Does Every Business Need a Web Site?
Have you ever searched for a specific local business online, only to find a listing on some bland county business directory with little more than the store hours and address? It's hard to believe, but there are still quite a few brick and mortar businesses that have yet to create their own web site. Without a web site, businesses have no real presence online. But it’s not just about keeping up with all the other local businesses. At the heart of the matter, it's all about growth opportunity.
Even though many local businesses are without a web site, their customers, by and large, are online. This statement grows more true with the passage of each day. By only being visible when customers walk down the street or drive by, these businesses are practically invisible the rest of the time. People spend a huge amount of time online, whether it is on their computer, smart phone, laptop or tablet. They search for information more often online, and not by driving down the street, and certainly less and less using the legendary Yellow Pages. Recently, Google, Yahoo and others have been accelerating their push for ad services that cater specifically to local communities.
While local advertising and geo-focused search engine results have been available in some form for years, the continued growth of broadband in outlying communities and increased mobile device coverage has presented new avenues of promotion for even the smallest local businesses. The competition for these new ad dollars means that the cost is declining for local businesses, many of which have begun to participate and benefit, some greatly, for the very first time.
But without your business web site, and one that "tells the story" of who you are and all that you have to offer, all of this is just so much "news you cannot use."
Communicating with Customers Regularly
A web site gives the business owner a venue for collecting email addresses, which in turn is a vehicle for communication. Most people still check their email regularly. Instead of spending money on print advertising, it’s far more cost effective these days to send customers special offers and discounts via email. As long as they've signed up to receive email from you, and as long as they can unsubscribe easily, there are no downsides to using email for reaching out to your customers.
At the same time, email can be used to build a relationship with customers by offering other tips and advice, as well as conducting interactive support or just fielding product or service questions as they come up. Similar to a customer walking into your store for a chat, this is one of the most solid methods by which your customers will get to know you whether they live down the street or halfway around the world.
Build Your Online Brand Awareness
Branding is one of the big, magic words in promotions that we'll be exploring more in-depth in the days ahead. Your online presence is the "digital face" of your business that you present to the world when your "human face" is stuck behind the counter or in the stock room, the office, or on the telephone. Use your business web site to control, create and promote your brand - your identity. Everything from the design of the site to the content and interaction with your visitors will build the image that you want the world to see. Take control. This is your dynamic billboard.
Demonstrate Social Proof
People make purchasing decisions based on recommendations more than any other factor. By including testimonials from customers, businesses can offer the proof that prospective buyers need. Permission should always be obtained prior to using anyone's words on your site, but a satisfied customer will usually be more than happy to chip in and do what they can to help you and your business in return for the fine service they've received. The age old chestnut, "It never hurts to ask" is one bit of advice that can take you a long way.
Ratings and (product or service) reviews are another way to help people make purchasing decisions, though they are more difficult to control. Nevertheless, product reviews and unbiased evaluations can give your business a credibility factor that is especially important in today's competitive business environment. Your willingness to post constructive responses to negative reviews will heighten your business's credibility. A business consultant, Keith Borglum, conveyed this valuable nugget to me ages ago, "If you can satisfy your loudest complainer, then you will have accomplished the first step of turning this person into your strongest advocate."
As a local business, you have a limited prospect and customer base. However, with a business web site, the potential for more sales is limited only by the logistics of shipping. And international delivery rates are more affordable than ever, so that’s not an excuse! In fact, some websites, like Etsy.com for one, has made it feasible for even the smallest individual business owners to give the whole world access to their products.
TIP: Linking your Etsy shop to your Linksky hosted web site is a snap. Ask us, we'll show you how!
While it’s certainly possible to survive purely as a local business, the potential to grow and prosper is far greater when your business also features a web site. When you list your web site address on business cards, letterhead, receipts and in advertising, etc.you are compressing a tremendous amount of promotional material within the small space of a single line of type. The potential for opening your business to whole new markets is, as a practical reality, limited only by your imagination.
So, DOES every business really need a web site?
Contact us today to ask about our easy-to-use site builders, pro-email services and 24/7 responsive support.