Having worked in this industry for 15 years now, I consider myself to be fairly well-versed and well-traveled when it comes to the Internet. The truth is that I literally spend the better part of almost every waking day online to one degree or another. I visit many different sites for both work-related and personal reasons. Can’t figure out why your PHP code isn’t working? There’s a hundred sites for that. Want a video tutorial on how to tie a bow tie for your wedding? Done that. On vacation and want to know which of the restaurants in your area are worth checking out? Easy.
Anyway, the point is I see A LOT of websites day in and day out.
It’s a big world out there, and obviously more and more people are using the Internet to as their go-to resource to find products and services. From a business standpoint, I think it’s a fairly common understanding that in this day and age, and with few exceptions, an online presence is must for any company. A website is a powerful tool, and when harnessed correctly has many advantages. Your company’s customer base has the potential to grow exponentially larger than it would otherwise in your local market, and obviously more customers usually equals more sales.
Unfortunately, some business seem to take the approach that as long as you have something on the Internet, that’s good enough. I call it “Field of Dreams” syndrome – the belief that by simply building a website will lead to customers. But doing something, and doing something right, are two completely different things. I can’t help get the feeling that some people view their websites not as the investment it really is, but more as necessary but a bothersome, unwanted expense and time sink that should be mitigated as much as possible by any means necessary. Most people’s common sense would tell them that having a root canal done on the cheap by dental hygienist dropout in a shady motel room is a terrible idea. Yet some of those same individuals seem to have no compunction about putting their company’s most important marketing tool in the hands of totally unqualified people just to save a few dollars. As I come across many of these sites I can’t help but wonder if the owners realize how much that mistake may be costing them. The phrase, “Penny wise and pound foolish” comes to mind.
You see, all of those advantages that apply to having an online presence also apply to your competition. Unlike the past, instead of a long drive across town or even the world, now they’re only a quick mouse click away, and you can bet your potential customers are checking them out too. Your website is the FIRST introduction many potential customers will have of your company. The saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is as true today as it has ever been.
So take a look and ask yourself, is your website helping you to get business, or actually scaring it away to the competition?
It’s common sense that visitors will choose to do business with companies whom they believe to be more trustworthy. Like it or not, perception is reality on the Internet, and how you present your company through its website is a direct reflection of that. How can a potential customer have confidence in your company’s ability to provide what they need, when the information on your site hasn’t changed in years or it looks like it was designed as a free GeoCities site? When looking for a service or product, you better believe that all other things being equal, I’ll choose to do business with the company who’s made the effort to present itself as professional and credible, and took their time to ensure that my online experience is a positive one. It’s a pretty good bet that your potential customers feel the same.
Things change fast in the online world. Websites built today look different than ones built two years ago. Two years from now, they will look different again as new technologies and best practices emerge. Many things that were cost-prohibitive not long ago can be accomplished for significantly less investment now. Most websites can now easily and inexpensively be set up so you can update your own content at any time. Believe me, it’s worth looking into.
You may sometimes wonder if you can afford to keep up with the ever-changing world of the World Wide Web. The real question is, can you afford not to?