For a small office supplies business focused on day-to-day tasks and simple survival it’s quite easy to neglect longer-term objectives directed towards creating and preserving enterprise value. However, without a strategic plan addressing these objectives it’s very likely a business will eventually cease to exist. There’s only so long a business can rest on its laurels of an existing customer base. Every day there are competitors trying to figure out a way to win that business away from a sleepy incumbent.
Creating enterprise value is dependent on profitable growth and, the longer an enterprise has been in business within a specific industry, then the more that industry has moved through its consolidation cycle and the more competitive it's become. For businesses in such an environment it makes for tough conditions to figure out a way to create and preserve enterprise value.
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY SYSTEMS
Fortunately, the advent of the Internet era means it’s possible for small businesses to level the playing field and compete effectively with much larger organizations. However, in order to achieve this, it's necessary to deploy an integrated information technology platform to facilitate efficient operations (reduce cost) and to be able to make sense of the torrent of information now available via the Internet. For business owners who are having trouble understanding modern operating systems, the use of customer relationship software (CRM), and how to use social media to drive marketing programs then, unfortunately for them, the writing’s on the wall as they are likely to continue to experience a decline in business performance.
Most small businesses have deployed websites. Every business owner pretty much understands without a website is like being without a business card – very forgettable. However, while most businesses may have deployed websites, in many cases they are rudimentary and fail to operate as the hub of an intelligent strategy to attract inbound traffic and convert visitors (leads) to customers.
A recent case study of 125 office products company websites highlighted the following.
There is a substantial amount of daily traffic at these 125 sites – nearly 1.7 million unique daily visitors.
The high traffic volume illustrates the category is part of a substantial market.
The case study was focused on small business websites so only included a representative sample of the largest companies in the category for bench-marking purposes.
Across the entire office products industry there are estimated to be as many as six million unique daily visitors.
We believe the study of 125 sites to be representative of the channel and had it covered 5,000 or even 10,000 individual sites then the results would have been essentially the same. Assuming this assumption is correct then 99% of these independent dealer websites sites are ineffective (see sidebar) meaning the businesses do not currently conduct effective e-commerce.
The problem is it’s not easy to develop a successful e-commerce business model – especially so for small businesses.
- In 2015 there are nearly one billion websites on the Internet.
- Compared to 2010 the number of sites has increased by nearly 400% and this pace is not expected to slow down anytime soon.
- This makes the Internet a vast space to be operating in.
- Talk about the proverbial needle in a haystack – no one will ever find a website unless it’s by accident or it’s at the hub of a well thought out strategy for attracting traffic.
- However, it's because it’s so difficult to figure out how to develop, that makes successful traffic development so valuable.
- For enterprises that learn the secret sauce and develop consistent and qualified web traffic there is significant value attached to that traffic.
- It can be nurtured from first time visitor to eventual customer with associated revenue and profits.
- It’s a coveted asset that's highly valued at the time of any contemplated sale of an enterprise.
One of the biggest problems with developing web traffic is the time it takes. It's like learning a new language - it's not going to happen overnight and most business operators lose patience and give up before they see the results of their efforts. The irony of high quality organic traffic development is that it’s not so difficult to achieve once the information technology platform is in place and techniques for how to use social media for small business marketing are learned. Once this has been accomplished a business transformation can take place alongside creation of significant enterprise value.
The core problem for small dealers is that the field of traffic generation (like the Internet) is vast and for most small business operators it’s not a core competency so they simply don’t know where to start with a small business social media strategy and transforming a business.
Assuming most business owners agree with regards to recognizing the value associated with an increased amount of traffic to their sites, it should be a ready-made conclusion that the vital step for them to take is to invest time in researching and making decisions on where to start.
There are two major points for these operators to keep in mind:
- There is not only one solution, there are variations on the theme, but for a solution to be viable it must include social media, high quality content, inbound digital marketing and intelligent use of data.
- There are no silver bullets – the process takes time just like anything worth developing. Although results from the efforts can start to be seen quite quickly a small business needs to be prepared for a two-year time frame to get to the point where all the components of the strategy have “clicked” and substantial in-bound traffic is being generated. Once the model is up and running its infinitely scalable and significant opportunities for future growth and profits become possible.
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