It doesn’t really matter what type of business you’re involved in these days – it could be selling goods or services, or a combination of both, you are missing opportunities if you don’t have an online presence. It is essential for an offline business to create, maintain and continually update its online presence in today’s commercial environment.
The invention and continued rise in popularity of the internet has really changed how commerce works and your prospects and clients interact with you. The internet is not just a mechanism for selling goods and services, it is an ideal marketing tool and way to connect with your prospects – before they even step foot in your business.
Whilst you may not want to sell online, your web presence will at least provide an opportunity that allows potential customers to know that you exist and what you have to offer them. Your online presence can be established using a listing in an online business directory, using a content site like Squidoo or Hubpages or a professionally designed website. Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages – and care should be taken when deciding on the best approach to take for your business.
The simplicity and appeal of using an online directory or content site is easy to understand however, consideration must be given to the perception that is provided to your potential new customers if the only information they can find is on services that are branded with another organizations information. Using these types of sites as your main web presence, is unlikely to inspire confidence in your business (used as secondary presences that lead back to your main web presence, these services are incredibly powerful).
A professionally designed website, on your businesses domain name, will project the fact that you are serious about your business.
The website should be easy to navigate and, if you aren’t selling directly from the site, need only provide basic information to develop a good relationship with your prospects.
Your business website should provide the physical location of your business (displaying a Google Map is a great idea as well), your contact details including the phone number, fax number and email address.
In addition, you should also include information about the products or services your business provides. Whether or not you include prices or indications of price entirely depends on the type of business you are promoting and the target audience. It is often a great idea to include a Frequently Asked Questions area on your website – you will generally have several questions that are asked by your customers before buying your products or services, and you can literally ‘pre condition’ website visitors by providing the answers to those questions, before they are even asked.
If you offer guarantees on your products or services, clearly state that guarantee on your website – this will go a long way to generating customer loyalty and word of mouth marketing.
Providing your prospects and customers with a way to interact with you and your business online is another excellent way to generate customer loyalty. Including a ‘blog’ on the site, where you can post updates about new products, happenings in your industry and the like, will not only keep your customers updated, you will be able to invite comment and discussion.
Creating an online presence for your offline business makes sense in so many different ways. In doing so, not only do you make your business more accessible, you access another advertising and marketing channel that is gaining popularity within your customer base.