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Small businesses need Internet help, not hype

A lot of what I read in the internet marketing space has a particular ring to it. It seems to be almost always directed to one of two groups; those who are pure online plays or “traditional” companies that have established marketing budgets and some cash that will help them through the current economic times. I still see, read or hear precious little about the bulk of the businesses in the US; the small and medium business (SMB) and the internet.

MainStreet

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It seems as if the SMB’s live in the “Land That the Internet Forgot” when you read most internet / search marketing pundits. They talk high theory and re-adjusting of budgets that have been cut but still dwarf the budgets of those who do the bulk of the country’s business on Main Street rather than Wall Street.
You see, I target the ‘Main Streeters” with my approach to Internet marketing because I am one of them. I have worked for companies of all sizes over my career, so I can talk to someone in the Fortune 100 as well as someone who has a coffee shop in Nowhere, USA. It’s the Nowhere, USA folks that we as an industry seem to simply overlook. To me, it’s those folks who are the most interesting of all and stand to gain the most…if we as an industry would truly pay attention to them.
Here’s what I mean. There are several sites and blogs that talk about small business search and internet marketing. Many are quite good. Problem is they are clubby. They cater to people like me who are in the Internet marketing industry, rather than reaching and educating the people who would most benefit from this information which is the small business owner themselves.
I have even seen Internet marketing “providers” (and I use this term in the most loose fashion possible) who claim to specialize in a particular small biz area (lawyers, accountants, and even carpet cleaners) who have put together programs for Web design and Internet marketing that are done for the masses but often end up severely hampering the business person’s ability to do the right thing on the Internet in the future.
A great example is a rug cleaning firm I spoke to that gets hijacked for monthly hosting fees ($100 plus per month for basic hosting) after they were built this “great” site by a specialist in the industry. Trouble is the site is in frames. That’s right. Good old fashioned frames that can’t be properly indexed by the search. Same holds true for an accountant I know. These “providers” are able to do this because of small business owner ignorance of the Internet and its best uses for their bottom-line success. Personally, I think this sad, because it is predatory.
I would be interested to know how many of you reading this are actual small business owners, or are people who are industry types looking for insights into the mysterious world of Internet marketing. Please chime in with a comment or two about who you are as you read this. Tell me what it is you look for or desire from the Internet marketing industry. Tell me why you are different from the Fortune 500s of the world, and share what YOU are doing to survive these rather difficult times. What is it YOU need? Maybe I am a tree falling in the forest here and no one will hear me. I am more than curious.
I hear people all the time talking about how the Internet is the great equalizer. It levels the playing field where the little guy can take on the big guy and have a fighting chance. The Internet is the rock in the sling of the business David’s fighting the mighty corporate Goliaths. Seems to me that there is more hype than reality to that kind of thinking. If the Internet were so egalitarian, then why would so many SMB’s know virtually nothing about the Internet, and take the first thing that comes down the pike without even knowing the possible impact (positive or negative) on their ability to make bottom line impact?
Maybe this sounds a bit like whining. I don’t know. I do know though that many good, hard-working people are struggling right now because they are ignorant of the Internet opportunity that could be there for them. I am honestly amazed by this fact as we approach 15 or so years of true commercial Internet applications. Seems to me that in this world of change that everyone is clamoring over, this is one change that could be of real impact to real people in real hard times. I’m out.

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