Reasons to Not Consider a Website

Does that sound like a strange title of a blog post from a website developer?  Granted, there is some sarcasm in my words.  Here’s a list of reasons some business owners shared with me about why they do not need a website:

a.    I am about to retire.
b.    We are changing our name.
c.    Our business is being sold.
d.    The company will not be in business much longer
e.    I only give my website out to my customers.
f.    That’s handled out of our Corporate office (click).
g.    I am a manufacturer’s rep…I work for dealers/distributors only.
h.    We are a wholesaler…we work directly with only retailers.

All of these reasons, while the business owner may really believe they have some relation to a lack of need to consider a website, all suffer from the same flaw: they are illogical.  If the business owner woke up, went to work, and opened their office….in short, if they answered their phone…then they should – at a minimum – consider how a website could help them grow their business.

As a business owner, does it not stand to reason that one should be open-minded to any opportunity that exists that might enable expansion of business or provide expansion or additional stability to the client base, regardless of what extraneous circumstances might be going on with the business?

After all, you are still in business, right?

At least for now.

Advertisements

Business to Business

Just as with any business, an important aspect of what I do is sales.  And as a part of what I do to market my business every day, I make cold-calls.  In some weeks, I may place as many as 500 cold calls to a wide-variety of businesses.  I prefer to operate in this “business to business” environment, because it is what I have known for the majority of my life.  Yet, there is one thing about this B2B relationship that baffles me.

Isn’t there a mutual respect accorded among  business people?  When I call you to offer what I clearly feel is a valuable solution to help you grow your business; I am doing so in a manner of the utmost professionalism.  Yet I am often met with rudeness.  Granted, it is often a  person who is of the opinion  that  a website would be a waste of time and money.  But even still, is there not a more professional and cordial way to handle this situation?  When a potential customer calls and asks for a product that you do not offer, do you tell them they are stupid for asking?  Or if you are backlogged with work for several weeks, do you tell a caller to quit wasting your time because you do not need their business?  Of course you don’t.  So why  treat a fellow business owner in that way simply because you may think you are not interested in the service they have to offer?

I understand that a cold solicitation is an interruption and sometimes a distraction. But simply asking for a 2 minute explanation to understand what the call is all about is preferable to rudeness. Even if we put professionalism aside for a moment, how about doing what makes good business sense?  What if I am, in addition to being a website developer who is cold-calling your business, also a potential customer?  What if I am presently in need of the products or service that you offer, and you choose to treat me with disrespect?  And moreover, if I am insulted by the way you treat me, does it not stand to reason that I might tell other friends, family, and associates that they should not patronize your business?  What kind of impact could that have on your bottom-line?

I am never dishonest, but there are some times when I truly am a potential customer of a business I am calling.  And I make it a habit to always endeavor to do business with people who do business with me.  So when the opportunity presents itself to tell the business owner that I am also a potential customer, I often times hear the very tone of their voice change.  I guess it is just sad but true that a business owner might react so quickly, without thinking, until they are presented with the possibility that there might be some immediate business on the other end of the phone.

So perhaps, in the end, there is a very basic lesson to learn in all of this.  In the spirit of the writing, “everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten,” we should ask ourselves, “can’t we all just play nice?”  Having an effective online presence  is, after all, a wise business practice and so is demonstrating a respectful degree of professionalism.

Published in: on September 19, 2008 at 11:27 PM  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

We Had a Website Once

As I travel around, speaking to business owners about the power of web presence, I am not often surprised by what I hear. However, one thing that always seems to catch me off guard is the comment, “We had a website and we let it go.”

Usually, this is offered as an explanation as to why they do not have a website, but even more bizarrely, as justification as to why they do not need one now. This is simply nuts and here’s why.

If you once had a website, then you probably understood the benefits of a powerful web presence, and made the decision in favor of it. But what happened? Obviously it did not perform as expected or customers and prospects would, right now, be able to find you online.

Why didn’t it deliver results? Perhaps it was an ineffective design or poorly maintained. Perhaps no one could find it because it was not effectively marketed. In any event, it was not because websites do not work.

Imagine this:

You mistakenly print a competitor’s name and address on a marketing flyer and distribute throughout the tri-state area. While customers flood to your competitor’s store, you wonder why your flyer isn’t working. Do you blame the concept of a marketing flyer, and decide that using marketing flyers is not an effective way to advertise your company? Do flyers simply not work? Of course not! It was the way you used the tool that was flawed, not the tool itself.

