The year is 2019. Nearly everyone, men, women, and children of all ages have a four inch computer in their pocket. Nearly everyone has a smartphone, a method of payment and they all have needs and desires.
Your small website is the most effective way to best the big-box stores at their own game. Your potential customer has a four inch computer in their hip pocket for spontaneous comparison shopping. You need a four inch website with the best answer to their question now. Otherwise they will drive past your business to buy what they found online.
Your Small Business needs a website because the majority of the public makes smartphone search prior to making their buying decision. According to this article, as of 2015, mobile searches outnumber desktop. Small phones are big business. Their purchases are worth billions of dollars.
Just the purchases from iPhones is more than everything sold at Microsoft, and increasing at a rapid rate. Even if you have a brick-and-mortar storefront, you cannot afford to be left out of this market. More than that, websites give you the power to effectively compete with the big-box stores.
Your Business Needs a 4 Inch Website
There are at least 50 reasons why your small business needs a website. I won’t cover them all. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will be confident to start. Your website effectively communicates the important information about your business, your products and services to your prospective customers.
ONE: Creates Effective Customer Communication
Not only that, but your website can deliver some products by itself, take your customers’ payment, and even make your bank deposit. Your website does this all day, every day, after hours and before you have your morning coffee. You have the opportunity to make your website personal, local to your customers and do it automatically. It will show that you care about your customers.
You see your customers on a frequent basis. You know their names, their favorite sports teams, and where their children go to school. Besides a “hello” and “goodbye” you probably even make some small talk about the weather. But do you actually know your customers’ wants and needs?
Customer feedback is tricky
Your website can take your complaints and suggestions without it being too personal. Some customers will prefer to give you their feedback without a personal interaction. Your business reviews can also be made private. By offering your customers a coupon for their next visit you can help them feel valued.
A simple, “Contact Us” form on the website will allow customers to provide feedback directly to you. You can reply directly to these comments in private if applicable. Customers will feel more comfortable offering some anonymous suggestions, positive or negative, that they may not otherwise voice to you in person.
There is a big difference between your website and someone else’s website. Other services and review sites like Yelp or Facebook, or Pinterest are somebody else’s website. When you have your own website, you have a better chance of getting recognized. There isn’t any competition once visitors get to your website. It’s also where you make the rules.
TWO: Your Competition Has a Website
Your competitors already have a website. This works well to attract new customers and retain the old customers. You can choose to have special offers or a newsletter, which helps create a dialogue with your customers. If you get a bad review, you can mention this to your best customers who will defend you. Really! If you have a way to contact your best customers (and know who they are) you can tell them you got a negative review. That’s all you need to say. They’ll do the rest.
Consumers love getting a good deal. If they can research the price of a product or service before purchasing, they will be happy to do so from the convenience of their phone, tablet, or computer in the comfort and privacy of their own home. Not only that, but you can research the product at Amazon or Walmart and offer them the option to have it NOW. something the big stores cannot provide at any price.
Why would they take the time driving to 3 different mattress stores if they can price out their options in minutes from their smartphone or home computer? Why would they take the time to call 4 different electricians when they can do a Google search from their cell phones while waiting in line for their morning coffee?
You may have the cheaper prices; you may have the better products; but consumers won’t know this if can’t find you or if they find what they are looking for from your online competition. Don’t believe me? Do a quick online search for “Your product/service” in “your service area”. I promise you that dozens of applicable results will come up.
Website vs. website
So maybe one or two of your competitors don’t have a website. That’s unlikely, but completely possible. This is an even more opportune time for you to take advantage of controlling that market space. You can become the only game in town with a website.
Let’s say you are a florist, and you know the only other florist in town is an old man who has no plans to start a website. Other florist shops in neighboring towns or even national chains with websites will be able to provide floral services to your market. With the ease of Internet access, the competition level is higher than ever before. You are no longer competing with just one or two other local businesses in neighboring towns. Your competition is now state-wide or potentially even on a national scale depending on the industry.
