A few days go as I was leaving work, I pulled out my iPhone to search for a local shop to buy a bottle of wine.
I quickly found a website that listed locally owned and run specialty wine shops. With an interactive map, I could see where these shops were located and then click on “pins” on the map to see more about each shop.
As I viewed the list, I found myself, rightly or wrongly, discounting the businesses that didn’t have a website.
It’s not the first time I’ve felt this way either.
Personally when I’m looking for a local business for services such as auto repair, a hairdresser, a doctor or places to shop and eat, the first place I search is online.
And even if I find an online listing through the yellow pages or white pages, if they don’t have a website, their chance of me choosing them is pretty slim. Especially when I find a few businesses that offer what I need. I’m much more likely to pick the business that has a website.
Have you ever found yourself doing the same thing?
While these businesses might be first rate, their absence from the Internet tends to make me question their professionalism and quality.
Yet, while many people will agree with my sentiment, you may be shocked to discover that, according to research by Yodle, an online marketing platform, over half of all small businesses do not have a website.
Yodle also found that an even smaller percentage of small businesses use the Internet to acquire new customers, make sales, and build customer relationships.
If you’re guilty of any of the above, let me share some reasons why you should seriously make it a priority to add a solid web presence to your marketing plan.
You are missing opportunities. One in every five people around the world, and over half of the U.S. population own and use smart phones. As of 2012, almost 2.5 Billion people used the Internet. If you aren’t online, you are missing out on a sizable chunk of your potential prospects.
You are willingly giving your competitors the upper hand. Even if you are a much better business, have more to offer customers, been in business much longer…if you’re not devoting resources to online marketing, your competitors who are marketing on the Internet have a huge advantage over you.
It allows you to compete against big box stores. No matter the size of the business, when you visit a website, every business has the same amount of space available to market and sell their products and services. Unlike offline, where your shop might appear much, much smaller compared to a big box retailer. That means your website can be just as impressive (or even more impressive) than a competing business…giving you the opportunity to compete somewhat equally.
It saves you time. Being online allows you to put frequently asked questions on your website and other online marketing tools so people can find the answers 24/7 without requiring you to spend time repeatedly answering the same questions over the phone. Plus, having answers online allows you to word them just right, whereas there is more room for error in a phone conversation.
More people are searching and shopping online. Last year, Google alone said it handles 100 billion searches per month. Shopping online is up too. In fact, comScore proclaimed that Cyber Monday in 2013 had the largest online spending day in U.S. history, surpassing $1 billion in sales.
For local small businesses, marketing on the Internet has been a game changer. (Tweet this!)With the mass popularity of smart phones such as iPhone, Android and Blackberry phones, the newest trend of tablets, and a huge portion of the population online, more and more customers are searching the Internet for where to eat, shop, get their car fixed, and more. Plus, a growing number of these searches are local. In fact:
- The number of local business searches on mobile devices quadrupled last year. (Source: Local Search Association.)
- Of the estimated 30 billion mobile searches, about 12 billion are local searches. (Source: Search Engine Land.)
People are conducting searches for products and services online, making purchases of these products and services and then posting reviews online about them. If you’re not engaging with customers online, are without a website and/or don’t have ways to follow up with your customers online, you’re missing a ton of opportunity. Effectively you are choosing to hide your business from customers, clients and patients and giving the impression that your business isn’t professional and perhaps even lower quality than your competitors who are marketing online.
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