I have several friends, in addition to myself, who are now operating small businesses. It’s very interesting to compare our challenges and see where they intersect — mostly around time shortages.
I just got some “comps” (in pdf) from one of those friends who’s trying to set up a site for his accupuncture and alternative medicine practice. Previously I laid out a long laundry list for him of all the free SME marketing opportunities online.
The design comps he showed me were terrible and my friend was complaining about how much time the process was taking. I had told him about my own aborted experience and we commiserated.
On a related note, I came across a rather long piece by the NY Times’ David Pogue who gives a thorough review of the website building tools and related applications on Microsoft’s Office Live product. He has several minor criticisms but on the whole is very bullish on the product:
It’s a sweet suite (Internet Explorer for Windows required) that every small-business owner should investigate — quick, before somebody else snaps up the dot-com name you want.
The free Web site is the crown jewel, but there’s more to it than that. The free plan, known as Office Live Basics, also offers you 25 matching e-mail accounts (sales@caseycorp, litigation@caseycorp, and so on). You get a password-protected online calendar, too, and even free tech support by e-mail.
The Basics plan shakes up the status quo in another way, too, thanks to a free service called AdManager, now in beta testing. It lets even novices get into search-engine advertising — you know, so that your ads pop up when people use Google or Yahoo to search for something.
AdManager lets you specify a budget, say $100 a month, and walks you through deciding which search terms (keywords) will bring up your ad. At the moment, you can place ads only on Microsoft’s own search sites, MSN Search and Live.com. Microsoft says, however, that it is working with Google, Yahoo and other search sites, which it will add to the options soon after the introduction.
Note the discussion re AdManager and its simplified tools, also shared by Google and Yahoo!’s Panama. I have yet to investigate with the good folks in Redmond but will do so.
AdManager, as well as Google‘s Starter Edition and Panama’s simplification, again raises the question of whether the SME market will see meaningful adoption of online marketing on a “pull” basis. There are plenty of voices out there who think it now and forever will be a “push” market.
Where do you come down?
Here’s CNET’s video review and demo of Office Live.