Online checklistMartin Broughton, the Chairman of British Airways, has stirred up controversy by suggesting that some of the security checks we go through at an airport are unnecessary. He has a point. I asked an airport security officer recently why I needed to take my laptop out of my bag. After all, I said, your X-Ray machine can see through the bag…! I merely got “I’m only doing my job sir” reply. I was then “randomly” selected to remove my belt, shoes, and have a “rub down” inspection. It took almost as long to get through security as it did to fly to Edinburgh…!

The problem is everyone is doing the “laptop out of the bag” routine because at one point, almost ten years ago, it seemed like a good idea and there was some logic to it. But now, if you ask, no-on really knows why it is done. The reasoning has got lost in the mists of time. Now it is done because it “has always been done” and because it is on some international “security check-list”. That doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. It was once, but perhaps it is not now – perhaps it is. But, as Mr Broughton says, it is sure in need of review.

And that is the message that many online business owners need to take on board. There is tons of stuff done online because, well, it has always been done. It was a good idea – indeed the right idea back in the mists of Internet time (a year or two ago) – but is it the right thing to do now? For instance, you can still find advice online about having the right “meta tags” in your web pages. People still ask me about what order to put meta tags in, how many words they should have and so on. But meta tags are old technology – Google admits it doesn’t use them, so why are you bothering?

Then there’s the myth about “the sales funnel”. Get them in at one end, so the theory goes, and you can then spend week after week upselling and upselling until eventually the only people left are those buying your £10,000 product. Nice idea ten years ago when people were not surrounded by sales funnels. Now, you can’t move for them – and people are rejecting them left right and centre because they are bored and fed up with them. Yet, each day, people go “gosh everyone is doing it, so it must be the right thing to do”.

Equally, there are people who check their email every 15 minutes because that is the default setting of their software which they have never changed. Why is the default set like that? Not because it is the right thing to do, but almost certainly because it exposes users to more advertising on the likes of Bing, Yahoo or Gmail. Just because there is logic to it, doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.

So, ask yourself this question: how often have you reviewed all your online processes to make sure they are the right thing to do? If you rarely review things, many of your online processes and systems may be as a result of historical convention rather than being a current necessity. And rather like the airport business, you could end up wasting hours and hours doing unnecessary things that achieve nothing for your online business.

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