Over the holidays a relative of mine who has a profitable side business took me aside and asked for my help. His question: should I have a website? My answer may surprise you.

He was preparing his business for the new year and creating a website seemed like the right thing to do. As this is something that is outside of his skill set he sought my counsel. As I always do when working with a client, I tried to listen and learn more about the background of his business and other environmental factors in order to provide the best advice.

This relative (my wife’s uncle to be precise) raises pheasants and is happy with his current performance. In fact, to take on more business would mean a lot more work. And, as he presently knows most of his current customers personally, hanging a shingle out online would almost certainly mean more work weeding out clients who are less than ideal. (I can’t be the only one out there with a lot of contact form spam.)

My answer based on all of this information? Invest elsewhere. The answer isn’t always online. Unless your business objective is growth-focused and you have the capacity to handle increased demand, there’s no urgent need for a website right now.

Is this an extreme example? Maybe a little bit but it illustrates the difference between best practices and what works best for your business. As much as social media and digital marketing can help businesses grow, it’s also perpetuated an outbreak of what I call checklist marketing. Doing all of the things – website, email, search, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and every other shiny new thing – without any forethought. Without first ensuring that it’s something that makes sense for your business.

Of course, if you asked me if it was a best practice for every business to have a website I would say yes. However, given my wife’s uncle’s unique business, where he’s at right now, and where he wants to be, there’s simply no need. It may be a best practice, but it’s not what’s best for his business.

Too often, we buy into the hype and think that by “sprinkling a little digital marketing” onto our problem we will miraculously fix it. Rest assured, I am a big believer in the power of digital marketing but I understand that it’s a tool. It’s a means to an end. It’s not magical beans.

As you approach new initiatives for your business you need to remember to ask yourself some of these important questions from the git-go. What is it we’re trying to do? Why do we need to do this? How will we measure success? Questions like these will give you a lens to evaluate the tools online and off that you’ll need to accomplish this.

When you employ an objective-based system, the right marketing will fall into place. That’s because it will make more sense and be driven by business need rather than hype.

What are you trying to do and what do you need to get there?

P.S. If online is the answer for you … you can learn how you can take your brand in gear, register for one of our upcoming Digital Strategy Boot Camps. This all-new daylong intensive and interactive workshop will help you ground your digital marketing with a strategy. We’ll cover your website, content marketing (blogs, videos, etc), email marketing, social media, search, and more.

Digital Strategy Boot Camp stops in Cedar Rapids, IA in March, Madison, WI in April, and Des Moines, IA in May. Learn more and register now.

Photo via Flickr user USFWS Mountain-Prairie