A 2016 survey of small business owners shows that nearly half of small businesses don’t have a website.
This number is astounding, because without a website, you are pretty much invisible online.
According to a 2012 report by Fleishman-Hillard, 89% of consumers use a search engine before making a purchase decision.
According to a 2015 report by Global Web Index, 80% of internet users own a smartphone. The implications are clear. If you are serious about your business, you must have website, and your website must be mobile-friendly.
What do most businesses without a website use in lieu of a website? Usually a Facebook page or other social media profile.
Here’s the problem.
When you use someone else’s platform, you are bound to their rules.
For example, since 2014, Facebook has been throttling how many people actually see what you post on your Facebook Pages. If you want more people to see what you post (the fans that you worked so hard to earn), you have to pay Facebook to send traffic to your page. It’s a pay-to-play system.
Let’s Talk About Owning Your Platform
Twitter announced today that they would be shutting down Vine, a popular video service where people would share six-second videos. Vine has over 200 million users.
Twitter is also laying off 9% of it’s workforce (about 350 people), as rumors swirl about a possible acquisition.
Twitter and Vine are pretty big social networks that people have gotten used to having around. But all platforms that you don’t directly control are temporal — they are reliable until the investors want to see a return and take it in another direction.
In October of 2009, Yahoo ended the fifteen-year run of Geocities, as it pulled the plug on the project, erasing a large chunk of the early history of the web. Remember, nothing’s permamnent, especially if you don’t own your content platform.
So what does that mean? To own your content platform?
To me, it means being able to publish what you want to, and to be able to reach the people you want to reach without restriction. It means being able to set the rules for who you reach, (like your customers).
When it comes to online marketing, there are only two things that you will ever truly own free and clear — your website, and your email list.
Your Website Is The Face of Your Business
No doubt about it, your website is the most important marketing tool you have. It is the home base for your business, the place where you direct people, the place where customers can find more information about your services.
Your website is the nucleus of your online marketing efforts. Everything else revolves around it. It is the literal face of your company, and the first place people will go when they hear about your company.
How well you present your business on your website could very well determine whether you gain or lose a customer. A 2014 report by Acquity shows that 94% of B2B buyers do online research before making purchases, and 84.3% of buyers check your business website before making a purchase.
This means most of the buyer’s decision is made before they pick up the phone.
Your Email List Has Power
The other digital property that you fully control is your email list.
Even if you switch email subscription services, you can take your list with you, and continue to market directly to your customers who have opted in.
People still read their email. It is the one thing that most of us check. And more people have an email address than a Facebook or Twitter account.
In fact, if you added up all the Facebook and Twitter accounts, email accounts would still be three times larger.
So, if you are relying strictly on Facebook for marketing, and don’t have a website, and an email opt-in form on that website, you are missing out on tons of marketing opportunities.
Hitting Objections Head-On
Yes, there are businesses out there that don’t have a website or an email list, and manage to get business with just a Facebook page. And a few manage to have some longevity.
But they are the exceptions to the rule. Most small businesses go out of business within the first five years, and the odds of financial solvency don’t get rosy until about the ten year mark. knock on wood, we are at four years at the time of this publishing).
Sure, you may manage to stumble into success without a whole lot of online marketing. But imagine how much better you would be doing with a little extra effort.
Twitter may be sold soon, Facebook changes it’s rules every few months, and even getting to the top of Google is a long term process with no guarantees.
In a constantly changing digital landscape, what do you really control?
Only two things: your website, and your email list.
What are you doing with yours?