Three years ago, I was an ex PR rep trying to find my place in the world of marketing, and well…the world in general. When my boyfriend got a career opportunity on the Big Island, he jumped at it, and I immediately jumped after him. Why not? Boston was not treating me as I’d hoped, and the new business I just launched allowed me to work from anywhere. Hawaii would be my new anywhere.
I was thrilled to immerse myself in the lifestyle and culture of Hawaii. I had colorful dreams of swaying palm trees, postcard sunsets, and the sparkling sea. Hawaii was distant and exotic because well, it’s distant and exotic when you hail from Boston. All of a sudden, I was going from cubicle in the city to a tropical island paradise in the Pacific.
When I arrived, I kept my boyfriend’s advice in the back of my head:
“Don’t rush anyone. People in Hawaii do things at their own pace, in their own time.”
There would be no honking my horn in traffic, no huffing and puffing in line at the grocery store, and no attempts to rush wait staff. This was not Boston, and any such behavior would not be greeted with aloha.
I caught on quickly and learned to appreciate the slower pace and lifestyle…for the most part. I embraced the family-owned businesses, hole in the wall shops and restaurants (that always serve the most ono grindz), and the old school approach to running a business. It was refreshing and authentic.
But after three years working on Big Island social media marketing, there’s one thing that still just boggles my mind. With each and every new business I come across, the chance of it having a multi-page, visually appealing, accurate and informative website is incredibly slim. It’s become a game almost; whenever I hear about a new company, I immediately hop on my phone in search of a web presence. And too often, I’m let down. So many businesses have attempted a website and haven’t kept up with it, and some just don’t have a website at all.
Why do so many businesses have their Big Island marketing on island time?
Is it possible that small business owners don’t understand the benefits that can come from having a searchable home base for their businesses online? Maybe they don’t know that potential customers become frustrated if they can’t find a menu or business hours at the click of a button – ultimately sending them over to their competitors.
I know firsthand how incredible some of these small businesses are, despite their lack of an online presence. Imagine the business that would come to them if they were easily found online?
Tourists and vacationers don’t know that they can find the best sushi up an alleyway in a building the size of my closet, or that one of the cutest boutiques in Kona is down south away from the hustle and bustle. And it’s not their fault – tourists go to the places that are the most talked about, and the easiest to find online.
If these businesses had websites, they’d be more searchable, which would give potential customers the opportunity to find them. It pains me to think of the missed business opportunities for some of my favorite businesses on the island.
I understand that this is not Boston, New York, or San Francisco, and that Big Island marketing is just another example of how Hawaii does things differently. But the benefits of having an optimized website for your small business are undeniable and invaluable, especially for those in an area so highly driven by tourism, like Hawaii is.
So what is it that’s halting so many small business owners in Hawaii from investing in a website for their companies? Is it a lack of Big Island marketing training? Do they think they can’t afford the investment? Or is a website too technologically advanced for businesses that take pride in their family owned, traditional business style?
Either way, I’ll take this as another opportunity for me to heed my boyfriend’s advice.
No rush Big Island biz owners — I’ll be here when you’re ready.