I reckon one of the big attractions of running an online business is that you don’t often have to deal with real people face to face.
If you write an email saying ‘I’m sorry I won’t be refunding you because you purchased my product more than 30 days ago, and I only offer a 30 day guarantee!’, it’s just an email. It’s gone once you press ‘send’
You might get an email back with a choice word or two from your (now ex) customer. But that’s about it.
If it comes to the worst case scenario they’ll run a chargeback or write something nasty about in some forum or other. But as business discomfort goes, it’s not that bad.
If you’re running a real world business and you do the same thing when someone comes into your shop or office a LOT of different factors come into play.
First you size each other up – physical size matters in the real world and if you’re a 5’2” mini-hitler ranting about your business terms to a 6’7” ex special forces, highly disgruntled customer you could very well finish up with the blunt end of the office stapler poking out of your ass as you limp into the A&E department of your local hospital.
Then there’s the small matter of having to look into someone’s eyes and tell them they’re NOT having their money back.
If you’ve ever complained in a shop or restauarant then you’ll know it’s an uncomfortable experience for most normal people (Liverpudlians and New Yorkers excluded)
Likewise having a customer break down in tears because you’re not offering the refund they want is disquieting, even disturbing.
So why the current trend in IM for ‘offline marketing’?
Well I have to admit to being tempted into this area myself because there’s not much of a learning curve.
Now before all you offline ‘experts’ get precious about how complicated it is, please remind yourself that I’m not (nor is anyone reading this blog) as blissfully unuaware of how websites and stuff work as your average offline business owner is.
Seriously – we’re all GENIUS level with our knowledge of websites, squeeze pages, autoresponders, wordpress, plugins, testing and tracking systems, email capabilities etc etc etc compared to the average business owener who runs the restaurant up the road.
I had a quick look through my local yellow pages today, then did some local Google searches.
I’ll tell you now, if I want a mobile friendly website creating or some basic SEO doing on my hypothetical offline business website, not only do I (if I were an average business owner) not have a bloody clue about how to do it, but neither do most of the local businesses that claim to be able to PROVIDE these services!!
Most non-IM peeps who say they are SEO experts or whatever just AREN’T. Compared to you and me they’re green newbs who still think keyword stuffing is state fof the art.
Real competition is tiny.
You have the knowledge of a GOD compared to most ‘website designers’ out there who have no idea how far the technology in IM has moved over the past two years.
And therefore you can charge STOOOOPID prices such as $1,000 for installing a WP blog, uploading a nice theme and doing some SEO using the all in one SEO plugin. Would take you two hours at the most.
Even better you can get the whole thing outsourced for $200 tops and pocket the rest.
Frighteningly, stupidly simple.
So why aren’t we all doing it?
I’ll tell you why….because it involves talking to real business owners and that means people who are watching their expenses very carefully, have probably been running their ‘real’ business for several years and are absolutely bloody ruthless business people.
Yep – even the little old lady who runs the cake shop up the road will SLAUGHTER you when it comes to a business deal.
Because you’ve been living in a soft, cosy, padded world populated by fairies and fluffy puppies, never having to come into contact with anything hard or spiky to burst your IM bubble.
You’ve done business hidden behind a gmail account and Aweber and you’re SOFT.
You’ve lost any edge you ever had, and to be honest you probably never had one anyway.
(and yes having ventured back out into the real world of business lately I can tell you my balls are still sore from where I’ve been metaphorically kicked in them because I’ve lost my edge over the past few years of online marketing. Owwww!)
But SERIOUSLY if you’re thinking about offline marketing consider this…
These people deal with sales reps on a daily basis. Cold calling, hard selling b*astardo sales men. They also deal with people who owe them money, staff who are impolite, late, steal from the till and have numerous days off with hangovers while pretending they’ve got ‘food poisoning’ (shouldn’t have had those extra two vodkas ah?)
They have to deal with enforced meetings to discuss overdrafts at banks who lost the equivalent of a small country’s GDP because they were (and are) run by moral crooks.
And then finally, FINALLY when they’re just about to start work on keeping their business above water in the middle of the biggest depression we’ve seen for years (‘dip’ my arse), YOU turn up and try to explain why their number one priority should be a PRETTY WEBSITE.
You’ll get ripped to SHREDS.
