Of these small businesses, 83% are aimed at providing services to customers. These statistics come from Australian Government’s 2012 Key Statistics and Analysis paper which provides a review on small businesses with an emphasis on characteristics and performance.
If you fall within the small business category (less than 20 employees) and you provide a service to customers (as opposed to mining, manufacturing, etc) you are in the majority. Yet, as business owners know it’s getting more and more challenging to turn over a large enough profit for continual and consistent growth – regardless of your area of expertise.
One of the ways small business owners are getting the edge on their competition is by setting up and maintaining an active website that helps automate their businesses and social media community. This isn’t new, we all know a business needs a website, but now more than ever business owners are getting more savvy at what’s possible on the web and how they can use it to maximise profits and reduce overheads.
The downside of this is that being the most respected and well known business on your street just isn’t enough anymore. A new competitor can pop up at any time and significantly bite into your market, simply because they have a new and flashy website.
Your products or services are better than theirs, you have more experience and you have a backlog of great customer testimonials. People still want quality, but your customers no longer have time to physically pop in and compare quotes. They now do this online, and if they don’t know you exist, they won’t know they’ve missed out on a great deal.
Don’t play second fiddle
Blood, sweat and tears were involved in building your business over the years. You don’t need to play second fiddle to someone who has come out of nowhere with a fresh website but no experience. By leveraging your specialised skills and your reputation in the local market, you can expand your current network of customers further than word of mouth could take it alone.
They will still be your local customers, but your locale will simply grow.
Complementing your business online
You don’t need to get a second mortgage or sit on the computer for weeks to purchase and maintain a simple website. These days if you can use Microsoft Word you can run a website – and if it’s designed by some fantastic designers, you can be confident in a return on investment.
There’s a term in the web design industry called a ‘brochure website’ which is exactly what it sounds like. An entry level website that showcases what you do and how you do it well, with information on how to contact your business. This gives business owners the opportunity to showcase why they are the best and is sometimes all is needed to get in front of today’s customers.
It doesn’t need to be flashy, it just needs to show the quality of what you offer, how it’s different from your competitors and what your plethora of customers have to say about you. You can always tell the difference between someone who can walk the walk and someone who simply puts on a show by the quality of customer testimonials.
Moving your business online
Some businesses are also capable of running their same brick-and-mortar services, online. A small clothes retailer for instance could sell their wares online, or a coffee shop could allow people to pre-purchase a coffee and have it waiting when they arrive. If you work in a service such as plumbing or air conditioning you could offer tutorials, tips or hints as well as discounts to attract and keep online customers.
The great thing about having an online ‘version’ of your business is that your website works 24/7 without breaks, pay-rises and never complains. You can also update a website with a new blog post or photo of a successful job or when it’s quiet after lunch – keeping you and your employees busy.
Awesome brick-and-mortar businesses are awesome online opportunities too
Existing brick-and-mortar stores/service providers have an instant advantage compared to their online-only counterparts. They have the local’s trust, the experience to back them up and quite frankly are better with customer service and attention to detail. However, small business owners are consistently the last to make the move online because they’re just too damn busy or are nervous about a new venture.
Whenever I work with a small business client and they admit to the nervousness of a project I simply remind them of when they first started out in their industry. Whether it’s a coffee shop, a fabricator, air conditioning service provider or a HR company – they were all at one point or another new to the industry. Opting in for a website is new territory for a lot of business owners, but it opens doors to customers you would never see otherwise, and just like when you started out – it will become familiar in no time!
With the new year around the corner it’s high time you started thinking about pushing your business forward in 2014 with a new website. Whether it’s to compliment your website online or to move it over completely – there is always opportunity to grow online and smash your online-only competition!