Why Every Small Business Needs a Website to Survive
photo credit: René Ehrhardt
Okay so maybe the word “survive” is a little dramatic but in many cases it is true. After all, one in five small businesses close within the first year of operation. So how can a website make a difference? How can a website bring in more customers, engender better customer loyalty and make a small business more money? Let me show you. You might be surprised.
1. Google is like the biggest shopping mall in history
When I first mention the word “Google” to my clients I see a mixture of excitement and unadorned fear in their eyes. It is so vast and complicated it seems to be put in the too hard basket. And that is a big shame because Google has the power to make or break your business. If you rank well on Google you can become rich overnight. If you don’t rank at all on Google you can be putting your business in a seriously jeopardized position.
Think of Google as the world’s biggest shopping mall. A good Google ranking would be like having a store in the mall right by the entrance where everybody looks as soon as they walk in. A bad Google ranking might be like having an upstairs shop when the only other thing up there is the toilet and the janitor’s room! There is no way it can really get the attention it needs. When you start to look at Google as a new place to stake your business’ real estate its starts to seem more approachable. And then benefits are many:
- Google can bring you new customers
Imagine you are a restaurant located in an Adelaide suburb somewhere. You have a great menu, excellent staff and the locals come back every week. Profits are good, but they could be better. Now imagine that I tell you one day that restaurant reviews on Google are a huge way to bring in traffic. Imagine having a website for your restaurant where people could go and look at your menu, photos of your beautiful food and easily find your phone number to make a booking. All of a sudden you have customers who might never have known you existed.
- Google can make old customers more loyal
Having a website that is easily findable on Google means that many of your old customers will turn into repeat users. Why is this? Well the days of the phone book are over. If someone wants to look up your phone number they will now type in your business name on Google. If they find your website they will likely re-use your services. But if one of your competitor’s websites come up then you have lost that customer forever.
- Google can make word of mouth a solid marketing strategy
Word of mouth customers are wonderful because they just come to you without much effort. But the numbers aren’t that great. It won’t bring you a huge flood of sales. But if you have a website that ranks well on Google you are more likely to consolidate these word of mouth searches into customers. And the reason is simple, people forget. Imagine someone told you about a really great pizza place that just blew their socks off. Six months later when you feel like trying it you will likely have forgotten its name, location or why it was special. But a quick search on Google will correct that. All of a sudden Google has helped that business’ word of mouth marketing.
Let’s go back to the idea of Google being a giant shopping mall. Like a shopping mall, the best way to get the best real estate is to get in early. The longer you wait the harder it is to penetrate because the old guys are growing and solidifying their position. The internet is just starting to take of in Australia for small businesses and now is the time to jump on Google because Google is not going away, ever.
2. A website can save your reputation
Imagine you spend years developing your business. You find a great shop, fit it out with wonderful furniture, find excellent staff and sell a top quality product. You bust your guts managing the taxes and finances and spend months developing relationships with your customers. And then all of a sudden someone comes a long and writes a scathing web review of your store for no apparent reason. And now, to make things worse, imagine that review is the first thing people find when they go to Google. You are losing a lot of business because of this one bad review.
photo credit: Paris by Mouth
This actually happened to one of our clients. Grotto Pizza-teca is a fantastic little pizza shop just off of Norwood Parade with some of the tastiest pizzas you will ever eat. The ambiance of the restaurant itself is really cool and then location is just perfect (car parks, outdoor sitting, near the movies, etc.). But six months ago the top Google ranking for the search term “grotto pizza” was a scathing review calling them “boring” and “greasy”. This was just not the case. I knew it and the owners knew it.
The solution was easy (or relatively). Create a brand new website with professional photographs of their location and pizzas. Make the website as Google friendly as possible and hope that in a few months it outranks the bad review. And it did. You can check it out here. In just a few months Grotto Pizza-teca has completely changed their online reputation. We have since been told by the owners that they have seen an increase in business with people coming into the cafe with the coupon that is only available on the net. A website can save your reputation.
3. Social media works best with a website
I’m sure you have all heard of Facebook and Twitter. These are the two biggest social media sites on the internet; places where people becomes “friends” or “fans” of their high school buddies, work mates and, yep you guessed it, their favourite businesses. But without a website the traffic that is generated from social media sites sort of falls on deaf ears. It is the website that ties these social media sites together and allows your “friends” and “fans” to turn into paying customers.
Let me give you an example. Imagine you start a new business as a florist. You set up your shop and start arranging beautiful bouquets of flowers. You might create a Facebook Fan Page and a Twitter account for the business and your friends and family add you to their lists. But if you don’t have a website link on the Facebook page and Twitter account people will be less likely to buy your flowers when the need arises. Why? Because it is unlikely that they will log into Twitter or Facebook in order to search for you. They will still look for your business on Google. They will want to see high definition photos of your product, see your email address, phone number, online store, etc.
photo credit: Alan Stanton
Think of social media as planting the seeds of commerce and the website as the fruit. Social media sites like Facebook are a wonderful way to spread the word about your business and any updates you have to share, but you need a website in order to really convert those “fans” into customers.