The #1 Problem With Small Business Websites
Evolving Beyond The Yellow Pages Mentality
The problem with most small business websites is that they treat the web like a yellow pages directory. They slap up a quick website and are content to be “listed” on the web, missing out on most of the advantages of doing business online.
This backwards mindset runs rampant in professional service industries like accounting and law. Perhaps this because of the habit of marketing through listings like a phone book where they are just one entry competing with many other listings, and there is not much they can do about it.
Some of the more savvy small business owners are starting to catch on to the idea that it’s not enough just to be online, you need to successfully compete online.
I recently posted a case-study on the effectiveness of a law firm website we designed, and over the next three days received contacts from several different law firms.
One of the firms I met with mentioned that the quality of clients that come through the web is much better than any other source. Their Internet clients are easier to work with, more educated, and more likely to pay promptly. They were anxious to increase their online leads, and these were some of the ideas I shared with them.
- Dress Your Website For Success– First impressions are critical when meeting with potential clients. Your website is frequently the first impression clients receive of your company, so make it a good experience for them.Just because your nephew or secretary knows a little HTML doesn’t mean they will be able to build you a professionally designed site. Going with a professional web designer might cost more, but the investment will pay for itself.
As mentioned in our case study of Long Okura, P.C., most of their clients said they selected them over other firms they found on the web because they had a better website.
If you were hiring from several applicants that seemed to have about the same qualifications, it would make sense to hire the one that was better dressed and presented a more professional image than the others. That’s what potential clients do when they shop for professional services online.
- Make It Unique– A website isn’t limited to a crammed box in a phone directory, so add something personal and unique. It could be an award, interview, media coverage, or personal interest.The Long Okura website has a section that explains their environment-friendly practices and the green organizations that they passionately support. This unique perspective helps differentiate themselves from other law firms and has generated contacts from the magazines, radio, & TV stations looking for interviews, and even a contact from a well-known figure in the global “green” community.
- Blog– A blog allows you to keep your website updated with fresh content without having to hire a developer to make the updates. It also helps share information, establish you as an expert, and start dialogs. Blogs also help you show up on search engines for the topics you write about.The Long Okura website picked up several new clients in just their first several blog posts. If you’re looking for new cost-effective marketing ideas, it’s hard to beat blogging.
- Customer Self-Service Tools– Let your customers help themselves. By giving them online tools, you increase customer satisfaction and reduce the operating costs of having these functions handled manually by your staff.Some of the self-service tools I’ve worked on include:
- Online bill-pay, downloadable forms, & “click-to-talk” phone call button for Long Okura
- Telephony account administration (manage voicemail, faxes, etc) for I-Link.
- Print Job management (define, submit, approve proofs, track shpiping) for Vision International.
- Seminar/conference online registration & payment for ManageMen.
- Product surveys, sponsored athlete application & shopping cart discounts for First Endurance.
Almost any manually intensive task can be streamlined by creating an online tool to manage it.
There are lots of other ways to make your website outshine your competitors, but these 4 should give you a good start.
If you have any questions or comments on increasing the effectiveness of your small business website, please leave them in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.
Photo credit: How Can I Recycle This