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Talking Point - Getting what you pay for

I recently read a news article about a couple who owned a successful small business suddenly losing their main source of marketing (and subsequent income) when their ‘marketing’ provider ‘turned them off’ without warning. This effectively shut down their business in a heartbeat.

As a small business advocate for most of my working life, I really felt for them. Seems the business had been born out of a desire to help others and rapidly became very successful, with the owner being joined in it by her husband who had given up his paid employment to help her run it.

The business activity was on-selling household and personal items from deceased estates and changed circumstances, such as down-sizing the family home, going into a rest home, and people leaving the country to live overseas. It was a commission-model, operating along the same lines as recycled clothing boutiques.

What a great idea, as not everyone wants to have to deal with selling their possessions, especially when they’re dealing with other big life-changes at the same time. Clearly there was a gap in the market to create a feasible and successful business.

The owners had a website which they weren’t really using for making sales, instead relying on Facebook Marketplace and TradeMe to sell their goods. For no obvious or apparent reason, one day Meta locked them out of their Facebook Marketplace account. Despite numerous daily attempts to contact Meta for an explanation for why the account was removed, they were left in the dark. Meta’s consistent response was “we are reviewing your request”.

Tech commentators confirmed that this couple’s experience is pretty common with Facebook Marketplace and something must have triggered a red flag with Meta. The chances of ever hearing back from Meta are pretty remote, and it’s the same for people who book adverts on the platform. There is no one to call, no one to message or email and any enquiries disappear into a black hole. In New Zealand there is no regulator to provide recourse either.

The tech commentator’s best advice is to have your own website to run your business from, and we couldn’t agree more as this is the only way to have control of your ‘shop front’, assuming of course that it is secure and well maintained.

A common mistake for small business owners is to look around for cheap options when it comes to creating a website. They invariably get what they pay for of course and then they often have to spend considerably more money to get something that actually works for their business. A robust e-commerce solution is often missing from the cheap packages, which prevents purchases being made and paid for online.

Many of the cheap ‘off-the-shelf’ website packages are restricted to using generic software platforms that have been designed for the masses, and many of them have been pitched for one-man-bands that have minimal online business transactions, or were created for hobbyists. This is fine until the business grows and the current cheap or free option no longer meets their needs and can’t be extended further. At this point the cheap option gets thrown away and a new professional website is created.

Frequently there is little warning that this will need to be done, as has happened with the couple mentioned above, and building a new website from scratch isn’t something that can be done overnight. Often no budget has been allocated for a professional website either. So, it can become a stressful situation that overwhelms already busy people, whilst also seriously affecting the business cashflow.

It amazes me that many organisations spend time looking around for a bargain, or better still ‘free’, when setting up their enterprise. At Expert, we have seen some multi-million-dollar ventures set up using free domain names and bundled email accounts (which were never fit for purpose) and once these organisations become our clients, we’ve helped them to unravel the mess created by their earlier poor choices. It is such an easy trap to fall into when an enterprise is set up and the need to save money is important, however the long-term cost, in both money and time, can be formidable. Not to mention the damage that is done to your client base and profile.

The old saying about if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is, applies here, but perhaps more importantly, the saying about paying peanuts and getting monkeys also carries a lot of merit. Caveat emptor!

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