Why Do Small Businesses Need A Website?

BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey revealed that people are becoming less likely to visit businesses’ websites after reading positive reviews (down 17% from 2016), which some took as a sign that websites are becoming less vital to business success. But is that true? While consumers trust reviews and they may simply call after seeing positive reviews rather than visit your website, does this really mean having a website is suddenly less important? No.magnifying-glass-on-website

While there has been a decline, visiting a business’s website is still the most common next step after reading positive reviews, so discounting the need for a website based on a 17% decrease isn’t smart. Here are five other reasons why businesses of all sizes (even small) still need a website.

#1 No website = no chance of ranking organically or locally

Service businesses and small businesses typically serve their local communities, which means they need those in their local communities to be able to find them in search results. The problem is, businesses that rank high organically are more likely to show up in the Google local pack and map results, and without a website, your business can’t rank organically. If your business doesn’t show up when customers search for your services, how will they know you can help?

#2 Your website builds credibility

One of the biggest hurdles service businesses and small businesses face is trust. Unlike larger, more established brands or businesses that don’t send people into the homes of their customers, you have to work to earn the trust of your potential customers and establish brand authority. How does a website help you do this? 34% of consumers believe that a ‘clear & smart’ website gives a business more credibility. More credibility means more trust, and more trust means more customers.

But your website doesn’t just build credibility with customers, your website is also the citation that Google trusts most for confirming your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP). The more sure Google is of your NAP, the more confident they are showing you in search results.

#3 Your website is permanent and more controllable than your social media profiles

We all know social media platforms (especially Facebook) change more frequently than a teenage girl before her first date, and the reach and control you have with your social media profiles is impermanent to say the least. Your website, on the other hand, is the one place online where you have total control over the customer experience and the story you tell.

Some business owners believe that simply having a Facebook page for their business is enough, but what happens if the giant is ever slain? All those ‘likes’ are already mostly useless, but when you lose your only means of communicating with your customers and your only real platform for telling customers about you and your services, well, that’s no good. Don’t leave such an important thing in the hands of an external party whose sole purpose is to make themselves more money (Sorry Facebook, but let’s be real).

#4 Your website acts as a main hub that potential customers can access 24/7

Sure, some consumers are only looking at reviews and doing less research on a business before making the call, but it’s still important that you provide all the extra information those customers who are researching want to know. Listing sites and social media profiles don’t give you the space or control to really say everything you may feel you need to say about your business and your services, while your website provides you somewhat limitless space and a somewhat limitless platform for introducing yourself and informing potential customers. Having all of the information and answers your customers might want in one place makes it easy for them to get a good idea of how you can help them and why they should consider choosing you over a competitor.

And since your website is up and running 24/7, your customers can get answers to their questions and research your business when it’s convenient for them, not just during the hours you’re open and answering phones.

#5 Your competitors have websites

Last but not least, the majority of your competitors will have websites, which means if you don’t have one, they have a major advantage. They have a chance of showing up in search results, answering the questions your potential customers have, and getting the call from customers you could be serving. Business is tough as is — don’t give your competition such a massive advantage.

How To Improve Work-Life Balance As A Small Business Owner

Ah, the work-life balance: Is it just a myth for small business owners or can you actually have a successful business and an enjoyable life? Well, it is possible if you just accept a couple of things:Evenly-Balanced-Scale

Work and life will never be totally separate.

If you want to be able to completely abandon your work the moment the clock hits 5:00PM, owning a small business is not right for you. The reality is, your personal and professional life will always overlap. You may be in the middle of dinner with the family when you get an email or an idea for how to make the company more efficient. You may be in the middle of a job when you remember you still need to get a babysitter for Friday night. Accepting the overlap and learning to manage it and remain in the present is the key to feeling balanced and centered. What do we mean by “managing” the overlap?

Let’s say you did have an idea for how to make the company more efficient mid-dinner, mid-conversation. You could sit there, half-listening, while you mull over your new idea in your head, OR you could say, “I’m sorry but I just had an idea for work. Do you mind if I jot it down really quickly so I can give you my undivided attention?” Most of the time, your significant other, kids, or whoever you’re having dinner with will appreciate the fact that you want to be completely focused on what they’re saying and will allow you the time to do what you need to do to clear your head. And since it’s 2017, you don’t need to scramble to find a notepad — you have one in your phone (which we know is always with you: you’re a business owner). Quickly jot down your idea or make a reminder for yourself, and then let go of it so you can focus on the present.

What about when you’re on the job and you remember you need to find a babysitter for this week’s date night? Stop what you’re doing (if possible), and set a reminder on your phone for your lunch break or for the end of the work day. Once you’ve set a reminder, clear your head and get back to business.

You may also want to try the notepad or reminder method when your mind is racing in bed. It’s easy to miss out on much-needed sleep when you’re a business owner, but if you aren’t rested, you can’t bring your best to the business, to your employees, to your customers, or to your friends and family. It seems that bedtime is when all of the ideas and reminders of what you should do, need to do, or needed to do come flooding in. But don’t lie there trying to hammer them all down or spend hours worrying about whether or not you’ll remember them in the morning — jot them down in your phone or in a bedside notebook and let go of them. They’ll be there for you in the morning.

