By David Brown, CEO Web.com
Navigating small business online presence needs in a virtual world
Three out of five small businesses don’t have an online presence today. In stark contrast, 85 percent of American adults use the Internet and 72 percent of online adults use social networking sites today. With online interaction such a large part of our everyday lives, it is hard to fathom that more than half of U.S. small businesses still do not have a dedicated online destination.
Let’s face it; most small business owners are not digital experts and often an online storefront is a difficult task that they don’t have the time or expertise to set up and manage. Those that are online set up a website when they first open their storefront and believe that is enough to establish an online presence. Simply put, a second-rate website that hasn’t been updated for months or years is not going to cut it in today’s digitally-driven marketplace.
Get in the game to be competitive
The first step is becoming one of the only 40 percent of small businesses that have an online presence. But providing engaging and informational content can be tricky. Atlanta-based Eat Perfect Foods began locally selling pre-packaged gluten-free and vegan meals at festivals, worksite wellness events, gluten-free conferences and home parties. The owners were focused on delivering great food products and didn’t have the expertise or time necessary to develop a web presence. Bringing in third party help from a web and online marketing solutions provider, Eat Perfect Foods launched a new ecommerce store in early 2013 that enabled it to expand its business to customers across the United States, increasing sales by 200 percent.
“If you build it, they will come” doesn’t apply to online businesses.
A website with engaging content is a start, but potential customers desire that the personal interaction they receive in-store would translate to a digital environment. Posting personally crafted, customized content on social media channels, such as Facebook or Twitter, delivers the direct conversations that customers want. It can be a slow start, but plug into your network of family and friends to get the ball rolling. And be sure to include social media page URLs on business cards, brochures and especially on digital content, i.e. website or online advertising.
The only constant in an online world is change.
Taking steps to build a web presence and social media experience for customers is important, but realizing consumer expectations and needs are not static is key to growing business online. Old techniques and technology create roadblocks to reaching customers and can even turn off a customer if a site falls short of expectations.
The Bun Companies, a family-owned manufacturer in the wholesale baking, frozen dough and storage industry, used an outdated website platform, making its online resources inaccessible to potential customers on some web browsers and most mobile devices. Its website became a frustrating experience rather than a good representation of its innovative business. Upgrading platforms enabled the company to offer a superior customer experience and capture customer sales leads.
Small businesses are personal – from the individual interaction between customers and owners to the blood, sweat and tears owners pour into them. With the ever-changing online environment, the only path to success is embracing the changes that are taking place, becoming aware of available online options and fully committing to providing the same level of excellence online that customers are used to experiencing in store.
David Brown has been working with small businesses to develop strong online marketing presence since 1999. As CEO of Web.com, a leader in small business online marketing solutions, David oversees the online presence of more than three million customers and is an outspoken advocate for small business owners’ importance to the US economy.
Disclosure: Web.com is a client, but this is not a sponsored post.