'Back in the day', when your customers were looking for a product or service, they scoured the phone book in search of a store or company in their area that provided the product or service they needed. Sometimes they only found a name and phone number, and occasionally an address. Very rarely would they find a photo advertisement with a list of services or products offered.
These days, that same customer can do an internet search and instantly be presented with a list of businesses that provide what they are looking for, along with links to websites. Those web pages are loaded with product images, descriptions, instructions, price lists, maps and phone numbers, and even online shopping which allows the customer to order products and services without ever leaving their home or office.
Not having a website is now similar to the ‘old days’ of not having a listing in your local phone book. Even if your best business comes by word-of-mouth, your potential customers may still want to check you out. A well-designed, professional website will give you added visibility and credibility. The cost of maintaining a website is probably the most cost effective advertising you'll ever do and not having a website can be extremely detrimental to your business.
Today, the Internet is one of the first places a person who has access to a computer will go to get information. Whether its details about the weather, travel or a specific product or service, the internet is THE place your customers will look for that information.
Your website is a working document
Once your web site is up and running, it shouldn’t end there. Your website should be treated like a working document - forever requiring fine tuning and adjustment. Websites that aren't regularly updated become stagnant and ignored by search engines. Websites should never be static entities, they need to constantly grow with your business and to keep your visitors returning your website needs to be updated regularly with fresh, relevant web content.
Perhaps you have a service oriented practice such as accounting, consulting or law that's already doing well and you're wondering why you should burden yourself with the added expense and effort of a website. In the web-world, this is referred to as having a ‘corporate presence.’ So should your business have a website, even if your business is small and sells products or services you don't think can be sold online? Most certainly! If you have a business, you should have a business website. Period. No question. Without a doubt.
I'm not saying you should put all your efforts into selling your wares over the internet, though if your product lends itself to easy online sales, you should certainly be considering it. The point to be made here is that you should at the very least have a presence on the web so that customers, potential employees, business partners and perhaps even investors can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products and/or services you have to offer.
Your chance to make a great first impression
However, it's not enough that you just have a website. You must have a professional-looking site if you want to be taken seriously. Your website may be the first chance you get to make a good impression and if your site looks like it was designed by a barrel of colour-blind monkeys, your chance at making a good first impression will be lost.
With a well designed site, your little operation can project the image and professionalism of a much larger company. This can also work the other way – a big company with a badly designed website that is difficult to navigate can result in lack of professionalism and credibility.
Regardless of whether you’re a one man business or a 10,000-employee corporate giant; if you don't have a website, you're losing business to other companies that do.
Marion Jackson is an accomplished Executive Assistant who has identified a gap in the local New Zealand market for providing affordable websites and business support.