As a local business you may be tempted to think that the internet doesn’t play much of a role in your day-to-day activities. However, the way that customers buy has changed significantly over the last decade, and dismissing the influence of the online world is something not to be done lightly.
Gone are the days of flicking through a copy of the yellow pages to find a plumber, or looking at a classifieds board in a local newsagents or supermarket.
You can be pretty certain that before a person visits a business they’ll have searched for them online. In fact, according to GE capital, 4 out of 5 customers now start their search online before buying or visiting a store. This means that if your business isn’t there online, you’re really limiting your potential success.
The power of search
The chances are that when you yourself have been faced with a problem or need an answer to a question, you’ve taken to Google for finding a solution. It’s the same for customers too, and Google is where most people tend to start when looking for a specific product or service. And if your business doesn’t come up in those search results, or feature prominently with search engine marketing, then you simply won’t get chosen.
This is especially intensified for those businesses where the service they provide is often only searched for when it’s needed at that moment. There’s not many people out there who browse for plumbers on the chance they’ll have a leak in the future, the chances are that a plumber is needed now. In these situations the person will quickly go online and make a search for ‘emergency plumbers’. Coming up in these results will give your business a great chance of getting a call.
Offline adverts are limited on their own
In the last 10 years, the time spent online by UK adults has doubled. Ofcom reported that the amount of time that the average UK adult now spends online is 20 hours a week, with this increasing to nearly 30 hours for teenagers. It’s very unlikely that the same amount of time is spent on the high street. Therefore the likelihood of your business being seen if they don’t have an online presence is diminished.
As a local business you are probably only interested in serving your local community, and therefore think you don’t need the internet. However, the fact is now that communities and local audiences have moved online, whether it’s connecting through social networks or getting their local news from online sources. It’s important to serve and have a presence where your target customers are, and evidence suggests that most people are now online.
Offline marketing shouldn’t be dismissed though, but works best when used together with online. Offline marketing presents a great opportunity to direct people online to your website to find out more. In fact, a study by iProspect showed that a sizeable 67% of customers searching online were driven by information that came from offline sources.
A website creates trust
If your business has been recommended to a person or they’ve seen one of your offline adverts, they’ll probably still want to check you out as someone they’d like to do business with. They want to get to know you first before taking that big step of picking up the phone to call you or visiting your store. If you don’t have a website, they can’t do that. The person may not even think you’re a genuine business, or might assume you don’t plan to stay in business very long because you’re not committed enough to have a website.
The feature of a successful business is to be proactive and create a positive impression. By not having a website your business is missing out on this. Failure to have a website will result in your business being seen as stuck in the dark ages, and not keeping up with the times. A website offers what many people want; convenience. People can find out all about who you are, what you do, and make an initial contact in one easy place.
Your business is probably online anyway
Whether you already know it or not, your business is probably listed all over the internet. Many search engines and directory sites, like Google, use robots to crawl through millions of websites to gather information and details. These details and listings are then presented to people when they make a relevant search. If you Google your business now you’ll probably be surprised to see where you show up in search results that you didn’t already know about.
If these business listings don’t have much detail, or worse, have the wrong information, then this is being presented to potential customers and impacting negatively on you. Think of the frustration of finding a business in a listing, driving all the way over and then realising that it was the wrong address. It’s likely you won’t get a second chance and you’ve lost this opportunity forever. Therefore, taking a keen interest in your business’ online presence ensures you can take control of these listings and keep them up to date with relevant information.
Plainly put, being online by having a website is no longer a luxury for a small business; it’s a necessity. The good news too is that being online is easier than you think. It’ll allow you to reach new customers, keep those current customers coming back for more and ultimately increase your revenue.