This article will be of benefit if you are considering owning your first Website of if you currently have a Website that is proving a little disappointing. We will attempt to give a balanced viewpoint why we, as Web Designers, feel it is important for business to understand the real advantages / benefits of owning a Website. Ultimately, it could save you a lot of wasted time and money. A fact you may already be well aware of.
Most businesses considering a Website, do so, for entirely the wrong reasons. They view a Website, as another form of advertising. It also applies to over 90% of companies who feel they do not need a Website because they already spend enough on advertising. This perception, to a large degree, is why the vast majority of Websites on the Internet fail to meet expectations.
If you are considering a Website, successful Website owners will tell you; it is better to think of a Website as a cross between your Customer Service Manager and Sales Team. Websites are about making information available to the general public 24/7 and in a format that quickly sells the benefits of your business. It is a place to go for support and is also the ideal medium for putting forward consistent and compelling sales arguments.
If owning a Website was about advertising, all Websites would simply be made up of one or two pages, mimicking traditional adverts. Once you have an understanding of the true potential of owning a Website, you will quickly realise the benefits to be gained. To help you in this process, the following sections will highlight some areas of your business where a Website could improve the smooth running of your business.
They also demonstrate why there is no better or more cost effective way to market and sell your organisation to the business community. In fact, if you are a small business, owning a Website enables you to compete with much larger competitors on the Internet. By making your new Website more customer focused, it gives your visitors many more reasons why they should use your services.
Most Web Designers, if they are honest, will admit; the main reason why most of their clients purchase a Website is because of Peer pressure.
“I guess it was about time we had a Website. Clients are beginning to notice and our competitors have had one for some time” tends to be what the majority of clients tell us. Peer Pressure relating to Websites can be positive. Although it should not be the key reason for purchasing a Website, it does represent a good one. It does not make much sense to knowingly give your competitors an edge by not having a Website.
When you think about Peer pressure, it seems to have the ability to make people conform. More and more businesses are moving towards owning a Website (especially in the past five years) but they do not really understand why. For those businesses who want to “buck the trend”, who can blame them. Business is good at the moment, so why do they need more advertising.
The point about Peer pressure is that; it enables individuals to react to something, instinctively, without, necessarily, having good reasons to do so. It keeps them in the game, as it were! A website is a very good example. They know there must be benefits, but have not quite worked out what they are yet.
Unfortunately, in our experience, those who have decided not to have a Website, usually do so for either, emotional or the wrong reasons. They are proud, and rightly so, that they can operate a successful business without the help of the Internet. In fact, many, vehemently, deny the benefits of owning a Website. And when you ask them why, it always comes down to their perception; that Websites represent a glorified form of advertising.
As we know already, a Websites primary purpose is not purely about advertising. It is about making information available to your customers and potential customers at a time that suits them and not vice versa. It is about helping you to improve levels of customer service in a manner that is conducive to modern business practices.
It would appear, therefore, businesses without a Website, are saying;
“If you require any information regarding our company or services, then please contact us at a time that suits us”!
It could also be argued, these businesses are, perhaps, not the most flexible of organisations, “If you can’t fit in with how we do business, then……”!
At this stage, you may be thinking our summary is a little on the harsh side and you would be correct. No company would, intentionally, adopt the above attitude, however, many, unintentionally, do!
So, if you are feeling a little Peer pressure, it is only your instincts trying to help you make the right decision.
Can you put a cost on owning a Website? As we discussed in previous sections, your new Website will represent your Customer Services Manager and Salesperson on the Internet, 24/7. It will offer visitors, consistent responses to queries about your company and it’s services. It will allow you, amongst other things, to take on-line orders from anywhere in the world, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.
How much would this cost your business if you had to adopt a more traditional approach, such as, telephone support? For most small businesses, offering this level of telephone support is a bit of a dream; something they would very much like but can’t afford. However, with a Website, it becomes reality. and becomes your Virtual Staff, allowing you to;
- Handle enquiries outside working hours.
- Handle enquiries during working hours.
- Create positive first impressions.
- Give visitors contact information and options how to contact
- Make it simpler for visitors to contact you.
- Give visitors a concise overview of your services and why they
should use you.
