So I have this book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and it’s all about the insights into wealth that the author (Robert Kiyosaki) received by growing up with two fathers, one on each side of the income spectrum. One of the core insights can be summed up thusly: ‘Poor people work for money, rich people make money work for them.’
Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not rich. I work for my money, and I’m proud of what I do. But it occurred to me one night as I was pondering the Internet (something I do way too often) that websites kind of have the same sort of quality. There are people out there who put a lot of effort into getting on the Web, and then there are people who get a lot out of their websites…and this applies just as much to businesses as it does to individuals.
- There are those who have a small website, often just a single page, that they effectively use as a curriculum vitae and little else — sometimes they add a portfolio of their best work. These people don’t put in much work, but they don’t get that much out of the Web, either.
- Then there are those people who frantically and frequently update their profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media circuits. They often have blogs which they post to two or three times a week. These people put a lot of effort into the Internet — but their returns on that investment vary dramatically from one person to another.
- Finally, you have the people whose websites get traffic, convert surfers into customers or clients, and pay for themselves several times over.
Essentially, this concept boils down to the question: do you use the web…or does it use you?
Using the Web
If your goal is to join the first group — and you should, if you’re in business at all — you need to be aware of a few basic truths of websites, customer service, and marketing. The number one lesson you should learn is that your website isn’t a tool for you. You might make money, get leads, or get clients from your website, but those are side effects.
The real function of your website should be on helping other people accomplish something they need to accomplish. If your website is a CV-and-portfolio kind of site, it needs to be geared toward helping someone who is interested in hiring a whatever you are decide whether or not you are the right choice. That’s different from ‘deciding that you are the right choice.’ That’s correct: perhaps ironically, devoting your website to the interests of other people is the way you get the web to work for you.
Why? Because if your goal is ‘to get hired,’ you’ll probably get a job at some point — but if your goal is ‘to help someone who wants me find me,’ you’ll get a job wants you. The same thing is true of online businesses.
If your focus is on getting people to give you money, you’ll get money — but if your focus is on helping people because you have a solution to their problem (and you build your customer service and back end around continuing to be helpful), you won’t get customers so much as you’ll get fans. Fans that, in today’s social media-enabled world, will beget more fans…which of course are also customers.
All of this might seem to be dissing the core concept of marketing — that selling is about getting people to do what you want instead of what they would otherwise do — but it’s not. It’s about asking you the reader to understand that marketing should come into the picture after you’ve decided how your website can help the people it’s intended for — not as a replacement for helping those people.