THB Insider – Issue 3, August 7, 2006

In a message to subscribers to this ezine, I promised to talk about how new Web tools help level the playing field for today’s small business owner.

Search tools at our fingertips, such as Google and Yahoo!, provide a clear example.

These days we take for granted how easy it is to access information, instantly, and at little or no cost, that once would have required paying a visit to a city library, or hiring a research assistant or research firm to do the search for us. And even hiring someone else had its problems.

I recall once when I had responsibility for some national education programs, organising a library search and being dismayed on going through a foot high pile of computer printout, only to discover that the search terms had different meanings in the education systems of different countries and I had a pile of results that were of no practical use for my project. It was before the ‘user pays’ obsession caught on in the public service, so there may not have been an actual charge on my department’s accounts. But there was not much, if any, re-cycling of paper in those days, so there was some tangible cost.

Several years later, while managing a media company, I arranged an online search at the State Library and was somewhat peeved to find that there was not only a charge of several hundred dollars for the search but an equal amount for the Library staff’s time, with results that seemed less useful than the cost indicated.

Nowadays I would google the terms I was interested in and if the results were clearly not what I was looking for I would modify and refine the terms till I started to get relevant results. And I would not need to print anything out, at least until I found what I wanted. Cost? Nothing beyond my time and the Internet connection cost already incurred. Sure, there might be a need for more sophisticated research which might cost real money, but at the basic search level a small business with a limited budget will often have the same power as a large business with a large research budget.

And there are other Web tools that are helping to change the power relationship and marketing reach relativities between small and large businesses.

With Skype for example, the downloadable “Internet telephone”. I wrote about Skype in some detail last year and I continue to frequently talk with colleagues around the country and around the world for no cost other than what I’m paying for my Internet connections. In various configurations and from a range of providers now, Internet telephony enables small business (and large) to slash their telephony costs, one of the most obvious expense lines in any business but historically a very limiting one for small and micro business.

But the new web tool which I am most passionate about in terms of helping small business level the playing field, is weblogging or blogging. In my e-book published earlier this year, 7 Step Business Blog, I explain how, for no setup cost and a hosting fee of less than $10 a month, any small business can have a professional-looking, accessible, readily updatable and interactive website and content management system, with a range of features that ten years ago would have cost thousands of dollars to incorporate in a website.

Here are a couple of examples of blogs for small businesses that have enabled the owners to dramatically extend their reach beyond their local bailiwick and create what cartoonist and blogger Hugh Macleod has called a ‘global microbrand’ (thanks to Debbie Weil’s The Corporate Blogging Book for the link). Signs Never Sleep, the weblog of the Lincoln Sign Company, helps the owner tell his story way beyond his small town in New Hampshire, and English Cut, the blog of Savile Row bespoke tailor Thomas Mahon has helped him grow international demand for his suits. Each of these bloggers uses the Typepad  technology that costs just $8.95 a month for its basic professional site. $8.95 a month for a global brand has to be good value – same entry price for the BlogHarbor service I use.

Next week, in response to requests from some fellow coaches, I’m starting a teleclass series ‘Your Business Blog Now’, which as the title suggests is to enable participants to get started with their business blog, incorporating the blog into their business strategy. There is a cost involved, or an investment I should say , of US$125 for the course – details at http://www.startbloggingtoday.com/ybbn.html  

Blog From the Beach

In a previous message I indicated I intended to change the name of this ezine. I also want to combine the ezine with another occasional ezine, which is more related to issues about work-life balance and lifestyle choices.

The name I’m working on is Blog From the Beach, which is likely to be the one I use unless in the meantime someone comes up with something more interesting. Blog From the Beach is about my goal to have a global business from the beach, although it’s more an aspiration just now as I’m not yet physically blogging from the beach – no wireless at our local beach right now. In the meantime I settle for blogging from near the beach! If you have a suggestion for a name you think would be better, please leave a comment at the blog post version of this ezine.

Till next time

Warm regards from Australia’s generally sunny Gold Coast

Des


THB Insider is an online publication, with information, tips and links for the home based business entrepreneur. The publisher is Des Walsh, business coach & blogging evangelist, also publisher of the Thinking Home Business blog.

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About Des Walsh

I show business owners and other professionals how to navigate the social media maze and use LinkedIn effectively. I'm an author, speaker, business coach, social media strategist and LinkedIn specialist. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get my weekly Social Business Bites.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m also convinced that running a business from home is the future for many and it’s people like us who talk about the home business sector to change attitudes and make the home business sector more professionally minded in their total apporach to business.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Des,

    Your comment that “we take for granted how easy it is to access information” rings true. However, I’m amazed at how some business owners overlook Internet search engines as a research tool.

    I receive regular Emails asking for materials that are easily found online. Yet, these same people think I’m wrong to charge them for time spent doing work that’s readily accessed through the same channels open to them.

    The Web tools you mention are true time and money savers, and there are many more tools available now and coming down the pike. The playing field is no longer tilted if you take advantage of the technology.