Starting your own business today is not like starting your business in 1999, not to mention 1980. From a visionary founder of Small Business TV, a person who saw the video future emerging long before many of the rest of us... From Susan Solovic, I expected more. Yes, It's Your Biz, is a good starting point to setting up a successful small business, but it's not at all a great starting point. Yes, it covers all the bases from legal formation to personnel selection. And yet it has its share of zingers, such as "Passion is not the singular key to business success."
But beyond the obvious, beyond the platitudes, beyond the five star reviews by compatriots of Solovic, It's Your Biz let's you down. It has some great commonplace ideas about business, such as the difference between a business and a job, but it fails at the details. The devil in your business will most certainly be in the day-to-day details of small business management, and especially small business marketing. But It's Your Biz fails to help us in any detailed way, fails to help us see (and avoid) the devil in the details of small business.
As someone who teaches Internet Marketing Online (Just Google 'Jason McDonald' to find me), let me speak to the area of my experience: Internet Marketing for small business.
MASSIVE AMOUNTS OF COMMON SENSE (MACS)
In Chapter 6, Solovic turns to the marketing plan, the critical way your business will promote itself - reach its customers, excite them about your brand and products, and engage them to try your product or service. From a visionary leader in Internet TV, you would expect mind-popping details of effective Internet strategy. From someone who advocates MACS (Massive Amounts of Common Sense), you'd expect her to clearly focus on the biggest bang for most companies - Search Engine Optimization (SEO), as well as the new kid on the block Social Media Marketing (SMM), but she does not, especially with respect to the former.
Instead, we are told if you don't have a website, you are just plain stupid. Yes, go on... But nothing of substance really follows. I agree that you must have a website. But beyond that, what? I submit that if you don't know SEO, or don't consider SEO, you are also just plain stupid. If you are a new attorney in Dallas,TX, getting your company to the top of Google is a critical entry path to new customers. If you have the new herbal cure for male pattern baldness, please contact me at once... and please optimize your website to dominate Google searches such as male pattern baldness. If any (or all) of your potential customer start at Google, then you must dominate SEO. That's MACS at work, but Solovic provides us with precious little guidance about how to get our sites to the top of Google for free. She might counter that his book is too high level for the details, and I'll give her that.
But as a conceptual book, surely she should have pointed out the value of SEO. It should alert you as a small business startup to make sure you consider SEO, and if applicable to your business, to make it a free part of your marketing plan.
Some MACS advice? First and foremost, Google the word, 'SEO'. Even better Google 'Google SEO Guide,' and you'll see a Google guide to the subject. Learn the subject and make it part of your online marketing strategy. Second, do some very basic things. For instance, choose a domain that contains your target keywords. Or, embed your target keywords in your home page TITLE tag. Or, write keyword heavy content, and blog, blog, blog - always on target, always on topic. If your potential customers use Google, you can't afford not to understand and use SEO, but MACS aside, It's Your Biz does not help in this area.
REVIEW REVIEWS REVIEWS
Similarly, if your business benefits from word of mouth, it will probably benefit from eWom (electronic Word of Mouth). Reviews on services like Google Places, Yelp, are critical. But how do you get reviews? What are MACS strategies to encourage, solicit, cajole, leverage, incent, ask for, or otherwise get reviews? For a business on It's Your Biz, It's Your Biz is silent, conspicuously so. Yet reviews and the social media marketing of reviews are a critical new area for any small business, a free marketing opportunity that you should leverage. Again, near silence on this topic beyond platitudes about engaging your customers through social media.
Guy Kawasaki, the visionary marketer from Apple, often quips you should 'Eat your own dog food.' That is, use your own products, or practice what you preach. Well, reviews are critical to successful business these days - not just local reviews, but reviews on services such as Google Merchant Center, Amazon, and ePinions. Look at the other reviews for It's Your Biz. Click on the reviewer profile (click on mine). Many, if not all, of the reviews for this book sound a little, staged, a little promoted. Don' they? Any chance that these reviews are FOS? Friends of Solovic, rather than impartial reviewers?
If so, as a marketer, I applaud her. If so, as a reader, I beg her to show me how to get reviews, or at least nod her head in the direction of how to play the review game, and win.
THE DEVIL IN THE DETAILS
MACS - massive amounts of common sense - is indeed a great philosophy of marketing. Asking, "How will your customers find you?," as she does is a great question. But we need answers. We need to do's, such as search Google for 'Google Search Engine Optimization Guide,' read that handy how-to from Google, and set up a website that is Google friendly. The devil in It's Your Biz is in the details. The details to setting up and promoting your own business - now that's a real devil. And the devil is missing in the details of this disappointing book, It's Your Biz.