Websites are perhaps the most overlooked vehicle of advertising for local, owner-operated businesses. Yes, every retailer needs one. Every dentist, lawyer, accountant and minister needs one. Every café, restaurant, coffee shop and nightclub needs one. Every wholesale supply company needs one.
I’m not suggesting that all these businesses need to actually transact business online. I’m only saying that everyone listed in yesterday’s Yellow Pages needs to also be available on the internet today-it’s where your customers expect to find you.
Look, I get it. You’re a startup. You have a limited budget. You’re an entrepreneur willing to do things yourself. And that’s all very admirable. But if you’re launching an ecommerce business and you’re unwilling to invest in your website, then you’re better off having never launched your business.
All businesses, whether big or small, need to advertise. Even a local business that sells products to a local customer base needs to have an online-to-offline strategy that complements a paper-based marketing campaign.
Let’s use the example of Mechanic, a local car repair business. Without a website, the business has to rely on word-of-mouth advertising and the occasional pricey coupon campaign for discounted log book services. Customers might wonder what exactly this mechanic does – does the company only do log book services? Can they do change tires? Will they perform work under warranty? With a website, the small business can list every single product and service it offers, along with prices and accompanying pictures, for virtually no charge.
This is number one because your competition is online and you’re not. If you’re not online, then you’re losing sales to your competition because they’re more accessible to the consumer. On the other hand, if your competition doesn’t have a website, then having one makes you more accessible to the consumer, giving you a chance to win out over your competition. If you don’t have a quality website, you’re missing out on great opportunities to grow your business.
Businesses without websites, despite how professional their physical location may be, feel cheap, untrustworthy and stuck in a bygone era. If a business won’t invest the thousand or so dollars necessary to have a website, why should customers frequent it? The absence of a website not only calls into question the business’s spending priorities, it also raises concerns over how innovative and effective the management is.
Furthermore, the website’s design must correspond with the cost of the product or service offered as websites are often customers’ introduction to a small business. Lawyers with HTML websites with a 1996 aesthetic aren’t going to get as many customers as a law firm with a modern website. A professional, high quality website is a must for every small business hoping to make a good first impression.
All businesses, whether big or small, need to advertise. Even a local business that sells products to a local customer base needs to have an online-to-offline strategy that complements a paper-based marketing campaign. Imagine being able to hand out flyers with unlimited room for text and pictures; that’s what a website should be.
In today’s market, people will at some point search for your business online. These are customers who want to find you, and if you’re not online, how will they? By not having a website, you’re basically telling the consumer you’re not interested in being accessible to them. Would you run a business without a phone? No, you wouldn’t! So why risk running it without a quality website?
Websites also make advertising via word-of-mouth incredibly easy. Without the Internet or social media, it could be difficult to tell friends about a small business you like. Today, websites encourage people to tell others about their visits with pop-ups and reminders to “like” the business or to “share” a link. The potential for social media shares and online referrals is too much to pass up for small businesses looking for an edge on the competition.
Whether you’re selling physical products or promoting your services, if you don’t have a website, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of business. Investing in a quality website will help your profits by showing off your products or services in a more appealing way to the consumer.
Consider this: 81 percent of consumers perform online research before making a purchase. That means they go to Google and type in one or more keywords, like “best leather shoes” or, if they know what they want, “handcrafted Italian leather women’s shoes in Gold Coast.”
If you don’t have a website for your business, the chances of showing up on the search engine results page (SERP) are zero. But if you have a website, you can optimise it for search engines, thereby increasing your chances of appearing at the top of Google’s results and getting more visibility with potential customers.
Whether you’re a new business, a small business, or a larger business, your goal is to make the consumer aware of your brand. By investing in a well designed website, you’re able to instill confidence in the consumer and appear larger than you are. People expect you to have a website, and if you don’t have one or it is not high quality, then you are damaging your brand’s reputation.
A website is a good investment because it saves time and money.
I remember one time I was sick with the flu and nobody was open because it was late. So what do I do?
I search online for the nearest doctor that was open.
Right away I search on Google for the nearest GP. Within 2kms there was a clinic down the street from where I lived. Thank God I said!
If it wasn’t for the internet and their website I don’t know what I’ll do. It definitely saved them time and money because I could easily look up the hours, location and their insurance options. I didn’t need to talk to a receptionist to make an appointment. I simply drove down the street.
Actually, they had a form to book appointments online, which was safe and convenient. More patients equal more money. And it saved them money from hiring an answering service or additional staff.
Another example could be ordering online for a meal. Do you hate waiting in line?
Like me I hate waiting for anything. What if you had a service to order your favourite food online?
If you owned a restaurant like a pizza establishment, you could have your customers pay for something and then pick it up if they’re in a hurry.
It’s easy and fast. And sales can skyrocket to making you more money easily.
But my favourite place to order from is Pizza Hut. I order on my phone and it’s ready in 10 minutes. The menus are very simple to navigate and payment is made by PayPal, debit card or credit card. It’s great because my food will be ready and waiting for me on the shelf. No hassle, no lines and nobody to see. I love it!
Just make sure your site is mobile-friendly.
I will not bore you with the stats (which are everywhere) but suffice it to say that if your website does not translate well into an easy and appealing mobile experience, you’re wasting your time investing in your new beautifully-designed, fully capable website I just talked you into.
Website pricing varies wildly. Costs range from free for DIY tools, to millions of dollars for high-end digital agencies (which we’re NOT). For most companies, prices from web designers may start as low as $1,000 for a freelancer or $100,000 for a fancy site from a big web development firm.
Generally, the price of a site relates to the total time it takes to create it. There are no material costs, since pixels and code aren’t bought by the truckload. Costs are based on estimates of the time required for design, programming, and communication.
Ensuring you can communicate to your audience, that they can communicate with you and that your audience can communicate with each other is important and is what Web 2.0 communication is all about. A blog is the best way to start this. Word Press, Movable Type, Type Pad and Blogger are all options to start marketing and selling through a blog.
Remember your website is probably one of your best-if not the best-sales assets you have. If nurtured and taken care of, it will boost your sales and grow your business, just like a human salesperson.