The Internet is the first place most people go to look for a business, yet 72 percent of small businesses in Ohio do not have their own website, says Ryan Niddel, CEO of Brain Host.
“It’s surprising because having a website seems so commonplace,” says Niddel. “But if you find businesses in the Yellow Pages or the state business registry and try to pull up their domains, you see they don’t have a Web presence.”
Smart Business spoke with Niddel about the reasons businesses need websites and the costs and options of building and maintaining an online presence.
Why do so many businesses not have websites?
People think it’s more difficult, expensive or time consuming than it is. Small businesses don’t understand that someone can operate the site for them and it’s not going to cost thousands of dollars.
Businesses can get a website for free as part of a Web hosting contract costing as little as $15 a month. That way they can test the marketplace and see if their ROI increases and they’re making more money before expanding the site or getting involved in a social media marketing program.
Is a website a necessary tool for every business, no matter the product or service?
Yes, based on the number of people who search for businesses from a smartphone, tablet or computer. People look for restaurants and small businesses online before becoming customers. They want to see a website that shows products and services offered, price points and testimonials.
E-commerce stores, businesses that actually sell products online, are a small piece of the marketplace. Most websites are informational; it’s giving a consumer peace of mind about what they’re getting into before doing business with a company. Websites can benefit service industries, nonprofits, specialty shops and everything in between.
What is the advantage of a website compared to a free Facebook page?
Websites give additional validity to businesses because everyone knows Facebook is complimentary. When someone sees you’re willing to invest in your brand, it gives an additional level of comfort. Also, Facebook is a couple of pictures and quotes about your company, whereas a website can be much more in-depth.
What is essential to having a good website?
A good website not only provides insights into your business, but also enables you to capture and consistently follow up with visitors. You should leave any visitor with a hook that allows you to stay in touch periodically and keep them engaged with your brand. A company selling golf equipment — and that golf equipment doesn’t have to be sold online — might have a free download or brochure about how to take five strokes off of your game. Potential customers give an email address, and you send them specials or information about clinics or new locations.
Circle back with Twitter and Facebook accounts by sending an email that offers a 5 percent discount coupon if they ‘like’ your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter. Then, potential customers get an automatic update every time you post something to Facebook or Twitter; you’re getting an entire marketing package at no cost.
Websites have been referred to as a modern equivalent of an ad in a telephone directory. Is that accurate?
That’s correct. Catalog-size paper telephone directories are a thing of the past. About 95 percent of consumers will do some sort of online research before setting foot in your establishment. If they do an Internet search on a small business and all they see are sites with reviews or contact information, that doesn’t make them very comfortable about the business.
If you have a competitor nearby that has an Internet presence and they come up right away on a Web search, consumers are twice as likely to go to that storefront because they will not feel as engaged with your brand.
In today’s market of Internet savvy consumers, it’s imperative for small businesses to maintain a solid web presence or risk becoming obsolete.
Ryan Niddel is the CEO of Brain Host. Reach him at (419) 631-1270 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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