There has been much debating in recent years over the benefits of creating websites for small businesses. Some have argued that websites are an unnecessary extravagance for the small business owner. There is no denying that many websites fail to make an impact in today’s competitive online marketplace. However, this failure is typically due to poor design and an inability to provide customers with sound business solutions. A well designed website still has the potential to become a small business owner’s most effective marketing tool.
According to the 2010 Sensis e-Business Report 60% of small businesses maintain a website and a further 11% intend to have one within the next 12 months. By the end of 2011 the remaining 29% of small businesses will be operating under a considerable disadvantage. This disadvantage is largely the result of a fundamental shift in the way people are identifying and targeting businesses. The majority of people are no longer flipping through the yellow pages,but instead search online using key words like: “IT” “that” “works”. The Internet has redefined the way business is conducted and has forever altered the relationship between customer and business owner.
An effective website delivers positive exposure for your business 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. This allows potential customers access to your business at their leisure. Customers can browse a catalogue of products, learn about available services and use e-commerce solutions to make purchases. Today’s consumers want to make educated purchasing decisions and your website can keep your customer base well informed.
Businesses can also utilize their website to highlight their knowledge, experience and business culture. They can engage with their customers by providing support, product and service information, and promotional offers. Your website can also provide the basis for a social media strategy – which may include joining Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
The main aim of your website is to engage the interest of potential and current customers. Your website is the most visible extension of your brand, and users tend to judge websites with ruthless abandon. They can decide in less than ten seconds whether they consider the website and consequently your business to be legitimate. Designing an effective website is therefore something to be taken seriously. Bad design can even hurt your business and jeopardize future earnings.
Apprehension over cost is probably the most significant barrier between small business owners and websites. However, if done correctly your website will be a sound investment and provide your business with a cost effective and powerful marketing tool.