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The DragonSearch Online Marketing Manual for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses
By RIC DRAGON
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2012McGraw-Hill
All rights reserved.
How We Got Here
On the way into the office last week, I walked past the garbage and recycling that had been put out for the trash collectors. In the recycling pile was a shrink-wrapped stack of yellow phone directories that hadn't even been opened before being placed on the street. Fifteen years ago, if you wanted to find an attorney, a doctor, or just someone to mow your lawn, you would most likely have opened up one of those phone directories. And if you owned a small business back then, you were very likely paying a fair chunk of money to have an "enhanced" listing of your company included.
Continuing my walk down the street, I began to notice that those straight-from- the-printer stacks of yellow directories were in the recycling bins in front of businesses and houses throughout the neighborhood. One or two of the packages had been opened and a directory pulled out, but for the most part, there they were awaiting the indignity of being recycled, mutely testifying to the fact that someone out there in the world hadn't gotten the message: Things have changed.
That "something" is being online.
What exactly is the Internet, anyway? Who invented the Internet? When was it invented?
The answers to these questions aren't simple. After all, the Internet is a system comprised of many, many different technologies, dreamed up by a lot of different individuals. It might seem as though it emerged from the foamy surf-like Venus one morning, but in reality, it came about from many individuals and teams of effort over the course of many years.
One key component to the Internet is hypertext. In hypertext, a link to other information is embedded in a word or a phrase so that when clicked-on, you're taken to that other information, be it on the same page or somewhere else. Of course, you're not actually taken anywhere – but the information or document on your computer screen changes and gives you the feeling that you're being transported elsewhere. Ted Nelson is credited with the concept of hypertext, and he in turn has given credit of inspiration to a magazine article by Vannevar Bush.
Even before the United States entered World War II, the people in power recognized that, in order to solve the types of technological problems we'd need to overcome in order to achieve victory, many of the scientists and engineers at institutions scattered all over the country would need to work together. Bush was the person chosen for the job of pulling together the disparate talents needed, the results of which included effective radars, sonar equipment, and the atomic bomb. In the month before the bombs were dropped, an essay by Bush, "As We May Think" appeared in The Atlantic Monthly describing a vision in which people could use an amalgam of typewriter keyboards, punch cards, and microfilm to create connections between pieces of information, so that a user could access threaded information by pushing some buttons. It was the essay that Ted Nelson and many others would cite as being an inspiration in the creation of the Internet.
When the Internet first became widespread in the late 90's, small business owners had to be convinced that they should even have a website. The potential was enormous, if not obvious at the time. Most small businesses were still spending a fair amount of money on yellow pages and small town newspaper ads. Some even bought billboards. To not have a link on the bottom of one of those ads to a website or billboard was unconscionable. The logic was that you would still pay for that little piece of advertising real estate in the local paper or in the yellow pages, but be able to lead potential customers to a much more extensive piece of content. The web acted as an amplification of the analog world.
Those early websites were fairly rudimentary. [Note: you can visit www.archive.org and see some earlier sites] In our web development shop, we used to joke about how wealthy we would be if we had a dollar for every time we heard a phrase like "my neighbor's nephew made my website." Young people were picking up the necessary skills fairly quickly, and as the necessary tool sets were easy to acquire, they became the providers of a lot of web development. But in order for one business to stand out amongst the other businesses, they had to have a better website--one that was better designed, or that had animation, or some other functionality. All along, the history of small businesses on the web has been fraught with one-upmanship. If your competitor's site looked like it was made by an eleventh-grader with Microsoft Front Page (or if it actually was), your business had to have a professionally designed website. By the time most businesses had professionally designed websites, the next step up was to have a bit of Flash animation, or even an entire website made of Flash. After that, they had to have a Content Management System (CMS) which allowed them to easily update the content without a web expert's help.
Today, it's pretty rare that a business doesn't have a website. It has also become common for the average website to have a system to allow the user to manage the content on their website easily - a Content Management System (CMS). The open source software movement has brought us Drupal, Joomla, Wordpress, and other free or "open source" CMS's. And there are thousands of templates, free or for a small cost that you can implement for a professional look right out of the starting gate. No business today should be without a website, and no business today should be without a website that they can easily update themselves. It's simply too easy.
The purpose of having a website is changing. In the beginning, your website acted as an extension of your business card. It still fulfills that function today, but it also can be a springboard for other interactions, and to help expand your digital footprint. A 'digital footprint' is often talked about in regards to Internet privacy - referring to the traces you leave behind as you navigate the web - but it also means the scale of your presence as seen by search engines.
Shortly after I decided to grow my web development business and hired my first employee, I paid a visit to the local Small Business Administration office to see what help might be available, if any. The director there, Rob Lunski told me straight out that what I needed was a business plan. I didn't have a clue about starting one, so Rob kept talking and gave me a few useful tips.
"You want to figure out where you want to be in three years."
That seemed easy enough: I wanted to make money. I wanted to pay the bills, and not have to scrub dishes for a living. But HOW much money would I want to be making in three years? I didn't have a clue. I think Rob was hesitant to tell me that it didn't really matter if I was to pencil in one million dollars a year, or 10 million. After all, it's a plan, and as Eisenhower said, "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything."
"After you figure out where you want to be, work your way backwards." He made it sound so easy. So, if I wanted to be making one million a year in three years, and was making maybe $50,000 per year in the beginning, I simply needed to draw a timeline, and divide up where I should be at every six month increment. Like this.
Once you figure out where you should be at each step, that is, if you want to keep up with your plan, then you need to get an idea of what kind of investment you need to make at each point in order to help you get there. If you are going to increase your business from $150,000 per year to $250,000 per year, what is a
Excerpted from The DragonSearch Online Marketing Manual for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses by RIC DRAGON. Copyright © 2012 by McGraw-Hill. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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