Montserrat is not really open for business if local companies are not online says, entrepreneur

Nerissa Golden is a media strategist and business coach based on Montserrat.
Nerissa Golden is a media strategist and business coach based on Montserrat.

BRADES, Montserrat – When the main conduits of information and services are through government websites, it sends the message that we are not really open for business, says entrepreneur and media strategist Nerissa Golden.

Why Local Business Need to Get Online was the topic of Tuesday’s After Work Chat which is part of the ICT Week activities, organized by the National ICT Council and the Ministry of Communication & Works.

Golden asked the audience where online did they search for information before choosing to visit another island, purchase a phone or a pair of shoes. The response was consumer sites such as Trip Advisor, and looking at reviews on a shopping site not related to the primary developer of the product or service.

“You expect the company to tell you that their product is the best,” said an audience member. “I know the tourist board is going to only put positive things about their country and so you would need an independent source to tell you the truth or to share another perspective.”

“Exactly,” agreed Golden. “So when we cannot visit the website of our local supermarket, a lawyer or an accountant what does that say about whether we are serious about doing business in the global marketplace?”

Audience members agree there was a tacit arrangement between business owners that certain prices are the same across the board so many did not see the need to advertise or go online. However, Golden shared that all it would take for that to change is a newcomer in the game who sees a way to connect with customers more consistently and effectively, to push the competition out of the running and leaving them to play catch up and get online.

“You can’t look around you and believe that everything will stay as it is. A supermarket in the North can pull customers from the South with the right marketing strategy and with a regularly updated site which allows someone to place an order for delivery and pay for groceries with their credit card. Sending out an email of your weekly specials may be what you need to build customer loyalty and gain ground in this marketplace.”

The strategist shared several ways companies can get online affordably and also suggested that companies could team up to share the cost of hosting and maintaining a web space. They were also encouraged to keep the sites updated to maintain top rankings in Google searches, utilize social spaces such as Facebook and Instagram depending on their industry.

Golden cautioned business owners from relying solely on social media or free web spaces to promote their businesses as they could lose access to their data since they did not own the website. “It needs to become a budgeted item that you register your domain name and pay for hosting just as you would allocate funds for the rent and other utilities. It is also a long term investment but one that is needed not only for your business but for the island as it raises the volume of what Montserrat is saying globally.”

A business woman shared her concern that although she recognizes the need to be online the costs involved with setting it up and maintaining the space was a challenge.

The Honourable Minister of Communications & Works Paul Lewis who was in attendance requested that the tech savvy attendees begin to offer affordable web services to local companies to help more of them get online.

Golden also suggested that business owners move away from the idea that they must do everything themselves and bring their children who are much more comfortable with the technology into the business. “We have to shift our thinking from being so individualistic and think about the legacy we want to build for our children and their children. With that type of thinking we have to be open to bringing our children in at an early age and sharing the vision with them and getting them involved in building the business. Handling the technology and helping you to get online is one way they can bring immediate value to your business.”