every small business needs a web site.
The very busy owner of a small landscaping business,
fully booked for the next year, tells me he's
not interested in hiring employees and growing
into a multi-person company. He just wants enough
work to earn a good living, and he has plenty
of work. His business grows by word-of-mouth.
Customers don't need to find his office; he works
at their homes. If ever there was a business that
didn't need a web site, this is it.
I've heard many small-business owners say they
think they "should" get a web site.
They're not quite sure what they will do with
it, but they've been told they “should”
In most cases, they're right. A web site can
be an important marketing tool for almost every
small business, but there are a few exceptions.
If you have as many customers as your business
can handle and you have no desire to grow larger,
as with our landscaper, then there's no point
in marketing on the Web.
AND, if you are really certain that potential
customers won't use the Internet to find your
product or service, then you can safely skip the
Web. One example might be a convenience store,
where drive-by awareness literally drives all
customer traffic. For most businesses, though,
that assumption is getting tougher to make, at
least in the United States, where 158 million
people have Internet access. Usually, the answer
to the question, "Does my business need a
web site?" is a big "YES".
There's no question that a web site is more mission-critical
for some businesses than others. Companies such
as hotels or tourist attractions, trying to reach
customers in different locations or who have products
like flowers, handmade dolls, telephones, etc.,
that can be shipped to customers far away obviously
need to have an online Internet presence.
BUT, local businesses like dry cleaners or shoe
repair shops, for example, also can benefit from
a web site that shows their location, lists their
services and offers their special promotions.
And woe to those who think they don't need a
compelling web site because they serve other businesses
rather than retail consumers. Many businesses
search for new suppliers online — and order
from them that way too.
In short, if you want more customers, you should
be online regardless of your industry.
Your Online Marketing Tool
For most small businesses, a web site is rapidly
becoming a basic requirement in their marketing
plan. A web site can help you reach one or more
of the following goals:
- Help customers find you in the offline world
— your office, your storefront, your phone
- Persuade customers that you have the right
service or product for them.
- Sell products online, even across different
marketplaces, to retail customers or other businesses.
- Share relevant business information and special
offers with customers.
You don't need to be in a consumer or retail
business to reap the benefits of a web site. Your
customer could be another business looking to
the Web for products and services.
Your club, organization or community service
group can all benefit from a presence on the Web.
Clubs use their web site to list their meetings,
speakers and special events. Organizations list
their services, recruit volunteers and solicit
donations. Community service groups announce special
events and fund raisers.
Read on for some tips on how your web site can
reach those goals and for a look at some small-business
Web Sites that really work.
A Simple Site Helps Customers Find You
The simplest possible Web presence is a one-page
site that tells people how to find your business
in the "real" world. It should include:
- A good Web address that relates to your company
- Your business address, complete with directions
and a good map.
- Your business phone number along with your
fax number if relevant.
- Hours of operation.
- Your email address for easy access to you.
- A clear and enticing description of what your
business offers to customers.
This simple Web presence is most appropriate
for businesses that serve local customers, a video
rental shop, doctor's office or plumber, for example.
Businesses that aren't actively looking to expand
their customer base like with a fully-booked chiropractic
For Better Marketing, Create an Expansive
If you're interested in active marketing for
your business, you can expand your web site to
make it a more robust online marketing tool.
In this scenario, the web site 's job is to convince
customers to take that next step: Buy the product
online, call you to place an order, set up an
appointment, or drive to your office or storefront.
Your site is essentially your online marketing
brochure, one that's more effective than a printed
marketing piece, and in most cases, less expensive.
Web sites enable customers to dig deep into the
information they care about, without overwhelming
them with the stuff they don't want or need to
know. That's hard to pull off in a paper brochure.
You can approach crafting the web site as you
would any other marketing brochure. Use color,
graphics, photos and words to get across four
key things about your business:
- What you provide for customers.
- What kind of customers you focus on and can
- How your business is unique from others who
provide the same product or service so customers
can decide if your solution is the right one
- The personality or brand essence of your business
— what your company stands for.
A site that draws customers:
Technicians at http://www.corvettetech.com
Take a look at the web site we designed for Corvette
Technicians. The site does a great job of conveying
what you need to know about the business: The
front page tells you what the business does (Corvette
repairs and restoration) and which customers it
focuses on (owners of vintage Corvettes). It also
tells you what is unique about the practice: It
specializes in Corvettes built from 1953 through
1982. The design of the site itself is vibrant,
with lots of hot colors and a continuous theme.
The front page tells you how satisfied their customers
are and about the great reviews they get from
Corvette publications. Paul Lutz, the owner, says,
"Because we are so specialized, we rely a
lot on "Word of Mouth"," so the
web site is designed to let everyone know how
pleased their current customers are.
As you tour the site, you see not only a listing
of all the services they offer, but letters from
their customers. The site also includes a map
showing how to find their shop, information about
shop hours, shipping and payment plans. It does
a great job of creating a compelling view of the
kind of business it is.
So Yes, For Good Reasons
Unless you have all the customers, patients,
members and volunteers you can handle, a web site
can be a good marketing investment. Find a domain
name that's appropriate for your business and
beef up your marketing arsenal with a compelling
Real Country Life can help. Call or write to
us today for a free consultation!
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