We are in the middle of a recession, so why is it a good time for small businesses to sort out their web presence at such a bad time? Surely, it would be better to wait for the recession to be over and then to start investing again. In this post, I have outlined 6 reasons why you should be thinking about a redesign of your web site now; or if your business is not online, why you should get your business on the internet now.
Your customers are looking for bargains
Your customers have already searched online for the best deals and best products. The internet has helped consumers to drive down prices and be better informed about the goods they are purchasing. The web has enabled consumers to not only compare products, prices and resellers, but also to find out what others think of a product, service or company. All of this is done online. If you have an out of date or non-existant web site, you will miss out on this traffic. By 2007, Verdict Research estimated that £10.9bn was spent online by UK consumers. That was a year-on-year increase of 33.4%. Since then, despite the recession, internet retail sales have continued to increase.
Your competitors have a site already
Your competitors — both locally and globally — more than likely already have a website and are benefiting from the additional traffic that it generates. By not having a website, or not having it updated, you are missing out on the custom that your competitors are enjoying. Would you shut your shop one day a week and put a sign on your door giving directions to your nearest competitor? This is exactly what you are doing if you don’t have a modern web site.
Most consumers today expect a professional business to have a website and to be listed online. You can gain a lot of business by making the right first impression for consumers who may not have known you existed. By being able to answer questions online and show your products or services, you start to build a relationship with potential customers. Those who do product research online may email you a quick question, your answer may build a relationship that subsequently leads to a sale. Brand trust is a key factor in the decisions consumers make.
Why not generate new marketing opportunities with your website? You can market directly to people who have visited your site and subscribed to your updates. You can send them advice on your latest offers, new lines, deals and company information. And it won’t cost you a penny to do!
A website also offers you the ability to be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no additional staff requirements. It is an advertising dream offering you the ability to advertise your goods and services in a cost effective way. Owning a website is much cheaper than taking out a year’s worth of advertising.
Give contact details to millions of passers by
The internet enables you to offer browsers and passers-by the opportunity to get in touch with you. Whether that is leaving a comment on your blog, emailing you directly, sending you a message through your online form, using a chat room, giving your telephone number and address, adding your listing to directory services and Google…. These days, people don’t look in Yellow Pages™ for business information. They look online. It is up to you to make sure you are there when they come looking.
The recession won’t last forever
You won’t find many market experts telling you when the bottom of the recession will be reached. In fact, you won’t hear them claiming the recession is over until after the economy has scrambled out of the hole and is making a dash for it. You shouldn’t wait for the experts to tell you that everything is going to be fine; you need to make provisions for the survival of your own business and the best way to do that is to spend a little time sprucing up your online shop windows. This will push you ahead of the game when the economy does start to react and you will be leading the field.
WordPress can help small businesses
Which Content Management System (CMS) to use for small businesses that wants to update their website content? There are many options available for a small business and these may seem bewildering. In this post, I will give 7 reasons why WordPress is one of the best tools to support your small business website.
With WordPress installed on your hosting server, you remain in control of the site, its software and its content. You are not at the mercy of a third party being responsible for maintenance and upgrades; you have complete control. You can choose to manage the whole thing yourself, or you can pay someone to do the maintenance and upgrading for you, as necessary. You will need to make sure that your chosen web host is capable of supporting WordPress on their servers (most are).
If the standard setup does not do what you want it to do, there are masses of extensions to the functionality of the platform available as plugins. All that is needed is for them to be downloaded and activated and they are ready to use immediately. Plugins offer a huge amount of flexibility to your WordPress installation, making the functionality fairly bespoke depending on the plugins that you install.
If you have problems with your installation, there is a vast community of professionals who are able to assist, unlike other more specialist platforms, WordPress is built on PHP and MySQL, which are languages that are readily understood by many developers and other professionals. As WordPress, PHP and MySQL are open source platforms, there is a huge amount of information and support available as well as a very active and supportive WordPress community. If you have any problems or questions, you will find it fairly easy to get an answer (and no question is too trivial, believe me!).
As WordPress is open source and has a great community following, it offers flexibility and ease of use. Indeed, one of the biggest advantages of WordPress over other platforms is its user-friendliness: you don’t need to understand programming languages, PHP, HTML or MySQL to use it. You can just log in, click and type. Often, it is considered to be ‘only’ a blogging tool but its flexibility is astonishing at accomplishing many different tasks.
Open source and free
WordPress is built on an open source platform and is itself open source. It is free to use for any purpose (personal or commercial). This has to be a huge benefit for any small business or not-for-profit organisation with a limited budget. Also, it is simple to learn and it is quick to keep your site up to date and fresh, so resource use can be minimised and you won’t need to go on any expensive or time consuming courses.
SEO and Standards compliant
WordPress takes much of the pain out of ensuring your site is Search Engine friendly and automatically completes many of the tasks that have to be completed every time new content is added to a web site. It also ensures that new content is compliant with the latest web standards and that your site is accessible and visitor friendly (depending on the theme that is used to display your content). It does all of these essential things out of the box, allowing you to get on with running your business.
No coding necessary
Unlike some other platforms, you may never need to touch a line of code. All the HTML, CSS, PHP and MySQL takes place in the background, where it should be. You don’t need to be an expert in web technologies to use it, which leaves you time to ensure your content is great. With many websites and some other CMS platforms, you would need to have a knowledge of some coding to update, change or add to your existing content. With WordPress, this is not necessary, saving you time and money.
And finally, one more for luck…
You can easily make your web site look and feel the way you want it to with bespoke themes. A theme is a set of ‘templates’ that wrap around your content so that it looks the way you want it to look. Whether you have a brand identity, or an existing web site that you want to pull your blog into, you can theme your installation how you want. There are many existing themes available (some for free) if you want to use something off the shelf. But if you want something bespoke, you can easily get it designed and developed for you by a WordPress expert.