People are everywhere, right? Considering that my first small business successes came as buying and selling stocks, doing business face-to-face with people was something that took a while for me. Now that technology is everywhere, you are still doing business with people on the other end of the Internet connection.
In October 1989, I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy, and my life changed completely. My entire business experience until then was investing in the stock market and a few other instruments profitably. I had never done any interpersonal business yet. It was technically, the first day of my business career. I took a chunk of my savings ($3000) and mailed it to a company that had published an ad in the Tuscaloosa News, and I was suddenly in business for myself, without any clue what I was doing. The ad had specified that there was no selling involved and that I would make $100K per year! I thought that this was perfect for me. I had just gotten out of the military, I had limited “people” skills and apparently I didn’t need any! Then, the 100K per year didn’t come. What did come in were many customer inquiries. I now know them as leads, but back then, they were people who ALMOST bought my product. The distributor support person on the phone said “You have plenty of leads now. All you have to do is close them.” Thus, became my first realization that business is a “people thing.”
My First Business Job
After I ended my first business learning experience in January 1990, I got a job as a manager-in-training for a (now-defunct) jewelry store chain. It was here I learned that businesses need real customers and potential customers to walk through the door BEFORE I could make any money. I was reasonably good and had a great teacher and mentor. I managed a store in Meridian, Mississippi and a recession and mounting personal problems washed away my small successes. I did retain the knowledge I had gained from managing someone else’s business before going off on my next adventure. Sure, I knew what to do if someone came to town and wanted to buy a $3000 diamond solitaire (and it did happen a few times). I didn’t know how to find these people and get them inside the store. My hands were also tied by a strict marketing budget from our home office. It’s no surprise that the company doesn’t exist today.
Technology Changed, But People Haven’t
Since then, the Internet has come along, and everything is different. What used to cost thousands and thousands of dollars (as far as marketing and market research is concerned) now costs very little compared to the early 1990’s. There are a lot of great technology tools to market with these days like social media and search engines, but people haven’t changed that much. The Internet has given us tools with which to communicate more, but have you ever gotten in an argument with someone after “texting” because you couldn’t see the expression on their face or hear the tone of their voice? Words alone on a screen are OK for communication, but it’s not the whole picture. Technology is great for getting in front of the people you want to sell to, but closing that sale over the internet isn’t as great. In order to sell effectively, you have to communicate that you care about their needs. Technology can sometimes get in the way of communicating that you care about your prospect’s needs.
Although the way we communicate has changed, but we as organisms haven’t. We still need to see the expressions on their face and the tone of their voice of our conversational counterpart to communicate effectively.
Technology Doesn’t Buy Things; People Buy Things
When you are tweaking the SEO on your web site, there is a tendency to think in numbers. How much traffic? What’s the bounce rate and how can we improve it? What is out search engine ranking on Google? These are great questions to answer, but the object is still to have your web site noticed by someone who will buy from you. A Google “spider” will not buy from you, but someone who visits your web site and says “Hey, that makes sense” will. No one gets a job by posting a LinkedIn profile, but a job seeker can find someone with whom to have lunch, who can direct them to a better job.
“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.” -Peter F. Drucker
Since the overall purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer, the use of technology in business should keep the end-user in mind. The purpose of SEO (and other tech solutions) is to find and connect with a human on the other computer who can and will buy from your business. Even with all the technology that we have today, business is still and always be a “people” thing.