: “I think my business website (that was built 5+ years ago) will help me attract customers just fine. It’s not broken, so I don’t need to fix it.”
Because your website is the first thing customers will learn about you, it is very important to position yourself professionally online and make sure your site is user friendly, mobile friendly and functioning correctly. Most likely, customers will not call to tell you that your site does not meet their expectations. They will just leave quietly and find your competition.

Also, if your website is 5+ years old, you should have a professional web design firm go through your site with diagnostic testing to see if it is indeed user friendly, mobile friendly, functioning properly and compatible on the five major web browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, and Safari). Don’t wait for customers to call and point out the problems to you. Most importantly, within the first 30 seconds of landing on your site, viewers should easily understand your key messages and the products or services you provide. This is one of key factors that contributes to your online marketing success.

Conclusion: These are five assumptions business owners often have that can unintentionally hurt their business. If one or more of these five apply to you, you may want to revisit your marketing strategy. The sooner you establish a strong online position for your business, the better your chances will be to outperform your competitors. I wish you all the best. Please, watch for my next article with another set of five assumptions to help you make the most prudent decisions for your business success.

Phong Nguyen

BA from St. Olaf College
MBA from University of St. Thomas
SEO from "the School of Hard Knocks."

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