Bringing older business clients online - overcoming their fears & providing guidance
6th December 2011

I recently met with a prospective client who confessed that she might be too late in terms of getting her business online. Overall she is a superbly successful business person with years of experience behind her but some fears (justified and unjustified) held her back from being more aggressive online.

Although there are a lot of new young entrepreneurs joining business these days most businesses are still run by 1st or 2nd generation older business persons. Although they have a wealth of experience and savvy they hesitate or are unsure about using the online medium. On inspection a lot of thier fears are justified but can be tackled.

Below are some concerns I have come across when older business persons are reluctant to take thier businesses online.

Concern: We have been successfully running our business for so many years, why try the web now?

Sooner or later all businesses big or small will have to have a part of their transactions online. It could happen in 5 or 15 years but it will happen. Those who don't will find a significant part of their business taken up by web savvy competitors. A good web developer must sit down with the client and explain in clear terms the  benefits the business owner will get over the long term / short term from going online.

Benefits can be  explained in terms of

  • Demographic reach
  • Untapped markets (like youth).
  • Business process efficiencies (The cloud)
  • Improved speed of doing business (ERP / CRM)
  • Niche targeting and more?

Concern: I am afraid of hacking, stealing of Intellectual Property, unauthorized  copying etc.

In this area the older business person's concerns are very justified. The web is notorious for such activities. But this does not need to become a reason for not going online. Preventive measures and security protocols can be implemented to mitigate the risk from such threats.

Steps a business owner / web developer can take include:

  • Purchasing hosting space from companies with good defensive protocols such as firewalls and antivirus softwares.
  • Creating password protected areas on thier sites not available to general public.
  • Using encryption technology such as Secure Socket Layer (SSL)
  • Hiring security firms to do security audits to find out vulnerabilities in the website.
  • Backing up data regularly
  • Only maintaing essential data on the server and backing up / deleting all non-essential data.

As with our health - 'Prevention is better than cure'.

Concern: The costs of adding an online function will add significantly to my yearly budget.

Going online usually has a balancing effect on business i.e. where costs are increased due to going online there are also returns due to improved sales or increased efficiences. So the idea is to implement your online initiative in such a way as to offset any increase in costs with increase in profits/savings. Do read this line again as its very important and if you do this then the web initiative will pay for itself.

Examples of where the balancing effect of online initiatives occours:

  • Costs of implementing a corporate website are offset by the need to print/reprint expensive brochures.
  • Costs of implementing online newsletter is offset by savings in printing physical newspapers and postage/courier costs.
  • Costs of Email/ CRM support teams are offset by reduction of phone based support saving your team's time as well as better efficiences in problem solving.
  • Costs of an ERP sytem are offset by improved gains in productivity and efficiency (if implemented correctly)
  • Costs of implementing search engine optimization/ social media are offset by costs of hiring and maintaining large sales teams.

Adding online systems to your business need not be a one way street but can provide significant improvements in the bottom line as well.

Concern: I will have to rely on  external web developers for my online initiatives instead of my core team.

Website design and development is best outsourced due to its cross functional nature i.e. it needs people of different skill sets to successfully create and run a site. But in a 'Flat' world of globalization outsourcing is an essential tool in any businesses arsenal and a fact that has to be managed. Of course care has to be taken during vendor selection to ensure you get the right partner firm.

Sometimes you might have to go through multiple vendors to get that one vendor who fits into your business culture. I have some clients that we have been with for over 7-8 years (a long time in a web design company's life).

In conclusion, the trick is to combine the older business persons experience, savvy and resources with a web developers knowledge and technology to create a team which takes the business to the next level. Initially web developers should be willing to teach and hand hold the business owners but in time there is a lot these business owners can also teach us young web designers.


About Me

He has been in the web development business for the almost two decades.He is a keen student of marketing and business development and writes regularly on web strategy and other related topics which is read and followed by many every month.

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