I recently saw a good friend and medical professional of mine who I’ve been seeing for years now. I often playfully give him a hard time about “things” and he serves it right back (usually with a smirk in his voice). I’ve come to know and enjoy our ten minute chats, every three months for the last many years.
One of the many topics we’ve discussed is that his practice does not have a business website. I recall my frustration after Googling his name and making an appointment with an entirely separate, yet similarly named local professional. It was most embarrassing and rather inconvenient to arrive with no appointment.
The practice of Googling (essentially searching for information) on just about anything in my life is very typically for a person of my age and profession. I exploit the technology around me and I’m not alone in a growing technology age of high speed internet connections in every pocket.
While my friend is unlikely to remember (nor should he) my embarrassing experience, I assure you I never will. I recently raised the topic again and got a very straightforward question in return:
“What would I benefit from having a business website? What would I put on it?”
The simplicity of his question threw me a little and I was a little unclear how exactly to respond. We had a brief exchange of ideas but he concluded it was “on the todo list”.
Upon reflection I wanted to reassure myself that if I was ever asked this simple question again, that I had clearly thought about the responses that would correspond directly with benefits to his or any other business. With some research, I’ve compiled a list of direct benefits that a business (regardless of size) can expect to see by having a website strategy.
A website strategy? What’s that? Simply put, a strategy for:
- Creating and populating a website with rich and relevant content for visitors of all shapes and sizes
- Integrating the website into the business’ marketing and branding strategy
- Ensuring that the website remains relevant and consistent with new developments in the business
- Supporting ongoing, compelling engagement with new and existing visitors.
The worst mistake I see businesses making is “having a website” without a website strategy. That is a website that is out of date, misleading or doesn’t work properly. Would you stay on a website like that?
For businesses in a rut with traditional forms of advertising or none at all (in which this is a great starting point), a business website is an extremely powerful untapped resource of billions of people. My point isn’t about the billions though, but about identifying the tiny percentage that are a business’ target audience. This could be anywhere in-between 10 people or several million people depending on the business. Regardless, the reach of the Internet is extensive and should not be ignored.
With all that said…
How could my business benefit from having a website?
Take charge of your online business identity
Are you a business owner? Google your business name now. Are you the first result? Are you even on the first page? Who is the first result? Do they accurately represent your business?One of the many benefits of having a business website is you control your identity, branding and what information you convey to your visitors. Best yet, it is cheaper than traditional advertising.
Promote self help and offer convenience
Have you ever called a business at 5:05pm on a Friday only to find they’re closed for the weekend? Websites are there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They’re not staffed. They do not need overtime rates on Sunday or public holidays.With the right content and information on your business website, you can offer around-the-clock convenience to self help information about your business and products/services. With a very quick Google search, a potential customer can locate your business fast and your preferred communication methods (such as your office number for sales). Alternatively there’s online booking, online catalogues or shopping carts (e-commerce) for your business products/services.These days, would you call countless motels in a foreign holiday destination to ask their rates and whether or not the pool is heated? Or would you search online for your exact requirements, view photographs of the rooms and find the cheapest price?
Your website is much like a business card
While word of mouth is recognised as the best form of advertising, there’s no reason why we can’t help it along.Here’s a hypothetical scenario which I think says it all…While my friend Jane raves about how amazing her masseur is, my aching shoulders implore me to find out more. I ask Jane and find her masseur’s name is Robert Smith. With a quick Google search for “Robert Smith Masseur North Sydney” I quickly find Robert’s website and read about his qualifications and lengthy experience in the industry, plus a phone number for bookings. Further to my surprise I found he offered a “we come to you” service to my home or office. I immediately make a booking.Making your business and it’s products/services so easy to access in my opinion, is right up there on the list of benefits to a business website.
Did you know people commonly research potential providers online before making their purchase? A business website offers the perfect opportunity to inform potential customers and build a rapport before they ever walk into your store or office.
Open new forms of communication
There is a huge array of communication methods online from live chat, instant messenger, forums, surveys and quick forms that can be used to communicate with online visitors.None however surpasses email. Sending an email has no direct upfront cost. There’s no call costs, mobile/cell or long distance charges to worry about. I can send an email at any time of the day and know I will get a response when the business day resumes. Using a business website’s domain name for email communications (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) also builds a professional image and confidence in the authenticity of the business.
The benefits outweigh the costs
With a domain name or two and a reliable web hosting provider, the upfront costs of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars is money worth spent considering the return. Also keep in mind, that a business website is generally a complete tax write off (of course talk to your qualified accountant first). The only ongoing cost is some time already spent on the business marketing strategy, some time updating contact numbers or new products, the renewal of the domain name (usually every year or two) and a small renewing hosting fee.
How do I start my website strategy?
Remember earlier I spoke of a website strategy? It’s not hard to do and in 15 minutes you could have it all planned out.
Firstly I said “create and populate a website with rich and relevant content for visitors of all shapes and sizes.”
The entire point to having a business website is to take full advantage of everything it has to offer. If you don’t plan to do so, then your business is missing out. To take full advantage means to fully engage your visitors in unique and rich information about the business, products/services and build confidence, trust and rapport as you would if someone walked in the shop or office door.
That said: don’t information overload, never have long blocks of text (and yes, I admit this blog post ignorantly ignores this rule) and never copy and paste. The website content should be yours and yours alone. Never copy text or images from another source without first their permission and/or reference or acknowledgement to the original author. Engage, don’t bore potential customers. Present them with the facts and offer a path to contact you for more information.
Secondly I said “integrate the website into the business’ marketing and branding strategy.”
There is a specific point I’m going to come right out and say here: there’s no point having a website for the sake of having a website; people have to know it exists and the business website must be useful. That means it must be advertised: put it on business cards, letterheads, email signatures or hang a notice on the office wall reading “We have a new website! For helpful information, tips, news, discounts and more visit our website at…”
Some “search engine optimisation” or SEO will also be of great value in helping you get found by potential customers. It might be easier to talk to a professional about this last point.
The third point “ensure that the website remains relevant and consistent with new developments in the business” follows on from the above point.
It must be worthwhile for a visitor to go to the business website. If a bad precedence of incorrect information, out of date stock, inconsistencies with the business brand or it is simply of no use – the business’ website credibility will damaged and visitors will avoid. How would your customers react if you stopped answering the business telephone or locked the shop door?
Lastly I said “support ongoing and compelling engagement with new and existing visitors.”
Keep visitors coming back! That could be through the simple and convenience quick access to business telephone numbers or directions to the shop via a map. It could be through stimulating blog posts on developments in your industry or regular email newsletters on new products and great deals (not sending spam or junk should be implied here).
A business website is a tool that should not be squandered or passed up. Do it right and you’ll reap what you sow.
If you’re serious about getting started, I recommend you have a chat to someone about your business’ requirements and expectations. If you need a helping hand, please by all means feel free to contact me as a starting point and I can point you down the right path. That is of course my profession!
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