Having an online presence carries a number of benefits for many businesses. Those benefits are sometimes necessary, however, because of the characteristics of the business itself… other companies may find that they do just fine without a website! Here are a few questions to ask yourself if you are trying to determine whether or not a website would be a helpful feature for your business.
What is the purpose of your business? Consider the vision you have for your company—how do you share that vision with consumers? Webpages allow you to provide information and content that may help connect customers to you. Show them what motivates you and what you support, and (most importantly) why. Does the good or service you provide allow for or even require any storytelling that could make your company more relevant to consumers? If so, you may want to take advantage of a website’s means of communication or broadcasting, to turn interested customers into impressed customers, into loyal customers.
Consider your target audience. Where do they spend the most time? What do they pay most attention to? Analyze your customer data for trends in demographics: age, occupation, gender, interests, etc. Are these people likely to find your business through word of mouth recommendations or physical advertisements? Or are they more likely to come across your company through a web search? Younger generations rely heavily on information they find online to guide them to relevant, popular, trustworthy businesses; in fact, consumers in this age group likely expect a website that they can explore. Senior citizens are more likely to reach a company through advertisements or recommendations. Determine who your business is meant to connect with and learn what they like or expect from the businesses they interact with.
E-commerce opens up your market exponentially—without some sort of online location from which you’re selling, your customer audience remains entirely local. This might be exactly all you need, a local consumer base that you have already established a firm following with and can rely on for a steady flow of business. If you need or want to branch out, either a website or a profile on an existing platform that makes your products or services available for sale to online users. There are plenty of options for selling products beyond hosting them on your site, and many of these methods can be very profitable. Large scale, online marketplaces like Etsy, Shopify, and Amazon are highly trafficked pages that can gain you significant visibility. Keep in mind that these come with fees for platform use, and you will have to ship your products!
Consistency is key for fostering loyal customer relationships. And even if you don’t intend to reach out frequently with updates or ads or whatever content you choose, it is wise to follow up after a customer’s transaction with you to ensure that the transaction information is accessible to both parties, to invite them to do further business with you in the future, and to request that the customer leave a review that will encourage other consumers to do business with you. These things can be done through email or text, but it also gives you an opportunity to invite those customers to explore your business further online. Your website can then provide a space for questions, comments and concerns to be fielded by customer service representatives in an easily accessible, easily manageable location.
Regardless of the format or medium of your advertisements, their message should be an invitation to consumers to come to your business and/ or learn more about whether or not what you have to offer can be of some benefit to them. Because advertisements are meant to be as short and concise as possible, you can’t express a lot of information about your business that may be important for their understanding. Including a web address or QR code link on your advertisement encourages more exploration of your company and can draw them in like you need. However, if these kinds of ads don’t apply to your business or if advertising is not your central means of customer increase, a website may not be necessary.
Do you already use social media profiles to introduce your business and interact with customers? If these are the only things you need from an online presence, a social media platform may be sufficient! In fact, platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are some of the most effective forms of consumer exposure available, and they provide means of consistent interaction with customers on a level that can’t be matched by personal websites. Share updates, ask for feedback, learn and grow with your consumers. Watch the trends that your followers are adhering to and adapt your business and business profile accordingly.
The expectations society has today when it comes to their market experiences is vastly different than it was even just decades ago. So much of business happens online that having your own website is more common than uncommon. Websites are meant to be a tool rather than a burden, to reach more people, provide more information, access more resources… essentially, it is a tool meant to help your business grow. Look at your business plan! How do you intend to maintain and then increase the reach of your business? Does a website sound like a tool that fits into your plan? And if not, could adding a website to your plan be beneficial to your plan in any way?
Consider the benefits discussed and determine whether the time, energy and resources required to create and maintain a website are worth it to your business. The potential uses are many, but it is important that you focus on areas of your company that will truly help it to thrive… if a company website is one of them, take full advantage of every aspect and enjoy the success that can come with it!