I've been online since 1988 and I began programming websites professionally in 1994. With 35 years experience online, you certainly can say I'm one of the internet "old timers." In the mid 1990s, we had no idea how the internet would transform the world. Indeed, just watch any sci-fi movie from the early 90s and you'll see how their portrayals of the future completely lack the everyday technology we take for granted today.
The Early Internet
Everything about how we live and work has changed in the last 29 years. I was working as a stock broker when I started my first business in 1994. I remember how so many investors viewed the internet as a technology trend that wouldn't last, but they were gambling on big payouts for short term investments.
As the year 2000 approached, many small businesses were worried about the Y2K Bug and if the internet would still be around in a few years. Marketing methods were beginning to change and dot-com companies were using TV commercials to advertise their websites while also using paid online banner ads and paid search ranking to build top of mind awareness online.
A lot of investment dollars poured into paid advertising that was exciting to look at, but failed to generate the business that was expected. The dot-com bubble began to burst in 2000 as the promise of big online profits failed to pay off.
Sadly, many of the ideas that failed in 2000 probably would have worked today. The big difference is that we have high speed internet and a greater trust to shop online in 2023 than we did in 2000.
Learning From Dot-Com Failures
I'm digging up some of this internet history because there's a latent distrust, or perhaps a wariness that many older business owners have of the internet. I'm not sure what it is, or where it came from, but it's there. While some people might have made fortunes with investments into the IPOs for AOL, Netscape, and RedHat, a lot of investors lost money. Perhaps that foul stench of lost money lingers.
The big dot-com failures, like Pets.com, boo.com, and Webvan tried to get big too fast without proper market research, a business plan, and a proper strategy. Investors really were trying to get rich quick and overlooked these basic business practices as they threw money at these companies.
It's more than 23 years later and I'd like to believe that everyone has learned from this, but I'm always the optimist.
Using What Was Learned
This is my 1,241st Daily Golden Nugget, and with each one of these that I write I eternally hope to change the point-of-view of my own target audience, the jewelry industry, that the internet is here to stay and that every business should be involved somehow.
Involvement doesn't mean you have to sell online; in fact, I advise most jewelers against e-commerce until they have a better plan and some of their own website ownership experience. Many of the dot-com e-commerce disasters occurred because those companies tried to go from nothing to immediate success within 18 months, spending billions of dollars of investment capital in the process.
Retail jewelers and jewelry designers don't have investment capital; they have to work things through at a reasonable pace and on a reasonable budget. But at the same time, if you're a business owner, you still need to take some risks. You'll never advance without taking some risks.
There are plenty of methods to advertise online that will bring customers to your store, even without some big, fancy website. Local ads from Google AdWords Express (explained here and here), and properly targeted Facebook ads will bring customers to your store. Those ad techniques work as long as you plan them out properly after doing your own market research, establishing a plan, and a developing a proper strategy--instead of carelessly throwing money at them like most jewelers are currently doing.
Does Your Own Burn Still Sting?
Maybe that's why many jewelers fear online advertising... Since 2000, many agencies and internet experts have convinced jewelers to spend advertising dollars without proper planning, yielding small results. Is that why there's a fear that online paid ads don't work?
On the other hand, I will be a little more facetious and ask how could you know if previous online ads didn't work without proper tracking? To this day, I continually have to remind retail jewelers that they need to ask their customers what brought them in that day.
The problem with the ad agencies that service small businesses is that they don't usually provide the business consulting and analysis needed to turn simple advertisements into long term strategies.
Big Business Thinking
Large companies don't worry if an ad is going to work or not. With the right research and long term plan they build the campaign, think it out, create ways to measure it, and launch it.
Then they wait until the predetermined campaign has concluded.
They wait. They don't panic the day after an ad is launched because it didn't bring in immediate foot traffic. They understand the difference between a one-off advertisement and a strategic campaign.
They wait. They understand that they have a long term plan and it will take a while for every ad campaign to gain traction.
They then compile their data, create pretty graphs and reports, and figure out what worked and what didn't work. They learn from their mistakes and build a library of their best techniques to build upon time and time again.
This entire process sounds expensive, but it's not as expensive as it used to be. Technology allows the easy processing and measuring of granular data. The cost of hiring the right marketing consultant to provide this analysis will eventually lead to higher paying customers and fewer wasted advertising dollars.
Promoting Your USP or Your Mission?
Long term business strategies will help build your business brand. Honestly, I dislike the way so many marketing people throw around the word "brand" without completely understanding it. Your store's brand starts with your mission statement. Far too many marketing people confuse the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) with a mission statement.
You mission statement is what compels you to be in business, whereas a USP is used to convince customers to buy a particular product or service from you.
Your store atmosphere, employee attitude, every individual ad, every event, and every social post you make needs to support your mission statement. Albeit, some of your ads and social posts might be on the fringe of your mission statement, but your mission statement should be the guideline for what you post.
Should You Use The Latest Social Network?
Some advertising mediums might be a short lived fad, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't use them. As long as you stay true to your long term plan you can use any medium to advertise it, assuming your target customer is using that medium. How will you know if your customer is there? Well that gets back to market research.
Additionally, every advertising medium has its own nuances and proper methods of delivering a message. What works for a local newspaper may not work when repurposed for direct mail, or a billboard. Social networks have a built in culture that needs to be understood if you want to deliver successful ads.
Continual Education and Profits
You can't expect instant success with any new ad or new medium until you learn how to use the medium and how customers will react. That means you will, in fact, be losing money on many of your initial ads. But I don't want you to think of ROI when you launch a new ad on a new medium, I want you to view it as an investment into your education process for that ad and medium.
We're all in business to make money, not to further our education, so eventually your marketing campaigns need to pay off. You should always start small and test your ads with a smaller group before spending a lot of money on a large campaign. With AdWords and Facebook that simply means using smaller ad budgets.
Proper customer segmentation is a key component of successful campaigns as well. Segmentation will be different for every medium you choose.
Jewelry business owners are often paralyzed by all the choices they have for advertising. There's a latent fear that the money they spend on ads will be a waste, when it should always be thought of as part of the continual learning that a business owner needs in order to grow a business.
A lot of people lost money because of the poor business planning that led to the demise of many dot-com businesses in 2000. Every business will fail without a long term plan, a mission statement, and a strategy to accomplish that plan. Market research and customer segmentation is needed in order to turn that long term plan into a realization.
As part of the plan for your profitable future, you need to try different things and take risks. You also need to recognize your strengths and weaknesses as a business owner and seek help of agencies or consultants whose skills will help you achieve your goals.
There are many advertising opportunities that present themselves every day. Don't simply dismiss them out of hand without first thinking about if they will work, and most importantly, if they will help your plan.