Talk to most people and ask why they engage in search and they'll answer ... "because it gets results". There's no question; search is a very important part of the marketing mix.
That said, many people and businesses do not necessarily understand all the inherent benefits of search. Consider for example, the ability of search to mitigate or reduce certain types of business risks. Accordingly, the remainder of this post will assess the numerous ways that search can help mitigate or reduce business risks. In particular:
1. Marketing Channel Diversification: the more marketing channels bringing in positive ROI (return on investment) to a company, the better. If a company relies too heavily or just one or a few channels, that really is not a solid foundation for a successful business model (consider Porter's Model below). The company's bargaining power is ultimately reduced.
2. Economic Risk Diversification Often, economic conditions in one country or region are not the same as in other countries or regions. For companies marketing their wares/services in but one country/region, all their proverbial eggs are in one basket so to speak. Consider the possible fate of a company marketing its services only in a small mining town dominated by one employer, when the employer pulls the plug on the mine. Instead, the company could have anticipated this probability, and started promoting its services via search in other surrounding towns in advance of the closure.
3. Regulatory and Compliance Risk Diversification Sometimes, political decisions can have catastrophic impacts on companies eg. the U.S.'s embargo against Cuban products. If you were a Cuban cigar distributor at the time of the introduction of the Helms-Burton Act, and the U.S. was your only market ... you would have been in financial trouble. But now imagine, if you were already marketing Cuban cigars in 50 other countries around the world, which search makes infinitely easier. The impact would have been dramatically reduced.
4. Reputation Management Risks Occasionally, negative press surfaces about companies, and while sometimes meritted, other times its completely unjustified. Often, this type of press or negative mentions appear for your business name in the search results. When this occurs, or often even in advance of this possibility occurring, search can be used to reduce the probability that these results will ever be seen.
5. Staffing Issue Risks In industries requiring specialized knowledge, it can be difficult to attract resumes from qualified individuals using standard approaches. All to often, you're drawing from a very limited pool of individuals, or from expensive headhunters. Obviously both methods dramatically increase the cost of hiring and paying qualified individuals. More and more however, attracting strong candidates occurs online, and search can play a big role. It can also help to keep the employment prospect funnel full at all times.
In order to determine if search can help you mitigate business risks, I'd encourage most business to do an introspective analysis of such risks, identify what your risks are, the probability of each occurring, and then devise (simple) solutions to mitigate those risks both with and without search.
If you know of other business risks that search can help mitigate, please let me know in the comments, and I'll add it giving you full credit.
Hopefully, this post can act as a good launch pad for this risk mitigation process.