A website 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, then there's no point in marketing on the Internet. But that is not the case for every business!
There's no question that a website is more mission-critical for some businesses than others. Companies trying to reach customers in different locations (think hotels or tourist attractions) or who have products that can be shipped to customers far away (think flowers, handmade dolls, etc.) obviously need to have an online presence.
But local businesses (dry cleaners or shoe repair shops, for example) also can benefit from a website that shows their location, lists their services or offers special promotions.
And to those who think they don't need a compelling website 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.
Here are some other reasons to have a website:
Easier to Remember!
Some people can remember telephone numbers really well, but most people remember a name or phrase better. A catchy web address is all a potential customer needs to remember to find out more about your business.
Easy to Update!
Your website can give the potential customer as much information as you want. It is current, up to the minute, and you can include pictures, maps, coupons, and personal messages. It's cheaper to update a website than to update a brochure.
A website is for your customer's convenience. They can explore your website in their own time frame. They no longer have to drive to your place of business to see what you are talking about. Your store is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!
Increase Market Area!
You can increase your effective market area. People anywhere in the world, can find your business with a search engine on the Internet, visit your website, and become a customer. You are no longer limited to customers within driving distance.
Build Loyal Customers!
A satisfied customer can easily check a website to see what's new and look for sales. Include information on new products and tips on their use. Your customers will come back again and again because you add that personal touch to supporting them.
You may move your place of business, change your phone number, or even change your hours, but your web address is always there, your website is always open.
Save Yourself Time!
Do you get a dozen calls asking for stuff you don't carry? Do you spend time describing a product on the phone when you could be doing a dozen other things? Direct those calls to the picture and product description on your website. Let your website screen some of those phone calls for you.
Millions of Web Surfers!
You know that the Internet is attracting more and more consumers every day. If you could move your storefront to a location that had 50 million or more in walk-by traffic everyday, what are the chances you would get more customers?
Having a website is the one form of marketing your business that just keeps on giving! But how do you know if you need a website?
Well, with the amount of information that is available with just a few keystrokes or clicks of the mouse, why wouldn’t you want your business’ information to be included?
More and more people and businesses use the Internet to find information. Whether it is locally or internationally, the Internet is the one place where they are likely to find what they are looking for. Unless, of course, they are looking for you or your product and you don’t have a site.
Having a website allows your business to advertise 24 hours a day, seven days a week and it is available whenever someone is in need of information on your product or services. The elements you include on your website are a determining factor for how successful a marketing device it will be for you.
For personal websites, you can include everything that your heart desires. You can have a site that shows off your favorite cat or a site that includes everything you ever wanted to know about Limburger cheese. The subject choices are unlimited.
However, a business site should be more refined. Get to the point and provide a wealth of information about your product or service. But, ensure that you leave a little to the imagination. Inspire them to WANT to contact you for a little for more information and then make the sale!
And, on that note, make sure your contact information is readily available on your site. There is nothing worse than peaking your site visitor’s interest and then making them search for a means to contact you. Believe me, many people will simply give up if they can’t find what they are looking for and go onto another site in hopes of an easier route.
Navigation is another key element. Getting around your site should be straightforward and painless for your visitors. Provide links from each page to all your key pages. Some sites can become quite large, so links from every page to every page would make the site quite crowded and monotonous. But, make sure you don’t leave your visitor at a dead end.
Limit the use of unnecessary graphics and pictures. Of course, if you are selling a product that needs to be seen, such as clothing, these pictures should be included but try to keep them as small as possible. This will keep the loading time down on your site. However, if you sell automotive aftermarket products, or any other large line of products, don’t put a picture of every brake line and fuse on your site. Including too many graphics will slow down your site and waiting for pictures to load is not something that most busy people have time for. Again, they will go somewhere else for help.
As for advertising other pages on your site, there are many avenues than can be used, including banner exchanges. These are a great form of getting additional free advertising, but don’t load down your site with an infinite amount of banners or links. If possible, dedicate a page to display your banners, webrings and favorite links. This will help reduce the clutter on your information pages.
These hints are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more ways to make your site appealing, more than can be listed in a single article. Research and using an experienced web designer can make your presence on the Internet appealing and informative.
Remember, above all else, make your site with your visitor in mind, whether they are Internet newbies or seasoned surfers. Your site needs to attract new visitors and it needs to keep them coming back.