If I can’t find your business online, it may as well not exist

As an early 30-something, I find myself caught between generations and the labels and expectations that go along with them. I resent the mostly condescending and unflattering characteristics that usually appear in profiles of Millennials, but in one regard I’m sure I am actually very typical: I use the internet for (almost) everything. And I’m constantly being reminded that older generations might not use the internet in the same way or to the same extent that my contemporaries and I do.

I was recently preparing for a cottage getaway with my extended family, and realized we needed a particular piece of camping gear. One Baby Boomer relative suggested I make some calls to various stores around town. “Forget that,” I laughed to myself, and fired up the iPad to check the inventory availability on a couple local big box stores’ websites/apps. There was one store (ahem, Target) that doesn’t have an ecommerce site, and the time it took to call the store, wait for someone to check the shelf, and report back to me was longer than it took for me to review products, prices, and availability at four others online.

Bottom line: I love it when companies make it easy for me to find answers to my questions. And the critical starting point for “easy” is “online.”

In my experience, older generations sometimes don’t fully grasp that for people my age and younger, if we can’t find you online, you may as well not exist.

My colleague Jordan Furlong came up with the perfect analogy on this topic in a recent post on his Law21 blog. Here’s his response to the question, How can a law firm encourage its workers to adapt to the online environment? It applies to basically any organization, not just law firms.

“Everyone now searches for everything on the internet. Vast numbers of people buy vast quantities of products and services on the internet. Having a weak or non-existent internet presence is like moving your law office out of a prime commercial office building in a major city and into an unmarked house on the outskirts of a small town. It’s really no more complicated than that.”

Even if I know a product or a business exists, I do research online to find out more about it, to confirm my first impression, to find reviews and sales, etc. When I can’t find any info online, I get suspicious, or become unimpressed, or lose interest — and move on. Okay, there’s that Millennial desire for instant gratification!

But Millennials are also known for their relentless optimism, and maybe this is why I so enthusiastically believe that every organization can have a great online presence.

The barriers to being online have never been lower, so there is zero reason your business or organization shouldn’t be active online. If you work in a business, investing in your website can’t be optional. There don’t need to be a lot of bells and whistles; your time and effort in developing good content matter much more.

If money truly is an obstacle (maybe you’re a student or run a charity), get a free blog at WordPress or Blogspot. (Facebook and Twitter are great, but please don’t make them your only presence!)

Whatever you do, if you want me to find you, don’t let me come up empty-handed when I look for you online. Because I’ll always look.

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