Thursday, November 14, 2013

How Google Has Destroyed Your Business

How the Internet has Destroyed Your BusinessWay back in the 20th century, I used to run workshops to teach people how to find stuff on the Internet. At that time, there was no Google, and the leading search engines included Yahoo, Alta Vista and Ask Jeeves. In the first half of the workshop, I explained how each of them worked; and in the second half, they worked in teams to find the answers to 10 questions - including these:

  • What is the time in Toronto?
  • What is the weather forecast for London today?
  • What are the current performances at the Sydney Opera House?
  • What is the postcode for Geelong?
  • Why might some Berliners confuse John F. Kennedy with a jelly doughnut?

In 1998, it wasn't easy to find these answers quickly on the Internet! The participants had to decide which search engine to use, what words to type in, and how to then drill down through the results to find the answer.

Then Google came along and destroyed my business.

Google completely changed the way people found answers. Now, you can find the answers to all these questions by simply typing them - word for word - into Google.

As a result, Google completely wiped out that part of my business. Those workshops became redundant, and I moved on to other things.

Has Google destroyed your business as well?

I was lucky because I knew my workshops had become irrelevant. But many businesses are limping along, knowing something has made their life more difficult, but not knowing what - or why. If you're in the business of providing information especially, you might not realise that Google - or another online service - has changed your business forever.

Here are just a few examples ...

1. Leadership speaker

You're a leadership speaker and trainer, helping organisations with their new and emerging leaders and managers. But now, instead of booking you to run another workshop, a client uses their internal L&D people to run a workshop, where participants watch TED.com videos of leading thinkers and facilitate a discussion about how to implement some of these ideas in the organisation.

2. Customer service trainer

You might have based your livelihood on customer service training for front-line staff. But the Internet has made it easier for your clients to outsource or offshore services - and of course, we all know how much customer service is being handled by overseas call centres. Suddenly the audience for your workshops has disappeared.

3. Real estate agent

In the past, you've been attractive to vendors (people selling their homes) because - in addition to your expertise and experience - potential buyers come to you to see what's available. But now, with online real estate sites like RealEstate.com.au and Domain.com, buyers are no longer automatically beating a path to your door. Suddenly, you've become a lot less attractive to vendors, who are increasingly turning to private listings.

4. Travel agent

You've provided a valuable service to your customers, because you have expertise and insights about the best ways for them to travel, best places to stay, and how to make the most of their experience in an unfamiliar place. But of course your customers can now find much of this information using Google, Trip Advisor, Expedia and other online services. What's more, they are increasingly making their own bookings as well.

Could this be happening to you?

When I present this sort of scenario to some people, a common response is, "Ah, yes, but ..." followed by a reason why they are different, their clients are more loyal, or their business is indispensable. Don't fall into this trap!

I'm not sharing this to depress you, but to inspire you. See, here's the point: If the Internet can disrupt your business, why can't YOU?

All of the examples I've presented create opportunities for you - as long as you're willing to look at your offerings differently. Don't just be a speaker, trainer, or service provider. Be somebody who genuinely understands your customers and clients, and is willing to add value to solve their problems and help them achieve their goals.

Don't ignore the threat - or the opportunity.

It's easy to do what you've always done, blissfully unaware that the Internet is going to pull the carpet out from under you.

Ignorance isn't bliss; it's bankruptcy.

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