A website is a necessity for any business. It introduces a product or service to a wide audience, extends the brand and authenticates its legitimacy. But, for the 25 million small businesses nationwide - it means even more. With the rise of Internet search, online reviews, social networks and online advertising, a small business' website is its lifeblood. According to a study from Verisign, 89 percent of small businesses leveraging a website would recommend investing in a website to others within their industry to drive business success. Why? For most potential clients, the website is the ultimate destination, where they evaluate a company, and ultimately decide whether they want to contact the business, purchase a product or a service.
Learning from thousands of small businesses over the last four years, here are a few thoughts small business owners and anyone who helps small businesses grow online should take into consideration.
David versus Goliath 2.0. There is no better way to compete with "the big guys" than through a website. Small business is more nimble, flexible and can adopt the newest Web technologies much faster than big businesses. There's no legacy systems and complexity, and you don't need to worry about how the change will affect thousands of customers. Small businesses can create an impressive website with limited resources. Use a fresh, modern look, add great team atmosphere shots, maybe even a video, and make sure to have customer testimonials. Consumers are accustomed to high-quality, finished sites so your website will shine over bigger competitors who have had the same old website for the past five years.
Stand Out from Competitors. In a crowded world, where potential customers navigate in and out of your site in less than a minute, and off they go to your competitor's site, make sure you give them a reason not to hit the back button or go to the next site in the search results. Emphasize your difference, why they should choose you loud and clear, and then make sure they don't leave without at least contacting you. A client who contacts you is less likely to continue the search for an alternative resource. He's invested. He's reached out. Make a clear call-to-action (for example, offer a free sample or phone consultation or some other offer) that encourages contact on every page of your site. If you can get a text notification to your mobile phone with every new request you can respond immediately and close the deal.
Albert Bergen, a CPA in New England on-boarded a major client by responding immediately to a contact request. Bergen was waiting for a new set of tires to be installed on his vehicle when he received a text message notifying him of a new client inquiry. Bergen called back immediately while still at the tire store. The client was so impressed with his level of service, Bergen was immediately hired.
Continue the Client Dialogue through Your Website. Many businesses are taught to build a dialogue with clients over social networks, email marketing and other digital channels, but that dialogue has to continue on the website, too. Creating an interactive site and enabling a dialogue doesn't have to be difficult. An online chat is probably too big of a time commitment for most businesses as you must be consistently online to converse. But connecting your site to your Twitter feed or an online forum creates an impression of a live site, demonstrating how responsive your business is and encouraging more client communication. If checking your Twitter account on your smartphone every few hours is too much, use online scheduling instead. Let clients schedule a service or a phone call directly through your website. This will guarantee a dialogue will commence.
An online presence is vital to a company's success. A website, along with social platforms, can extend the visibility and reach of a business beyond geographic boundaries. As the world becomes more and more flat with business transacted without the barriers of borders, time zones or continents, an online presence is no longer a luxury, but a staple in the long-term survival of any business.
Ran Oelgiesser is the CMO of vCita. Ran has a versatile experience in technology, product management and marketing in start-ups and large organizations. Prior to vCita, Ran was a co-founder and VP Product Marketing at Kidaro (acquired by Microsoft in 2008). Please feel free to contact us with any questions, feedback or business opportunity about vCita and our services.