It’s such a cliché that every company needs this or that when it comes to online marketing.
Marketers who honestly think that every little company can and should spend their time and resources chasing after the newest thing, shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near somebody else’s business.
“Oh!” they say. “But they can’t afford not to.” Please stay away from marketers like that. They’re dangerous.
Having said that: Unless you’re running a very special kind of business, it’s fairly certain that you do need some sort of web presence – even if it is only the simplest website you can imagine.
People are talking about you online
Why? Well, it’s pretty obvious that the Internet is here to stay. That is no reason in and of itself, of course. Books are here to stay, too, but I’m not saying you absolutely, positively need to write one of those.
However, whether you like it or not, you probably already are online. The problem when you don’t have your own website, is that it’s most likely your least satisfied customers and your competition who’s speaking loudest.
You see, one of the things people use the internet most actively for, is chat, complain and gossip – a lot. (Just like out in the real world.)
For any business worth running, every product worth selling and every service worth offering, there is a disucussion going on somewhere.
Is it any good? What’s the best? Who do we avoid? Have you heard the news? Can you believe it? Is it true? Yes. Yes. And yes. I looked it up online.
That means that there’s probably a discussion going on about you. And if there’s not, that’s not a good thing – that’s a problem.
Another thing people do: They research. All the time. From anywhere. For almost anything.
Know a good place to eat? A reasonable lawyer? A dog park? Check online. Need your glasses fixed in a hurry? Feel like getting a massage? A 24-hour locksmith? Google it. Sick of your old dry cleaner? Need to replace your old invoicing system? Broke a piece off your favorite thingamajig? Don’t worry, you’ll find a new one online.
From a mobile phone, no less. While waiting in line at the post office.
To sum up: If your doing something worthwhile, people are talking about it – or should be. And, if people are talking about it, they are almost certainly searching for it online. And people looking for information, are going to find it. The only thing you have any chance of influencing then, is what they are going to find.
Use a website to tell your side of the story
Have you Google’d yourself and your offerings recently? (Hint: If you want a realistic search result, you’ll want to go incognito.)
Many businesses leave it to others – like Yelp, Citysearch, Google+ local and others – to present them online. Most often that’s just reviews from others. And, the thing about reviews: If anyone feels strongly enough about you to spend time writing about it, unsolicited, there’s a good chance they’ve got something to complain about. The reviews could even be from your competitors, more or less anonymously. (Hint: Ask your customers to give you reviews.)
Now, many companies have disgruntled clients and competitors who play dirty, but why would you let them present you to new customers and collaborators? What happens when someone looks up your business online, and the top result in Google is a negative review? If they have an alternative, they’ll choose it over you.
What happens if, God forbid, someone spreads a bad rumor about you. It doesn’t matter whether or not it is true. If it gets into local and social media, or even just spreads mouth-to-mouth among a small clique of your customers, people are going to believe it.
If you don’t have your own web presence – at the very least a visible website – you basically forfeit any opportunity to tell your story to people looking for answers.
A good website makes you findable and discoverable
You want to be findable for people who’ve heard of you, and discoverable for people who haven’t yet. Not even because you necessarily need to win over these people (though that wouldn’t be such a bad thing) but because they’ll find you online anyway. You want to be the first to be given a chance to introduce yourself to others. And you want to be able to have the last word on news about yourself.
Even the simplest website – a single page with contact information, opening hours, a quick presentation, and maybe links to some social media – will establish a web presence, help you control what information floats to the top, and prepare you to tackle bad publicity if it ever rears its head.
However, it’s important to launch your website before it’s urgent. Otherwise it’ll be too late. It takes a bit of time to establish a web presence, because Google won’t automatically put your site at the top of its search results just because it exists.
Having a simple site, however, will be a huge first step.
Want to get started, or learn more? You’re in luck, since that’s exactly what Next Page does. Just drop us a line, and we’ll set up a quick meeting to discuss your options and possible next steps.