By now you know the argument: customers look for everything online these days, so unless you’re on the Web and Tweet, Like and Link non-stop, you’re no chance of finding new business.
My Business found three businesses who are doing quite well without their own website, and aren’t worried about their lack of an online presence.
Scott Howe’s Commando Experience is one such business. Howe spent 18 years in the British military as a Commando, retired with the rank of Major and now offers fitness and corporate leadership seminars that see his clients subjected to some of the rigours he experienced in the field.
The business is young – he started late in 2010 – but one of his first clients was the Sydney Swans. Business has snowballed since. “If you have worked with an organisation like that you are ‘in’,” Howe says, adding that he has “Just landed a contract with one company that will be a repeat customer four five months.”
“I can kind of see the argument that you are a dinosaur without website,” he says. “But someone always knows someone so it gets around pretty quick.”
Another factor in his favour, he believes, is that his product is very well differentiated.
“I have 18 years of experience and the people I draw on have been spies and snipers.” The content of his sessions is therefore not easy for competitors to replicate and the experience he offers is compelling enough that he’s winning business by word-of-mouth.
“That is the beauty of this country and Sydney,” he says. “Unlike in the UK where it is 6 degrees of separation, here someone always knows someone so it gets around pretty quick.”
“If I had a website maybe I would get a bit more work. But I am doing alright thank you very much right now.”
Other peoples’ websites
Belinda Cook’s ‘B Fragrances’ designs and manufactures fragrances and fragrance gels and sells them online, yet doesn’t have a website of her own.
“I call my products fragrances, not perfumes, because men will buy a fragrance but only women will wear a perfume,” she says.
Cook sells at markets and other venues, but also sells online at Artfire and Etsy, sites that offer her all she needs online – a decent web page and e-commerce facilities – but don’t require her to design a site or pay for hosting.
These two sites are also well-known, market themselves strongly and attract an audience Cook feels she would struggle to achieve with her own site.
“It takes time to build traffic to a website and people have to be looking specifically for your service,” she says. “I want my product listed on as many sites as possible: it means I have a better opportunity for people to find me.”
“The sites I use are designed for artists and creative types, it costs a minimum amount to list but I don’t pay until I make a sale,” she explains. “For a business selling products it means you don’t have a great initial advertising and marketing cost: it’s like outsourcing your advertising and marketing.”
That may sound like a dangerous hands-off play, but Cook likes the fact that instead of being tied to her own website she can experiment with different ways of marketing her products online.
“I use Google Analytics and Google Adwords to analyse traffic and also social media like LinkedIn and Facebook to promote sales. Then I send different campaigns to different sites.”
The result is a marketing mix that Cook can control and test, rather than being tied to her own site alone.
She also, however, maintains a company page on Facebook and LinkedIn, and uses those as her corporate calling card.
“You can set it up yourself at no cost,” she says, and is content with this arrangement and has no plans to change.
Website’s on the way
When Rachel Power started her new mystery shopping business Customer Consultants the first thing she did was register her business name and internet domain name. But she’s yet to use the latter in anger, partly because as a startup she’d rather not spend on a website and also because she wanted her business to operate stealthily in its early days.
“I knew I wanted to grow slowly,” Power says. “A quick do-it-yourself site would not have worked: my competition have big teams of people working on their sites.
Power took cautious steps onto Facebook and found it generated useful, if small, leads. But networking among peers and associates from another of her ventures, The Great Aussie Roadtrip, held out more promise of new business.
That approach has succeeded: Power is now in a position where her business is humming along nicely and needs a website, but not for the usual purpose of attracting customers. Instead, she sees her website as a way to reduce some trivial chores.
“The website is a luxury but a luxury I need to grow,” she says. “It will save me a lot of time on the phone and email, because it is where all those little questions people ask me will be answered. I’ll have Frequently Asked Questions for mystery shoppers, for example, and that will save me so much time.”