How often have you heard small business owners reply to the suggestion of online presence with “I don’t want to do all that complicated stuff”, or “I don’t need anything new”?
Small business owners shy away from online presence for many reasons. They may not have the resources to build or maintain an online image; they may fear any negative publication online related to their business; they may not be willing to take risks attached with the digital world; or they may just be nervous about expansion.
We are in the digital era. Across the world, everyone turns to the Internet for information. The online presence of a business corresponds with its credibility. So, if your business doesn’t have a prominent presence on the Internet, it’s time you get working on that.
An online presence is more than putting up a little website with fancy images and your contact details. An effective online presence means setting up a virtual version of your business – an informative and updated website, social media presence, and listings on popular online directories like Yelp, Google, or Yahoo! Local. In this electronic era, people search online for the products and services they need as opposed to searching through a phone book.
Advantages of A Small Business Being Online
The Internet allows your present and potential customers a virtual peek into your business. They can research your product or service even after business hours from anywhere. If you sell products, an online store allows for 24-hour order placement; if you provide services, a 24-hour chat system allows your customers to make inquiries immediately.
With an online presence, your small business can reach a much larger area than the few miles local to your business’ office or store. It is quite possible that people within your zip code or beyond may not have heard of or have’t considered stepping in your store despite passing by it everyday. Your online presence reaches out to them and, depending on your online presence, will bring them to your doorstep.
Brand building is essentially building trust in a potential customer about your company or product. An online presence provides them a way to “check out” your company, products, and services. Online reviews, testimonials, and frequency and quality of content help frame a positive impression of your company turning your potential customers into active customers.
Easier Selling and Marketing
Here is a well-known marketing fact : people like to buy, not to be sold. No customer likes a pushy, desperate salesperson hovering around them. No customer likes to be uneasy when they walk in just for information and walk out without buying anything. A well-written description of your products or services on your website lets buyers make a relaxed, informed decision to purchase. Online marketing benefits you as well since it is easier, cost-effective, and far reaching as opposed to traditional marketing, which usually includes printing and mailing costs.
Reviews are considered to be like a double-edged sword of conducting or listing a business on the Internet. There is a possibility of a negative review both fairly and unfairly. However, if you run your business honestly and treat your customers well, the negative review will be isolated incidents and easily identified as false, especially since these will be outnumbered by the many positive reviews by your happy customers. Your potential customers often check for reviews of a company or product before making a decision so ensure your customers are happy and encourage them to leave positive reviews on your social media pages or on rating sites such as Yelp or Google Places.