Small business owners often wonder what the Internet can actually DO for their business. Entrepreneurs have to be big on the DO department, their livelihood depends on it. Cool doesn’t cut it and fads don’t turn into financial success. The Internet isn’t a fad and most successful small business owners know that.
Improving financial success is on the minds of successful small business owners and that’s the place the Internet has to impact small business…. In the revenue column.
I’ve looked into many small business ideas and have yet to find one that can’t be better by using tools provided on the Internet or using the Internet to improve marketing or customer loyalty.
One specific example I’d like to mention is in the retail industry. In Northern Michigan people still can vegetables and “put up” foods in the fall so they can use them over the winter. ( I work with some people on a retail food business)
If you owned a small business in the food or produce industry and also ran a website that had information for your customers you would have a following and likely an email list. In fact some entrepreneurs use this capability in evaluating the best business to start.
Lets say you developed an email list of customers who canned tomatoes and sent out an email to order canning tomatoes. Its likely that you could go out and procure a set number of canning tomatoes based on orders and earn more based on volume discounts and ALSO eliminate waste associated with produce, especially canning tomatoes. This is just one example.
So the first small business idea that is tied to the Internet is:
Increasing effectiveness of communication with customers.
Can you do it in your business? How?
Another top idea for using the Internet to improve a small business is innovation. I like to think of small business as innovation. I’ve watched many small businesses and the ones that seem to be on top are the ones that are constantly making changes that are in line with their primary purpose and directly serve their target market.
Small businesses using the Internet to innovate many times means changing the way CUSTOMERS behave. Changing the behavior of customers to create a win win scenario is huge to a small business especially one with established foot traffic and customer traffic. There are many do it yourself website solutions that allow a person to make their own website for little or no cost. And many hot online businesses actually started out as an arm or an improvement to customer experience.
Its much easier to assess the cost of a change and the impact of a change when you already have numbers, real numbers, to apply the changes too.
The canning tomatoes example hits on this idea too, but lets look a bit closer.
People are using the Internet primarily for one reason, to find information. People make decisions based more on information today than they ever have and this is where you could use the Internet to innovate your business.
Lets go back to the grocery/retail example. Using a website you could talk and inform your customers about the products you sell. Instead of telling one story (your businesses story) in your marketing/business plan, you could tell a story for every product you sell. Where is it grown/manufactured, who grows it, what are their names?
Having the capabilities to bring photo, video and audio right to your customers about the products you sell is powerful especially in an industry that is lacking in that now.
So small business ideas and the Internet idea number two is “changing customer behavior”
In the book “The Science of Getting Rich” ( you can get the book here, I give it away free) … it talks about being creative and competitive. In fact the book states that if your in a business or industry where the only way to succeed is on the competitive plan…Then GET OUT.
Price alone is not and never has been a good indicator of best and this goes for high end and low end. People often falsely assume quality with a higher price and this creates a real mess in the retail end of things.
Creatively explaining your product, why it cost what it does, and what it will do for your customer is a must in today’s small business world. You have to do it.
The third idea I want to mention is just that. Using the Internet to creatively tell about your business, your products, and your services.
If you offer something at a lower cost than your competitor, you need to tell them why. Is it an exclusive supplier? Is it that you buy with a group and receive volume discount? Do you simply drive further to purchase your product? A lower price tag won’t cut it many cases and the Internet, a website and other tools of technology can help communicate in a clear and creative way just what your offering your customers.
One last idea to think about as a small business owner who cares about your business and your customers is the social element of the Internet and how you can use it to offer more. If your customers could ask specific questions on your website about products or service you offer, would they? Using the food example: If customers could ask how to do stuffed peppers, would they? And if another customer who happened to know saw the question do you think they would answer? Probably….. that’s community, its a big deal.