Running an online business is unique. I know because I used to work at a large cereal company. You forgo decades of standard business practices that include storefronts, customer foot traffic, lease agreements and so much more. Our non-toxic cleaning products company has succeeded thanks to hard work and several free and low-cost tools from America’s leading technology companies. As members of Congress consider new laws to change the digital economy, I hope they engage every stakeholder, including small business.
Digital tools offer immense value. Shortly after the company launched, we learned there was a vast market for environmentally safe cleaning products. Operating an e-commerce website instead of a storefront or selling wholesale enabled us to quickly and affordably reach customers in all 50 states. Google Ads helps us reach people searching for alternatives to traditional cleaning products. Facebook-promoted posts and ads allow us to target people more likely to be interested in our products and not know other options exist.
Instagram lets us post more visual content, and we even work with influencers that help us reach even more potential customers. And we don’t have to spend much money to see significant returns on our investment.
I know that when you’re a big company with huge marketing budgets, slick TV commercials are your most powerful way to reach consumers. They have the budget to advertise to millions of viewers and hope their product resonates with just a tiny percentage. But for smaller companies like ours, the costs are often out of reach, or our budgets aren’t enough to see results. In contrast, Google and Facebook’s advertising tools let us target potential customers effectively and cheaply.
We don’t just use digital advertising. Our entire business is built on digital tools like Google Workspace to communicate and share documents with our team spread nationally.
Congress is considering legislation that would change how the digital ecosystem works by changing how companies like Google and Facebook operate. I appreciate that oversight is a big part of what Congress does, but I think it’s important for lawmakers, and everyone, to consider how changing the digital marketplace could affect small businesses.
If new laws and government regulators separate Google and Facebook, will they still be able to offer fantastic ad services at such low prices? It’s an important question that all small businesses and Congress should be asking. Congress should actively reach out to the small business community to understand how the digital economy has helped us and our concerns with how new laws and regulations could impact us.
Digital tools work really well. I am sure Congress has good intentions, but everyone needs to understand how policies aimed at the big guys might hurt the little guys. So let’s work together to figure out how to regulate tech companies without pulling the wrong levers that inadvertently harm small businesses. It is a conversation worth having.
Tim Murphy of St. Louis Park is the CEO of Branch Basics, which is located in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood.