If you know anyone who runs or is involved in a small business, do them a favour and forward this article to them because believe me, they’ll thank you in time.
So, a dramatic headline but is it exactly that; just a shock title for an article simply to grab your attention?
Sadly it is our prediction that as many as 60% of small businesses that exist today will no longer be trading by 2017. The cull is already beginning, quietly, and many people are simply putting it down to the recession or “just the state of the market”. They’re wrong. The market is there, it’s just shifted so dramatically and so quickly that many small businesses have simply not even noticed.
If they don’t take notice soon, it will be too late.
Let’s examine one example of such a business who will almost certainly not be with us in 2017. Brian runs a small gardening business in the UK and employs four staff. Brian has been in the gardening industry for over 30 years and there isn’t much he doesn’t know about the business.
The problem Brian has is that businesses established just a few years ago are hoovering-up all the new customers so Brian has to rely on just the work from his existing (and dwindling) customers base – his phone simply isn’t ringing anymore.
The dark age of marketing
Back in the dark ages of marketing for small businesses, your options were limited and everyone did the same thing so it was a reasonably even playing field. You paid for an advert in the Yellow Pages once a year and a lineage advert in the local newspaper once a week and that was enough to cover your basic marketing needs.
This was supplemented by occasionally stuffing leaflets through peoples doors and a bit of face-to-face local networking but that was as much as anyone needed to do to get new customers.
The middle age of marketing
Moving forward from the dark ages, we reach the middle ages – the beginning of marketing on the Internet. Early adopters paid exorbitant rates to ‘Designers’ who created hideous websites that were nothing more than an online version of the companies sales brochure.
Slowly but surely, more and more small businesses came on board but it was only through a sense of obligation because ‘everyone else has one’ that many were dragged kicking and screaming into the digital marketing world.
Back to Brian and in 2009 he reluctantly decided that he should have a website as he’d noticed a drop in new customer enquiries. Whilst still convinced himself that the Internet was “a passing fad”, Brian was delighted to discover his next-doors neighbour’s Brother was building websites as a part-time business for just £150 a pop – fantastic Brian thought and very soon, had a very cheap-looking website up and running with a massive six pages of (crappy) content.
Despite Brian’s website not being vey good, back in 2009 you didn’t really need a good website to gain traffic for local search queries such as ‘Gardener in Anytown’. Brian was delighted that he was now getting a few more calls every week and all he’d had to do was shell-out £150.
He could now sit back and wait for his “passing fad” prophecy to become a reality and eventually everything would be back like it was in the good old days of the Yellow Pages marketing monopoly.
It’s at this point in 2012 that Brian’s business is on it’s knees. And he’s not alone.
The Internet was never going to go away and those small business owners who accepted that have taken their businesses to a whole new level whilst Brian’s business (and many like his) have stagnated and become irrelevant to today consumers.
The new ago of Internet marketing
We are now at a new age of Internet marketing and it’s one where online marketing is not an option, it’s the ONLY way your business will avoid being a victim of the 2017 small business Armageddon. I’ll repeat that for anyone reading this who happens to be one of the 36% of small business owners in the UK who still don’t even have a website:
Online marketing is not an option, it’s the ONLY way your business will avoid being a victim of the 2017 small business Armageddon.
And those of you reading this who are still relying on a 6-page website to keep providing you with new customers, you will almost certainly be a victim of the 2017 small business Armageddon.
And the reason for all this doom-mongering?
Google has not just moved the goal posts with Internet marketing recently, it’s pulled them from the ground, put them on the back of a truck and taken them 200 miles away – that’s no exaggeration regarding Google’s latest update to it’s search algorithm, Panda 3.3.
For those of us who use Google as consumers, this update is a GOOD thing because it will ensure that we get more relevant results when we search and the sites that occupy those coveted top positions in Google actually have content in them that we’ll find useful.
But this is BAD news for Brian and the millions of other small businesses who have long relied upon a website that contains barely more content than a business card. If you can’t be bothered to offer your visitors something worthwhile then Google will (quite rightly) kick your website further and further down it’s pages.
The end result is the last effective (and relevant) marketing method many small businesses had to get new customers will sink into obscurity.
So, do you want to avoid being an Armageddon victim?
Assuming you still want to be in business in a few years time, you can do something TODAY. You need to firstly accept that consumer habits and marketing have changed DRAMATICALLY over the last 3 years. Nobody is expecting you to keep abreast of these changes but ignoring that they’re happening is commercial suicide.
Take a day off from your business, sit at your computer and type a phrase into Google that would best describe your business from the perspective of a potential customers. something like:
Gardeners in Surrey
Take a close look at the websites that appear at the top of the results. How do they compare to yours? What do they offer that you don’t? What content or tools does their website have that your doesn’t?
Then go to Facebook and Twitter and search for your company name – not there? Again, if you’re not appearing in the places that your customers are hanging-out, they won’t find you.
Finally, send your website link to everyone in your contact box and ask them for an honest critique of it and any suggestions they have to improve it.
Whatever you do, do something – and if you’re too busy then employ an Internet Marketing Consultant to do if for you. Rest assured though, if you do nothing, the end is nigh my friend.