I tweeted last week about a garden supplier who was doing a door-to-door leaflet drop in our village the other day. His approach to drumming up new business got me thinking…
He was a lovely, smiley man. Very chatty and keen to sell me his wares. Unfortunately for him, I, like many of his customers no doubt, was too busy to tune in. I smiled and listened briefly saying (as kindly as I could) that I didn’t have time to stop right now. But I did think I might be interested in future. Do you have a website? I asked. No, was the answer. It’s been a tough year, he said (i.e. no money in the coffers for creating one).
So, I was left with a piece of paper (plain white – easily lost in my burgeoning pile of admin), a tacit interest and a suspicion that I was unlikely to follow up since my brain had failed to retain even half of the long and distinguished list of products he professed to sell, many of which did not feature on the leaflet.
There’s a bit of me that wishes the personal, door-by-door approach was enough. That we didn’t need all the ‘noise’ that goes with life online. But those that bury their heads in the sand (knowingly or otherwise) will be the losers in the long term. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure ‘my’ garden supplier won some new customers doing the rounds. For a while at least, he will continue to strike a chord with those amongst the older generation who have not felt the need to embrace the web. And the personal touch will always be appreciated (I hope). But if he wants to future-proof his business, a website is a must.
My ramblings on this also remind me of a conversation at a meeting recently when a group of us were debating how we search for stuff these days – information, products, telephone numbers etc. Dave Briggs gave an example of his recent need to rent a van. Rather than reaching for the yellow pages (sorry yell.com) he went straight to Google. And he chose the company with what he felt was the most professional website (having visited a few that failed to inspire him with the confidence that his rent-a-van would even start!).
Now van hire is obviously a different business from garden supplies. Few, if any, one man rent-a-van enterprises can surely have survived recent times. But if ‘garden supplier’ had been Dave’s mission on this occasion, my chap wouldn’t have got a look in. A website is the online shop window and every business intent on hanging around needs one.
In this instance I’m not advocating a wholesale shift to online sales. That wouldn’t feel right for my door-to-door man. But say he wanted to build a family business for the next generation to inherit. How much better would it be for him and his children if the business had moved with the times? He (and his leaflets) could signpost people to the website for a full list of products on offer and with the right (optimised) content, he could find himself attracting new customers online to support his face to face efforts. Free of charge too! From there, once he is comfortable with an online presence he might tune in to some of the local listing sites like Best of but all the other stuff – YouTube, Twitter, Facebook – etc could come in time, most likely driven by or with the help of the next generation. Or the additional resource he can afford once the business has grown!
But he can’t afford a website! I hear you cry. Well:
a) the kind of website he needs shouldn’t cost the earth. In fact I spotted this offer from a fellow tweeter a while back - I’ve checked. Mark is thoroughly trustworthy and the offer still stands
b) if he pitched the cost of a website against the cost of time, petrol and wear and tear on his car, I know which would get a tick in the box for sustainability in every sense.
Having written this I now feel a moral obligation to share my thoughts with the garden supplier. Small businesses are the glue for life in local communities. I want him to succeed and I reckon those of us who are comfortable with life online have a moral responsibility to help others along. Not to impose our will but to guide when appropriate. My gut tells me he won’t be receptive; his fear of the unknown will get in the way. Should I let that deter me?