How local businesses should view the internet

I’ve spent a lot of time this week talking to people in my home town of Southport about how they use the internet to flesh out their relationships with customers.

A lot have put all their wedge on Facebook, thinking it to be the only way to establish conversations outside of the shop.

Few use the media to amplify their message and show people that they know what they’re talking about, and that they’re a trustworthy business to do, er, business with.

About none have a content strategy so that they’re where their customers are, with what their customers want to hear, when they want to hear it.

But all are challenged and bemused by this shiny ‘new’ thing called the internet, and specifically, the oohs of technology.

I say oohs because there’s this new app (isn’t there always?) that promises to help shop owners make money by zapping customers with special offers. Contactless mobile redemption, if you must know.

I won’t go into more detail because they can do it better than I, and I feel it’s trying to heal a wound by squirting it with a high-powered hose. All in my opinion, of course.

I see what they’re doing, these folks at TikTap. And you certainly can’t blame them.

The main problem is with how local business owners use and view the internet.

The issue is fear, scepticism and the dreaded kneejerk.

Because the internet is such a confusing place to do business for so many, the temptation is to attempt a scattergun approach to ‘solving’ it. You try this and that without a great deal of thought and nothing really works because it isn’t driven by a sustained effort.

In a few weeks because few results have been achieved you get frustrated and the internet sucks and we all lose.

So since I do this thing for a job, like, I wanted to help. It’s what I do. So I wrote that letter you see splashed across the top of this article to one of our top two local newspapers. Not the top one, but that doesn’t really matter, does it?

You probably can’t read it above. But you can below:

I was fascinated to read this on technology offering Southport retailers the chance to offer customers instant, in-store offers.

Any strategy to help bricks and mortar stores and service providers the chance to build their businesses is most welcome.

I’m a lifelong Sandgrounder and having worked with many Southport businesses desperate to use technology to compete in the modern age, I know how confusing it can be to address the challenges and opportunities inherent in the internet in all her forms.

While TikTap is a massive step in the right direction, I would urge every business in Southport to not only look at ways to convert people from ‘lookers to bookers’ in physical locations, but also to grasp the nettle and start building their own home on the web.

Lisa Carlin from Lord Street’s Flutterby Beauty Salon was quoted in the mentioned article suggesting the internet has had a detrimental impact on the high street. While the power of the internet is impossible to ignore, it should be seen not as a threat, but a huge benefit to the way we all do business. Those organisations providing ‘experiences’ impossible to replicate online, from spas to restaurants to physios, have a real opportunity to harness the internet to become leaders in their field by showcasing their talents online. For those retailers offering physical product, the internet brings you a global audience and by bringing your brand to life online using blogs, podcasts and social networks, you can be a huge success on the world stage.

It’s about time we all looked beyond what’s under our nose and start experimenting with the unlimited benefits of doing business online. I recently wrote a book, Sharing Superheroes, that explains this concept in much more detail and offers dozens of practical tips and tricks on how to get started and make a success of yourself and your organisation using the internet in conjunction with your ‘real world’ efforts. If you’re interested in getting hold of an electronic copy for free, drop me a line at [email protected].