Does my small business need a website?

Posted by Eric Goodenough on October 18, 2013

IMG_2989In this post we’ll walk you through the steps to take to determine if your small business really needs a website.

If you are going back and forth on whether or not your small business needs a website, you may be feeling overwhelmed with the amount of options out there. How do you filter through all the noise? How do you come up with a plan for your online presence that makes sense for your budget and your customers?

Step 1: Talk to your customers

Talking to your customers or clients is one of the smartest things you can do. Find out where their pain points are when trying to book an appointment with you. Ask them how they found out about you.  Did they google your business name before they called?  Did they google your address and business hours?  When they did, what information came up?  If your business is based almost entirely on referrals, what percent of those customers looked you up online before they called? Your customers are a great resource to find out what information they might find useful on your website.

Do you hear customers saying they wish the could do something on your site, like order online? Pay online? See a menu or find out your hours and address? Hopefully you’ve identified who your target customers are for your particular business. If they fit into a demographic that is highly tech savvy, you can bet that you are losing out on sales by not having a website.

In most cases, unless your business is located in a prime position on a busy street, you will need at lease a basic website.

Step 2:  Talk to your employees

(Solo entrepreneur? Feel free to skip this step.)  Your employees are another huge resource on finding out what your customers really want.  They have all been told the good, the bad and the ugly about your current site, or lack of a site. Your employees know if customers repeatedly ask for certain things, like online ordering or booking. They’ll also know if customers get frustrated by the lack of information online or not.

A really great way to get more information is to have your employees ask your customers specific questions either in a survey or just in conversation.  How do your customers find out about you? What made them decide to pick you rather than the competition? Did they google you before they came?

Step 3:  Check out the competition

Do you need to stand out from the competition?  Time to do a little research. Are you competitors online? What makes them stand out? What are they doing right, and what are they doing wrong or missing?  Guaranteed you can get an idea of what customers want by looking at your competition. Especially the competitors that are really too big to compete with.

If you run a local boutique, what are the big department stores doing that gets customers to shop online?  Can you offer something similar to your customers or are you going for a whole different shopping experience? If the idea of your business is to offer personalized services to people, a big corporate website may not be what you need. However, make sure that you don’t say so small and personal that people never hear about you.

Step 4: How do you get customers to trust you?

For most businesses, especially service based ones, building trust is very important. When you meet or get googled by a potential client for the first time, its all about sales. How can you get them to trust you over the competition? How can they take one look at you or your offerings and make a decision based on the limited information they have?

One way to do that is to have a website that gives a really clear and concise picture of who you are and what you are offering.  With no website, you are giving that potential customer very limited information with which to make a decision about working with you.

Step 5:  Can your sales increase through a website?

In most cases the answer will be, yes. Most businesses could improve sales by utilizing online shopping, customer logins, catalogs or online booking. It’s getting harder and harder to find examples of businesses that don’t rely, at least in some part, on a website to bring in business.

Even if you don’t sell products online, have you ever really thought about the valuable information that web analytics can give you?  You can get demographic information on who visits your site, how often and what other websites link to you.  With access to this type of information, you have greater insight into your target customers and their shopping habits. You can craft services and products specifically for them and in turn increase sales.

Step 6: Do you need to educate your customers?

Today’s customers are more informed than in any other time in history.  They are smart, savvy and discriminating, they know that there are likely a lot of options out there for what you sell. Educating your customers another part of building trust.  By providing answers and solutions on your website, you demonstrate your expertise in your field. They get to know you and what you stand for before they buy from you.

Or perhaps your business is unique and you have to educate customers on why they need your product or service. If customers need to learn more about what you offer, or the different uses for your products, a blog post or email newsletter  is the perfect place to do so. You can answer frequently asked questions from your customers, offer advice and inspiration, or you can start a conversation about a topic related to your line of work.

So, does your small business need a website?

It’s getting harder and harder to find examples of a business that wouldn’t benefit from some kind of online presence.  Ask yourself if you truly know what your target customers need and want. It’s likely that they want to get information on you before they come by your store or contact you for more information. So make sure that you are easy to find online, offline and through referrals.

Learn more about how a website can impact your business!

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