It’s tough for others to take you seriously if you don’t take yourself seriously. Being serious about your business involves running it like a real business. Especially on the internet, it can be easy to have a very minimalist presence, and it’s sometimes hard to feel “legit.”
Let me share a personal example of how I practice what I preach. A couple of years ago I decided to break into horticulture and start an agritourism business on our farm in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. There’s been an annual strawberry festival here in the “Strawberry Capital of the World” since the 1940’s. There were once over 4,100 acres of strawberries grown in my county. An import like me, waltzing in from Virginia Beach, should have never been able to step in and take over. But I did.
I looked for low input, but high impact, ways to step onto the stage right out of the gates. The buzzword here is “Stilwell Strawberries.” Fortunately, many of the old-timers were asleep at the wheel, and I was able to snag StilwellStrawberries.com. Likewise, nobody had even bothered to register Stilwell Strawberries, LLC in Oklahoma. I’ll take that, too, thank you. While everyone else was content to harvest & hock their berries on the side of the road, I opened the first & only “pick-your-own” in the county – and thus snagged StilwellUPick.com as well.
So, now, I am Stilwell Strawberries (I picked up the Facebook page to match). I have the company name, website, fanpage, etc. Then I filled the next gap. While everyone in surrounding areas wants Stilwell Strawberries, not a single producer had bothered to wholesale to grocers. I stepped in. I moved my product to over a dozen grocery stores in my first year, and am scaling into a second regional grocery store chain in the Spring of 2018. My strawberries will be in stores in both AR & OK and my overall brand, J5 Farm, is gaining regional recognition.
While I stepped in and seized missed opportunities by others, there are some factors that “prop up” those efforts. I took my business seriously. I not only acquired web assets and legal entities as need be, but also did my own press releases. I was sure to get listings on government and third party websites as well. However, one of the most effective things I did was invest in a myriad of promotional gear.
Digital assets & electronic promotional efforts are important, but there’s nothing like being able to hold something in your hands. So I made sure we looked “professional” from day 1. We had business cards, loyalty cards for repeat purchasers, banners, stand-up displays, t-shirts, mugs, bags, and so on. It may seem strange, but having all of these resources made us feel proud and serious about what we are doing. We hardly looked like a start-up. We looked like a well-established business, and people treated us accordingly. On top of wholesaling to grocers & running a “u-pick,” we were able to step into established farmer’s markets and take over as the go to “strawberry experts.”
Running an internet business has so many similarities. Maybe you won’t create bumper stickers & mouse pads for your online business – or maybe you will. But there are certain “housekeeping” matters that any business should attend to. Simply having an LLC to “protect you from your business & your business from you” is a pretty fundamental step for anyone serious about running any business. Likewise, having the proper legal disclosures & disclaimers on your website is just one of those “administrative” tasks that may not be fun, but must be done. Ironically, those who tackle these tasks generally feel a burden lift and also feel a stronger “posture” positioning themselves in the marketplace knowing they have their act together in this regard.