THREE: Create an Avenue for Expansion and Growth
Don’t get caught in the trap of old technology. Remember Kodak and film photography? Kodak was the most trusted brand on the planet because they were the processor of everyone’s photos – baby, family, graduation, and vacation photos. Kodeak even invented the digital camera. And, then they lost control of their own market. It only took seven years for the transition from film to digital and Kodak was in bankruptcy.
If you are lucky enough to have customers that don’t use the Internet, than that’s great! Your business may be extremely profitable and successful without a website. That doesn’t mean that you should neglect the perspective customer base that does use the Internet. If you are a business owner with “old school customers” then you are likely old enough to remember a video rental company called Blockbuster.
In the early 2000s Blockbuster had over 8,000 store locations throughout 10 countries. Less than 10 years later, Blockbuster’s lack of ability to stay ahead of the curve caused them to file for bankruptcy and essentially become non-existent. For lack of a better term, they were crushed by their competition. I know you’ve heard people say, “I remember when that building used to be a Blockbuster.” Don’t let that happen to your company. Keep in mind; this was a multi-billion dollar international chain that could not stay in business because they were unable to adapt to the times and properly prepare for growth.
500 percent more sales!
Another example is the comparison of Amazon vs. e-commerce vs. retail sales from 2003 to 2009. During this time period, U.S. retail sales (offline) actually declined. While U.S. e-Commerce sales rose by a modest 250%. But during this same time period, Amazon sales increased by a whopping 450%. Twice the U.S. e-commerce rate and almost five times their offline retail competitors.
If such companies failed at this level, how can you expect your small business survive without something as simple as a website? Your existing customers may be allowing you to keep your lights on and turn a profit for now, but the reality is small businesses must constantly be acquiring new customers to stay successful.
Every day people are asking questions and looking for products, services and instructions and guidance on how to do something. The most effective advertising is no advertising. Just match their questions with answers. The web pages with the best answers will sooner or later rise to the top of the search results. This amounts to free advertising. Yes, you have to put in some effort, but the results far outweigh the time you spend.
Websites do not rank in Google
By the way, it’s a common misconception that websites rank in Google. They do not. Individual web pages rank, each page ranks for specific questions and keyword phrases. Answer specific questions and speak directly to your visitor, not the machines, and be surprisingly helpful.
Come up with a marketing plan. Whether you are a long time business owner or an owner who is just starting out, you have the skills and ability to get customers in your door. Execute a plan of targeting and acquiring new perspective customers. Online access will give younger generations information about your business that they would be otherwise unavailable unless they just happened to stumble into your store one day, which is an unlikely scenario.
This is different. This is marketing, not advertising. Yes, you can do advertising, but you don’t really have to. In fact, the Internet and search engines made a whole new ballgame. Instead of finding your customers when they aren’t looking for you and maybe don’t need or want what you have, turn the tables. Attract those who are looking for information, and help them get what they want.
FOUR: Increase Sales
A website can help generate more sales for your business and be more convenient for your customers, regardless of your industry. Businesses can sell products and services through an online store. If you are selling tangible products an online store can allow customers to purchase items outside of your regular business hours. Customers can also purchase items during your business hours, without having to make a trip to your physical location.
You may even find that it is more cost efficient for your company to sell products online as opposed to in stores. You can devote less employee hours and time to helping customers in the storefront if those sales are being supplemented online. Your employees can instead focus on other tasks rather than having down time waiting for customers to walk in.
Selling a service?
So you may not have an actual product that you can ship to your customers for them to purchase on an online store. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t generate more sales online selling your services.
Are you a restaurant owner? Let your customers reserve a table through your website. Set up an online take out menu where customers can submit their “to-go” order for pick-up. Do you own a dry cleaning business? Use your website for customers to sign up for your home pick-up and delivery service. Massage therapists, plumbers, yoga instructors, painters; the list goes on and on.
