A Cautionary Tale of Eggs and Baskets

Today I’m talking about eggs.  And baskets.

You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s Easter-time, but no, unfortunately – we’re talking about business eggs and baskets.
(If you’ve got a chocolate bunny, though – I’m listening.)

This ain't an Easter basket, kids.

Eggs in One Basket Vs Eggs in Many Baskets

First, I’d like to mention the old “should you have all your eggs in one basket or multiple baskets” question.  For a business owner, that is a question of business models, so there isn’t a “right” answer, in my opinion.

 I think the smart person builds a damn good nest with some golden eggs in it, makes sure they are all happy and safe, and then goes out finding new baskets.

If you’re out trying too many things, you never get to be a real expert in one thing, or really understand one part of your business.  Experimentation is good, in moderation.

The Problem with Internet Baskets

Let’s move from the egg talk (omelette anyone?) and focus on the baskets.

It used to be that if you wanted to, say, start a store, you’d need to get retail space.  You’d need to invest in lots of marketing materials, buy a sandwich board for the sidewalk, in addition to all of your various accouterments for making your product.

Regardless if it a soap store or a travel agency, it took a wee while to get all these pieces in place.  And a fair chunk of change.  But, it was a pretty solid foundation.  (Proof: despite the wild growth of online booking sites, main street travel agencies are still around.  They’ve got a few more years.)  Now, you can do the same thing online in a fraction of the time and with little up front cost.

But the Internet is not such a solid foundation.   And I just want you to know the kind of baskets you’re dealing with.

The thing is, most of us who work online are depending on a number of platforms to build our businsess.

Many have Facebook as a marketing channel – but they have very loosey-goosey policies and can take away your fan page if they want.  They change the rules all the time – what could be next?

You may rely on Google for your backoffice/email/document storage, ad revenue, or traffic, or worse – all of them – but in the last 6 months, the company has continued to roll out changes that benefit Google, to the detriment of the customers. (And sweet lord, Google has the worst customer service in the world.  It’s great if you get ahold of someone, but good luck with that.)

Maybe you sell your books on Amazon.  Maybe you build applications on Apple‘s iTunes.

Maybe one day those companies will take it all away from you.

Protecting Your Internet Livelihood

I’m not saying not to build on any of those platforms – I have.  I’m not trying to scare you, because obviously those companies all WANT you to use their platforms – that is why they built them.  My plea is to make sure you understand how they really work.

What I don’t like is that in the olden days, you had a contract.  If you didn’t like the butter, the baker could complain and work with his supplier to get results.   If you didn’t like the rent, you could complain, or move.

But online, you agree to the company’s terms and conditions, and you have no choice but to like it.  That’s the price of it being “free” or close to it.

So, educate yourself.  Know the rules and follow your supplier’s blog for changes.  Work to establish a relationship with these companies if you can (Example: I no longer work with ad companies that don’t offer me an account manager).

I have seen so many people get the rug the basket pulled out from under them.   Don’t let that happen!

Also, the American government doesn’t want the Internet to succeed either.  Please educate yourself about the SOPA and PIPA laws, and get involved – or my business, and others like it, might just disappear.

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