Be Online or Be Invisible
Although it happens less frequently these days, I’m still surprised when a business doesn’t have a website. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fish monger, or a lawyer, a restaurant or a landscaper, if you’re not online, you are going to be increasingly shut out of business opportunities because you will be invisible to those who are searching for you.
Let’s think for a moment about how you used to find businesses you never dealt with before, say a plumber or catering company; you probably used a phone book or yellow pages, right? Do you know what I do with yellow pages when I get them at home now? They go straight to recycling. Actually they can be useful, a 2008/2009 edition is propping up my monitor a couple of inches as I write this.
At the very least, and in a very visible way, you should have at least two different ways (phone and email) that prospective customers can contact you, list your hours of operation, have a map and directions to your place of business and list the products or services you offer. In the case of a restaurant, you should definitely include the menu. This is a MINIMUM! Ideally, you will also be writing blog articles on a regular basis, creating YouTube videos and building a following on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but look on the bright side, marketing has never been more accessible and affordable than it is today.
One of the best examples I’ve come across of a site that provides tremendous value is partselect.com. If you search for any type of appliance repair, they rank very high in the results because they have multiple and detailed photos, comments and instructions from actual customers and best of all, a video on how to perform the repair yourself. Of course you can also buy the part to actually perform the repair. Check out how to repair a washing machine agitator and see if you can find a way to incorporate this powerful strategy into your website. Share tips that might be second-nature or seem like common sense to you but will be completely new and informative to everyone else.
I’m going to mention one final thing about your website; it should be optimized for mobile viewing, that is, on a smartphone such as an Android, iPhone or Blackberry. The fact of the matter is that based on a Nielsen’s estimate, 50% of mobile subscribers in the United States will be smartphone users (142.8 million) by 2011.
How many of those do you think will search for an use a phone book to find you instead of going online? Probably not many, at least not as the first option. Take a hard look at your website, pick up a copy of “Inbound Marketing” and make sure you are being found online.