The choices for small businesses just keep getting more complicated.
When I wrote about the death of the “publishing industrial complex” a couple of years ago, I thought that it would take a long time for small businesses to figure out that they are indeed publishers now, that they no longer need to rely on newspapers, or even on Adwords to get their message out. I figured small business operators would take a while, but then they’d realize that they could do it, and they’d start in.
I was wrong.
Small businesses got it very quickly. They are an adaptable bunch.
What I didn’t imagine was how quickly they would not only get it, but get disheartened. Now they already think that they can’t keep up. They see other companies doing amazing things with their blogs or with inbound marketing in general, and they think that because they can’t do that, they shouldn’t do anything.
The reality is that this is just the start of the inbound marketing revolution.
Inbound marketing is just starting.
Here’s one way to look at it:
Think about the small number of options that business operators had 100 years ago. There really wasn’t much choice at all.
But as the years ticked by, there were more and more options, and even very small businesses had to pick and choose how to spend time and money among a wide array of options.
Now, broadly speaking, we have nine different “buckets” in which to work. Here it is graphically:
While this graphic is complex, I love the conclusion and the prediction. In short, the choices that we have 10 years from now will look a lot like the choices we have today, but the time and money you spend on inbound marketing will be the fastest-growing area by far.
The good news for small business is that it’s not too late.
One of my favorite expressions is that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. Everyone knows that, but they still plant trees all the time. That’s good.
It’s the same way with inbound marketing. It may feel like everyone is ahead of you, but the reality is that almost nobody is. There’s still lots of room for businesses of every size to do a better job of making their own websites more helpful, more informative, and more inviting for prospects and customers.
I’m excited to talk about that a lot this week.
First, I’ll get to talk about it during a panel discussion we’re hosting on Monday about the future of PR. (Join us!)
PR was once the domain of only PR professionals. Now everyone is doing their own PR just by doing a great job with their own site. We’ll talk about that.
Second, I’ll be participating for the first time in a conference just for businesses that serve small businesses, the BIA/Kelsey SMB conference. (It’s not a free ticket, so I won’t just invite you down.)
But I’m excited to talk to many of the people there, some of whom come from industries that have been shrinking over the years. They understand this problem better than anyone, so they are looking closely at ways to help small businesses be successful in the modern landscape.
Increasingly, that means that many lines are blurred. Legacy phone book publishers now sell websites to small businesses instead of phone book ads. And those publishers compete with legacy check printers. (It’s true, Deluxe now has a bunch of options to help small businesses on the web.) And all of those legacy companies have to compete with all the website builders and marketing automation tool-builders who are native to the web.
I’m excited to talk to all of them because no matter how much great marketing software you have, the whole thing falls apart if small businesses don’t write blog posts at least once a week. Blogging is the cornerstone of any inbound marketing effort, and blogging is the one thing that software just can’t do. You need human beings to write the posts. It’s best if the small businesses do it themselves, but most don’t have the time. If those businesses learn about us, then they can use our team of 9,000+ writers. That’s why BlogMutt is such a great piece of the puzzle, and why we are so excited to be at BIA/Kelsey talking to the people who talk to small businesses all the time.
So to my small business brothers and sisters, I say: Take heart! If you are reading this, it means you are not late to the game at all, but in fact you are in the earliest days and there’s so much you can do.
And to those who serve small businesses, I say: Be in touch at the conference, or just reach out to us, and let us help you make small business operators succeed by getting their blogging done.