“Facebook makes it easy to interact with friends and find new ones.”
“Online advertising is cheap and follows people everywhere.”
“If you’re on the front page of Google, you’ll get plenty of business.”
That may be true right now (or it may not be)… but for how much longer will it remain so?
The disruption of a business due to social or regulatory change is not a fun subject to talk about, but how much worse if such disruption creeps up on you silently without any warning like a thief in the night. (OK, it’s not going to do that because the warning signs are very clear already.)
- Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance in congress to define/explain Facebook’s sale of data;
- The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation);
- Constantly changing search engine ranking algorithms;
- The increasing cost of online advertising;
- Manipulation of people’s Facebook feeds (not always as popular as Facebook’s ads might lead you to believe);
- The growing anxiety (and body of research) about the detrimental effects of screen time on people’s mental health and wellbeing;
- Diminishing read and open rates for email…
…these are all signs of vulnerability. If your business is 100% online, you should be taking action right now to protect your future livelihood!
You need to be asking yourself the following questions regularly:
- What is the ROI on my online advertising (in both short and long term dollar values)?
- What is the ROI on my social media activities (time, money, resources and effort)?
And… perhaps most importantly… you need to ask yourself:
Which of the following activities am I doing consistently to build offline relationships with my customers: –
- Phone calls?
- Direct Mail (cards, postcards, letters, newsletters, lumpy mail, etc.)?
- Referral Programs?
- Radio & TV (ads, infomercials, interviews)?
- Newspaper & Magazine (ads, advertorials, articles)?
The warning signs have been there for a while, but now the emergency sirens and flashing lights are getting closer. You can ignore them if you really want to and hope they’ll go away, OR… you can take the opportunity to diversify and start some ‘real world’ communications and (like many of my clients) discover that you actually achieve a far higher ROI and greater Lifetime Customer Value from ‘expensive’ offline efforts, than you do with ‘free’ or ‘cheap’ online promotions. The choice is yours really, but so are the consequences.
It’s Not Necessarily New, But it’s Still a Threat!
I was around in the early internet days when ‘black hat’ SEO tactics were a common way to gain visibility. Because my client’s sites were built and propagated on proven organic SEO tactics the various Google updates like Panda did no damage – mostly they were beneficial as some of our dodgy competitors were knocked off the starting blocks – but I also know of several reputable businesses whose social media success lead to their being shut down by YouTube as a result of complaints from jealous competitors. They paid dearly for their dependence on ‘free’ hosting and promotion and I learned an important lesson: Don’t be a share cropper.
It’s important that you ensure that you own and control as much of your business assets as possible. This includes your: –
- Domain and hosting;
- Social Media handles;
- Mailing list (both online and offline);
- Merchant Accounts;
- Other assets;
These are the virtual equivalents of all the physical aspects of your business (property, tools, merchandise, computers), and they require monitoring and control. You may lease some of them, you may outsource certain aspects but you should not cede responsibility and you should insist on access.
I was talking with a prospect a few months ago and they asked me to look at at their list connection. It turned out that they did not have access to their website or hosting passwords, even though the company which set everything up for them was no longer actively working on the account. When they asked for these passwords for their records, they were given “member login” access, not owner-access.
This is nearly as awkward as the person whose website is hosted on a friend’s account: when there are security or other issues with the site he has to ask his friend to sort them out… which is OK, until it isn’t! So far this year, with all the GDPR changes, https scaling, and hacking they’ve already had 5 major issues to resolve: how long until his friend says, “Hey, take this back, it’s too much work to manage your site as well as my own?”
Honestly, it’s your business we’re talking about here. Any service or management provider for any and all of the above matters should automatically send your login details for your accounts, and should update your information when anything changes. Businesses close, move, get taken over or sold all the time and if it affects your business, you are responsible for maintaining control over everything.
When it comes to mailing lists, most businesses use a CRM that enables them to track both online and offline interactions. There are some fantastic solutions out there that are great foundations for your business. However, the biggest step you can take to protect your data and your business is to ensure that you regularly download your data to a CSV file and store it safely so that you still have your data in the case of some major meltdown.