So, why does the fact that you once utilized a website incorrectly lead to the conclusion that websites don’t work?

What can you do? Well, you can find a website developer with a proven track record of building and marketing successful websites for small businesses. Do your research and, the second time; use the right tool in the right way! Websites work. The Internet is here to stay. Don’t dismiss the effectiveness of this powerful tool simply because your first attempt did not work. Wise business owners make the time to understand mistakes so that they can adjust and respond more effectively. Be the wise business owner you know you are. Build a website that works and you’ll be very pleased that you did.

What You Should Know About the Internet

Are you a small business owner? Have you ever thought something like this?

 – I do not need a website because people do not look for what I do online.

 – I do not sell products online, so I don’t need a website.

 – Only teenagers use the Internet, and they are not my customers, so I do not need a website.

 – My neighborhood is not savvy with technology. No one uses computers around here.

 – We do not do any Internet business, so a website would be useless to us.

 – I’m older and not into computers, so a website would be a waste of money.

These are actual quotes from what business owners have told me when we discussed their need to develop a web presence. If you have said or thought something similar about your business, then I have some important information to share with you. Consider the following:

By The Numbers – the percentage of adults who use the Internet

76% of men     and      74% of women

92% of people ages 18 – 29
85% of people ages 30-49
72% of people ages 50-64
37% of people ages 65 plus

Source: Pew Internet American Life project http://www.pewinternet.org/

This information shows the massive segment of the population that are Internet users across the wide cross-section of age groups. And with such access to immediate information as is available at our fingertips online, do you believe it likely that these individuals will look for products and services in the yellow pages or on the Internet? Be it someone to cut their grass, do their taxes, fill their cavities, or provide legal advice, the reality is the Internet is where people go for everything.

It is truly irrelevant whether or not YOU use a computer…your CUSTOMERS do. It is irrelevant whether or not you choose to “conduct business online…” your business still needs to have a presence there! Your competition is there, and so are your customers. And, as I have often said, if you are not selling where your customers are buying, then they are buying from someone else.

So, let’s stop being afraid of the Internet and embrace it as the amazing tool that it is. The Internet is here to stay, so you better use it to stay in business before your choice to not be there puts you out of business.

The specifics of your website design are not important.

If the topic of this post sounds unbelievable, I hope to open your eyes by the time you finish reading. As with most of my posts, I was gripped by a recent experience I had with a potential customer who owns a car detailing shop. Since we started talking almost two months ago, each discussion he and I have had about considering a website for his business has been a discussion about colors and music. As I attempt to steer the direction of the conversation to more relevant topics, on which his decision should be based, he insists on discussing background music and how he wants “red and yellow everywhere.” Here’s the problem in a nutshell: this business owner is missing a very important point.

Don’t get me wrong. A good looking website is important, and I always intend to use the colors and design schemes that mirror what the client wants. But the truth is that his website is going to be a tool. Some businesses choose to use it primarily as a tool of credibility, an “online brochure,” if you will. But the true power behind a properly designed web presence is in the additional exposure that a properly optimized website can bring to your company…the new customers that your website can attract to your business who would not otherwise find you were it not for your web presence.

For the business owner who may be unfamiliar with these terms, “search engine optimization” simply means making a site search-engine-friendly.  Optimization occurs after the actual design of the site is complete, and involves making the site visible to the search-engines and their “spiders,” or their programs that crawl the web in search of sites with valuable information.  Optimizing a site is vital to properly market the site to Search Engines.

When making the initial decision to possibly invest in a website for your business, the important questions to be asking are NOT questions about design details. Instead, here are a few important examples of questions to ask when you begin this process:

  • How long will it take to have a properly optimized site online?
  • How do you optimize my site after design is complete?
  • Do I have the ability to submit the site regularly to search engines? Or can you provide this service every 4-5 weeks, and at what additional cost?
  • Can I control the addition of new and fresh content at my discretion to attract ongoing Search Engine attention?

Certainly, a poor-looking website that attracts new customers is not what you want either, but recognize the priorities in the appropriate order of importance. Determine a developer’s ability to provide your business with proper visibility first, then worry about making the site look the way you want it. In reality, the latter objective is the easy part that most any developer can accomplish for you.

Getting the traffic to your site is the vital skill that not all site designers possess.

