There was an event in Cardiff very recently, and from what I can gather, it was in part at least, hosted by the Welsh Government. The not usually associated with altruism mega business Google presented the latest step in their ‘quest’ to get British business on-line, imaginatively entitled ‘Getting Welsh Business On line’ 

As you might expect there has since been a flurry of tweets and blogs to celebrate the event, which on the face of it is an amazing idea. Free websites for all businesses in Wales! And free web advice to get you started too. A brilliant deal?

Lets make no mistake. Google is an amazing business. They make more money than I can ever imagine, and do it amazingly well. They are clearly intent on tying everyone in the world into one of their products, like the productivity type software available, Google+ social media platform, Google mobile phone platforms etc. as clearly, winning the search engine war for market share isn’t enough!

And of course, once they have learned everything there is to know about all of us, willing as we are to sign up to these generally brilliant services, they then merrily sell that data, our innermost secrets, on to businesses. Businesses like yours and mine as well as other mega businesses the world over.

In essence, what ever your business sells, Google can find someone who wants to buy it, further, they’ll find someone who is looking for it right now, and it’ll cost you very little indeed to find them using their amazingly futuristic algorithms.

I LOVE Google. What a business. Mind blowing from its inception. Its culture, design, plans, management, ethos, even its offices. They themselves are the stuff of legend, and I won’t go into much detail about that here. They make space age buckets of cash. They don’t want to do evil (or something like that?) The business person in me is simply in awe of their scale, their vision, their achievement and so on.

And of course they are super clever. This campaign works on so many levels. If you love the idea you are sharing it, probably on Google platforms! If you hate the idea, you are sharing it, again most like with some Google influence there at some point. The businesses signing up for these free offers are of course simply adding to Googles data. Many people have complained that this will harm the burgeoning Welsh eindustry. Others that it will help it. Google all the while making some embarrassingly futile ‘coughs’ and ‘ahems’ about the greater good.

This is about Google making money people. And fair play, more power to them. At least, again, on the face of it.

I’m not interested in that side of it. I’m not interested in the political sides of the argument, and there are a few! I’m not even interested, at this point, in whether Google will live up to its promises.They still haven’t come back to me on my offer of free advertising for them which they blatantly asked for, and are getting on this blog, in return for free advertising for me! I guess they don’t have to reply to the ‘small guy’?

This is a blog about business and selling. So what I do object to is the inference that a website is all it takes to be successful in the first place. This is simply not true.

Twenty years ago I don’t think there was an analogous media business to Google (?) but this offer is exactly the same as free classified advertising in the biggest newspaper in the market. Back then of course, was when newspapers had classified sections worth being in. The difference even then, is that there would have been a pretty savvy person at the business end of the arrangement who knew they’d have to get the wording in the listing right, or otherwise no one would respond to the ad, whether it was free or not.

These days too many people and especially people in business, believe that all they need is a website in order to compete.

Evidence? SEO is still a mystery to most. Ad words, though about to take a big jump due to this very Google activity, a vague idea in the background. Have a look a the shockingly bad level of websites for business out there at present. Sites that don’t even have pictures, much less ecommece ability. SItes that you can’t find contact details for the business on, sites that are single ‘holding’ pages, sites that crash, sites with links that don’t work, sites that essentially are next to useless. And I’m afraid offers like ‘free websites’ do nothing to dispel the myth that they just need to be on-line, at all costs in order to win.

Marketing, and indeed selling, on a really basic level, is really easy.

1) Stand for something. Preferably something no one else stands for. Have a purple cow as it were.

2) Find out where your customers are

3) Tell them about you, and your purple cow, as efficiently  and memorably as possible.

These days, the opportunities are of course world-wide for everyone, thanks to the world wide web. It seems no matter how esoteric your product, the internet will find someone who wants to buy it. Have enough different purple cows and you’ll get yourself a long tail, and sell random things to very few people, but over and over again until you become another web – millionaire.

But in the mean time, you can sell to your local market, your regional market, national and even international markets, using exactly the same simple formula.

