Dig deep to figure out what the Internet is built on and you’ll find this: It’s built on connections between regular people. One thread, one connection at a time.
Little threads that one by one, from person to person, build a web that sustains billions of dollars in business. The bigger your business, the further above the individual threads it rises.
But if you have a small business online, you’re still within reach of the threads and can touch them one by one to promote whatever it is you’re doing.
This article is about how small businesses can extend their reach by never losing site of the threads. To illustrate the point, it’s time to invent another online business.
Welcome to CheeseAndPickle.com.
We’ll sell cheeses from all over the world. We’ll sell pickles. And wine and port (where laws allow). We’ll sell cheese boards and knives. And pickle forks. And bottle openers. And everything else a gourmet of fine cheeses, pickles and wines could desire.
This will be a family business. Starting small. So how shall we build our business?
Well, we’ll build the site and find our suppliers and figure out how the whole back end and front end of the business are going to work. Then we have to figure out how to promote this thing. And we’re not going to do it with big bucks, either. Because we don’t have big bucks.
Time to dig down and find those threads — the connections we have with our first customers and the many connections that lead out from them.
Our purpose is simple — to build close relationships with our first customers and give them both the tools and the will to tell all their friends, family and colleagues.
Here’s our first–stage, a no-brainer checklist of things to do:
- Put my email address, phone number and physical address on the homepage. If I want to connect, I’m going to have to provide as many methods of connection as possible.
- Create at least one weekly newsletter. Well, let’s start with two: ‘Big Cheese Weekly’ and ‘Now I’m in a Pickle.’
- Build a regular affiliate program. Gotta do that.
- Do a whole bunch of banner and newsletter swaps with other food, beverage and gift sites. Gotta do that, too.
- Buy some key search words. Defnitely.
And here’s stage two — some extra ways to reach out and pluck those threads.
- Build an interactive Q&A area on the homepage. People can send in questions and come back to find the answers. We’ll call it ‘Ask the Big Cheese.’ And then we’ll invite them to let their friends know — so they can ‘Ask the Big Cheese,’ too. (To see what I mean, take a look at the ‘Ask the Forkmasters’ area on the homepage of forkinthehead.com.)
- We’ll remember the physical world too. With every delivery, we’ll include five separate and separately coded Gift Certificates worth $10 each. The idea is that our customer can pass these on to five friends. The five friends can each use the certificate against their first online purchase. Then they, in turn, will receive five more certificates…
- And, how about a ‘Cheese-O-Gram’ service? Send a Cheese-O-Gram to all your friends, family and colleagues. The offer is that recipients are entitled to a free sample pack of cheeses — mailed to their home or office. The cost to us? About $10. Pretty cheap acquisition of new customer names and addresses. And, of course, with each sample pack delivered, there’ll also be five Gift Certificates included.
See the plan here?
Yes, there are some basic things every small business site has to do to promote itself online.
But you should also remain aware of the multiple threads that lead out from every contact and customer. Leverage your customers’ own constituencies of family and friends. Let them do the legwork.
Does it cost you? Yes, but you’re paying for customer acquisition, not market awareness. You’re paying for customers, not eyeballs.
And never grow so big in your mind that you lose sight of the threads… that build the web… that supports your business.