I often find myself talking to people who believe that their business has no need for an online presence. There are a multitude of reasons why we might think like that. From being a small business selling a niche market product or service, to not wanting anymore business, or not having the time to manage a website as well as deal with all the quotations piled up on the desk.
So should your business have a website, even if your business is small and sells products or services you don’t think can be sold online? In short: Yes, if you have a business, you should have a website. Some research suggests people are more likely to turn to Google than try find your business card which they picked up somewhere.
Nowadays, there’s very little that can’t be sold or offered over the internet. 74.2% of the UK’s population (nearly 47 million people) are now online, purchasing everything from books to computers to cars to groceries to yachts to you name it. If you can imagine it, someone will find out how to sell it online. The recent figures published by the Office for National Statistics reinforce the predictions that more than 60% of retailers are planning to grow online revenues by more than 10% while shrinking their forecasts for traditional retail revenue.
I’m not saying you should put every effort and resource into selling your offering over the internet, though if your product lends itself to easy online sales, you should certainly be considering it. The point to be made here is that you should at the very least have a presence on the web so that customers, potential employees, business partners and perhaps even investors can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you have to offer.
That said, it’s not enough that you just have a website. You must have a professional-looking site which can stand up to the rigors of the search engines if you want to be taken seriously. Since many consumers now search for information online prior to making a purchase or enquiry at a brick-and-mortar business, your site may be the first chance you have at making a good impression on a potential customer. This is your chance to convince people that you are better than the rest.
One of the great things about the internet is that it has leveled the playing field when it comes to competing with the Multi Nationals. With a well-designed and developed site, your little operation can project the image and professionalism of a much larger company. The inverse is also true. I’ve seen many big company websites that were so badly designed and hard to navigate that they completely lacked professionalism and credibility. Good for you, too bad for them.
When it comes to benefiting from a website, size does not matter. Regardless of whether you’re a one-man show or a 10,000-employee corporate giant; if you don’t have a website, you’re losing business to other companies that do.
These days there are a plethora of cost effective ways of getting your business on-line. Some are free, some are incredibly cheap, but always keep in mind your first impression. You also need to consider if your business grows and your website needs to grow with it, will the option you have chosen allow for expansion. In my experience the free options out there are limiting and not very Search Engine (SEO) friendly. It is worth talking to an industry expert on this who should be able to offer you some free advice on this matter.
Many of us will be aware of the every popular “social media networks” such as Facebook and Twitter. These are fantastic way of getting your brand out there and offering instant customer service. Having said that, these are what are called “closed networks” which are only accessible to those using those networks. They are a great way of spreading the word and raising your online profile, but are certainly not a good alternative to a website.
What should you be considering when taking your business online?
- Make sure your new website will allow for easy expansion and modification
- Your website must be SEO friendly otherwise people will struggle to find you
- It has to look and feel better than you competitors – first impressions are EVERYTHING
- Ensure the content of your site is accessible and shareable on social networking sites – nothing better than free publicity
- Pick a short, simple domain name
- Shop around for hosting packages, you shouldn’t be paying more than £35/year which happens to be what we charge.
- Research the company building your site, call their clients for feedback on their experience
There is no reason for any businesses not to be online. For as long as competitors are doing it then they will always have an edge over you. If you are doing it well, then the world is your oyster.