Is your web presence serving a purpose?

Many small businesses spend a lot of time and/or money developing a web presence because their customers are asking for it… however, very few are really getting the mileage they should out of their web sites.

If you aren’t selling directly on your web site (and many companies should be) then the core function your web site needs to serve is to reduce the number of times a customer needs to call you for information. Things like directions (with a map!) and hours of operation are a no-brainer, but to really get the most value out of your web site, you need to offer customers the ability to do the things they normally call you for. For example, reservations if you’re a restaurant, appointments if you’re a maid service, etc.

Again, the idea here is to reduce phone calls. Your goal should be that at least 90% of the questions that people normally ask when they call should be easy to answer with a click or two on your site. It is amazing to me how few small businesses do this… if you don’t then you wasted your time and money on a site.

Another problem I’ve run up against is that small business owners, used to creating expensive glossy brochures, are afraid to put too much information on the web because they are used to it costing a lot of money when the information changes. However, making changes to your web site should not cost any money– you should be able to do these changes yourself. (If you are working with a company that created your web site, and they are holding you hostage by charging you a ton of money to make changes, RUN. These guys don’t deserve your business. Once your web site has been created, there should be little or no costs associated with minor changes.)

Some small business owners I’ve talked to are concerned about putting so much information on their web sites. Usually, they fall into one of two camps:

But if I put that info on my web site, my customers will have no reason to visit my store!

OK, I can understand this concern. Would you answer the question if they called you and asked it? If so, it should be on your web site… however, there are probably questions you wouldn’t answer via the phone– by all means, don’t put that information on the site. The idea here is that the phone and the web are just alternative ways of communicating “directly” with your customers. Treat them as peers.

But won’t I be giving my competition too much information?

Well, again… what’s stopping the competition from simply calling you? The level of secrecy should be the same.