Your small business needs an online presence to survive. Without a website, people won’t be able to find you. I mean that literally. We live in a world where we Google before we shop, before we get in our car and drive anywhere new.
Gone are the days of phone book white pages and oversized Rand McNally road maps. When you’re looking for a place to buy the world’s best cat litter, you don’t search in outdated formats. You’re going to ask Google, use your GPS, and set course to the best deal in town.
To Beat Your Competition
So what happens if people don’t find what they’re looking for online? They’ll go to the competition, that’s what. Not having an online presence means you’re not being found, which means you’re losing out on business opportunities.
Having a website shows you’re a legitimate business. Having a professional, updated, easy-to-navigate website shows you’re the type of business who cares about your product or service. Who would you be more likely to buy from, a sloppy, outdated website, or one that reflects a business with a progressive website?
To help promote your business, make sure your business site is connected to all the relevant sites: the three top search engines, Google, Yahoo, and Bing; and other online directories such as Yelp, Merchant Circle, Yellow Pages, Trip Advisor, and BBB. Depending on your business, there are a variety of online sites who will list you for free.
Business discovery sites like these are what help you get found. Without a website, there is no information for indexing programs to share with potential customers who are searching online. Your first impression is often your website, so don’t give the wrong one with an unavailable URL.
Here are three good reasons why your small business needs a website:
To Give Your Customers Convenience
People shop differently in today’s digital age. Window shopping is occurring online more and more, competing with an afternoon stroll down Main Street. And when customers are ready to buy, they’re more likely to research their next purchase through the help of Yelp or Google or Shopzilla.
According to comScore’s quarterly State Of Retail report, online shopping reached a total of $61.6 billion in Q2 2014, up 13%, accounting for 11.6% of consumers’ spending for both mobile and desktop.
People want to use the internet to research, compare, and buy. And it’s not just individual customers who are doing this. The 2014 State of B2B Procurement Study shows that 94 percent of businesses are doing some type of online research as well.
It’s never been more convenient to shop when the digital world of products and services is no further away than your keyboard. Without a website, your small business isn’t providing customers with the convenience of easy shopping.
Before they can shop online, they have to find you. We already know how that’s going to work out if you don’t have a URL address. Give your customers an online printable map option, embed a Google map, and make sure you provide a street address as well as email and phone number on your website.
Think of your website as your digital business card, complete with a full-color brochure attached. Can you imagine someone showing up to your business and not handing them one or both of these? Even when a customer forgets your business card, they can find you online. You’ll never run out or misplace it, the information can be easily updated, and the content can exceed any printed format.
To Build Relationships With Your Followers
Having a Facebook page is a great way to help build relationships with your followers. But without a website to link to, you’re sending the message that you’re not that interested.
Through a website, your small business can send regular e-newsletters and stay in touch with blog posts. Sending emails is a great way to offer discounts and specials on your services or products. By establishing a relationship through these channels via your website, you can develop a relationship of trust.
One reason e-commerce won’t replace brick-and-mortar stores is due to the trust that’s forged from a perceived sense of permanence, reliability, and familiarity. In order to convey a similar degree of security to your website visitors, your website must be designed to show that you’re thinking like your customer. Studies continue to show, for example, that free shipping and speed of delivery increases online sales, not low prices alone.
Substituting online for what you can’t give tangibly in order to create a relationship involves using all the tools available, from a site designed to meet your customer’s needs, to using social media, to answering common questions with blogs and helpful site content. Don’t forget to include testimonials in strategic locations that demonstrate your customer loyalty and satisfaction.
You Need a Team of One
Your small business website needs to appear as if you have a team of professionals who are working to keep your online presence active and available. This appearance is achieved far more easily than keeping your physical storefront polished and inviting. The only team you need is you, and your web hosting company for any additional website work.
You don’t need to update your website everyday, or even every week. New content management systems like WordPress make it a quick job to stay on top of things. With the support of your web hosting company, you can present a professional and engaging website with minimal maintenance.