The internet is a fact of business life, even small companies need a presence online to engage with customers.
Despite the ever-increasing importance of an online presence for businesses of all sizes and descriptions, many businesses are still not adjusting their strategy accordingly.
Harnessing the web as a business tool is important, even for businesses that may consider themselves as primarily offline. Beauty businesses, fitness businesses, plumbers, driving instructors and any number of other service businesses ultimately all measure success by their ability to build offline relationships – and the web can play a huge part in that.
It’s vital to position yourself online with a strong, professional destination that gives customers the impression you mean business and the motivation to want to engage more with your business.
As a small business, it’s unlikely you’ll have big budgets, staff or free personnel hours to invest in a complex online strategy, but there are certainly some simple steps you can take to start reaping the rewards that the web can bring.
The key to making the most of the web is making your business as accessible as possible, letting people interact with you in a way that suits them, whenever they want to. Your customers are online 24/7, and as such they expect to be able to interact with businesses and organisations whenever and wherever they are online. Of course, that doesn’t mean having to have a presence on every single online channel; it means being clever about selecting the ones that are most important to your audience.
At the most fundamental level, this means a basic, professional looking website with easy to find, relevant information about your business. At a more advanced level, that could be a full-blown booking tool that lets customers schedule their own appointment or booking with you, essentially giving your businesses a 24/7 receptionist.
First Impressions Count
Let’s face it – we live in a world where people Google before they shop, visit online review sites like Yelp before they buy and “check-in” via Facebook as they go about their days.
Make sure your business is well represented on these sites by first and foremost, having a website – but by also being represented among each of the online search engines, review sites and other online spots your business may be considered for customer review. Beyond having your URL address available, also be sure your street address, phone number and email is easily visible. Social media links can’t hurt either, but only include these if you are actually active on social media. You want your first impression to be the best it can be. Beginning with your website, consumers are passing judgement and making decisions about whether or not they will even visit your store, restaurant or office.
They’re likely to dismiss you entirely if they believe your website doesn’t reflect the kind of experience your business – or a business like yours – should offer.
No Website Means Losing Business
By now it’s clear that if you don’t have a website, you’re missing out on opportunities for customers to identify who you are and if they want to spend money with you. This said, if you have a bad website it is better to have no website. While no website equals missed opportunities, a bad website can actually be worse since it literally makes your business look bad. If you can’t proudly promote the website you have currently live and available for the world to see online, take it down. A bad website is far worse than no website – but let’s be clear… both are bad for business.
Think local before you think big
Making the most of online tools doesn’t necessarily mean trying to go global, quite the opposite in fact. It can be a very successful route to building relationships at a local level, which is crucial to the success of so many small businesses. Focusing on your online touchpoints means building relationships with customers and potential customers, and turning that online connection into offline custom: loyal, engaged customers who come back time and again. Think also about local listings sites, online networking groups and building partnerships with other local business.
Nurture your loyal customers – turn them into advocates
Think about how you can use your most loyal customers to do your online marketing for you. Social media has changed the way people make recommendations and share their experiences. Weary of the constant bombardment of marketing messages – and with a whole internet of opinions, rants (and even occasionally praise!) at our fingertips – we now just have to turn to Facebook or Twitter for advice. A business can be made or broken in minutes. The mass adoption of online social networks has changed the way we make purchasing decisions. Businesses of all sizes, no matter how small, can capitalise on that. Best of all, these social recommendations are super-targeted, personal and free.
Seek help from a professional
If you understand the importance of having a resourceful website and are still struggling to implement the necessary changes, there are companies out there that create, develop, host and manage websites for organisations all over the world, in fact most prefer to have a separate company keep on top of it for them. Finding a company that works closely with you and understands your business’ needs and objectives is key. If you need help… Just ask!