If the Internet is an information superhighway, then your website is a car. And so there you are, day after day, waiting to pick someone up and get them where they’re going. You’re hoping for a good fare -- one that doesn’t want to go all the way to Brooklyn, but far enough uptown that the meter racks up more than a few bucks and leaves you in a place where your next customer is just waiting on the corner for you to come by.
As a long time New Yorker, I have a fair amount of experience with paying people to drive me places. And, as I look out my window onto Houston Street this morning, I can’t help but notice life imitating business. Or is it the other way around?
You have a business. And your business has a website. When people go looking for the thing you provide, they will no doubt notice more than a few choices as they stand on the side of the road with their hand up.
What does your website look like to the weary traveler? Are you a dime-a-dozen solution, only as valuable as the waning attention span of your prospective passenger? Or do you give the distinct impression of an oasis in the desert? Special, singular, “just what I needed."
At this point, you could be forgiven for thinking that I’m rooting for the limo. And maybe I am, since my personal taste tends toward bespoke, boutique, and beautiful. But, as I mentioned, my proximity to the most prolific taxi service in the world lends a certain weight to this ubiquitous, yellow business model, enough to take a quick look at both sides of the coin.
Limo, not taxi
Limo is not synonymous with Rolls Royce. To my mind, a limo is simply a car that won’t pick up anyone else on its way to collect me. It knows where I intend to go even before I sit down. It’s got certain creature comforts and describes to the casual onlooker the choice I made on this occasion to spend more than I had to.
The MacBook Pro I’m typing on at the moment is a limo. It cost more than other solutions, affords me a certain status among the Dells at the coffee shop, and brings with it a certain ease of use common to well engineered products.
The other thing it brings with is an exceptionally high cost-of-goods-sold and the exhausting job of always being the shiniest object in the room. This business model, I can tell you, is not for the faint of heart. So beware.
Taxi, not limo
Ubiquity is not a four-letter word. It’s just a business model with its own set of challenges to overcome. Actual taxi drivers solve them by knowing the lay of the land so they can make each journey as efficient as possible. They attempt to use less fuel during each trip, often using new technology like hybrid cars to lower cost and increase profit. And speaking of ubiquity, apps that make it diabolically easy to get -- and pay for -- a cab with your cellphone could turn that army of yellow into a mountain of green.
At this point, you might be wondering which one is better. But that’s the wrong question. The right question is, which one am I? A look in the mirror salted with a dash of honesty will give you the answer you’re looking for. And once you have that, it’s all logistics.
Figure out what you’re good at, decide what your customers really want, and paint your website either yellow or black. But not both.
— Kevin Jacoby is co-founder of Sessionville.com, a place for musicians to connect, create, learn and play.