The use of websites has dramatically changed over the course of the last five, even ten years. More consumers are turning to the internet to look up simple business questions. The phone book is a thing of the past. I cannot even count the number of times I have “googled” a business just to look up simple information about operating hours, services offered, and phone numbers. Because of the change in the use of the web, business must reconsider their presence online.
Having a website for your business can no longer be viewed as “an extra if the budget allows”, but having a presence on the web is becoming vital for businesses to compete in this economy. Ten years ago business owners would laugh at the idea of leaving their phone number out of the phone book saying, “how would anyone find us or get a hold of us?” Since the world wide web has taken over the conventional paper directory, having your business displayed online is the primary way customers find you.
Since most customers will turn to the internet for initial research about your business, the next question is, what do you want them to see? The AMA (American Marketing Association) defines marketing as:
Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.
In sorting through the marketing jargon, one phrase stood out to me: “creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers.” How is value communicated, and does your site accurately reflect the value you want your customers to see?
A website can either help or hurt you. When customers are looking up a business online, the images they see create a mental picture of who you are as a business. Value is assessed based on the impression they get from exploring your site. What image do you want conveyed? An online interaction may be the only contact you have with a potential customer before they make a decision whether or not to do business with you.
There are millions of ads online claiming to build a website for a minuscule fee. These websites are generally made from poorly developed templates, do not allow changes, or appear unprofessional. Designs are limited and scalability is out of the question. Seeing that your online presence “communicates value” to your customers, are these the values your business represents? A customer exploring a poorly designed site thrown up on the web with little effort and even less professionalism is bound to project those values on your company.
The decision to invest in your online presence is not a small one, but in this day and age, it cannot be overlooked. The beauty of an online presence is that when your office/store is not open, your website always is, offering operating hours and basic information for potential customers. To stay competitive in business, a website is a non-negotiable. Over 300 million people use Google to look up businesses every day. A website can guarantee that you are one of them.