- Give visitors additional information on the company and it’s
services, where appropriate.
- Give visitors directions to your premises via a selection of
- Take orders and allow customers to view orders on-line.
- Store all information in a consistent manner so that repeat
visitors can retrieve it easily.
- Give the visitor a feel for the personality of the business.
- Give the visitor information at a pace that suits them.
- Keep visitors updated on developments at the business.
- Inform visitors of special deals or marketing initiatives.
- Become the company brochure.
- Allow visitors to complete on-line forms and cut down on
- Handle referrals by building on good reports from existing
- Be professional at all times and set high standards.
- Reduce time needed to sell on the telephone.
- Free up resource previously needed for handling enquiries.
- Help streamline your business and offer new opportunities.
- Help reduce your sales and marketing costs.
- Give you a Virtual Reception area on the Internet.
- Totally flexible and can quickly react to any changes.
- Significantly increase your opportunities for highly focused
advertising (via Search Engines and Directories).
Ultimately, there is no better advertisement for your business than a well written, customer focused Website. It has the potential to open up new opportunities for your business and tells visitors; who you are and not just what you are. All this can be achieved by spending a few hundred pounds. What other business initiatives can achieve so much for so little money?
A well designed Website can become the driving force behind your marketing practices for B2C or B2B initiatives. Not only could it save you a, significant, amount of money, it could also create new opportunities, unavailable with traditional marketing approaches.
One such opportunity, is the amount of free advertising available on the Internet. Where else are you able to advertise in 100s of free Directories, capable of bringing you significant exposure, not only in the UK, but also throughout the world?
By opening an account with Google Adwords, for example, you can create eye catching adverts in a matter of minutes and make them available to the Internet. The neat thing is; you only pay when someone clicks on your advert. Can you imagine asking major industry publications if it would be ok for you to advertise with them free-of-charge. You can probably imagine the response! A business lead could end up costing as little as 4p!
With your new Website and Advertising facilities, such as Google’s AdWords, the World is, literally, your oyster. Changes are made in a matter of minutes and do not cost a penny. Potential clients are made aware of these changes, immediately, resulting in new orders the very same day. The term, “World at your fingertips” is often used about the Internet. In terms of advertising your business, it truly will be!
Owning a Website, enables you to place all your marketing collateral on the Internet. When speaking with an existing or potential client on the telephone, direct them to your Website, where they can print off unlimited numbers of your Company Brochure. If marketing collateral is something that has previously been cost prohibitive or a bit thin on the ground, a Website allows you to create an unlimited amount of documentation, free of charge.
Compare this to the traditional way of printing expensive brochures that soon become out-of-date after only a matter of months. Storerooms up and down the country are full of boxes of unused, glossy brochures!
Other marketing initiatives could be;
- Keep clients informed of new products and services.
- Gives you more reasons to keep in touch with your clients.
- Create periodic Newsletters for visitors to view on your site.
- Update clients on company developments.
- Create reciprocal links with related Websites for referrals.
- Allow businesses to advertise on your site.
- Advertise for new staff members.
- Earn and pay commission on Affiliate agreements
Arguably, the cost of purchasing a Website can be insignificant compared to the amount of money your new Website could save or generate. You may only need to generate one new client from your Website to cover the cost of purchasing your site in the first place. Or the savings made in your annual marketing campaign could also pay for the initial cost of your Website.
If the extent of your marketing, is advertising in local newspapers or directories (Yellow Pages), how much would a 11cm x6cm page advert cost for every week of the year? And how many people will see it? To give an example, we contacted our local newspaper and were told, it would cost £110.72 per week and included a discount! Simple arithmetic brings this up to £5,757 for the year. The newspaper reaches 104,000 readers.
Not only will your Website reach, significantly, more people and be more accessible, it would only have cost you the price of your Website. In year two, advertising could be completely free.
For those who consider Websites as a glorified form of advertising, the following examples, should help give an understanding of the benefits and cost savings a Website can bring to the day-to-day running of the business.
- A website encourages greater use of Email and cuts down on
- Gives significant savings on printed marketing documentation.
- New technology, such as Live Chat, enables one person to
simultaneously answer any external queries, freeing up
resource and time.
