How can a website help your business?
I'd like to break the ice here on the JB2B Networking Group blog. This blog should be a place to share your knowledge and expertise - a way to spark conversation about your industry and the work that you do, and to educate the group. Many things you might take for granted about your business, others haven't a clue about enough to even ask the right questions. For example, when my wife and I bought our first home, there were many things about our mortgage, about real estate agents, the buying and selling process, and certain tax advantages that we simply had no idea about, and only learned after the fact, after we made a mistake or found out through chance. That sentence alone should be an invitation to Morgage Brokers, Bankers, Real Estate Agents, Lawyers, and Accountants to step in and write articles for this blog. After my wife's (thankfully parked) car was hit by a drunk driver, navigating the claims process and dealing with a mechanic - who us laymen simply trust - outside advice from an unbiased source would have been more than welcome. (Hello Insurance agents, adjusters, and auto mechanics!)
Step up, people! Share your wisdom! Get involved with the articles and post comments and questions. You all have a lot to offer, and if you're really experts, you probably don't even realize how much you know - and how little the rest of us don't!
Well, now that I've got that little pep talk out there, I'd like to share with you some tips about how a website can help your business that you may not know.
One of the most common questions I get asked by business owners, is how much a website will cost.The problem is, there will always be someone who can build a website cheaper, just like there's always a building contractor who can give a lower quote. But let's talk about what a website can do for your business, and what those goals are worth to you. Now decide if you want to hire someone who's capable of achieving those goals, or some rice farmer in East Asia who's learning web design on an Tandy TRS 80.
The simplest and most obvious goal of any website is just to "get found." People shouldn't struggle to find your website, and preferably, you should be easier to find in the search engines than your competition. Not all web designers know how to build a website that will allow search engines like Google and Bing to find you, and usually it takes a specialist Internet Marketer to run monthly campaigns to keep you up in search results. (I'm doing my best to stay away from the buzzwords.)
Generate quality leads from your website
Many business owners take the passive approach of wanting a website just to have a website. Like road sign or business card. But you can do better than that - get people to get in touch. You want people to contact you, and generate qualified leads.
ROI: Return On Investment
Probably the biggest hurdle for a small business owner to cough up a few thousand dollars for a website is the unknown about ROI. It's difficult to know what your website will do for you, especially that there are so many people who say they're qualified. But if your designer can demonstrate how to get your site found, and how you'll generate more leads, it should be simple math to figure out how long until your website pays for itself.
If your website was built by your neighbor's niece's stylist's son who's "good with the computer," you might be better off not even having one at all. Just like dressing professionally, being clean and presentable, having business cards and a business phone number, having a well-designed website adds credibility to your business. Imagine you're your own customer. If you found two websites, and one looked terrible and was difficult to use, and the other was clean and professional, who would you contact? Does a badly designed website tell you a business owner is "cunning and thrifty" or "not a serious business person"? It may even send the terrible message that you simply don't care about your customer experience!
Expand your market
Say, I have a small brick and mortar operation selling "Jeff's Widgets." I only serve my local community of 4,023 inhabitants, because why would someone drive 27 miles to buy my widgets? Reaching a wider market in the real world is expensive. On the web, simply being present makes finding your widgets a click of the button! Even without any advertising, having your products online makes it available world-wide. (Although, a good website should always be coupled with a good marketing plan!)
Once you have your own website, it's simple to devise FREE or low-cost marketing campaigns. Newsletters to direct people to your site can cost you absolutely nothing. Putting up your latest promotions and online-only coupons and deals can be done within minutes by yourself, if you have a Content Management System. Tell your existing customers, "hey, check out my website for special deals!" People aren't going to drive 7 miles to Jeff's Widgets every week just to see what's there, but if they get an email, and they like your service/product, it's only a click away!
Let your employees focus on things that matter
As a small business owner of Jeff's Widgets, we have a lean staff. We are happy to answer any and all questions about our products and services. Our personal service is what sets us apart from our competition. However, there is simply no need to be fielding 12 calls a day asking how late we're open! That information should be online and easy to find. Time saved for your employees means employees can focus on the things that really matter. And it likely saves your customers' time, too, making them happier!
Empower your customers
Let your customers answer each other's questions! Set up a discussion board, or develop a group on one of the popular social media sites, where your customers and your staff can interact. Often times, they may come up with answers you didn't think of! It will save your employees more time from answering questions and will give your customers a feeling of community, developing brand loyalty and increasing exposure. It will also get them involved in your products more and provide them with a larger support group.
Elicit valuable customer input
After a customer leaves your store with a shiny new Widget, wouldn't you love to ask him how he likes this new model over the last one when he gets home? What other questions would you like to ask him? How would his answer change the way you do business? Sending out follow up emails to customers to fill out a survey form (for prizes, points or coupons) can gain you valuable information. Couple the survey with a small promo (say, 10% off the next purchase), will increase the odds they'll give you answers.
Save money on printing
Many businesses spend thousands of dollars printing expensive catalogs, brochures, and direct mail. Offering the information online and sending out emails can cost nothing! Oh, and think of all paper and trees you just saved. Good for the environment, and good for your pocket!
Now you have an idea of some goals for your website and how the web can really help your business. How much are these goals worth to you?
Did you find these tips helpful? Do you have other ideas of what a website can do for your business? Share your ideas in the comments below!