Kate O'Brien, Marketing Director at Daisy Group, explains why it's important that a small business has a good online presence.
In an online driven business environment, where the consumer’s first port of call is often the web, you’d expect every small business to have an online presence, right?
Worryingly, too many SMEs are still failing to acknowledge the importance of the web in relation to potential growth and possess either a limited presence, or nothing at all. In markets where small businesses can constantly be competing against the global heavyweights, the web can act as helping hand in order for SMEs to keep pace.
Previously labelled as an untraditional form of marketing, the internet has become engrained within many shrewd business’ campaigns. The abundance of opportunities created such as social media, blogs and a personal website all allow a small business to blossom. But don’t be fooled into thinking it all sounds easy. Far from it in fact. A strong online presence requires a lot of time, and possibly cost to maintain, but the drawbacks are far outweighed by the following positives.
The most obvious advantage of an online presence to a SME is its ability to create a customer base that isn’t limited by location. Small businesses often find it difficult to conduct face-to-face interactions with customers on a regular basis, so with the web being accessible worldwide, there is the potential for sales to be made outside of the local customer pool. Sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook make it simple to engage with potential customers irrelevant of their location.
The internet is a service that never sleeps. So while a business may close and cease trading for the day, its sales doesn’t have to. It’s a well-known saying that a customer prefers to buy, rather than being sold, and with the internet’s accessibility the user is allowed to purchase from the comfort of their own home. Many consumers now also prefer to research a product or system before purchasing, so with an online presence, businesses can offer as much product information as their heart’s desire.
What better medium is there to encompass a business’ brand values than displaying them through a unique personal website? Creating a friendly, welcoming web page – which will hopefully replicate the actual business environment – will increase a user’s trust in a business, making them more likely to use the services on offer. The values on display, alongside reviews, help create an impression of a company, so investment in this area is crucial.
Creating a blog is an inexpensive way of attracting customers to the business’ site. Whether it’s writing about industry news, or even just commenting on a product, the purpose of a blog is to act with authority. Doing this can create a feeling that the company is an expert within their respective industry and this knowledge will ease any possible concerns they may have before hopefully purchasing.
Another pertinent advantage to having an online presence is the feedback businesses are able to receive for their products/services. Whether this is through a simple social media interaction or even just from a standard review, as long as what is on offer is up to scratch, reviews can only be of benefit. Prior to purchasing, customers are increasingly likely to search for business reviews in order to gain an understanding of what they are buying. If a consistent service is offered, users are likely to leave positive reviews which encourage further trade from the on looking audience.
All of the above advantages, in more succinct terms, enable small businesses to broaden customer reach, make cost savings and increase company awareness. In a fiercely competitive economic climate, these benefits are definitely worth the investment in order to create an online presence that allows a business to continue in the right direction.