Websites & Social Media: Managing Your Business's Online Presence
Some business owners come to us saying, 'I suppose I need a website'... because everybody else has one. These days, it's more likely to be, 'I suppose I need a new website'.
But a new website isn't always the answer: particularly if you don't know why the present one has not achieved the results you hoped for. Or even whether it has succeeded.
What's the most effective way of marketing your business online?
To Fb or not to Fb
Should my business utilise social media?
For some businesses, an active social media page such as on Facebook which connects directly with your customers, can achieve much that a less personal website cannot.
You might like to try this quiz:
Do you have a regular clientele?
Does your business have a wellknown, trusted name and face that your customers relate to?
Are your target customers in a demographic group which utilises social media for communication about purchases - not just for socialising?
Are you in a market where potential customers are likely to talk to each other about your services or products (for good or ill)?
Sock buyers don't tend to wax passionate about quality; horse owners do.
Do you find that most or all your new customers come from word of mouth referrals?
Are these new referrals sufficient to maintain your business, or to expand it (whichever you are aiming for)?
If the answer to all these questions is 'yes', and your monthly download can stand the strain, social media could be the way to go. Some business owners who use social media decide they don't even need a website.
Now the crunch:
Do you have the time, expertise and interest to maintain social media pages?
Do you have sufficient news (product updates, new photos, upcoming travel plans for a mobile business) to sustain this, month after month?
You will need to update your input often - say weekly - with useful and interesting posts, or customers won't bother checking your page.
You may need to check posts from others daily; both to check for
interest in sales/bookings and to delete any offensive or otherwise
unwanted posts. It's your page. Everyone assumes that you monitor it and
have permitted whatever is up there to remain.
Although there is a business element to Facebook, Tw-et cetera, fundamentally social media are about friends and shared interests and fun. Is your business suited to marketing in this way? Importantly, do you want to spend time each week on this? It's your life.
Use social media if they appeal to you and your customers. For many businesses, don't worry if they don't.
Do I need a website?
Perhaps you keep in touch with most of your customers via Facebook &c. Remember that any regular customer who doesn't use your preferred social media won't know about new services, new location etc, unless you also use email, phone etc or regularly update a website.
Without a website, it may be more difficult for new customers to find out about you, or simply to contact you after a referral from friends. Make sure your business can easily be found.
Many of us like to check a recommended business out for ourselves before booking or buying. Going to a website is an unpressured, anonymous way to do that.
Not having a website can restrict your business reach. You might or might not be happy about that! It depends on the big questions:
- How big do you want your business to grow? When?
- How many customers can you reasonably cater for, while still enjoying life?
- Do you want to serve only your local area, or a much broader base?
- How much competition do you have within the area/within the demographic groups you wish to target?
- How can you advertise most effectively to your chosen customer base?
It's foolish to spend up on marketing to attract customers you don't need or can't service. Life is not always about getting the biggest slice of the market cake. If you are content with how your business is running and you can sustain that without a website, enjoy it!
My website hasn't done much for me
When was the last time you did much for your website?
Seriously, some businesses have had the same website for years with minimal or no changes, and wonder why the site isn't bringing in new custom. Some of these sites don't even reflect truly what the business does now. And the owners' attitude? Their website is 'no use', so they won't spend anything on improving it.
If you thought your staff, your shopfront, your product range or your skill levels weren't generating enough business income, would you give up on them altogether? Or would you identify the problem and do something to fix it?
Once you have a website and are paying for webhosting, you have made a considerable investment. It's foolish to waste it.
Websites don't manage themselves. Like every public presentation of your business (brochure, radio ad, Google+ listing, shopfront...), a website needs maintenance. It's up to you to keep your site accurate, appealing and interesting. A good graphic designer or web developer can only go so far; it's largely the site content (text and images) which determines how well you communicate to your potential customers.
Putting it all together
Don't assume that a website is a must for every business: some can function quite happily without one. And don't make the mistake of seeing social media as a 'free' alternative online presence. There's a considerable cost either way, in your time and energy if not in immediate $ outlay.
Whatever path you choose, monitor both the inputs in staff time and $, and the results you gain. Be prepared to act on what you find out; don't waste your online marketing expense and effort.