Monday, August 16, 2010

6 Inches of Business Cards Tell A Net Story

Local Businesses Are Not Leveraging The Net

My business requires that I constantly engage in face to face contact with business owners across Trinidad and Tobago.

The topic of each conversation has changed over time but I have maintained a habit of requesting a business card at the end of each conversation.

Today I have acquired over 500 business cards. Approximately 6 inches of business cards stacked on top of each other. That collection represents a lot of communication with the local business community.

But that’s not why I’m bringing up my business card collection today. It is because today I had a good reason to review each one. The task was to identify the businesses with websites.

At least for the ones I had cards for. That’s when it hit me, I realized the extent of the challenge when it comes to the Internet for local businesses.

Here we are in 2010 at a time when the Internet is being used by approximately one third of TnT, about 300,000 online. Granted, this is only an aggregate of all internet service providers’ data available to the public. The point is the size of the audience is unquestionable.

Most business owners have an online connection at their business location.

Question is: Why do so many business owners give out business cards without a web address? Every business card has a phone number, and some even an email addresses. And by the way, have you ever emailed someone you wanted to purchase a product or service from? Just thought I would ask because I never did.

Less than one percent of all the business cards in the 6 inche stack had a web address. Those are the cold hard facts but what does it all mean?

It means that as a people, although we have embraced the internet we still percieve it as a global phenomenon, a useful tool for research and to goggle products and services globally but locally it's not much use.

If it was, most business owners would be falling over each other trying to be the first and biggest thing online. That’s just how we are. But the answer is not always as obvious as it appears, there could be some underlying issues that keep most local businesses offline.

We can easily speculate about how most business owners perceive the Internet.

• From a global prospective, not local.
• Very expensive market to enter, finance and man hours
• Businesses offline are doing great; so why bother?

That’s all speculation, so what do you think?

Maybe the online market is still in its infancy and need to be developed before it can become more relevant to the business people and the local consumers.

What we do know is that a large percentage of locals are using their credit cards to purchase product and services online. If there are not a lot of local businesses online we can easily deduce that the purchases are not from local businesses.

The $64 question is how can we change this.

We cannot change what we cannot measure. Look out for the next post where we discuss some strategies for changing the net scape to a more local one.