By Rieva Lesonsky
Is your small business website doing all it could for your business? According to the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, many small businesses that have websites are failing to take full advantage of them.
But first, there’s an even more shameful fact: The percentage of business owners who have a website is up just slightly from the 2011 survey–59 percent today vs. 54 percent back then.
It’s hard to believe that in this day and age, one-third of small business owners still lack a business website. Even if you don’t want to sell online, a basic business website is an essential tool for helping customers find you when they go online to look for what you sell. And believe me, that’s what customers do these days—go online, rather than lug out a paper phone book.
If you do have a business website, what are you using it for? Below are the Small Business Index’s insights, plus my ideas for taking your website up a notch:
Advertising products and services: This is the most popular use overall; 89 percent of businesses with a website use it for this purpose. Boost your advertising power by testing online ads using Google Adwords or Bing Ads. You can choose your budget and set a limit to ensure you don’t go over.
To solicit customer queries or feedback: 64 percent of small businesses with websites use them to get customer feedback or queries. Get more customer interaction by prominently displaying your business’s phone number and a way to contact you by email on the top of every page. Also include links to your business’s social media accounts so website visitors can interact with you there if they prefer.
To sell products and services: 63 percent of companies with websites use them to sell stuff. It’s easier than ever to add ecommerce to your business today, with simplified ecommerce solutions that include your website design, shopping cart software and payment tools all in one. Remember, you don’t have to sell everything online that you do in your physical location—you can just sell a few standout products, like your most popular items, to test the waters and reach out to prospects outside your geographic area.
To take reservations or set up appointments for services or deliveries: Surprisingly, just 29 percent of small businesses with websites use them to take reservations or let customers make appointments. However, there are tons of tools out there, from OpenTable for restaurants to BookFresh for service providers, that can simplify the appointment or reservations process, cut down on the manpower needed and attract new customers who like doing everything online (i.e., most Millenials).
Finally, only 22 percent of small business owners with websites use them to accept payments for products or services. (I’m a little confused as to how the 63 percent of entrepreneurs in the poll who sell products online are accepting payments.) Again, there’s lots of room for improvement here. Using tools that enable customers to check their balances and make payments online can speed your receivables and boost your cash flow. Plus, with more and more consumers and businesses moving away from paper-based invoicing and toward online invoicing and banking, it’s the wave of the future.
Don’t get left behind—get started now making your business website all it can be.