Why is it important to view your website as an asset that helps you achieve your business objectives? Some business owners think of a website as an online business card and view any additional functionality as an unnecessary expense. In fact, investing in a strategically planned, well designed online presence will pay you returns for the lifetime of your business. This article explores 9 ways that your website can help you increase sales, reduce costs, manage your business reputation, and proves that well planned and designed website is a valuable investment in a business and its future.
Recent research by Clutch shows that approximately 74% of small businesses in the US have a website. Of the 26% who do not have a website only 10% indicate that they are unlikely to build a website in the future.
The largest perceived barriers to building a website for most businesses are technical knowledge (50%), followed by on-going website maintenance (47%) and cost (43%). In spite of perceived barriers, 82% of small businesses would recommend having a website to other small businesses.
Your website serves as an automated ambassador for your business, available to your audience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It never takes a vacation, never calls in sick and always delivers exactly the message you want to your visitors.
If you have a physical location for your business, picture your website as the online version of your business to serve people looking for you on the Internet. Your website has many of the same characteristics as your physical location - people can visit, understand what you offer, get answers to questions, place orders (if e-commerce), and invite their friends to come see you. Just as you can create a great customer experience for those who interact with your store, you can create a similar experience for visitors to your website with properly planned web design, development, and online marketing strategy.
The good news is that the investment required to have an outstanding website developed is a fraction of the expense involved in making upgrades to your physical location.
Having an online presence lends credibility to your business as everyone expects to be able to find you on the Internet. If you have a brick and mortar business your website enables potential customers to quickly get the information they need about your location, directions, hours of operation, products, services, specials, and any other information you care to share.
Research has shown that it usually takes multiple touches or encounters with a business through different media before a customer feels comfortable enough to purchase. Obviously this rule of thumb will vary based on the type of product or service, but the point here is that your website gives visitors a point of contact with you and reassures them of your stability.
A well designed and thoughtfully planned website helps brand your business as professional and can place you in the same light as much larger competitors. The Internet has helped level the playing field between businesses of different sizes. A small business with a website that impresses visitors with its design, approach, information, and user experience will make a much better impression than a large business with a poorly designed website. You only get one chance to make a good first impression and your business website will often be the first impression potential customers have of your company.
If you offer digital products or serve a regional, national, or international market your website is usually the most cost effective way to access your audience. A digital presence allows your business to approach new markets that were not feasible to pursue using offline marketing methods. Reaching these audiences without a website through other media such as print advertising, radio, television, and direct mail is far more costly and less effective. In addition, when you stop paying for these forms of advertising your flow of leads also stops.
Get Found in Web Search
Given that most buyers begin their research online, your website gives you the opportunity to be found by those seeking your product or service. Your website should be designed according to Search Engine Optimization best practices in order to create a strong foundation for your online marketing. This will improve your odds of being found ahead of your competition.
When using a search engine most people will not scroll past the first page of search results, so understanding how to design your website such that it ranks high in search results can be invaluable. Readers tend to visit the top links in the organic search results so having your website on the first or second page of Google or Bing can bring in a significant amount of business.
In addition, the search engines favor local businesses in their search results assuming that searchers will be most interested in businesses close to their location. This works to your advantage because someone searching for the term “CPA” in Red Bank, NJ will see CPA firms in their local area, while someone doing the same search in Seattle will see their local CPAs. That said, there are also SEO and web development strategies that can be used to help you show up higher than your local competitors in the search results.
Without a website your odds of being found in web search drop substantially. Even though the search engines are now showing social media profiles in their results, your own website is far more likely to be found by searchers than your Facebook Page for example.
Since about 50% of web searches are occurring on mobile devices it is essential that your website is designed to be mobile responsive. If someone is searching for your product while out shopping and they have difficulty reading your web content on their smartphone, they will quickly click away to your competitors. If your existing website has not been updated so it is mobile responsive you are definitely leaving money on the table.
Digital Marketing Hub
Your website serves as the hub of your digital marketing activity, a central aspect of your overall communications strategy. Since your website is digital real estate that you control, you can tie your other communications and branding strategies to it. For example, your website can be used to collect visitor email addresses for your marketing campaigns, feature links to your social media profiles, show promotional and educational videos, provide information on live events and much more.
Integration with Offline Marketing
You should be using your website in tandem with other forms of marketing and together they make your marketing communications much more effective. Different customers and prospects will each have their own favorite modes of communication. Offering them the option of viewing your products and services and contacting you in the manner they prefer helps increase your lead generation and sales opportunities.
