Over the weekend, I engaged in a meaningful discussion out by the pool regarding online presence and the power behind word of mouth advertising.

I had just met this man after sitting down, and we began discussing what we both did for work. I came to find out that we were both working somewhat in the same field, only his was lawn care working for himself, and mine was media and being a contracted employee for a few small businesses throughout the city.

I had asked him how business was going, and he said that it was doing well, because we’ve had good weather this year in Texas, as opposed to recent years. Our discussion quickly dove into the aspect of advertising and how he went about obtaining clients for his business. To my surprise, it was all referrals and a banner attached to the side of his vehicle. He didn’t have a website, no email marketing, no print media on doorsteps, but he might upload a photo to Instagram every once in a while.

This wasn’t the first time that i’ve heard about small businesses taking this approach. I always had to consider the potential loss, at least in my mind, of what it meant to not have an online presence at all. What was the potential client loss, what was the potential to grow your business into a lawn mowing machine and dominate the city with lower prices than the competition by blasting it online?

I know, I know – pump your brakes. I understand the importance of finding your target audience and where they frequent the most. I was just considering the potential, and rightly so, I believe it’s important for every business to consider their next move.

I think it is strategic to not go beyond your means, like this man out by the pool; but where he is going with it, was the inspiring part – he already had a plan. He knows who is going to build his website and do his marketing when he is ready to move his next chess piece on the board. To me, that is one of the wisest decisions any small business owner can have, is to be ready.

Even if you partner up with websites such as Angie’s List or Yellow Pages online, your potential traffic could increase heavily. Usually when i’m having a word of mouth discussion about a company, I end up trying to find that company online to see any important FAQ’s or customer reviews.

For now, I heavily suggest that if word of mouth works for your business, continue to do so – just don’t lie to yourself and say that your 1 referral every year from your 1 existing client is going to expand your business. Search your market, and find out who is using your products and services, and where they hangout online. Be prepared and have a strategy for when you are ready to move your business in the next direction, and don’t be afraid to expand.

With expansion, there will be growing pains, but they can be more than healthy if you take the time to consider loss and gain from sitting idle, or expanding. 

Those of us who love to hangout online, like things to talk about – like your business; and that can get people talking about you in person more frequently.