No matter how much you’d like to carry on business as usual, times are changing—rapidly. The reason for staying abreast of changing times and upgrading to the latest technology isn’t just to keep up appearances. Technical advancement gives your business a host of new tools that are as important as any other business resource of the past. Technical advancement used well will help your business to become more profitable.
If there’s a competition between two “like” businesses, one having a website and one not, the business with a website will probably win the customer. For instance, if you have a Chinese restaurant with an online menu and perhaps photos of your location, chances are a customer will buy from you instead of the restaurant nearby that doesn’t have an online presence.
Having an online presence helps a business to serve customers even after business hours—which is a dream any business should have. A customer can research your product line, programs, etc. in order to make an informed purchase once you’re open. If you have created online ordering tools, customers can place orders at any time in a twenty-four hour period. Online ordering is a convenient way to capture the customer housebound, from out of town, or the one that just can’t seem to fit in a visit to you in person. You have the potential to make money while you’re sleeping when you have an up and running online ordering system.
If the Internet is the only method a customer uses to find what he’s looking for, if you aren’t on it, to him you don’t exist. If you haven’t already created a web presence, do it today. It isn’t complicated. There are both free and paid tools to use. You can do it yourself or hire a professional.
Tweak Your Online Presence
This checklist is designed to help you tweak your online presence so that it operates to your advantage:
- Your Website: Your business needs to have a fully functional website. Preferably your web address is memorable. It doesn’t matter how much the founding father of your business resists computer modernization, if he doesn’t buy-in and get on board, he’ll be left behind in a cloud of dust.
- Beyond the Yellow Pages: Most people use the Internet to find business locations, read menus, choose a barber, research home repair specialists and most of the things they used to use the Yellow Pages for. Even if you are listed in the Yellow Pages, customers will appreciate seeing your website address listed within your advertisement so they can gather added information by going to your site.
- Personal Connection: People like to do business with a person not a business name. A website helps to put a face on a business. Often customers will want to see if there are any photos of your location, your leadership team, sales team, etc. in order to get a better idea of who the face is behind the name. Use your website to introduce your key players. Add photos of your location if it is a public use facility or store.
- A Useful Design: A user will visit your site in search of information or to make a purchase. When designing your site, think through all the possible scenarios a visitor may come to your site for. Then provide the right information.
- A Website that Works: To be fully-satisfying your website needs to provide the customer with a trouble-free experience. Double check all interactive forms and links on your site frequently to make certain they’ve been updated with current products and that every link works. There is nothing more disappointing to a customer than links on a site that lead nowhere. You will lose a sale if the customer becomes frustrated by your site and decides to move on.
- Functional Sales Forms: If you promise browsers the ability to subscribe to your product or service online or to be able to complete important documents or place orders online, make sure the forms you’ve promised exist. Once a customer fills out a lengthy online form, give them the opportunity to either save their information or to print out a copy.
- Place your website address on all of your printed promotional material. Add it to online directories and to social media sites you belong to.
While some of these tips may sound basic, many businesses overlook the fine details, not wanting to be a slave to technology. There needs to be a shift in thinking where that’s concerned, however. Technology is becoming the main way many people make purchases and organize services. Your online site is your sales clerk. Hopefully your site has less room for error than a miss-informed sales clerk. An online presence acts as your receptionist too. Why not save a person from having to wait on hold (and possibly hang up), and also save your receptionist from becoming harried with multiple online calls coming in at once? Allowing customers to book appointments or ask questions by email or filled out forms instead.
Proper online forms will minimize paperwork in many instances. Online order forms help to close deals without any personal involvement. Treat technology with respect and use it to your full advantage. It will have a profound impact on your sales and profitability.