In our era of mobile internet access and e-commerce acceleration, business websites are an intrinsic part of commercial success – aren’t they? Some small-business decision-makers are yet to be sold on the necessity of a web presence.
Google research indicates that 63 percent of small businesses have no website, even as 97 percent of online consumers use online media to research products and services, regardless of whether the purchase is made online or offline.
So what’s the argument to get the stragglers on board? It comes down to this: Get found and get known, or you’ll get beat.
Get found …
People Google everything – something has to be fairly prevalent to become a verb on its own. If your company isn’t present in Google's search results, it’s not presented as an option to a massive potential audience. To get in Google results, you need a website.
Your website is your neon sign along the information superhighway (to use an admittedly dated term). But it goes way beyond “Stop here for this” – tell the world about your company, your history, your services and your expertise. Provide the most basic, most important information: your location, your hours and your contact info.
Of course, attracting customers online goes beyond having a simple signpost – your website must be search engine-optimized, with content that accurately describes what you do (and more content is generally better).
Either way, there’s a worldwide audience to access now, whether or not your business involves online sales.
… Get Known …
There’s probably already information on the web about your business – thing is, you can’t control it. Review websites like Yelp – or social media commentary via Facebook, Twitter, or other sites – tell the world whatever any internet user wants to say about you – even your competitors. If this kind of information is all there is online about your business, you’re at a severe disadvantage.
Instead, you should have a custom image and story. Build your brand. Tell your story, your way. Your website will convey legitimacy and build buyer confidence just through its existence, and you can extend that feeling by creating and linking to social networking sites or adding a blog.
Internet users make quick judgments about businesses – that decision isn’t likely to be positive if there’s no web presence to be found. Publish something that represents who you are and tells people where to find you and how to contact you.
… or Get Beat.
If someone looking for a business like yours can’t find you online, how do they find you at all? Imagine yourself unaware of your own business, trying to find it without the aid of any online resources. Would you have to drive past your storefront or hear about you from a friend to discover you? That’s unacceptable.
Most likely, your competitors are already online. Catch up with the times, or risk being rendered irrelevant by your competitors. It’s probable that online options exist in your industry and in your location. Don’t surrender customers to them. Compete.
Get found, get known, or get beat: These are the times we live in. Brick-and-mortar business won’t go extinct in a local context, but without an online presence, finding and attracting new customers can be futile.