By Bob Hubbard
When I’m talking with potential clients, I’m often asked “Why should I have a website”. This is a very good question. Today, having a website is a cost of doing business, just like business cards, a phone line and credit card acceptance. A well planned and designed website can be a boost to almost every business. In this article, I will give you some information on the “Why”.
Why do you need a web site?
A website can be a key ingredient of a businesses marketing attack. It is a lead generator, it helps retain clients, and save on costs. In today’s business environment, if you don’t have one, your competition most likely does. Customers are increasingly net-savvy and are doing more and more research online before calling a company. With 63% of American adults and 75% of American children connected to the Internet, not having a website puts a major hole in your marketing ability. In the past, people would open the yellow pages. Today, more and more people are using the internet to search for information, and finding not just a phone number or address, but full catalogs and price lists, directions, color photos of products and more, all without leaving the house.
The Lead Generator
Many people today look at the existence of a website as a ‘validation of legitimacy’, much as we often look for the acceptance of credit cards. People who are reluctant to call can at their leisure visit your site and see what you offer. This means if its 3am on a Sunday, they can get some information. A well designed website will have an easy means of them contacting you, perhaps a sign up form they can fill out to schedule a visit or request additional information. A website can also be used by existing clients to generate referrals. A website is a tireless 24 hour a day salesperson that works to turn suspects into prospects, and prospects into clients. Being able to learn more about your business will often turn a browser into someone who makes that phone call, or stops in to visit. Having a website puts you ahead of the competition. There’s no delay in customers getting information on your products or services. Imagine if your competitor has information online, and the best you can do is send a brochure overnight. A day is a long time for that potential customer to form an opinion.
Client retention is often tied directly to customer service. A well designed website will have the important information on your business easily viewable. Hours of operation, contact information, upcoming events, and directions at the very least should be obvious. Many other parts are industry specific. A supermarket could have their weekly ad on line, a hardware store could have home repair tips, and the martial arts school could have training materials and class schedules. Special offers can also be run, as well as an organizational newsletter to keep clients and prospects up to date on your business.
How many of us have printed flyers for an event, only to end up throwing out hundreds of dollars in over printing or errors? Using your website as an information distribution point can significantly reduce your printing and postage costs. By putting items like student handbooks, employee guides, and flyers online, you can save an enormous amount of money. Combine this with a web-friendly email-marketing program and you can save thousands of dollars each year. You can also improve on the quality of your handouts and flyers by using full color and photographs, rather than the black and white clip art we often see.
Now, it is important to do your email marketing in a friendly manner. E-Mail marketing is covered in my “E-Mail Marketing Tips” article.
Now, two additional areas you can use your website are “UpSells” and Retail.
UpSells and Upgrades
Also known as Upgrades, Upsells are a great product to promote on your website. Internal programs like Buyers Clubs, Access to expert advice, special web-only content, discussion forums, newsletters and more. We will use the example of a karate school. They want to increase student retention so they add a signup form on their website for new students. An option on this form could be for the “Black Belt Club” which gives the student special services and access to a special area of the website, for an added cost of course. A music store could have a “Music Appreciation Club” which offers members only discounts and other premiums.
Retail sales are an additional way to generate both profit and potential. Without having to maintain a large physical inventory, pay utilities or worry about shrinkage, you can often run an online store at a higher profit margin than a traditional store. Without the physical limitations, you can carry more merchandise. This allows a 1-person operation to look just as impressive as the super centers. Care must be taken in the setup of an online store to avoid fraud. Successful online retailing is covered in my “Online Selling with Success” article.
Having a website is an excellent way to generate new business, keep and grow existing clientele, save money and improve your bottom line. It is available rain or shine, night or day, helping you to grow your business. It also levels the playing field, allowing you to compete equally with much larger businesses. With more and more people each year using the Internet, a website has become a requirement of business, much as a phone and credit card acceptance did in the past. Remember, the Internet is one of the first places someone familiar with computers is likely to look for information.
===Bob Hubbard is an administrator of the popular martial arts portal site MartialTalk.com and president of SilverStar WebDesigns inc., a web site design and hosting company specializing in affordable solutions for martial artists.