By joining a network or syndicate and promoting website links in quality internet directories small businesses can compete and even beat big businesses in sales margins, costs, and the very important element of marketing reach. The hundreds of thousands of small businesses around the world (over 4 million in the UK) contribute to sound economies and although this fact is recognised by governments it seems that the present bail-out funding is unlikely to filter down to them as a direct benefit – cash that is.

In the UK the small businesses that have the patience to trade with Government departments will soon benefit from cash settlements of their outstanding accounts in 10 days and not the normal payment waiting period of 30 days. The importance to maintain sound small business is finally being realised, at least in the UK.

Big Businesses are operated and managed by controlling the many arms or divisions within corporations. A big business whether within national borders or spanning international markets could be looked upon as an accumulation of smaller business operations, sales offices or branches that are spread out but reporting eventually to a Head Office. The HO delegates duties and responsibilities and sets budgets and targets to be achieved in an organization structured like a pyramid. Profits go back to the Head Office in the form of better cost structures or dividends. The outlying operations may have varying degrees of autonomy.

Depending on the degree of delegation, the corporate web of operations can be limited or given free rein to produce results or risk closure for failure to reach targets.
This is a controlling network which in good times can be extremely successful and profitable to shareholders, owners, management and employees. In not-so-good times it can be vulnerable to global trade cycles, manipulation or abject greed of a few unscrupulous players, as we can see, hear and even feel in our economic news stories of late. Flexibility can be difficult to achieve and the negatives of feast and famine can take over, inflicting pain across the full spectrum of employees from the bottom, through the middle, and on to the top. I leave you to figure out who suffers the most when mass layoffs are implemented from HO directives.

If Smaller Businesses want to expand and reach out to global markets they can compete with big businesses by networking or syndicating with other like-minded business owners. The Internet is probably the most important and may even be the most effective means ever available to the millions of small(er) businesses around the world. Learn to use ‘the net’ or ‘the web’ to gain exposure to the vast global markets. In times of feast and famine, unlike the inflexibility of BigBusiness to adapt, the networks of small businesses should be able to maintain reasonable trading positions without significant fluctuations in costs, sales and sales-margins and at lower risk to employers, employees and local economies.

Finding the appropriate quality networks and directories on the web takes a little effort and some due diligence needs to be undertaken to assess the quality and suitability for each enterprise. Select a quality Go-Direct(ory) where potential new clients can quickly and easily click on your site without going through distracting ads, pop-ups, banners and information collection forms. Your business needs to be the ‘main feature’ rather than be pre-empted by revenue producing advertisements for the directory operator. Some points to consider:

Your first reaction to the front page is extremely important. If good, continue on but if not so good, move on to another directory. Look for Directories either closely related to your business or with useful features and popularity. They should fit your requirements. Spend some time on the directory sites to see which ones are easy to browse and are likely to produce results for you. Be selective. Calculate the costs of inclusion and the possibility or probability of getting found by serious buyers Not window-shoppers or looky-loos. Realize that directories reach out to global markets and time-zones making email contacts preferable to telephones. You can always call or Skype back. Be prepared to handle sales on a ‘direct’ trading basis and consider offering extra services or upgrades. Extras mean better profits. Once found, ensure that your own website is always available and that the offers and prices are current. Nothing worse than a price increase.
Ensure that you have an easy and secure settlement system on your site. Pay-pal for instance.

If your business name is ‘alphabetically challenged’ make sure the directory has a random selection feature and not a fixed list by alphabet as you could be well down the list, hiding on a distant page and rarely found. It should be easy for potential new clients to find you. Try and assess the time that they would linger on the directory site and the possibility of them getting spun off to a competitive entity before your link. They may be enticed to click on a link that is not a true listed client on the site, but merely an advertisement to gain ‘click revenues’ for the directory operator. Many directories build listings merely to achieve high rankings on search engines in order to earn click revenues from onsite advertising without much concern for the listed businesses. This could be in conflict with your own reasons for being listed and linked. Make sure the directory sends visitors directly to you, not via a convoluted click sequence to enable more benefits to the directory than for you. Some directories will charge you a set-up fee plus a listing fee. Some will charge you on a sales commission basis for either click throughs to your site or, but rarely, on a pay for performance basis geared to an actual sale.

