Seth Godin tells a humorous story about the dangers of applying for a nanny position in the era of Myspace. He makes the point that "Google never forgets." In his opinion, the best strategy is to "overload Google with a long tail of good stuff and to always act as if you're on Candid Camera, because you are." Good advice.
Last week, I had a long conversation with one of my board members at Belay Enterprises about this very idea. We need a new web site. But I think the rules have changed since the last time.
When I started at Belay ten years ago, our primary marketing activities involved public relations to obtain free media exposure, direct mail campaigns targeted at friends of Bud's, and newspaper classified ads. Today, most of our new customers arrive via the internet or from the recommendation of others. Encouraging a positive online reputation and a favorable in-house shopping experience are the most important organizational marketing activities we undertake.
The rise of customer review web sites like Yelp.com encourages this new world of transparency. On a weekly basis, customers are sharing with the world their experience with us...both the good and the bad. (Overwhelmingly good, I might add with the occasional negative review.) But this points to the very issue Seth Godin details in his blog post. Bud's and Belay need a "long tail" of good stuff on the web to provide perspective to the occasional bad review. I think this shows the need for a web site that is less of a traditional informational resource, but one that is more fluid with a blog like interface that evolves over time with lots of new content. Unfortunately, that is more difficult to accomplish. But I'm convinced that in this new marketing environment it will be an extremely successful strategy. I think faith venture and kingdom businesses that are seeking to rebuild lives offer a compelling story that naturally spreads across the internet.... especially when you give it a little push through strategic placement. Stay tuned as this develops.