… And Do It Now, Before It's Too Late
Yesterday, Netflix announced an agreement with LG Electronics to deliver movies directly to your high definition television set, bypassing the need to use a personal computer. This announcement is not surprising considering that it's a smart use of technology that makes it easier for Netflix to connect with its customers and make them happy.
But big companies like Netflix are not the only ones who can maximize their success using technology. The same high speed services and technological advances that make it possible for Netflix to be more successful make it possible for Indie Business owners to do the same. If you have not prioritized making technology your slave in 2008, get started today. Or get left behind.
1. Stop Relying On Your Website To Do Everything For You
There was a time when a website was the best use of technology for an Indie Business. That's true when it comes to e-commerce because websites with secure shopping carts and efficient merchant accounts are still the best way to process onlines sales. But the fact that websites are good at selling products does not mean they are good at marketing them.
Websites are time consuming and often expensive to update regularly, and it just doesn't pay to change them that much. When you have a new product to add, sure, make the addition. But other than that, unless you have a staff of designers, it's often not efficient to change your website very often. Enter the blog.
2. Get Yourself A Blog. Or Two.
A blog can be updated quickly and regularly. It's fast. It's easy. It's inexpensive. Just like technology should be. And the return on the invesment is huge. Since launching this blog 8 months ago, business has boomed. But the financial benefits are only a small part of the picture. The bigger and better part is that this blog allows me to connect with people who might not otherwise ever know about the products I offer. It's an inexpensive way to brand a business, and that's like money in the bank whether or not it results in a sale.
Some companies do well with even more than one blog. Take Indie Beauty Network member Joanna Schmidt over at Product Body Blog which she launched in late 2006. Joanna blogs about everything from her mother-in-law to how she came up with the names for some of her products. She takes pictures of products as they are made and often gives products away to her blog readers.
Joanna was having so much fun with the Product Body Blog that she launched the Soap Bar Blog last August to share her love for handmade soaps. She features soapmakers who are doing fabulous things with oil, water and lye. Each blog links back to the other, and to Joanna's e-commerce website of course. Joanna uses Blogger, a free service owned by Google.
Now, the world has at least 3 ways to find Joanna's products: her main e-commerce site, her product blog and her soap blog. Each serves distinct functions in terms of its content, but make no mistake about it. All roads lead directly or indirectly to the Product Body shopping cart, which in turn leads directly to the Product Body business bank account.
Joanna exchanges blog posts with other bloggers, including several Indie Beauty Network members including Anne-Marie Faiola of the Soap Queen blog and Andrea Kane of Organic Beauty Expert blog. Other Indie Beauty Network member bloggers who exchange ideas, links and interesting conversations are listed in the left column of this blog, including a blog that just launched today, the Essential U blog.
3. Reach Out Into Online Communities
I am a firm believer that, while technology cannot replace personal, physical human interaction, it's a darn good second choice. Enter MySpace and other social networking sites.
You need a MySpace page if for no other reason than that people will find your products there. While I don't think much more of an explanation is needed, here's one anyway.
When Indie Beauty Network member Ellie Trinowski of Moonshine Soap told me that I should get a Myspace page a few years ago, I sort of laughed. After all, she had heard about MySpace from her teen-aged daughter and I had heard creepy stories about weirdo stuff over there. I just didn't want to be involved.
I'm glad that Ellie set up her own Myspace page, and didn't let up on me. In Indie Business, branding is key and you can't brand your business if you're not out there, well, branding your business. You have to tell people about it in as many ways as you can.
According to Nielsen, MySpace logged 58.8 million unique visitors in October 2007. That means you have access to 58.8 million people who could find out about your products and easily tell others about your products using a website they enjoy. And you can link back to your site. And it's easy. And it's free. Hellooooooo! Why don't you have a MySpace page?
4. Put A Face (and Sound and Movement) On Your Business
I was talking to an Indie Business owner last month who I wanted to feature in my weekly newsletter's Indie Candy section, which tells the stories of men and women who are creating their own brand of wealth through small business ownership, while also managing home and family. She told me she didn't have any pictures, and even if she did, she didn't want to be featured because she didn't think she was attractive enough. She preferred to stand on the greatness of her products and didn't want to "put herself out there."
Unfortunately, about a million other people sell the same thing she does. Also unfortunately, she will eventually lose her customers if her competitors are engaging them in fun, unique ways while all she has to offer is products. Let's face it, products are great. They need to be great in order to sell. But products don't matter nearly as much as the Indie behind them. And that's where Y-O-U come in.
If people find your products in a sea of similar products, that's a good thing. If people find your products in a sea of similar products, and they discover that you are also a wonderful person with a life and hopes and dreams just like they have, it's a better thing.
I understand feeling uncomfortable in front of a camera, but I know from personal experience that a little mineral makeup and some stategically placed lights can work wonders. Besides, people don't care what you look like. What they do care about is your enthusiasm and your passion. If you have those two things and quality products, your looks are secondary.
These days, people want to do business with other people. In such a market, a faceless, nameless, personality-less website is only marginally better than a big box store. Make it easy for people to choose you by mastering technology and using it to show off who you are and share what you do using digital photographs, video, pocasts, blogs, social sites and anything else you can put your hands on.
Make technology your slave by using it to develop relationships, build community and create feedback loops regarding your products and services.