Does every business have to be online to be successful? That’s a question I frequently hear from small business owners and startups who still haven’t launched a website and don’t market their companies online. Many times, these entrepreneurs aren’t tech savvy and don’t feel comfortable with the Internet, so they avoid digital marketing out of fear.
Unfortunately for these small business owners, they’re putting their companies at a huge disadvantage. These days, every small business needs to be online to succeed. Consumers and B2B buyers alike increasingly turn to the Internet when searching for products and services. 81 percent of B2B purchases begin with a Web search; some 91 percent of consumers go online to look for local businesses. And Web searches lead to business—according to Google, one-third of customers who search on a computer and more than half of those who search on a mobile device immediately head out to a business after doing the search.
Why would you want to pass up that kind of business—especially when creating an online presence is so simple? If your business, like most small businesses, targets a local clientele, there are really only two main steps you need to follow:
- Create a business website. Building a business website is easier than it’s ever been. Today, the trend is for websites to be streamlined and simple—the better to display on a mobile device. For many small businesses, such as a dry cleaner or auto detailer, a website of just a few pages is all you need. For best results, build your website using “responsive design.” This fancy-sounding term just means that the website technology senses what device the user is on (such as a smartphone or a laptop) and delivers the site in the format best suited for viewing.
You don’t need to be a techie to build a business website anymore. Today, there are tons of templates to choose from so you can just input your business information, then drag-and-drop photos or graphics into the template. If even that sounds too stressful, have a website design and hosting company build your business website to your specifications, host it and manage it. This service costs only dollars a month.
- Get listed on local search directories. The second step for ensuring local customers can find you is getting listed on local search directories like Local.com, YP.com or Google+ Local. In most cases, your business will already have a listing on these sites, but it’s probably blank. All you need to do is “claim” your listing, then fill in the relevant information, such as your business name, phone number, address and hours of operation. (Think about what you’d want to know if you were checking out a business.)
Again, if this sounds like a lot of hassle, website design and hosting companies like Web.com offer services where they set up and maintain your local listings to ensure they’re always updated. It’s very affordable and well worth the cost for the business it can get you.
Several years ago, my company helped convince a technophobic friend of ours whose business was suffering in the Great Recession that she really needed a business website website. With just three web pages, a basic description of her services, and a few stock photos, she had a functional business website. As a result, her business more than doubled and she went from worrying about going out of business to having more clients than she could handle. Having a website can do the same for you. So what are you waiting for?
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.