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Do you have a website for your small business?

I hope the answer is yes, but for 31 percent of small businesses polled in the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, it’s still no. In fact, the percentage of business owners who have a website is up just slightly from the 2011 survey: 59 percent today vs. 54 percent then.

When I read stats like that, it makes my head want to explode. It’s nearly impossible for me to understand why, in 2014, one-third of small businesses still lack a website.

Even if you have no intention of selling online, a basic website is an essential tool for helping customers find you when they go online to look for what you sell.

And that is what customers do these days—go online. Very few even consider lugging paper phone book out of it’s “hiding” place.

If you do have a website, what are you using it for? Below are the Small Business Index’s insights, plus my ideas for taking your website up a notch:

  • Advertising products and services: This is the most popular use overall—89 percent of businesses with a website use it for this purpose. Boost your advertising power by testing online ads using Google Adwords or Bing Ads. You can choose your budget and set a limit to ensure you don’t go over.
  • To solicit customer queries or feedback: 64 percent of small businesses with websites use them to get customer feedback or queries. Get more customer interaction by prominently displaying your business’s phone number and a way to contact you by email on the top of every page. Also include links to your business’s social media accounts so website visitors can interact with you there if they prefer.
  • To sell products and services: 63 percent of companies with websites use them to sell stuff. It’s easier than ever to add ecommerce to your business today, with simplified ecommerce solutions that include your website design, shopping cart software and payment tools all in one. Remember, you don’t have to sell everything online that you do in your physical location—you can just sell a few standout products, like your most popular items, to test the waters and reach out to prospects outside your geographic area.
  • To take reservations or set up appointments for services or deliveries: Surprisingly, just 29 percent of small businesses with websites use them to take reservations or let customers make appointments. However, there are tons of tools out there, from OpenTable for restaurants to BookFresh for service providers, that can simplify the appointment or reservations process, cut down on the manpower needed and attract new customers who like doing everything online (i.e., most Millenials).

Finally, only 22 percent of small business owners with websites use them to accept payments for products or services. (I’m a little confused as to how the 63 percent of entrepreneurs in the poll who sell products online are accepting payments.) Again, there’s lots of room for improvement here. Using tools that enable customers to check their balances and make payments online can speed your receivables and boost your cash flow. Plus, with more and more consumers and businesses moving away from paper-based invoicing and toward online invoicing and banking, it’s the wave of the future.

Feeling unsure as to how to incorporate these online tools into your business website? Or maybe you don’t have a business website yet. Either way, the experts at SCORE can help you get going and create a business website that really works for you. Visit www.score.org to get matched with a SCORE mentor today.

 

About the Author(s)

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship and SmallBizDaily.com.

CEO, GrowBiz Media