“Why do we need a website?”
You’ve been in business for a few years, or perhaps decades, and you’ve gotten along fine without having a website. Or have you? In today’s tough economy and competitive business atmosphere, you need every advantage you can get, no matter how small. To be competitive in promoting and marketing your company, you need to do what your competition does, at a bare minimum. Such things as a toll-free phone number, better hours, a helpful website, or a unique product or service niche that the competition doesn’t have, can help you get new customers and retain your existing ones.
In this computer age, shoppers are now going online in increasing numbers to research the products and services they wish to buy, and the companies they anticipate doing business with. Computers are replacing the “Yellow Pages” in phone books as the preferred medium for looking up companies to do business with. When you visit the popular search engines such as Google or Yahoo, you can use their “Local” feature as an extended version of a Yellow Pages listing. At a bare minimum, these entries might include your business name and address, phone number, and a map to your location. However, the companies that have active websites also will have a link to their site along with their listing! This is their chance to impress the potential customer or client.
Consider this: if your potential customers retrieve Google or Yahoo search results for you and three local competitors, which ones are they going to consider visiting first? Most likely, the ones that have websites associated with them.
While websites alone aren’t an advertising vehicle, they can provide you a lot more “bang for the buck” by having all of your important information in one place. A Yellow Pages listing is expensive, and you only have a limited amount of space to impress customers, especially if you only have a small listing. Your business has too much information to cram into a tiny Yellow Pages ad…unless you can afford a full-page spread!
A website can save you money in other ways. Here is one example: putting your basics on a business card, with a link to your site, can send customers to your site for the information that they’re looking for; if you’ve ever had to hand out brochures, flyers or catalogs in the past, your website could replace these or, at a minimum, reduce the number of expensive printed materials that you need to have printed up on a regular basis. And since a website is electronic, you need not worry about reprinting new materials every time you need to make a change to your company’s information–your site works in “real time” for you, updated as quickly as you can get to a computer.
The more obvious way to “make money” from your site is to sell your product or services online. If you sell merchandise, it is a natural to offer secure online purchasing, complete with checkout and payment processing. If you are in a service industry, offering a contact form to set up an appointment or consultation is a great inducement to get a customer to use your company over your competition.
The bottom line of all marketing is this: make it easy for the customer to do business with you. A website will never cure everything, but it will certainly give your customers and clients more reason to do business with you. You inspire confidence with a professional, well-designed site. Offering them different ways to contact you makes it easy for them to learn more about your company and, most importantly, generate business.