For the entrepreneur, their business is their life, livelihood, legacy, retirement, children’s future and a laundry list of other things too long to list in a single blog post. It can be a constant battle to stay ahead of the competition, bring in new customers and keep existing ones coming back. You have to stay relevant, and in todays climate of online shopping, ordering, not wanting to get off the couch or talk to a real person, that means your online presence is more important than ever before.

I find myself browsing the interwebs, and often scoff at websites that are poorly laid out, old and unmaintained or offer very little information that someone browsing for that product or service would be looking for. These are so many missed opportunities for these small businesses. There is still a mindset that a website can be considered an afterthought. There are countless small businesses that have no interest spending the time or any amount of money to invest in their website, their online presence. In fact, I’ve talked to several small business owners recently that have, to put it bluntly, awful websites yet they seem unconcerned. They have a website and they see that as enough. It’s not easy changing that mindset, especially in the baby boomer generation where the internet is just not their go to method of communication.

It’s time everyone realize the true importance of a beautiful, well designed and optimized website for every small business, no matter the industry, no matter the location. If you wouldn’t let your brick and mortar location become run down, outdated and out of touch then why would you let your website? Either will turn customers away and to your competitors, plain and simple. A small investment in an amazing website (not these cheap nonsense template websites that you can do yourself) will pay for itself over and over again.

Below are the top 4 reasons why having an amazing website should be at the forefront for your small business

1. Your Competition Has One

One of the simplest reasons why it’s so important for you to have a modern, up to date, responsive website is because your competitors certainly do. If I was to drive down the road, looking for a place to buy tires for my car (who does that anyway? It’s 2017, I buy them online!!) and I pull up to two locations side by side. Joe’s Tire shop and Sam’s Garage. Joe’s is a nice, modern looking building that is well maintained, tidy both inside and out with a nice reception location and a nice bright sign on the front. Sam’s on the other hand looks like it’s been there for 50 years untouched (probably has!). It’s old and grimy, has a 50-year-old rickety looking sign and when you walk in, there is an old 1960’s cash register and they don’t accept credit card. It’s probably safe to say that most people doing their tire shopping will pass by Sam’s and head to Joe’s, for obvious reasons. Now I understand some people love the old garage that’s been there for years but that’s just semantics, you see what I’m getting at here. Sam's likely has a loyal following in the boomer age group and they will always go there but it isn't helping Sam's drum up any new business. There is very limited growth opportunity for Sam's in this scenario.

Using the above example, Joe’s also has a beautiful, modern website that is easy to navigate and you can search for and purchase tires online. Sam’s on the other hand, has a website that clearly isn’t maintained, was likely made 20 years ago and has little more information than their contact details and address. Given the era we are living in, who do you think is doing more business? Every sale that Joe’s makes online is a missed opportunity for Sam’s, because they don’t have the option to do anything, let alone purchase tires online.
People online shop more and more each year. Even if you have a product or service that can’t be purchased directly without more involvement, people still Google and research the heck out of things online before they finally make a decision to pick up the phone or visit a physical location. Do yourself a favour and invest (yes, it’s an investment) in a website that’s customized just for you, and make sure it’s updated regularly. If you don’t, I promise your competition will and that simply costs you money.

2. People Don’t Want to Talk to You Until it’s Absolutely Necessary

This is a big one that is so easily overlooked yet so simple to resolve! When I want to order a pizza, guess what I do? I order online, and so do millions of others. You know why? It’s easier, more convenient and I don’t have to talk to anyone. Sad? Maybe, but it’s the reality we live in so if you want to be successful, you need to get with the program! There are probably 25 pizza joints that will deliver to my location but I don’t even consider 15 of them because they don’t have the ability to order online.

This example can be extrapolated to any business, any scenario. My point is, if you don’t have a website that gives people the information they seek and should be able to easily acquire, you are at a significant disadvantage and you will suffer for it, without question. Everything you can put online, should be there. This includes price lists, menus, appointment bookings, payments, services you offer with accurate descriptions and whatever else you do as a business. If someone has to call you or visit your location to find out information that you should have online, chances are they will just find another company offering the same thing, that has an effective online presence and they don’t have to speak with to get the information they require.

3. Be More Efficient

Do you want to be on the phone all day answering calls to take appointments or answering any number of questions that could be dealt with automatically? What about standing in the store with that customer who asks 101 questions and you spend 25 minutes with them, for them to spend $5 and be on their way. Yes, this is all part of running a business but you can streamline much of it by optimizing your website. Most of the questions people have can be answered by the information you provide online about your offerings. You can have the ability to take orders, book appointments and take payments online, all without having to answer a single phone call.

How annoying is it when you are getting your haircut and your barber/stylist has to leave to answer the phone 6 times whilst you are there? Luckily, many of the new barber shops and salons around these days offer online appointment bookings. Now when I sit down to get my hair cut, I just have a chat with my barber and only occasionally has he had to go over to his tablet to confirm an appointment with someone who just walked in. Do yourself and your potential customers a favour, get a functional website and save us all some time.

4. Advertising

Simply put, your website is an online advertisement that you are paying for anyway, so the fact you are able to advertise your business forever, through your online storefront is certainly great bang for your buck! The point is, when people come across your website, you are advertising to them. Do you want them to turn the channel, or take a longer look?

A well-organized website will engage people and encourage them to browse as oppose to immediately moving on to a competitor. This is especially true for the younger generation (millennials, if you will); they (we, as I am in this group too!) have very little brand loyalty. They want to see immediate value and they don’t waste time if they don’t find it. A properly functioning and beautiful website lets them know you are modern, you mean business and you care about engaging them and earning their business. You are making an effort, who doesn’t appreciate that?

A lovely website makes a visitor feel nice, whereas an awful website makes you feel, well, awful. I wouldn’t want someone walking out of my store feeling awful because it looked terrible. Your website is just as important (if not more so) than your physical location, don’t skimp on it and you can likely cut whatever budget you may use on other types of advertising because you have an online presence that people want to engage with.

If you don't have a website, get one. If you do, make sure it's working for you as effectively as it should be. Your customers, and your bottom line will thank you.

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