The following is a speech that I gave to my local toastmaster’s club, Queen City Toastmasters last Tuesday.
Does My Charlotte Business Need a Website?
Who am I? What do I know? Why should you listen to me? How am I qualified to tell you if your business could use a web site? These are all questions you may be asking yourselves right now. Let me address them as part of my introduction.
As the Toastmaster introduced me, I am the owner of a new Web Site Design Company in Charlotte, appropriately named Charlotte Web Development.
I hold a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science, a Master of Science Degree in Information Technology. I have received post-graduate degrees in Information Technology Management as well as Information Security and Protection.
I spent my formative years as well as my entire adult life in the business of building things. Building businesses, constructing buildings, managing magazines, and for the last 5 years, building enterprise internet solutions in the exacting and unforgiving world of the Finance Industry.
Simply being well-educated in a subject or employed in a field doesn’t make you an expert, however. I personally own and maintain many different websites, most notably my professional site Charlotte Web Development and my e-commerce Charlotte Bodybuilding and Fitness Site .
I have built and currently manage many, many more sites. Simply put, I know what makes websites work. I know what works on web sites and what doesn’t. I know who should have a web site and who shouldn’t. Finally, I know who needs a website and who doesn’t.
Let’s See if You Need a Web Site!
Many Charlotte businesses need a website and many do not. Many of those businesses that could really use a web site never build one. Worse still, many people waste money developing the wrong kind of site!
The question of whether to build a website or not and what type of website to build is a simple Return on Investment (ROI) question. Will you generate a greater return by having a website than the resources spent creating and maintaining it?
Although it is considered impolite to answer a question with a question, here are a few to serve as food for thought.
Audience Participation Time!
How many of you have used a search engine within the past seven days to research a product or service that you were considering purchasing? How about the past 3 days? Who amongst us has used a search engine to find information about a product or a service in the past 24 hours?
Let the record show that 100% of our audience used a search engine to find information on-line about a product or service in the past week. 75% used one in the last 3 days and 75% used one in the past day.
If you think that your pool of prospective clients or customers might use an internet search engine to find information on the kinds of goods or services you provide, the answer is a resounding YES! You do need a web site.
Some other questions to ask yourself
- How could a website benefit me?
- Is there a quantifiable benefit that having a website will provide?
- What do I want the web site to do?
Are there any points of pain in my business that technology might remedy?
8 Great Reasons to Have a Web Site
Internet guru Brendon Sinclair has made a wonderful list of 8 Reasons to have a Web Site. I have reprinted them here and added some of my own ideas.
Sell Your Stuff (or More of Your Stuff)
You can increases market penetration for goods or services to a world-wide market, rather than the traditional 5km radius of your physical location.
It’s no secret that more and more people are buying online. According to Nielsen Ratings (http://www.nielsen-netratings.com) there are over 172 million home Internet users. And these users spend an average of 7.48 hours online!
According to Forrester Research, online sales in the US were up nearly 50 per cent last year compared with the year before. It says sales jumped by 48 per cent to $70 billion.
The Interactive Media in Retail Group says U.K online shopping grew 19 times faster than bricks-and-mortar retailing in 2002.
People are more than happy to buy on the Internet. If you have a product that is not available in every corner store, chances are you can sell it on the Internet.
2. Persuade Your Audience
A web site can be a great way to position your business in the best possible light. Convince prospects that are “just looking” that your goods and/or services meet their needs.
A great example of this is the many, many people who develop web sites exclusively for promoting other people’s products.
These affiliate sites take a percentage of any sales to people who purchased after visiting the selling web site from the affiliate site. The affiliate sites pre-sell you and then have links to the web site that actually sells the stuff. This is an enormous industry on the Internet.
A web site can be a fantastic source of information for visitors.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this report, information is generally what people want on the Internet. Give it to them the way they want and it can be the start of a beautiful and commercially beneficial relationship.