I see businesses fail every day because they:

1) Dont stand for one thing – they’ll even purposely stand for as many as they can think of in order to cover all the bases.

2) Have no idea where their customers are – they’ll even cast about themselves in a seemingly random manner, trying all and every channel they or an enterprising media sales person can think of.

3) Confuse the customer with multiple messages. The last thing they want to do is tell their customers about their one purple cow, they’ll talk about their family run business, free parking, excellent displays and all sorts. All next to useless information in todays super informed marketplace.

My worry is, with no one to tell them this, our local Welsh businesses will pile in online with their free websites, in the vain hope that just being there will be enough. They’ll invest in the expected outcomes being on-line will bring, and wait, increasingly frustrated and maybe even increasingly desperate when they don’t appear.

I don’t blame Google for doing this, they after all, need to make a living (could they ever make ‘enough’ money do you think?) I don’t blame the Government, generally people, even politicians, are well-intentioned in my experience. I don’t blame the businesses themselves. Why would retailers and service providers and so on understand these principles? They are nothing to do with their every day activities.

I don’t really blame anyone. I’d rather concentrate on what we can do about it.

There are so many talented businesses and sales people in Wales. Consultants, web businesses, advisors, specialists media companies, advertising agencies and so on, we must start to have an effect soon right?

And in the meantime, we’ll pitch in with our completely free sales advice! Deal?

Let me know what you think of Google’s offer, or what I’ve had to say on the matter in the comments box below. Or leave a comment on the Facebook page. It would be great to hear from you.

  1. ET
    ET says:

    Helping small businesses to get off the ground involves so much networking and marketing, Tony. Funding a specially trained force to help in this respect would pay dividends in the long term, wouldn’t it?

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Hi Eiry! Welcome back.
      Do you know what? While I understand what you mean, and I think to an extent that service exists, there is also the requirement for a business to stand on its own two feet?
      The principles are simple, but as you say, at start up especially, so hard to implement

  2. mrsmoti
    mrsmoti says:

    Wow, lots to react to here. Will try and be very to the point.

    1. Politically it probably makes safe good sense to have Google deliver this stuff. Can you imagine the outcry if one Welsh biz was given contract? In search, in its very nature, there can probably just be one dominant operator – and this is them.

    Last year WG brought Doug Richard and team delivering School for Start-Ups seminars to Wales – and they were terrific. Free again… If businesses aren’t assertive enough to find this stuff, then, doh, why are they in business?

    2.At the inaugural event at the Coal House. Google’s UK MD ran over their content: use visuals, social networking, try adwords, keep testing, importance of analytics… Think most people enjoyed looking at all the different test pages for the Obama campaign and seeing which one worked…

    3. I went for a 40 min free 1-2-1 with a bright as a button young Google person. I loved it – had a very thorough trip round adwords and other pointers – most enjoyable and interesting.

    4. You can have a fantastic website – but you’re right – if your biz doesn’t have purpose and engagement you’re stuffed…

    5. Really don’t think this Google initiative is going to be detrimental to existing digital Welsh business, unless they are proving mostly basic SEO. Who is anywhere near challenging Google?

    Keep it coming, please….

    • Tony Dowling
      Tony Dowling says:

      Thanks Pippa, And I think your right, I can only see postives with these sorts of initiatives. I can imagine you would have enjoyed your 40 minutes, right up your street!

      And the bigger point is also the case, some businesses can’t be helped. The answers are there in front of them (and usually ‘hard work’ shaped) and if they can’t get to them they tend to fail

      Survival of the fittest?

  3. Mike Bersin
    Mike Bersin says:

    Packed with powerful stuff as ever Tony. One of the things I’ve learned is the power of the internet to make you realise how small you are v the sheer number of people out there. Yes your business can potentially reach 7,000 million people around the world, but it also gives you a scary insight into how many millions of businesses in your category are out there all trying to do the same thing.
    So, instead of shouting your wares from a stall in a town of 10,000, you’re now in a market square with about ONE BILLION stalls – and they’re all shouting.
    Never confuse a medium with a message.