The Ten Steps of Business Owner Internet Evolution

Because my field is “Internet Advertising”, I get to talk with a lot of business owners. Something that I have observed is that there seems to be an “evolution” they all go through when it comes to marketing their business online. It’s not unlike the guy who started out with a pager on his belt in in 1988, got himself a big candy bar cell phone in 95, upgraded to a cool flip phone in 03, and is now getting online and listening to music with his fancy pants iPhone. The funny thing is that as clear as this evolution is, the person with the flip phone often can’t imagine that someday they’ll have an iPhone (or any touch screen internet device for that matter). They may think that it’s too “high tech” or something. But I’ll bet if they look back ten years, they wouldn’t have imagined the phone in their pocket would be something they would want or need either.

As an early adopter, this is very weird to me. I look forward to the day when my phone is implanted in my brain or something. I’m sure that would scare the H out of my dad but I’d still bet he gets the “implant phone” someday regardless of what he thinks of that idea now. LOL!

So it’s also kinda weird for me when I meet a business owner who is in the early stages of what I’ll call “The Ten Steps of Business Owner Internet Evolution”. When I tell them that they need SEO or SEM, or they should sign up for Twitter, it often scares the heck out of them. (Just like my dad when I showed him my iPhone.)

To that end, I’d like to lay out the evolution as I see it. Sure, you could get a lot more complex and I haven’t gone into as great a detail as I could. But for the most part, I think that you’ll see that this progression makes sense. And if you’re a business owner reading this blog, it might give you an idea of where you’re headed. Enjoy.

The Ten Steps of Business Owner Internet Evolution

1) “I guess I need a web site.” He builds it himself or possibly has his brother-in-law or a friend build it. No thought goes into any kind of marketing of the site. He expects that once he’s online, the business will simply come.

2) “My website is just an online portfolio.” He uses the site to refer potential customers to a place where he keeps pictures of his work, testimonials or maybe even a few items for sale.

3) “Maybe I should market my website.” He puts his web address on his business cards and his truck. He may even let his yellow pages rep talk him into buying an ad in the online yellow pages.

4) “I’ll just do it myself.”He gets on Google and signs up for Google AdWords. He picks out about 10 to 50 keywords and caps his budget at $100 or $500/mo.

One of two things happen next…

5) “I don’t understand all this (expletive)!” He cancels his online advertising campaign and returns to step #2.


6) ”I don’t have the time or expertise for this. I think it could be done better.” He hires someone to optimize his site, run his pay-per-click, or both. (Note: A new, updated website usually accompanies or precedes the epiphany to advertise.)

7) “How else can I promote my website besides the search engines?” He starts exploring advertising on other websites like popular blogs related to his products/services. He runs some display advertising with the local online newspaper. He may even dive into the world of “behavioral targeting.”

8) “I need to communicate to my customers.” He starts a newsletter or email blast campaign. He begins gathering customers’ emails through an opt-in or special offer.

9) “Communicating with my customers is creating more sales.” He starts to social network on facebook and/or LinkedIn. He may even decide to start blogging!

10) “I think I’d better figure out this Twitter thing.” He signs up for Twitter so that as his customer base grows, they can “follow” him for news and specials.

In the end: “I’m using highly trafficked websites to promote my brand. I’m putting my ads in front of customers who have an interest in what I’m selling. I appear on the search engines when someone searches with a relevant keyword. I gather my customers’ email address or they follow me on Twitter. Now I can communicate special offers to them when times are slow. Finally, I’m truly using the Internet as an effective marketing tool.”