According to The Kelsey Group * "70% of U.S. households now use the Internet as an information source when shopping locally for products and services... Findings also suggest the Internet is poised to surpass newspapers as a local shopping information resource."
Think about the last time you were searching for information about a product or service, where did you look first? The Yellow Pages or the Internet? Today more consumers are going online to search for information rather than turning to the yellow pages.
In the past there wasn't really a need for businesses with local client bases to have a web site. Now things are changing. Recently there has been a change in the way search engines return the results for searches. Some of the high-ranking search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, are now gearing towards local search results allowing more precise and accurate listings.
The result is that now, as a local business owner, there is a greater chance than ever to get your business listed at the top of the search engines for searches in your local area and for the keywords that you want. That means that the local customers that are looking for what you offer, will now find you! (That is, if you have a web site!)
In addition to the fact that your site will now be found easier on the search engines, there are plenty of additional reasons to have a web site for your local business.
Even if you own a small business (1-20 employees) and most or all of your customers or clients are based locally, you can still benefit. For example:
Get An Edge Over Your Competition
- Allow your customers/clients to learn more about you at a time that is convenient for them. Your expanded online business is open 24/7.
- Build relationships with them via e-mail newsletters, articles and interactive tools on your site.
Gain and Build Credibility
- List testimonials of satisfied clients or customers to enhance your credibility in the eyes of potential customers.
- Show reviews of your products or services.
- Show pictures of you, your location, staff, etc. – Show them that you are a real person that they can trust.
- Provide essential background information about you and your business.
- By posting articles that you have written, you help prove to your potential customer/client that you are qualified to help them solve their problem.
Save Money on Operational/Marketing Costs
- Expand your hours without the additional operational costs. Your site is open 24 hours a day/7 days a week. Customers/clients can learn about you and your business when it is convent for them.
- Free up time answering repeated information such as hours, directions, rates, FAQ's, etc. List all that information on your site and you'll save money on customer service questions.
- Save money on printing costs. Brochures about your business are expensive and are only good until you need to change something, such as hours or product information. Then you have to spend all that money over again to reprint! (Not to mention, re-mailing!) Your web site is a full color, updateable, expandable, limitless brochure. You have the flexibility and the availability to add or update it instantly; change content, colors, add a new picture, etc.
- Free e-mail marketing - Compare that to direct marketing mailings that can cost you a small fortune. (If your first mailing doesn't get the response you were looking for, you have to spend all that money again to re-print and re-mail your direct marketing piece.) If your first e-mail newsletter that you send doesn't get the response you like, just make some changes and resend! Absolutely no additional costs involved.
More Convenient For You
- Answer client's questions at a time when it is convenient for you. No more interrupted phone calls with questions that are answered on your web site.
- Have you ever been in the middle of a consuming project or just came up with a great idea, but before you could write it down the phone rings? You answer it, spending the next 15-20 minutes answering questions that could have easily been answered on your web site. You hang up and realize, you can't even remember the great idea that you came up with or have lost your momentum working on the project you started before the phone rang.
Ok, you've decided that having a web presence for your business will help increase your profits - What do you do now???
First decide what you want your site to do for you. In other words, what is your “Most Wanted Response”? What do you want your customers to do when they visit your site? Some examples are:
- Learn more about you/your business.
- Call you to set up an appointment.
- Make a purchase.
- Give you their e-mail address.
Second figure out what information you need to have on your site in order to achieve your “Most Wanted Response.” Examples –
- List information about you and/or your business.
- Show before and after pictures of your services.
- List articles related to your product or service that will help establish credibility with the potential customer/client.
- Post hours and directions to your location.
You can use any combination of these examples or you may have some of your own you wish to incorporate. Your site can be as little as a 1-2 page brochure site with a newsletter sign-up or as big as a multi-page online catalog listing all of your products or services.
Next you will need to have someone develop the site for you. There are two ways to accomplish this.
1. You can do it yourself or 2. Hire someone to do it for you.
If you feel confident enough to design the site yourself, go for it. There are great tutorials and information on how to learn to design and build a web site. Just do a search on the top search engines for Do-it-yourself web site tutorials.
Perhaps you would still like to build it yourself, but would like some personal guidance? The second option you could pursue is a Web Site Consulting Program in which a consultant will walk you through the steps to take to build a web site and upload it to the internet.
If you don't have the time or the desire to learn how to do it yourself, you can hire a web designer to do it for you. What ever option you decide, don't wait too long to get started...
A potential customer/client is searching for a business/information using Google or Yahoo. Who's site will they find? Yours or your competitors???
* The Kelsey Group is the leading provider of strategic research and analysis, data and competitive metrics on Yellow Pages, electronic directories, small-business advertising and local search. Beginning in 1986, the company has built a reputation as the leading analyst firm covering the directory publishing community, providing advisory (The Kelsey Report® and Interactive Local Media), publishing (Global Yellow Pages™ and Local Media Journal™) and consulting (more than 300 individual assignments).
Copyright 2005 Jennifer McGroary
Jennifer McGroary is a WAHM who has been operating her own home-based web design and consulting business since 1999. Jennifer helps local small businesses, family-owned, & home-based businesses maximize their profits without spending money on advertising. To learn more, visit http://www.cssites.com