If this is the first time you have seen this topic, I suggest you might want to read part 1 and Part 2 first. This is a series of articles on getting results, not about convincing you to set up a website.
Do you need a website?
Maybe you don’t need a website at all. Just because everyone else you know has a website, doesn’t mean that your business needs one.
Here is a simple test. Where do your customers find out about things they haven’t bought before? What are the top three ways they find out about products like yours?
You say you have no idea? You might want to get busy and find out. If your customers do not use the Internet, you might be better off promoting yourself using alternative methods, like bus benches, or little ads in magazines, or ads in the local Pennysaver.
On the other hand, some of your top customers may be using the Internet to find other services and products in your geographic area and you should know why.
If you live in an area where new people are moving in at a good rate, the chances are that internet access is generally available and new people are notorious for searching on the Web for all sorts of services and supplies.
If you have an Internet presence, you get the first shot at these new people, sometimes even before they arrive. If you would like to learn more, continue reading.
Long before Gretchen and I moved to Floyd, Virginia, I scoured the Internet for modular home
companies, general contractors, electricians, and plumbers in the Floyd
County area. There was not much to be seen in Floyd, but a good deal of
activity in the surrounding counties.
We had to wait until we established a beachhead at one of the local
B&Bs and gained the confidence of the owner who directed us to the
contractors and companies she felt were a good value.
On the other hand, local businesses, like B&Bs, which depend on tourist business
generally had a website because they realized that most tourists plan
their vacation with information they glean from the Internet. An Internet presence is one way to establish credibility long before your prospective customer visits your shop.
tourists come to town, the smart businessman wants to make sure that
the tourists already know what his store or restaurant has to offer.
Now, if you sell fresh produce from a stand on Main Street, you
probably do not need a website unless you are a year-round phenomenon
and tourist attraction. There are exceptions to every rule, but
generally if your customers routinely shop and do research on the
Internet, you should consider an Internet site that complements your
product or service offering.
If you don’t have this data at your fingertips, I strongly suggest that
you start asking your customers how they look for products and services
like yours. Don’t make a Federal case out of it. Just slip it into the
conversation and see what happens.
In the wide world of professional marketing, this is called surveying.
Most companies do not do it and if they do, usually ignore the results
if they don’t agree with management’s preconceived ideas. As a small
business owner, you can ask the questions and give yourself absolutely
invaluable information with very little effort.
In the next article, I promise that I will discuss some options for
keeping your site fresh and interesting, without spending a fortune on
UPDATE 2: Since I began this series of posts, I have begun providing webhosting
services as well as website design for several clients. If you are an
artisan or a startup business in SW Virginia and you are looking for a
site design that is customer-centered, I might be able to help you out.
Send me an email.