Why do small businesses need to care about their online presence?

Small business owners are responsible for it all, from making the tea to filing tax returns. So it’s understandable if you’ve let your business’s online presence slip – but here’s why it’s worth bumping it up your priority list.

These days, almost everyone will check out a business online before they decide to part with their cash. Online reviews from other customers, for example, are often key to whether someone decides to use you or a competitor.

This means that what once was considered essential only for larger organisations has become something every business needs to pay attention to.

Yet, according to research by the Federation of Small Businesses conducted in 2017, and referenced in a House of Commons report in November 2018, “over a quarter (26%) of business owners in England lack confidence in their basic digital skills and more than a fifth (22%) believe a lack of basic digital skills among their staff is holding them back from increasing their digital and online presence.”

What are the top five reasons every small business should care about its online presence?

1. Keeping up with the competition

The internet is always on, and available just about everywhere, which means customers can find what they’re looking for in seconds. If your business doesn’t have a decent website – or worse still – any kind of website, nobody will see you in the Google search rankings.

Getting some expert SEO help can help you make your site more easy for customers to find, and it’s worth considering paid online advertising to give business an extra boost.

2. Helping customers understand what you offer

First impressions count. And if the first one your customers get doesn’t explain what you offer, or is misleading, you’re unlikely to get their business.

Think of your business’s online presence as your virtual shop window. If you need a pair of shoes, you’ll find a shop with carefully presented shoes in the window. Similarly, if you need an accountant, you might search online – and you’re unlikely to choose one with a poor website (or none at all).

3. Building your brand

Customers care whether a business they’re thinking of buying from has a website – it provides a layer of reassurance that’s simply expected these days.

A good website and associated social media accounts will get your brand noticed – and get people talking about you to their friends. Being perceived in a positive light through your online presence will help spread the message of what your business stands for.

You might also want to consider building your brand further by sending out a monthly, or maybe just quarterly, newsletter pointing your customers to the latest content on your website or special offers.

4. Maintaining your reputation

Resting on your laurels just isn’t an option where your web presence is concerned – make sure you keep your site and social accounts looking fresh and modern with relevant, up-to-date content.

Your loyal customers may not be quite as willing to part with their cash if all they see of your business is an old blog with posts from three years ago. Whether you offer physical products or services, your customers need to know that you care about how you come across.

5. Marketing your products or services

While printed ads, flyers and posters may still have their place in certain situations for certain businesses, they tend to be costly, take longer to prepare – and use up a lot of trees.

So when it comes to getting your message across, investing in a good website and associated social media accounts is likely to make your life easier in the long run. Plenty of companies offer paid online advertising services these days, and you also have the option to advertise through platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Why spend time on social media?

Whether it’s a Facebook page, an Instagram account, a YouTube channel or one of the many other platforms for getting your business noticed online, they’re worth considering.

Social media is a great way to build relationships with your customers. Read our article listing the five tools to make the best of social media for small businesses.

Depending on your turnover, you might want to outsource your social media management to a freelancer or agency. Vet them first to make sure they have the skillset to plan your content to make the maximum impact – and the experience to know what kind of content is relevant to your customers.

What aspects of promoting a business online would you most like guidance on? Let us know in the comments below.

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