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The Top Ten Reasons Why Your Website Must Be Your Top Business Priority

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Sometimes ignorance is bliss: or it seems like it. Unfortunately some of what we don’t know may harm us. In a market place things may be happening that we really should react to. In setting priorities, we may instinctively go with our intuition. However, we may not have realized that the world has changed. This is particularly the case with the effect of the Internet on business operations. A changing world demands a different order of priorities.

Why People Put Off Creating or Improving Their Website

From contacts with a large cross-section of business owners and marketing executives, it is instructive to hear the reasons why a company does not have a website, or may have a website that is somewhat out-of-date and contains errors. Here are some of the comments:

  • It’s not a priority at the moment.
  • We don’t have a budget for that.
  • Our customers don’t use the Internet.
  • The website is only there for reference, it isn’t meant to sell anything.

Such comments show a lack of understanding of the power of the Internet. As time rolls forward, there is continuing change and the power of the Internet is increasing all the time. For these reasons, it is essential that a company use the power of the Internet to its own advantage. Any one of the following list of Top Ten Reasons provides powerful ammunition for rapid action in creating a website and making sure that it is effective. Considering all ten together, they provide an overwhelming case for immediate action.

The Top Ten Reasons for Action NOW – and why they’re the Top Ten.

Reason #10 - Without a strong website, you leave the field to the competition

Many people use the computer to find potential suppliers. The Internet does a great job of levelling the playing field. So a new competitor with limited funds can be very visible on the Web. If your company isn’t there, then the competitor may be the only visible supplier. Provided what the website offers meets the customer’s need, then the competitor gets the business.

It’s also important not to allow the competitor to be the first one with a website. It takes some time for a website to establish itself on the Internet with the search engines. If your competitor steals a lead on you, then you may find it difficult to catch up.

Reason #9 – How can your friends tell others where to find you?

Suppose one of your best customers wants to do you a favour and tell one of his friends about your company. If you have a website, then your customer in a simple email message can give clickable access to knowledge on what you offer. Without this, it’s a question of finding literature “somewhere in that file”. Then the package must be posted or faxed. It’s all a lot of trouble and it takes a lot of time.

Reason #8 – It takes time to improve the visibility of your website

When you do have a website, you want the Search Engines to put it high in Search Engine Ranking Reports for the important keywords for your business. This does not happen overnight. Usually it will take 2 months or more to begin to get good rankings. So the earlier you start, the better you will succeed. [Alternatively you can use PPC (Pay per Click programs) to try to get visibility but this becomes very expensive if conducted for any length of time.]

Reason #7 – A website is the most cost effective selling force by far

You will rarely use only one selling approach, however it is instructive to calculate the effectiveness of each of the possible approaches. This must consider the benefits in profit generated versus the costs invested in the approach. This ratio is often called the Return on Investment (ROI). The number of potential customers contacted via your website and the relatively modest costs involved put the ROI of a website far ahead of other sales approaches, such as paid advertising or visits by sales representatives.

Reason #6 – Your most important customer will look for you there

Increasingly someone may look for your telephone number or your email address on the Internet. They use a Search engine such as Google to find it. Just type in the company name in the Google search field (which you can even keep on your screen as part of a Google Toolbar). Click on the “I Feel Lucky” button and it should take you right to the company website. Click on the Contact tab and there’s the telephone number or the email address. At least, it is if you have a website and it’s been developed in the right way. Of course, your most important customer must not find anything in the website that raises questions about your reliability.

Reason #5 - The most attractive potential customers are looking for you there

More importantly, there may be new potential customers that you are not even aware of. Particularly if they are well equipped and have good funding, they are probably using the best business tools to run their business. These are the preferred prospects that should be of keen interest to you. Such people are very likely to look for new suppliers on the Internet. If you are not well represented there, they may drop you off their short list of potential suppliers.

Reason #4 - Your website visitor prefers that the supplier does not know he is being checked out

A most interesting phenomenon is that the Internet has put the potential purchaser in the driving seat. If a potential customer invites a salesman in, then this shows some interest in potential products or services. This first invitation may lead to repeated calls or visits.

Checking out a website is anonymous: the supplier will probably not know the potential customer has visited. The potential purchaser can remain anonymous and maintain a negotiating advantage as long as they wish. Many purchasers prefer this extra flexibility that supplier websites give them. [NOTE - Technically the supplier could know the domains of those who have visited the site from the log files of the website. The actual person who visited would not be known. However it is very tough to use this information, since website visitors may well resent their visit being "spied on".]

Reason #3 – The website is more important than your company brochure

A company brochure is a very useful and comforting document to have. It is something tangible that can be given to a visitor or a passer-by at a trade shore. However if you factor in the cost of developing and printing such a brochure, and the cost of getting it into potential customers’ hands, the ROI of such a sales tool is very much poorer than the ROI for your website. Not least is the continuing Usability of such a sales tool. It may be looked at once or twice and then thrown away or filed. Brochures may so easily get out-of-date. The website is always there, and it can easily be kept up-to-date every time it is checked out.

