When my husband and I started our business in Hawaii about 30 years ago, the internet was just a gleam in Al Gore’s eye ( sorry I couldn’t resist ). At that time there were really only two ways to create a customer base, one was through direct advertising, which could be quite costly, or by knocking on doors. Since we were operating on a shoestring, we had a case of sore knuckles for the first couple of years from all that knocking. We were fortunate in choosing a business that manufactured something for the local market, and that wasn’t inundated with competition. We worked the entrepreneurial 80 plus hour work week, took great care to make sure we had happy customers, valued our wonderful staff, and before too long we moved into that sweet spot where word of mouth takes over. That carried us until the day we sold the business. Now I’m not saying we didn’t have hard times, or face a number of very difficult challenges, but we always made payroll.
During the last few years of that business, I got interested in documentary film making, ( we’ll talk about how that happened on another post ). So when we handed the keys over, and I walked out the door for the last time, I was ready to begin my new adventure, but this time, I had a new powerful tool to use; “The Internet”, ♪ da, da, da dahhhh ♪.
I was convinced that if I built it, they would come, and being that it was a world wide internet, they would come in droves. Sweet ! So I set up a website, let it sit there to do it’s magic, and began learning my newly chosen business. For the first few years, I was waist deep in filming, editing, sound, animation, compression, and everything else that goes into making a movie, but I knew that as soon as I had it ready to go, all I had to do was put it on the website, and sit back and watch, woohooo. Well the day finally came that it was ready to be released to the public. I had gone through the film festival circuit, made sure I had all the legalities covered, and done everything I thought possible, to make sure things would go off without a hitch. I pushed the publish button, sat back with bated breath, and … nothing.
A week later, nothing, a month later nothing. What in the world had gone wrong ? Well the first thing obviously, was that I chose a field that has a huge amount of competition, most of which are better trained and way more experienced. Another huge factor, was unlike the other business, that created something people needed, this was dependent on what people wanted, BIG DIFFERENCE. But, really the biggest reason I wasn’t getting the response I expected, was my incorrect perception of how the internet works. When I started doing searches on my company and film, I found very little, even knowing exactly where to look. How could a customer possibly find me, I was virtually invisible. Wow, was that a wake up call. I realized at that point, that the basic principals of building a customer base had not changed, you still have either paid advertising, or you have to go knocking. The only difference with an internet business is instead of sore knuckles, you get a sore head, because now you are knocking on virtual doors. Since the company and film were both self funded, it was back to that shoestring again, so time to go a knockin’.
First order of business, update the website, then start a blog, and of course that very important component, get active in Social Media. Ok, did that, and then with great excitement, checked out my search engine status, to find I’m still in the Nada realm. **** ( insert expletive here ). Really ! Alright, it was time to get serious about rankings, SEO, keywords, meta, and all that other blah, blah, blah. I have to take a moment here to give huge appreciation to all the folks that do this for a living. You definitely earn your money, and just as soon as I can afford it, I’m hiring one of you to do it for me. Anyway, I’m sitting at the computer, with my head spinning around on my shoulders in exorcist fashion, cursing the internet gods for making me do this, when a light bulb finally came on. Now granted, I’m in a virtual room of light bulbs, and only one came on, but at least it was something. And finally, it looks like the needle is moving, I’m starting to see some changes. It’s still not impacting my bottom line, but there appears to be life out there somewhere.
One very unexpected thing that has come out of all this, is it’s caused me to start writing, which is a blast, so at the least, I’m doing something I would never have done otherwise, and enjoying it. Whether or not I can create a successful business this time around, remains to be seen, and I’ll definitely keep you posted about how it’s going and what I’ve learned. It should be interesting.
Final word to all of you that like me, have thought of the internet as the rainbow with the pot of gold at the end, think again. Yes, it can be, and for some very, very lucky people, it’s an easy ride, but for most of us, it’s merely a tool to be used to in the course of what’s necessary to establish and run a business, which always has been and still is, a very challenging and difficult thing to do. It takes hard work, and there’s no way around it. So if your dream is to own a business; role up your sleeves, grit your teeth, and and get ready to do a lot of knocking. May you have great success !
Mission Positive Films