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Most of our lives are online. From basics like banking and bills, to communication, to entertainment; we use the internet every day. For some of us, all day every day. Same goes for running a business. I’ve rarely heard an entrepreneur say that they don’t need to be online. Even an offline business needs to be online. There are clear benefits for this. But does everyone need a website, social media channels, and a Google My Business profile? Here are reasons to not have your business online.
First, to share a story of why an offline business benefits from having an online presence. Recently, one of my daughters needed something, just hours before getting on a plane. It wasn’t urgent, or even a necessity. More of a comfort thing. Because it’s practical to remove the acrylic nails for graduation parties before backpacking in Europe with friends. But schedules and then a bank holiday got in the way, and suddenly it was the day of her flight.
So it was time to use Google to find a nearby business that’s open and can book an appointment within the hour. Though I usually spend time checking reviews, this was urgent, so the first place that could book her was getting the business. Salons with Google My Business had the competitive advantage. Businesses that didn’t answer the phone lost out. There was the salon who said yes, we can take you, come on over. But when we arrived, there were 4 people waiting for service and the receptionist avoided eye contact. I’ll never go back. Finally, there was the business who said yes, and did the service at the time we booked. I’ve since gone back to that nail salon, and would happily recommend them. All from answering the phone, being pleasant, and following through on what they said they would. These are critical for all service businesses.
The point is – this nail salon gained potentially hundreds of dollars in revenue just from me, because their offline business has an online presence. So what are the reasons to not have your business online?
What is being online?
Firstly, to clarify “being online”. Did you know that of the 1.12 billion websites in the world, 82% are inactive? Having an inactive website is just about the same as being offline. When information isn’t updated on a website, it isn’t giving an accurate representation of your business to prospective customers. Being online means:
- Regularly updating a website for performance, loading time, accuracy, and site health
- Configuring a website content for SEO to rank on search engines
- Setting up Google My Business and updating the listing with contact details and operating hours
- Posting to social media channels (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc)
- Monitoring incoming enquiries from online contact details (direct messages, phone calls, emails, website forms)
All these activities require time, energy, and a level of expertise. Many businesses will have someone on the team who handles it full time, because they are essential functions. E-commerce is an example of a business which must be online and doing these activities as part of their normal operations. What I’m talking about are the offline B2C service businesses. Nail salons, landscaping businesses, massage therapists, dog groomers, fitness instructors, child care centres – all the in-person businesses who deliver services in real time. If this sounds like you, there are reasons to not have your business online, and they may surprise you.
Reason 1 - Revenue growth is not a goal
Wait, what? Isn’t this the point of starting a business? To build revenue, maximize profits, and meet personal financial goals? Most entrepreneurs want to increase their revenue. But this isn’t always the case. Often, this is because they haven’t adjusted their targets. For example, someone starts a business with the goal of earning a certain amount, and calculates the revenue required to meet that. Then they meet it. And so they stay there. They don’t do the work on their business to see the opportunities to expand and grow, and to set new revenue targets. I had a franchisee like this. She had met her personal revenue goals and was happy with where her business was. She didn’t want to manage more staff or run a bigger business, so her revenue was flatlined.
Reason 2 - Capacity is maxed
At any given moment, every business has a limit on its output. For that nail salon, their capacity is limited by how many staff they have working, which is also limited by how many chairs they have in their place of business. In a service business, capacity is dictated by staffing levels. When selling items, capacity is influenced by production levels and distribution channels. When your capacity is maxed and you can’t handle more customers or orders, then you may not want to be online generating leads. Stepping away from online while you build up capacity is ok. But this can be a slippery slope. I’ve seen entrepreneurs turn off all marketing efforts because of maxed capacity, only to hit a slump later.
Reason 3 - Limiting beliefs
After all, Oprah said that “you don’t become what you want, you become what you believe.” So consider if your limiting beliefs holding you back from growing your business. For example, when you started out with the goal of your business looking a certain way. You worked hard and you’ve built what you imagined. You climbed the mountain. As a result, you don’t see the potential for more. More sales, more business, more profits. Another product line, another location, another set of services. Essentially, your limiting beliefs may not let you imagine yourself with a business that is bigger than where you are now, or to imagine yourself owning multiple businesses.
Reason 4 - Personal lifestyle goals
This reason is even more personal. Every entrepreneur gets to build a business that fits with their own lifestyle goals. This looks different for every person. And it changes depending on the age and stage you are at. When raising young children, this may mean setting a work schedule around school dropoffs and pickups. It could be embracing a 4 day workweek, as described by Timothy Ferriss in his book. For those of us with a passion for travel, this mean running a business that is not location-dependent and enjoying the benefits of being a digital nomad. The bottom line is that your personal lifestyle goals have a huge impact on business decisions, which is one of the reasons to not have your business online.
Reason 5 - Low customer turnover
Some businesses need to run a constant lead-gen process to keep revenue levels even. Others have very low customer turnover and enjoy a stable foundation of revenue year round. Once they acquire a customer, they just keep them for a long time. This depends on the sector and the average revenue per customer. I know an entrepreneur working in a tech field where landing a B2C customer meant a 3 year contract of 6-figure revenue. In a case like this, lead gen is more about direct sales and building relationships. Posting regular social media content and updating a website isn’t part of the strategy.
Reason 6 - Strong referral program
I know successful entrepreneurs who did zero marketing because they built a strong referral program. Providing outstanding value and customer experience is a must. But to follow it up with a customer appreciation process and ask for referrals? Every business benefits from putting the time in on this. Add an incentive, like a points system, a share code, or a referral gift. This doesn’t have to be sophisticated or high-tech. I know an entrepreneur who schedules an hour a week to send thank you notes to customers. A simple handwritten “thank you for your business” is powerful and stands out, especially when most of our communication is online. This leads to referrals. Then, writing a note to say “thank you for recommending us to…” and including a gift card will almost guarantee that more referrals will come your way.
Obviously, it’s a digital world. As a result, it’s easy to feel that a strong online presence is necessary for a business to be successful. But the best thing about entrepreneurship is having the freedom to create a business to suit each individual person. Therefore, investing in an expensive website and posting frequently on social media is not right for every business owner. As has been noted, for a service business operating locally, a basic site with Google My Business and a strong customer retention and referral system is of value. By the way, if you are looking for a way to get your business online fast, I recommend IONOS for a simple web builder that is low cost and easy to manage. Overall, align actions to meet your specific business goals, rather than copying any general formula for business.