If you do get the job they’ll probably bargain you down at least 40%. Then when you have your first ‘real’ meeting (while you’re blinking, pasty-faced into the sun after leaving your computer for the first time in two years) they’ll slash your profit margin to almost non existence by insisting you add ‘extras’ in order to seal the deal.
You will not have the slightest idea how to deal with a real person who isn’t just ‘passionate’ about their business. In fact they probably won’t have the luxury of being passionate. They’ll be trying too hard to keep costs down and profits up to feed their families.
Then YOU turn up and with your little flowchart, try to explain how SEO works and why they NEED to capture their leads.
Phew! Take a breath Sheps.
Some will buy the package of course.
Then they’ll phone you every day to ask more questions, alert you to more problems, or simply moan at you because it doesn’t look/do/bring sales like you implied it would.
This isn’t IM any more Toto, and real businesses are unlikely to hand over $1,200 and then allow you to walk away leaving them with nothing but a new BLOG.
No chance. Nope. Nada.
They’re offliners, they’re not retarded.
If you’re scared of running your own WSO because it ‘might flop’ or because people ‘might not like it’ then don’t even THINK about doing anything offline until you’ve dipped your toe in the water when it comes to dealing with real people, not email addresses on an autoresponder list.
Otherwise it’s like sending a virgin out to milk a bull.
There is some good news from this ranty blog post though.
Dealing with offline businesses is also great fun, and feels fabulous because you’ll immediately realise you’re running a real business where you’re out there in the open, with just your wits and skill to protect you.
It’s a much more ‘alive’ feeling than an IM business. It really is.
Because it involved real business skills, which are something we don’t see too much of in the typical internet marketing arena.
My advice to you?
There actually might not be any – I just fancied having a rant and sharing my honest views about offline marketing.
Oh sorry – yes there IS a point, and it’s this…
Despite what I said in this post, you ARE in an amazing position to market to offlne businesses because you are in the top ONE PERCENT (that’s an utter guess by the way but it sounds good) of people on the planet who know their way round websites, autoresponders etc
Most offline businesses don’t even know that autoresponders exist, let alone what they do….and content spinning, drip feed, autoblogging, .edu backlinking and ‘do follow’ links….
Well they’re like something out of ‘Harry Potter and the Chunky Meat Pie’ – total bloody fantasy.
But I’m serious –
You DO need to get some business skills first – raise your head above the parapet and get some communication going with real people – outsourcers, clients, potential customers
(Yes why not actually EMAIL someone personally and ask for their business rather than trying to ‘drive traffic’ or SEO your site to number one in Google?)
Find a site that needs your copywriting skills, or graphic design or whatever and email them personally.
Introduce yourself and what you do – jump on Skype or give them a call on the phone. Bet that’s got you sweating eh?
But it’s exhilarating when you DO get in contact with other online businesses to do deals.
It feels REAL
Do it online first where you can still hide (a bit) behind your computer and get some experience.
Because if you don’t, when you end up trying to sell your SEO service to the local pet shop owner up the road, he’s gonna feed your innards to his hamsters.
Comments welcome as usual
This is a great place to start if you want to experiment with setting up a ‘real’ business providing services to ONLINERS while you get your business ‘mojo’ back. It won’t break the bank if you find it’s not for you but it’s a really clever little system. This guy pulls in four figures a month selling IM services to online businesses. Find out exactly how he does it HERE
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I like dealing with offline business owners. The human connection is important and keeps you on track. You build connections for more business, it’s nice working with professionals and you get to learn quite a bit about their business.
Tony, you grumpy old bugger…
Bravo! Kudos for telling it like it is. If you’re really serious about building a business helping offline businesses to sell more, more often, to more people, for more profit, try to see the bigger picture.
The Bottom Line: local small businesses lack the know-how to do it all for themselves. Even if they learn, they lack the time to do it. They also lack the cashflow to hire professionals, even if they’re available. So a different model is needed.
Take SEO, for instance. There are strong similarities with commercial fishing. It’s not about recreation, sport or leisure. It’s BUSINESS. It’s about catching as many of the right kind of fish as possible, as quickly as possible, for the least possible time, effort, cost and risk.
Some bloke turns up on your doorstep offering to install sonar and radar, tune your trawler engine, scrape your hull and give it a fresh coat of paint for an outrageous up-front fee and monthly ransom payments. And…?
He tells you you still have to sail out there, on the same open ocean, in the same conditions, looking for the same fish, with the same costs and risks as your competitors.