All these service based small businesses can use their websites for customers to set up appointments for service. You can even collect a deposit via credit card.
All businesses can deliver a coupon or special offer on a website. it doesn’t matter whether you have a product or service, whether your business is retail or wholesale. Whatever your business is, new customers is the key to growth, and just replacing the ones who move away.
One good thing your website can do is to take a poll or survey to find out what your customers can tell you. They may be shy about telling your directly or they may never have been asked, but given the opportunity, they may be a source of valuable feedback.
FIVE: Track and Monitor Customer Trends
Do you know what products or services your customer base loves the most? Maybe you think it’s whatever sells the most, or whatever has the highest profit margins for your business. Maybe it’s neither. If you have a website, the analytics can show you which pages on the website and specifically what links to products and services your customers are clicking the most.
I know my customers
You may offer something that your customers didn’t even know was an option during their visits to your stores. Based on these analytics, you can appropriately adjust your pricing in order to maximize profits on your most popular viewed items.
Your website might offer a service that is clicked on by 90% of visitors, implying that this should be a top seller. However, you may learn that this service has the lowest purchase rate of all the products you offer. This information could be an indication that this service is not appropriately priced. Interpret the information any way you feel is appropriate, but without a website this information will not be available to you.
Furthermore, If you have a “search” option on your website you may learn that customers are searching for products that you don’t offer. For example, let’s say your company makes customized hats. Your website may offer dozens of different hat styles to customize, but your customers are searching for a style that you do not keep in stock. Now you will know that this hat style is one that needs to be offered as an option for to your clientele to customize.
SIX: Build a Customer Database
Allow your customers to create a personalized account on your website. This account can allow customers ease of access to their favorite products and services. Customers can access their order history and seamlessly re-order with fewer clicks throughout the site.
The more you can automate your website and make it easy for your customers, the happier they will be. Happy customers come back, and they bring their friends. The easier it is for customers to find what they want and get through checkout, the more they will come back and rate you highly. Small things like remembering your customers and storing their shipping addresses, can make a big difference.
Benefits to customers
With your customers’ permission, you can use their e-mail address associated with their accounts to send them weekly or monthly e-mails. These customizable messages can be used to send your customers coupons or other promotions that direct them into your store, or directly to your website.
Constant Contact also uses analytics to track how many people opened the e-mail, how many people clicked on the links in the message, and how many people forwarded your e-mail to another person. All these information is highly valuable from a marketing perspective.
SEVEN: Generate More Profits
Even philanthropists would agree that the number one common goal of any small business is to make more money on the bottom line. Using a single outlet such a website can provide your company with the versatility to:
Create effective customer communication
Provide an avenue for company growth
Stay ahead of your competition
Monitor customer interests
Build a customer database
At the end of the day, all of these bullet points will effectively generate more profits and put more money in your pocket. As we previously outlined, failure to create a website can do the exact opposite; your company will lose money until you are no longer able to stay in business. This is the sad and unfortunate truth of the world that we live in today.
If your company does not have a website, there is still good news for you. The fact that you are reading this article at least acknowledges you must have had some reservations about your reasons for not having a website. I would imagine that by now you are clearly convinced that your small business needs a website.
“I don’t know how”
Hire someone. Yes, employees are expensive, but they are the driving force behind your business. The employees that your customers see and interact with on a daily basis are just as important as the one who will be sitting behind a computer screen and keyboard managing your website.
You may even be lucky enough to promote an employee from within the company who is qualified to run your website. That employee can continue doing their regular duties, as well as the added responsibility of managing the website. This added responsibility should come with an increase in pay, but it will still be less expensive than hiring someone completely new.
If you weren’t convinced earlier, I’m sure you are by now. Don’t let another day pass without taking steps in the right direction to getting your website developed and active. This could be one of the best decisions you make as a business owner.
Be sure to frequently check back to us for more tips and guidelines for running a successful small business. Good Luck!