Why historical success says NOTHING about your need for a Website

If you are a small business owner, how many times have you said or thought this: “I have been successful for years without a website. I don’t need one.” As a website developer, I hear it several times every single day.

USA Today’s “Ask An Expert” Steve Strauss http://www.usatoday.com/money/smallbusiness/columnist/strauss/index.htm received this inquiry from a reader. “…I just don’t see the need for a [web]site. My business has been around forever, and we have done just fine without one. Am I wrong?”

You are not alone. But, if you think this way about your business, then I want to speak to you directly and bluntly. You can’t live in the past! It doesn’t work in any other area of life, why would it work in business? Do you still dial 555-1212 to reach directory assistance? How about area codes…remember when we only needed to dial those to call people really far away? Do you drive the same car you drove in 1970? Still watch the same no-remote tune-with-a-dial 12” black and white model TV with only 3 channels? Or pay the same amount for gas that you did five years ago? As times change, so do the things we buy, the way we buy them, and the way business owners must conduct and market our businesses to get our attention or even stay in the game.

And as the old saying goes, you are either moving forward or falling behind.

Are you still skeptical? Want some proof? Ask the next 25 people you talk to (friends, family, customers, or employees) if they bought anything online 15 years ago. Then ask the same people if they bought anything online in the last year. If you do not believe you need a website before this experiment, the results of your survey are going to shock you.

If you are still a “doubting Thomas,” take it one step further. Ask these survey participants about buying a car, planning vacations, finding a new doctor, shopping for homes…the subject matter isn’t nearly as relevant as the fact that people shop online, and they do research BEFORE they shop, and before they make just about any purchase.

Visit Steve Strauss’ exchange with Phil in its entirety. http://www.usatoday.com/money/smallbusiness/columnist/strauss/2008-02-11-getting-a-website_N.htm. It tells a story that I would do injustice to try and reiterate, but the message is clear. Marketing strategies are not the same as they used to be. Not having a website puts you at a significant disadvantage because times have changed. Everyday, more and more of your competition develops a website so, eventually, it will be the businesses without a website that are out of business.

The strategies that made you successful yesterday are not what will keep you successful tomorrow.

Reading the Signs of a Changing Economy

After writing my last post, I realized that there is a wealth of information that I can examine and share by looking at my experiences with small business owners. This post is the second, in a series of a yet undetermined number to come, regarding small business owners and the Internet. I call the series “Small Business Owner Web Phobia: Do you have it and can you get over it?”

I recently met with an owner of a rather large garage door company. During the entire conversation, he kept referring to the large amount of money he was spending on traditional advertising, yet he was not getting results. Frustrated, he listened as I explained how the economy is changing and people are moving more and more to the Internet to find the things they want and to research companies they might do business with. At the end of the meeting, he said he would consider my proposal and get back to me. Now, two months later, he has contacted me twice to tell me how busy he is and how he can not move forward yet, because he is spending so much money on traditional advertising and none of it is working.

As a website developer and Internet marketing consultant, one potential answer seems very obvious: develop a strong online presence. Yet, the business owner seems to almost miss this point entirely. He continues dumping money into traditional advertising with admitted poor results, yet hesitates to begin developing his online marketing effort, even after our initial meeting which seemed to impress him. There is something about the way this owner has conducted his business in the past that is getting in the way of him seeing a solution to his problems.

Traditional advertising, for a very long time, was the only game in town. Ten years ago the only options this owner had to promote his business were phonebooks, newspaper ads, and flyers. Yet, as we see paper directories fast becoming almost extinct as more and more consumers look to the Internet and “Google” everything, a change in the business owner’s way of thinking needs to happen.

Are you doing the same disservice to your business, perhaps without realizing it? Here’s a way to find out.

Take a good and long hard look at your business. Where are you spending money to grow or market your business that is not paying off? Do you even know for sure what DOES deliver a return on your investment? If you don’t know, why continue to invest in a mystery? It’s likely that you could invest 50% of your budget online and be sure of the results. Then you could use the remaining 50% in traditional advertising to support your online presence. Online is where searchers are looking; so isn’t it wise to be there?

The reality is that we are in an Internet economy. Everyday, more and more consumers look for products and services online. Many want to gather as much information as possible, even before they are willing to call or walk into a business. If you are not there when they go to the Internet, someone else is answering their questions and fulfilling their needs.

The bottom line: if you are not selling where your customers are buying, they are buying from someone else.