Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle Contributor
I cover retail, customer service and all things to do with small biz.
Running your own business is no easy task, and your to-do-list is guaranteed to never end. This said, you shouldn't use this as an excuse to take short cuts when it comes to having online visibility. Beginning with your website, it's vital to position yourself online with a strong, professional destination that gives customers the impression you mean business and the motivation to want to engage more with your business. With this in mind, consider these five reasons why having a strong website is important.
First Impressions Count
Let's face it - we live in a world where people Google GOOGL +0%before they shop, visit online review sites like Yelp YELP +0% before they buy and "check-in" via Facebook as they go about their days. Because of this, you want your first impression to be the best it can be. Beginning with your website, consumers are passing judgement and making decisions about whether or not they will even visit your store, restaurant or office. They're likely to dismiss you entirely, as well, should they believe your website doesn't reflect the kind of experience your business - or a business like yours - should offer.
Window Shopping Isn't What It Use to Be
Strolling down your local Main Street isn't the only way people check out stores and other small businesses nowadays. With routine visits to Yahoo YHOO +0%, Bing, Google, Yelp and other online sites, customers are constantly seeking where they plan to make their next purchases. Make sure your business is well represented on these sites by first and foremost, having a website - but by also being represented among each of the online search engines, review sites and other online spots your business may be considered for customer review. Beyond having your URL address available, also be sure your street address, phone number and email is easily visible. Social media links can't hurt, either, but only include these if you are actually active on social media.
No Website Means Losing Business
By now it's clear that if you don't have a website, you're missing out on opportunities for customers to identify who you are and if they want to spend money with you. This said, if you have a bad website it is better to have no website. While no website equals missed opportunities, a bad website can actually be worse since it literally makes your business look bad. With so many template based websites available nowadays, such as Shopify.com, for you to customize for your unique business, there's truly no excuse for your website to look unprofessional and sloppy. If you can't proudly promote the website you have currently live and available for the world to see online, take it down. A bad website is far worse than no website - but let's be clear... both are bad for business.
If you don't have a website, you're chance of ending up in customer online searches is significantly reduced.
Whether you are a one man or woman show or operate with 100 employees, your website should appear as if you have a team dedicated exclusively to keeping your online presence strong and noteworthy. The key here is "appear" versus actually having someone updating your website everyday.
For most small businesses, this is simply not necessary. However, having a professional, polished looking website that functions easily and offers customers easy navigation, strong photo images, professional quality content and an overall experience that engages them enough for them to want to do business with you is key.
Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is the Author of Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business, as well as the Founder of Retail Minded and the Independent Retailer Conference.