Reason #2 - The website is more important than your business card

Surely the business card is the most important and relatively low-cost tool to support business dealings. That used to be true. However it’s a very low-tech way of trying to ensure that your contact will remember you and have your coordinates readily to hand. Of course a moment’s reflection reminds us that it rarely works like that now. The coordinates are quickly entered into a Palm Pilot or an Outlook address book. The most used item on the business card is often the website address, which the recipient checks out at the earliest opportunity.

Reason #1 - The website is the most effective way to present the very best image of your company

The most important reason of all for a website is that this can give the best possible and most complete image of your company to that potential customer. Few will visit your headquarters. Those who telephone your company may pick-up mixed signals as your telephone reception system handles their call. Your advertising or your press releases may be missed. However in your website you can arrange that the visitor gets exactly the impression of the company that is most appropriate. It’s a relatively low-cost way to be making those important first impressions.

Conversely, anyone interested in your company will be checking out the website as part of a credibility check. If the website does not exist or gives a poor impression of the company through typos or pages “Under Construction”, then you may not be able to recover the situation.

So What Should You Do Now?

If you are convinced that the company website needs attention, what’s stopping you? If you need to convince your boss or the owner of the company, then why not print out the Printer-friendly version of the Top Ten Reasons. Give it to him or her with whatever additional words of explanation you feel are needed.

If you are the boss or the owner, then what should you do? The answer is to do something and in a very timely manner. A minimal website is an absolute essential, given the importance of the Top Ten Reasons. The associated costs are not large. The important factor is to put enough internal brainpower behind what needs to go into this minimal website. Without this, the growth and perhaps even the survivability of the company may be put in jeopardy. The next section discusses what to do and when to do it.

The Next Steps

Ideally and most efficiently, the full website should be done in one project. However funds may not permit this. In addition, if the project may take some months, then a minimal web page launched fairly rapidly is to be highly recommended.

One danger here is putting up an inferior web page that implies the new website is coming shortly and then having nothing happen for many months. The ready visibility of the Internet puts company owners on the horns of a dilemma. Is it better not to have a website and let people question the credibility of the company? Or is it better to have an inferior web page that shrieks out over the months that the company doesn’t seem to be able to get its act together. If that was the only choice, then perhaps the first – not having any web page – is better: but it’s a very difficult choice.

Luckily there is a third alternative that very few people seem to adopt.

A minimal web page to start getting visible

You might think of this minimal web page as an executive summary of the eventual website. It requires that the company determines some of the key elements that have been discussed in previous newsletters as essentials in a good website. Perhaps the most important of these is to determine what is the competitive advantage that the company offers to the potential customers in the target market niche. The thinking behind this minimal web page is needed for whatever full website will eventually be constructed.

The web page is then constructed using all the best principles of web page design and search engine optimization. It should be optimized for the search engines. It can also be registered with those search engines that do not have human moderators. Unfortunately, it cannot be submitted to directories, since there are usually human reviewers. This stage must wait until the full website has been completed. However this minimal web page can be well ranked in Search Engine reports, particularly if the keywords are not too common.

Needless to say, this single web page must be carefully constructed so that it gives a positive impression to visitors. If a firm date is available for the full website, then this can be mentioned. However a “Coming Soon” message still there after 6 months undermines credibility completely.

A minimal website to support your selling efforts

Given what most website visitors want to know about a potential supplier, it is better to add a certain number of web pages to this minimal web page as soon as this can be arranged. Again this does not require a large amount of bells and whistles, even though web designers often like to demonstrate their prowess with Flash and Sound. Indeed, a certain fraction of the potential website visitors will click away from the website as they are irritated by the bells and whistles.

In other newsletters, information has been given on what is likely to convince visitors that the company is likely to be a good supplier. For example, NBC – News, Bodies, Customers – is a good beginning. Conversely, anything that can undermine the credibility of the company must be eliminated with a fine toothcomb. This includes typos and hyperlinks that do not work. Perhaps the most important is to avoid any pages that are “Under Construction”.

If needed, additional features can be added to the website to increase sales

Websites can be made very elaborate. They may include product catalogues and Online Boutiques. However they must also have high Usability. That means that visitors find it a pleasure to navigate around the website and do not get lost. The KISS principle (Keep it simple, Simon) is always excellent guidance here. For this reason, and to ensure that the website is functioning well, it may be better to consider that the project is always split into two phases. The first is the launch of the minimal website. The second phase includes incorporating what is learned with the minimal website in designing the more elaborate website.

Conclusion

In summary, the message is that a company must have a website, because the lost opportunities by not having one vastly outweigh any costs. Most of the costs can be internal, although it may be more efficient to work with someone skilled in developing selling-effective websites to complement the skills of your own team.

If you wish to be sure that you will be a winner, contact SMM to work on your website so that it becomes your strongest selling force.

Barry Welford, President of SMM Strategic Marketing Montreal works with business owners and senior management on Internet Marketing strategy and action plans to grow their companies. He is a moderator at the Cre8asite Forums and writes on current issues on the Internet and on the Mobile Web in three blogs, BPWrap, StayGoLinks and The Other Bloke’s Blog.

The Top Ten Reasons Why Your Website Must Be Your Top Business Priority
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