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Why Every Small Business Needs a Website — Your Company’s Most Valuable Marketing Tool

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It’s 2017: If your small business doesn’t have a website, it may as well not exist. It’s common knowledge at this point that one of the first steps in establishing yourself in your field is to secure a website. But what comes next?

You need more than just a blank page with your company name on it. What should a small business website offer to provide visitors and business owners with the most value?

There are some basics that even the most traditional folks can agree on: A website should function the same way a Yellow Pages listing did back in the day. It must have basic information about your business, including the name, business hours (if applicable), and contact information such as an email address, social media handle, and/or phone number.

But as anyone with a smartphone or tablet or even basic PC setup can tell you, websites offer so much more than the basics now. But not every option is logistically feasible or financially productive for a small business website to use—meaning, what’s good for the Amazon or Best Buy site might not work for a home-based business.

What to Include on a Small Business Website

So what do small business websites generally offer? For that, we turn to the 2017 Wasp Barcode State of Small Business Report, which has a section on digital marketing.

First, it should be noted that the number one marketing tool, cited by more than 1,100 small business owners and industry leaders polled for the report, is the website. Other tools include email, social media, word-of-mouth referrals, and even printed promotional materials—but the website is king.

Assuming you have a website, there are three things that at least 50 percent of respondents said their site offers visitors:

The first two are obvious, as we mentioned above. The third shows an understanding of what consumers expect in a website: a way to complain, or otherwise voice their concerns, issues, or even express happiness with their product or service. Not giving customers an outlet to report back on their experiences is problematic in the internet era—because if they can’t get their issues resolved by going directly to the company, they’ll use social media, review sites, and other outlets to air their grievances.

Advanced Web Tactics

In addition to the basics, the following responses were given by at least a quarter of all the respondents:

  • Watch videos (36%)
  • Get our social media links (34%)
  • Apply for a job (30%)
  • Learn about our employees (28%)
  • Buy goods or services we offer (28%)
  • Schedule appointments or register for events (27%)
  • Read our company blog (24%)

These are what you might call more advanced tactics. Giving visitors the option to watch videos, learn about employees, or read the company blog has two major benefits: One, it creates opportunities to bond with customers, giving them a personal investment in the state of the company; two, it increases the “time on site” (TOS) and click-through rate, both of which have a positive effect on the search engine ranking of the company page.

Additionally, adding the means to either buy products or register for appointments or events is a great way of letting business come to you. Brick-and-mortar stores with no e-commerce component can only conduct sales or make appointments that lead to future sales during regular business hours and with locals, but having an online store means you’re open 24/7, and your customer base is suddenly only limited by where you can ship (and third-party companies exist to help facilitate e-commerce and shipping, if you don’t want to handle it).

Finally, the apply for the job option is another way of being passively active. You aren’t limited to receiving applications and resumes during business hours only—and you can widen your net of potential applicants greatly as well.

To round things out, here are the rest of the responses:

  • We do not have a website (8%)
  • We do not provide options or services for visitors to our website (4%)
  • Other (2%)

Why a small business would create a website and then not provide any options or services for visitors is a bit perplexing—it may be more counterproductive than having no site at all. While an air of mystery might lend itself to a movie plot, it’s simply not recommended when running a business. You want customers to know they can trust your brand, and you impart that trust by providing information, value, and service.

More Ways to Add Value to Your Website

If your small business website has all of these options and you’re looking for still more ways to add value to your page, consider these ideas, which can contribute to increased TOS, customer retention, bigger emotional impact, and more (via Wasp Barcode):

  • Map of your location – This can be helpful to put your business in the context of the surrounding area and helpless technologically-inclined folks find you.
    A photograph of what your business looks like, inside and out—Another good way to increase trust and to put your business in context.
  • A brief company history – What prompted you to start your business? How did you grow into what you are today? The answer to these questions on an “About Me” or “About Us” page keeps customers engaged.
  • Links to professional organizations you belong to – Any credentials you may have to go a long way towards establishing that your business is tried and true.
    Customer testimonials—Better than just linking to your Yelp page (although that doesn’t hurt), a curated list of positive customer testimonials is thought to be “the single best way to get more results from your site.”
  • A coupon, discount or incentive – This may fall under “goods and services,” but an online discount that encourages visiting the store itself is how you motivate people from being passive browsers to active shoppers.
  • Email sign-up forms – Email marketing is one of the most popular and effective marketing tools out there. A pop-up form that encourages signups is a great way to grow your email list and to communicate with customers more directly.
  • Basic SEO Tactics – A website isn’t as effective in pulling customers if you don’t do search engine optimization. This includes unique title tags, meta descriptions, and headlines that are both catchy and informative.
  • A fast, mobilefriendly website – More people than ever are accessing the web from their smartphones, which means your site should be easy to navigate in mobile form. Non-responsive (another word for non-mobile-friendly) sites are tiresome to use; ditto for sites that take more than a couple of seconds to load. Talk to a web developer for more information on this if need be.

If you don’t think a website is that important to the success of your small business, hey, it’s your business—you do what you want. But for those that recognize that we are entering a digital age, where the vast majority of people (as much as 97 percent) look to the internet in some form or fashion before buying an item or visiting a store, it’s time to provide as much value online as you do off.

Start stocking your page with these options and see the kind of return you get.

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