By featuring your website on your print communications along with your address, phone, fax, email and social media profiles you ensure that those who want to contact you can do so with the least friction. Conversely your website will contain all of your contact details so those who find you online can also reach you by phone, email, snail mail or simply by stopping into your location if they choose.
At a more advanced level you can use marketing automation technologies that allow you to combine offline and online marketing in a dynamic way. For example, if you use trade shows as a lead generation strategy you can follow up with attendees immediately after the event, send them additional materials (e.g. keynote slides), and even connect with them on LinkedIn. Later you can inform them about a product or service that you offer related to that event and follow up next with an invitation to a webinar on the same topic. Each of these touches brings you closer to a sale. You can plan all those actions ahead of time, even before the event, and they will happen automatically based on a timeline and actions you establish.
Positions You as an Authority
Though much of the information on your website may remain relatively static, you can include a blog where you can regularly post a variety of new content. This serves multiple purposes. First, the search engines love current, updated content so when you add new blog posts, video and other forms of content this increases the likelihood of your being found in search. Second, you can use your website and blog to provide relevant, valuable content to your visitors on an on-going basis. Publishing content demonstrates your expertise and helps you gain the attention of your prospects by providing them with information they can use. This helps establish you as an authority and resource in your industry.
Supports Multiple Functions in Your Business
Another reason why your website is such a powerful investment is because it can support so many areas within your business - marketing, sales, public relations, product development, customer service, and more.
We have already discussed how it serves as a 24/7/365 business open to anyone. In addition, you can use it to display marketing communication messages about everything from specials to new product announcements. Because it is digital your website can be instantly updated with current information and it is easy to make changes to its content.
Your website is a powerful sales tool because buyers can always refer back to it when they are ready to purchase. They may be interested in what they see when they visit your store or meet you at a trade event, but not in a position to purchase at that point. When they do reach the point where they are ready to buy, they can conveniently access current information about your products and services or contact you through your website.
Your website can also help with customer service. First, you can post answers to your customers’ most frequently asked questions (FAQs). This provides them with the convenience of being able to quickly find the information they need without tying up your staff’s time answering basic questions on the phone. You can also take customer service inquiries via a web form and answer them on your own schedule. This helps reduce the cost of customer service.
Your website can support departments such as accounts payable by enabling customers to download invoices rather than sending them by other means. This process alone can save you a substantial amount in labor costs.
Human resources can use the website to display information on the benefits of working for your organization as well as posting open positions you need to fill. You can use your website as a place to host surveys on any topic, for example, new product development and customer satisfaction surveys.
Using the proper analytics you can track how visitors are behaving when they visit your website which you can then use to fine tune its content and make educated marketing decisions. Google Analytics, for example, is free and it enables you to see where your website visitors are coming from, which pages they visit, how long they stay on your website and what pages they exit from to name just a few areas.
Once you begin collecting this data you can use it to help you decide which web pages need improvements in terms of content, which channels you should focus on to bring more traffic to your website and what types of content resonate most with your audience. For example, if visitors are clicking away from your Product pages after a few seconds then you may need to provide a better description of the product benefits. Conversely, if you are doing How To videos and they are getting a large number of clicks, comments and shares then you will want to do more of these and consider using them as an offer to get more Opt-ins to your email list.
This ability to measure results is a major reason why having an online presence is so powerful. Analytics enable you to track your return on investment from traffic to your website and your online advertising. By comparison, offline marketing tools do not offer similar timely and detailed analytics to measure their effectiveness nor can you make adjustments as quickly as you can with your digital marketing. For example, if you run a print ad in a monthly publication you cannot tell how many people viewed the ad and you have to wait at least a month before you have any results and can make changes to your ad. A digital presence enables you to be more responsive and quickly allocate your marketing dollars where they can give you the greatest returns.
We have discussed a variety of reasons why having a solid business website is vital to your on-going business success in today’s environment. Having a digital location (website) that you own enables your customers to easily find you since their search for products and services usually begins online. Your online and offline branding will be consistent and with the proper web design strategy and processes you can create a unique experience for visitors to your online location.
Not only does your website make it more convenient for your customers to find and interact with you, it can also save you money by attracting sales leads, shortening the sales cycle and reducing the time your staff spends on customer service.
An entrepreneur with an eye for good design and advocate of simplicity. He brings a fresh strategy and approach to every project and plays an integral role in clients’ accomplishments through collaboration and close integration. Through his hands-on experience in technology and marketing, he ensures user experiences and technology are on the leading edge.