Many small businesses don’t have a website which means they are almost certainly missing out on new customers. Here is a list of 20 reasons why a website is an important asset for any business.
1. Sell your products - if your business is retail, you’re missing a great opportunity if you don’t have a website. More and more consumers and businesses are shopping online and if you aren’t selling online, buyers who could be yours will go to other suppliers.
2. Catalogue your products - you may not want the hassle of running a mail order business but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a web presence to promote your products. Having your catalogue of goods on a website means that customers can look for the items they need, see the specification, and the price before they visit your premises. If you could list items as in stock and allow people to place orders for collection that makes your website even more useful.
3. Post photographs or videos of your previous work - if your business provides a service such as decorating or design which will yield visual results you should have a website where you can display them. Seeing visual proof of work done is very helpful for new customers.
4. Build credibility. Most consumers and businesses expect companies to have their own websites these days, no matter if they are one-man bands or larger firms. Having your own site which is branded and which contains relevant information about your business gives your business more credibility in the eyes of your potential and existing customers.
5. Get found my more people. Just as more people shop online these days, they also use the internet to look for services and retailers. True, you can sign up with online directories without a website but if you have your own website you have extra opportunities to be found by potential customers in search engine results and via links on other sites.
6. Interact with customers. Websites are a good way for a business to interact directly with customers. Whether this is using a simple ‘contact us’ form or more sophisticated software like real-time chat or instant messaging, it is always great to have the opportunity to talk to your customers.
7. Build relationships with customers. Many businesses use their websites to manage customer enquiries and complaints as it offers a single location where they know they can get help if they need it.
8. Grow and manage your contacts database. Every time a visitor to your website leaves their details you should be adding them to a database. Invite your visitors to opt in to receive a newsletter or notifications of special offers. Doing so will give you a way to contact customers directly and it will also give you a better understanding of the people who buy your products or services.
9. Write expert guides based on your experience in your industry. If you are an expert in your field, you have a great opportunity to use it by writing industry guides. These will help your customers to understand your industry better and give them a reason to come back to your site more often.
10. Provide customers with quotes by email. Even if you don’t want to use your website for e-commerce, you can still use it quite easily to give customers quotes. Just set up a contact form on the site and then email the customer back with quotes. If you have more sophisticated technology behind your site you may be able to generate automatic quotes for your customers.
11. Post ‘how to’ videos for your products and services. Thanks to Youtube.com online video has become massively popular and if you can find something really relevant to your business that can be put on video it’s worth giving it a try. Short ‘How to’ clips are useful for customers and show that you know your stuff when it comes to your business.
12. Get listed in local online directories. You can get a listing in an online directory if you don’t have a website but internet users do expect to be able to visit a website when they see your details. Given the choice between a business with just a telephone number and one with a website, most people will choose the one with the website (assuming that the site isn’t so bad it puts them off!).
13. See who has visited your site and how they found you. Having a website is great because, even basic analytics software, you can see how many visitors came to your site, what they looked at when they arrived and where they came from. Website reports can give you a wealth of information about your business that you would never get otherwise. Try using free software like Google Analytics for the best results.
14. Recommend other related services or retailers. From your website you can help your customers out by recommending services related to your business. This doesn’t benefit you directly unless you can workout a commission agreement with those companies, however it does add value to your business which your customers will appreciate.
15. Sell other business’s products in return for commission. If you can build up a good amount of traffic to your website, you could try including a few affiliate links to other goods and services. If you become an affiliate of another business you could earn commission each time one of your site visitors clicks through and buys something from their site. They key to being a successful affiliate is to make sure that the programmes you sign up to are relevant to your own customers.
16. Sell your products on other websites. If the profit margin on your products is large enough you could set up your own affiliate scheme and sell your products on other people’s sites. You can do this easily through one of the many online affiliate agents - affiliatefuture.com; affiliatewindow.com; tradedoubler.com etc. Alternatively you could buy the affiliate software and run the programme yourself, however this will take up a chunk of your time that could be better spent on other areas of the business.
17. Invite customers to leave reviews for your business. Transparency is a buzz word in business right now, largely because of the increase in number of websites where customers can leave reviews of products and services.
Lots of businesses shy away from offering customers the opportunity to post reviews because they fear negative feedback but in fact, negative feedback can be used to your advantage. If you respond quickly and proactively to complaints and make sure that this response is visible to other customers, they will see how much you care about them and about giving the best possible service.
18. Post testimonials or ‘nice things people have said about your business’. The web is a great place to post positive feedback from your customers. So scan any letters or cards you’ve received and post them on a special section of your website alongside any emails or comments you’ve had.
19. Reach a completely new target market. A website can be great for launching a new product that is aimed at an alternative consumer group, or just for attracting a new market for your existing offering. The internet offers almost unlimited opportunities to connect with people outside your usual business circle and with a good website you can take full advantage of this.
20. Add value to your business. Ultimately, if done right, a website will add considerable value to your business for a relatively small cost. Can you afford not to have one?