The scales will tip more heavily to one side at different times.

Wait, doesn’t balance imply that the scales are always evenly weighed? Yes, but the realistic business owner will need to be a little more flexible with his or her definition of balance. Some days, the scales may weigh more heavily on the work side of things, while on other days, they may weigh more heavily on the personal life side. The scales will always shift from time to time, but how you prepare for and handle the shift will make all the difference in how balanced your life feels during these changes.

For example, if you know you’re heading into your busy season or something at work requires you to put in several long days of deep focus, let your family and friends know. If you tell your significant other, your kids, and your good friends that you’ll be M.I.A. for a week or two (or a season), they’ll be much more understanding than they would be if they were left in the dark and feeling ignored. Remind them of how important they are to you and how important your time with them is, and make plans to get some quality time in before or after your focus session.

Of course, no one can survive a long period of ALL work and no play. To avoid burnout and feelings of being off-balance, make sure to set aside at least some time in your day and week for family, friends, hobbies, and relaxation. Whether that means a crossword puzzle with your morning coffee, 30 minutes of pleasure reading before bed, a lunch-time phone call with your wife or husband, or a scheduled movie night with the family, make it happen. Sometimes, as little as 15 minutes of unwinding can make the buckled-down days feel a little more balanced.

So yes, in our opinion, a balance can be achieved. Is it a perfect balance? No, not by a long shot. But you can truly have it all if you just set your priorities, communicate with the special people in your life, and remain flexible and realistic about things.

What do you do to maintain a feeling of work-life balance? We’d love to hear from you!

The Basic Value of Having a Well-Conceived, Well-Designed and Well-Written Website

What is value?

Value of a Good Website - Spark Marketer

According to Dictionary.com, here are the 3 relevant meanings for the word Value:

  1. Relative worth, merit, or importance: the value of a college education.
  2. Monetary or material worth, as in commerce or trade: land that greatly increases in value.
  3. Equivalent worth or return in money, material, services, etc.: to give value for value received.

Taking these definitions, how do you determine the value of a website for your business?

Relative worth, merit, or importance

First you will need to decide if a website has value to your business. For example: I know people that have never had a college education. They are quite wealthy and successful, but place little or no value on a college education for themselves. However, for their children, they place a uniquely high value on it, because they see that it might be more valuable today than it once was.

As another example, here at Spark Marketer, we have seen the value of YellowPages decline relative to Google+ Local, which has increased tremendously in importance. This tells us that the value of things do change with changes in industry, technology, education and time. These days, all roads lead to a company’s web site. It is more important than ever.

Monetary or material worth, as in commerce or trade

If you have a current website you will want to determine if it has value to the bottom line of the business. If you sell your business, what is the website worth in the transaction? Do you own the domain and the content, or does another company own it? Does it have value in the asset column of your business, or is it just another expense? It should be an asset. If it’s not, there is work to be done to make it a valuable asset over time.

Equivalent worth or return in money, material, services, etc.

Are you getting a return on your investment in your website? Are you getting back the value you expected from it? Is it helping you sell your services? Are you getting a higher ticket from those visiting your website? Are the people coming to your site price shoppers, or are they looking for quality at any price? These are all great questions to answer in order to really understand the value of your website.
Are You Getting a Return On Your Web Investment? - Spark Marketer
When discussing “value” with many business owners it has become overwhelmingly clear that:

  • Some do not see the value in a well done website and, while we can give them all kinds of data and statistics, until they believe they need a great website, they won’t invest in one.
  • Some business owners do not see the value in owning their own website and domain. They prefer renting the pipelines that feed their business and don’t want the expense or responsibly of ownership and maintenance of their own pipelines.
  • There are business owners who believe they are buying a “product”, thus are price shopping websites as opposed to understanding they are “investing” in a website that can become a great sales tool and funnel over time.

Here’s Another – Perceived Value

Perceived value is the worth that a product or service has in the mind of the consumer. We are all responsible for educating our clients and customers so they understand the value we bring to the table, no matter what the service or product is. Once the education process takes place, then the consumer of your product or services will better understand what you bring to them.

This week we launched the first-ever website for a company that has been in business for almost 20 years. The owner and I have had numerous conversations because he was very nervous about having a website. It was a leap of faith because he had no idea if a website was valuable to him or not. I just got off the phone with him and he related the following story.

Tim owns a remodeling company, and received a referral from a networking group in which we both belong. He called the gentleman and talked to him about his problem, and gave him his best sales pitch. The guy seemed to be not all that interested, but asked, “You got a website I can look at?”

Tim gave him the new website address and he figured he would never hear back from the potential customer. However, the next day he did get a call back from the guy, who raved about the pictures on the site, and now Tim has an appointment scheduled for early next week. Our client said the work, if he gets it, would easily pay for the site and all the online marketing he’s investing in for a couple of years!

Then Tim got to the heart of what perceived value really is, when he said, “I realized that most of my referrals in the past year have gone nowhere, and I now think it’s because they were not able to see my work. I am finally seeing the value in a website and what you guys do!”

We hope all of you are getting the value you want out of your web site as well.