I am shocked by the fact that so many small, local businesses do not have a website. The other day I wanted to find a hairdresser in my area and so few of them have any web presence. They have no websites, no Facebook pages – nothing to advertise their small business or engage customers. Why? I cannot believe that small biz owners don’t understand the value of a website, but perhaps they don’t. Here are some reasons why small business needs to have a website for those who aren't sure.
- Websites give your business credibility in the eyes of customers. Businesses without a website in today’s tech savvy world seem clueless and disconnected from customers. Most people assume that “real businesses” have a website. If you don’t have a website you cannot gain much credibility as a good business.
- Websites engage customers, answer questions, and allow business owners to showcase their products and services. Customers want to check you out, they want to see what you have to say and a good website shows the customer that you want to meet their needs. A decent website can also help to improve your businesses efficiency. How many phone calls do you get where people are asking your hours? Or your pricing? Eliminating those calls by answering questions online, can free your schedule to focus on other things.
- Websites are inexpensive 24/7 advertising that help you grow your business. People search for local products and services at all hours, even after you have closed up shop for the day. After hours, how are people going to find your business, how are people going to learn about you, and how are you going to grow your business?
- Websites give you a voice. Let’s face it, review sites like Yelp can contain damaging reviews. Even one negative review amid half a dozen good reviews can really hurt a small business. A website gives you a controlled forum where you can brag about your capabilities. Plus, assuming your business can secure the right website address (your business name), linked with your local location – customers specifically searching your business are likely to find your website first.
Contrary to common belief, websites are not that expensive and can provide a great return on investment. While there will be an investment for design, purchasing the domain name (the website address) and hosting are quite affordable. Assuming you make your needs for ease and simplicity clear during initial design, you may be able to easily maintain the site yourself. It is, however, important to engage a professional for the initial design and set up. Nothing hurts a business more than a bad or unprofessional website that cannot be found on the internet.
Some Tips on Creating a Website
- Hire a professional! Don’t attempt to do it yourself. A bad website is worse than none at all.
- Choose an obvious domain name (website address) such as one that matches your business name. This will help local people find you more easily.
- Your website should have a home page, services or products page, about us page, contact information, and hours of operation. Navigation from page to page must be clear and easy to use.
- The home page must make it perfectly clear what your business does.
- Include content that visually engages customers and prospective customers such as pictures and or videos. Don’t go overboard, though. A busy website can be confusing and look unprofessional. Text or written content must be clear, concise, and grammatically correct.
- Keep the website and all content consistent with your brand. If you have a logo on printed brochures, use that same logo on the website. If your company is represented by a particular color, use that color on the website. If your business has a catchy tag line, use that on the website. Brand consistency is imperative in web design.
- Real customer testimonials are also a great way to help build trust with prospective customers. Don’t create fake testimonials and think people will believe it. If you cannot secure real customer testimonials – don’t include any at all. Faking testimonials will inevitably come back to haunt you.
- Use clear and easy to read fonts. Avoid cursive fonts and choose complimentary text and background colors. The font is easily visible through the background color. For example, if your website’s background is navy blue don’t use black text. Above all else, be consistent with font and style. Don’t go crazy with random bolding and colors.
- Include a call to action on every page. A call to action tells the customer or prospective customer what to do next. A call to action can be as simple as something like “call us to schedule a consultation” followed by a phone number. You can also provide online contact forms or online appointment scheduling.
- Make sure that your website is mobile. Nearly everyone has a smart phone these days. A mobile responsive design, meaning that the site will automatically adjust to any size devise (smart phone, tablet, desktop computer), is your best bet to make sure that you are accessible to everyone.
- Don’t use Flash. Flash is not supported on many mobile devises and even some desktop computers. The goal of a website is to make it accessible by as many people as possible. Including technology that many no longer use will be exclusive.
- Teach customers and prospective customers something that helps to drive your business. For example, if you are a doctor’s office include tips such as reminders that the patients should have a checkup every year.
- Drive local traffic to the site. If you are a small local business, be sure that your business information and website address are listed with Google’s Places for Business. This will help to drive local traffic to your site and to your business. Create a Facebook page and encourage customers to ‘like’ you. This will help to spread the word about your business. Consider sponsoring a local kid’s sports team or charitable cause and include your website on their brochures, sports jerseys, etc.