How exciting is THAT?
Why not build the poor bloke a decent fish farm? Stocked with the kind of fish he needs?
Time for a re-think, folks.
Thanks for letting me rant, too, Tony. (Nice to catch up!) 😀
Look likes my opinion is already in the minority!
This is great stuff!
Pls keep your opinions coming and any real life stories are VERY welcome
I love this post.
Most business owners aren’t quite the horrible monsters you suggest here but your rant is on the money.
Most internet marketers more than anything need to start communicating with real people and taking action.
Here’s another awful secret no one talks about in the internet marketing world that becomes more obvious the longer you’re in the industry…
And it changes fast.
5 years ago mobile marketing was non existent.
Within 2 years if you’re not doing some form of mobile marketing for your brick and mortar business clients you won’t even be in the game.
And within another 5 years something new and game changing will come along.
And the people who have grounded themselves in real marketing fundamentals like intimately getting to know their prospects and clients, being of genuine service to them and providing them real value…
People who have taken the time to learn how to develop real deep relationships with real people…
Those are the people who can survive and thrive.
You can outsource most marketing work.
It’s the building of relationships that might last a year, 2 years, 5 years, a lifetime…that’s the skill you need more than anything.
Another great post. Recently after buying several, (in fact too many,) offline marketing WSOs I’ve gone back to dealing with real people again. And you know what? I really enjoy it!
As internet marketers we often forget how much we actually know about building and promoting websites compared to most people. We have a very useful and valuable service to offer.
Offline business people are harder to sell to initially, but once you manage to strike up a relationship with them they can be a absolute goldmine, but as you say, they will need to see real results for their money.
P.S. I recently got one direct enquiry by phone from a local businessman after he saw the website for my photography business. http://www.fotoswinter.com – Take a look at it. It’s probably the crappiest website I have ever built, and I have never got around to finishing it, but it was far better than his original site and has a PR2. I now have a very profitable contract with him for rebuilding and promoting his website.
I must admit that I view the majority of humanity as being in a fairly primitive state of evolution still and whilst these little apes with frontal lobes all go around piss taking as much as they can and getting away with it… It is the thought of having to deal with them in person or on the phone that has made me steer well away from offline.
It always seemed am odd way to build a Word that rewards people for shafting others (if they can get away with it) but I know now that people will eventually evolve out of this and start realising that if they stop being so ruthless and actually work together under an umbrella of trust and mutual respect for each others worth and input, then we will all be better off!
People scare me .. period! And it is purely this that has put me off even considering picking up a phone and talking to them… I think by the time that I will be ready, mobile phones will have the same status as the old Gramophones with the big metal horns that keep the dog entertained (If anyone is old enough to remember the ‘His masters voice’ record label?) and savvy onliners will be selling services such as virtual holograms of staff (without the rudeness or hangover absences escuses) to grateful offline businesses.
Hiding behind your computer does still have its advantages as I feel it gives the more gentle amongst the race a chance to make a living with out having to deal with the wrath first hand :o)
Maybe one day I’ll change my mind but IM is still far more the comfortable choice by my reckoning :o)
How did the accountability idea go BTW Tony??
I really enjoyed that post. As it was (is?) with IM, people are always saying how easy offline marketing is.
I have recently started offering web design services to driving schools in my local area but of course their money is tight at the moment.
I did a site free for a school to get feedback and a testimonial and it took a while, so if I had a paying customer, I would be charging for that time.
Anyway, I am actually looking forward to dealing with real people face to face or phone to ear. It won’t be my main source of income so there won’t be any pressure on either side. If they won’t pay my minimum then no harm done.
Thanks for the post. It was great to hear it from the clients’ side.
All the best,
Love your rant Tony, it’s a pretty accurate description of offline marketing. NOT EASY, no matter what they say in all the WSOs. Yes, most offline businesses need help that online marketers can give. But convincing business owners that (1) they need help and (2) you can do the work and bring them more business, is really tough. I do offline, and it is a hard way to make a living.
I’ve been asked a couple of times – so to clarify, yes I do offline stuff too, and yes I find it pretty tough going, which to be honest I’m enjoying althought it gets DAMN frustrating at times.
So any experts reading this (and thanks to the experts who have already posted) if any of you feel like sharing anything without giving away your business ideas / models I’d love you to post here