- Initial Interest in your business can be handled by your
Website, meaning less time is needed to explain business
benefits when visitors call.
- Represents a cheaper method for keeping clients informed of business developments and helps retain their business.
- Information is retained on your site 24/7/52 weeks per year, reducing stationery and printing costs.
- On-line forms allow visitors to complete required information, freeing up time to process requests.
- Your Website can offer advice on repetitive subjects, freeing up resource and time.
- The cost of launching new products can be significantly reduced.
By now, if you have made your way through the other sections in this article, you will realise a Website has the potential to make your business more competitive in every respect. It can help streamline your internal processes and reduce costs. It opens up new opportunities for marketing your products and services which, previously, may have been too cost prohibitive.
If you are reading this article and you are not a Website owner, there is a good chance, peer pressure has kick started the process for you. You may be thinking; your competitors have an advantage. They already have a Website, so, perhaps, it was about time you had one also. And you would be right. They are in the game and competing, you are not. They are in the process of learning the game, you have still to start. The longer you take to join the game, the harder it is going to be.
With the information you have picked up in this article and the understanding you will have about what makes a Website “tick”, gives you the opportunity to catapult your new Website over many of your competitors.
While most businesses use their Website purely as a glorified advertisement of what they are, your new Website has the potential to explain to potential clients, who you are. This may appear a very subtle difference but it is a very important one. One that will allow you to maximise the potential of your new website.
- In competitive situations and if you didn’t have a Website, how would you compete with a competitor who tells potential clients their Website is geared towards offering their clients a higher level of service?
- If you sell products, your current market exposure will be a
fraction of what it could be if you had an On-line store.
- How would you compete with competitors when it comes to
recruiting staff. Arguably, those with Websites will be
approached first and be able to “cherry pick” the best people.
- Businesses with Websites are often contacted by other
businesses to enter into mutually, beneficial relationships.
- Website owners are able to compete for more business at less cost.
- You will be able to bring new products and services to the market via services, such as, Google AdWords.
- Those businesses with a Web address in their Advertisements are more likely to generate interest by giving the reader the option to have their initial queries answered by their Website.
- After a sales call, how would you compete with a competitors website that has an on-line Company Brochure, immediately accessible and, therefore, is able to follow up the call the same day?
The point to be above is; although you may be able to handle the above situations to your benefit, why give your competitors a head start in the first place? Why make it easier for them?
If you are a service related business, then referrals will always be your major source of new business. Any Web Designer or Search Engine Optimising company (SEO) who tells you differently, are probably trying to deceive you.
This is one of the main reasons, therefore, why most businesses do not bother with a Website. As we discussed in the previous sections, most people view a Website as another from of advertising, so why spend more money when you do not have to. As you will be able to see from the example, below, Websites do play a big part in referral business.
Most people would agree, the majority of referrals tend to be verbal. A person is having a discussion with a friend over a drink, perhaps, and one of them is having a problem with their Accountant, so, a recommendation is made by one to the other.
Since telephone details were not readily available, it was agreed, for one to contact the other with details the next day. As it turns out, the request was forgotten and a week passed before contact details were exchanged. In that time, the other person had made their own arrangements and, therefore, no follow up was required.
The point of the above example is that; if the Accountant had a Website and the person was able to give their friend the web address, contact with the Accountant would probably have been made. Web addresses are much easier to remember and, therefore, much better for passing on recommendations.
The question the business owner who relies on referrals has to ask themselves is; how much referral business are they loosing, because of situations similar to the above?
When a referral contacts you on the telephone, it is no guarantee the business is won. Some selling still has to be done. However, when put on the spot, it can be quite difficult to describe your business and explain to the visitor, why you are different and why they should use you. Although you may be able to handle the call expertly, how long did the call take and was enough information given to progress the enquiry. Perhaps you were caught on the “hop” and fluffed your lines in places. Perhaps more information was required?
Although, Websites will never win you orders (except in the case of on-line shops) on their own accord, they greatly reduce the time needed to sell your business on the telephone. Possible sales issues can be anticipated in advance and addressed by the Website. All printed information is available immediately, speeding up the negotiation process.
All this is achieved in a consistent and professional manner, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.