If you pay to be listed in a directory. The best kind of directory is a ‘Go-Direct(ory)’ where leads are generated and sent ‘asap’ to you ‘without passing Go’ or without being filtered through a chain of events not relevant to your business. DIRECT SHOULD MEAN DIRECT!

You should not have to pay to be listed if the directory is primarily geared to gaining search engine rankings to seek the main revenues from click advertisements. As in life and in directories, you should get what you pay for but if you do not get any leads or benefits, remember you may not have paid to be listed. However you may have to pay click fees to the directory for all leads whether qualified or not for your products. Reciprocal linking can be beneficial to you but just getting ‘looky-loos’ or window shoppers to your website can be expensive in both time and money.

Pay for Performance is probably the best way to advertise, market and promote your products. When your product is sold – You pay!

Commissions are a very fair way of compensating and rewarding effort. If the directory sends prospects to you and you close a sale you could pay them for their performance for generating quality leads which you have closed. If the lead is not closed there should not be any lead generation cost to you and no revenue for the directory. Unless the directory has other advertising income it should be motivated to produce for you as it will be rewarded by you for quality leads. You should consider not only the cost but the time waisted on unqualified leads.

How about a directory that will produce quality buyers and visitors for your website and encourages more sales for you with quality advertising and promotion, does not charge you but offers rewards to visitors to get them to click to your business. Impossible? Not necessarily, although only related to travel, there is a directory that is meeting all of these requirements offering a different slant on web directory operations.

This web directory does not derive income from the businesses that are listed and linked and there are not any Google-type advertisements or offline banners to distract visitors away from the listed and direct-linked businesses. At the website of The Top Travel Club any travel-related business can list and link without cost but they must allow the club to discount the normal sales commissions payable to sellers of their products back to club members who have paid a membership fee to belong to the club.

Listed travel clients are supported with a large global membership base to offer the members discounts for booking directly with the operators. The logic of the system is that a large base of serious traveller-members supporting the travel operators will negate the importance of search engine rankings which, in travel, are dominated by a few major operators with big budgets. Global travel content is being built that should appeal to travellers around the world. Members must be comfortable with handling their own travel arrangements directly with these operators. Plans are in place to partner with a selection of other global clubs, associations and loyalty programs to build a membership base where sufficient member-sales will be generated from to reduce the need to be high on the search rankings.

Pay for performance is operating quite differently here as it does not go to the seller of the travel product but to the buyer. The buyer gets true direct prices if dealing directly with the supplier. The supplier gets all advertising, marketing and promotion as long as direct booking discounts are given to members.

There may be other directories that are truly ‘go-direct’ without passing ‘go’ but when the sales program is a pay for performance it is normal to expect the seller to get the pay, not the buyer. Whatever next in the grand scheme of internet sales and marketing? And are there any other websites operating in different industries similar to this one?

Finally, consider your own wants and needs and buying style. When you deal directly with a source, factory or outlet store you would normally expect to pay net, wholesale or outlet prices but if you are unable to find these outlets you would probably find a retailer and pay the full price. The internet is ideal for direct sales and if you operate a business where you are the source or outlet equivalent and if you have allowed a retail sales margin in your products you can now consider a direct sales discount offer for consumers.

Take care not to alienate your retailers, brokers and agents when you offer direct sales discounts. It is only fair that they be rewarded for selling your products and services but you should also have the option to reach out to global consumers who may not be able to find your products at local stores, brokers, agents or elsewhere on the internet. However, it may not be advisable to advertise a two-tier pricing structure on your own website.

If you have never been represented by a retailer, wholesaler, broker or agent you can still consider offering direct sales discounts to gain more business from a directory. Volume / Yield benefits can be achieved by selling more at a lower margin to make more profits, unless of course, you do not want to sell more or do not have any more capacity and do not want to expand your business.

We can all improve our own businesses by using the resources now readily available but it may be easier and smarter to work with others who have similar goals or who are willing to share their greater experiences. Synergy, or 2 + 2 = 5 comes to mind or build it and they will come.