Should My Small Business Have an Online Presence?Stuart Taverner
It is becoming increasingly more important for businesses of all shapes and sizes to have an online presence, but despite this many smaller business are choosing not to make this part of their strategy.
A lot of small business owners see their business as being able to operate completely offline, using more traditional methods of promoting themselves to customers. This is a pretty risky way of thinking, given that customers are spending more and more time online these days.
Utilising the web as a business tool is still important for businesses that operate primarily offline as in this electronic era, more people search online for the products and services they need as opposed to searching through the phone book. Whether you are a hairdresser, tradesman, accountant or software developer, being present online is essential.
Here are a few ways that having an Internet presence can benefit your small business.
It makes you more accessible
Your business website is up and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This means potential customers can find and research your product or service anytime they like. If you sell products, having an online store allows customers to buy there and then instead of having to wait until your store is open.
It helps you build relationships
There is a lot of value in having an online presence by building relationships with customers via email and social media. By sending an email, writing a blog or posting on social media, you can let customers know your new offers, products, promotions, events and pretty much communicate anything you like with them. You can also be available to your customers round the clock by having a FAQ page or training videos on your website. This also takes pressure off your customer service team as customers may find the answers to their questions on your site.
It helps you’get found’
Now that you have a website you must optimize it for search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing in order to be found. This is known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Most people turn to search engines to find businesses and services in their area and therefore they are one of the most effective ways to drive traffic to your website.
Adding your business to an online directory helps you reach your target audience and obtain leads. First you should search for your business in a search engine and see what directories you are listed on already. You might already be listed on True Local or Google Places for Business. You will then have an opportunity to verify your listing and make sure all your information such as opening hours, phone numbers and address have been entered correctly. These basics ensure that you are found higher up in local search results.
It gives you a bigger audience
Not only does your online presence help your product reach the person right next door but it can also help you reach someone on the other side of the world. Depending on your industry this could open up a much larger customer base than word of mouth would and help your business grow in ways you may not have imagined.
It helps you to build your brand
Providing an online presence helps to build prospective customer’s trust in your business or product. It gives a snap shot of what your business is like. Things like having a professional website, online reviews and up-to-date, interesting social media posts on Twitter and Facebook can help to give a positive impression about your brand. The more positive the impression, the more likely they are to buy from you.
There is obviously so much more you can learn about developing an online presence for your small business. We hope to delve a bit deeper into some of these areas in future articles.