The Study by Stanford University: How People Evaluate a Web Site’s Credibility found a major correlation between the look’ of a web site and how credible that company was in the eyes of the visitor. If you have a poor web site â€“ or worse, don’t even have one, your business may be seen as inferior or as less-sophisticated than your peers.
4. Generate well-qualified leads
A visitor searching for information might happily sign up for a newsletter sent from your site. What a fabulous way for you to establish credibility and trust (a major issue on web sites). This also positions you as expert and experienced.
I have seen sites where you can sign up for a mini course- a 7 day course where you receive valuable information on the desired topic each day for 7 days. Those leads all receive offers on the services that company provides.
5. Reduces workload of personnel (i.e. customer service staff)
Simple solutions can often save your company thousands of dollars. For example, imagine the benefits of developing a web site to include the information the customers required in addition to a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section. Your administrative office might report huge decreases in staff hours required to provide telephone support not to mention increased client satisfaction.
What are the questions your salespeople answer virtually every day? And how, exactly, would your best salesperson phrase those answers on his or her best day? This is the information that needs to be available 24/7 on your site.
Think of your site as a relationship deepen-er, a half step between your advertising and your front door. Do you suppose it’s easier to convince customers to visit your web site or to convince them to get in their car, drive to your store, park that car and walk in your door?
6. More Efficiently Handle Orders/Bookings/etc
Beverly Supplements, a Natural Bodybuilding Supplement store that I manage has achieved considerable time savings by automating our payment, processing, and order fulfillment processes. I can more easily manage my inventory as well as track my customers’ orders rather than attempting keeping this information in my head.
I can now manage my business by data and not by feel.
7. Build Brand Awareness
A quality site reflects very positively on the branding of your business. Let’s say someone is comparing your business to a competitor. Your site is beautifully designed, loads quickly and presents the information in a clear and concise manner.
Your competitor’s site is basic, has spelling and grammatical errors and has only very basic information. I’d be willing to bet that you have an enormous advantage over your competitor in the eyes of that prospect.
The bottom line is simple – develop a quality web site because your prospects and customers are influenced by it. It is an essential part of your branding and marketing strategy.
8. Advertise/Promote your Business
With more than 50 percent of the U.S. population having Internet access, the World Wide Web has become an important channel for providing information and services.
Via email marketing, articles, banner ads..the list goes on. People are searching for providers of goods and services. Don’t miss out.
The phrase “Google” has entered the international lexicon. When people want to locate information or to purchase something, they increasingly use internet search engines to garner that information. Is your company listed?
Websites are perhaps the most overlooked vehicle of advertising for local, owner-operated businesses.- Does Your Local Business Need a Website? Roy Williams, Entrepreneur.com
Print, television and radio adverts have space and time limits. By including your web address in your advertising campaign, customers can view your website in their own time to find out more about your business. Your business is “open” every day for 365 days a year
Web Sites are Not for Every Business
If you cannot identify from the above list, or your own thinking, a real benefit then a website may not be for you.
And, importantly, if the cost of a web site outweighs the benefit it could provide then, again, the answer could be ‘No’.
Your local independent neighborhood bakery might be an example. I’d say that almost no-one will make a decision on purchasing pies or not based upon the web site of a bakery – it’s a walk-in traffic business.
(Having said that I can think of some good reasons for the bakery to have a web site ” order from your office and walk in and collect, flyers promoting web specials could be handed out to passing traffic, great recipes on the site, enter a competition on the site, subscribe to the “Fresh Bakery News!”.)
Maybe your customers just aren’t on the Internet. Not everyone is.
You don’t own a computer.
You don’t know how to use the Internet.
I’m struggling here. Even those answers above don’t really convince me. I’d say the biggest reason for not getting a web site is if you cannot identify a clear cost/benefit for the investment it takes to develop a site.
One Great Reason not to get a Web Site
And, very importantly, don’t get a web site for your business if you do it badly! You’ll only waste your money and time. Not to mention a great opportunity.
Remember the Hippocratic Oath that Doctors and Physicians take; “First, above all else, do no harm.”