I tried to rewrite this headline so it was a little less…brutal. But I couldn’t bring myself to put a rosy tint on it. It might rub a few people up the wrong way. It might make me sound like a fuckwit. But if it kicks any small business owners into action, then cool.
Sometimes, honesty is the best policy and the honest truth is this:
If you’re a small business owner without a website (or online presence at all) you’re really effing things up for yourself.
My truth-bomb comes off the back of an article I spotted in issue 19 of Business in Brisbane, a free little fold-out publication circulated by Brisbane City Council. OK, so it’s not a massive business authority. And most the time it’s about transport, city investments, local food markets and fundraisers, but this issue was pretty much dedicated to the region’s growing entrepreneurial spirit.
The article that caught my eye is titled: ‘Going Online Is Good For Business’ and tackles a question I’ve been chewing over a lot in regards to small businesses in Australia, which is:
Why aren’t more small and medium businesses taking online seriously?
Business in Brisbane’s headline takes a much cheerier angle than mine and they’re welcome to it. Cheery doesn’t always get shit done — like convincing sceptical small business owners that the digital revolution is no longer coming. It’s here.
In the article Terri Cooper, Brisbane Marketing’s Small Business Liaison Office, said: “There are significant gaps between what customers want and what small business is providing, and huge potential for small business to increase their customer base.”
Her comments come off the back of findings in a 2018 Telstra Small Business Intelligence Report that surveyed 1,000 small businesses and 1,000 consumers. It revealed that 62% of potential customers won’t consider a small business if they can’t find information about it online. Furthermore, almost half surveyed said they won’t consider a small business that doesn’t have a website.
According to the report only 50% of small businesses have a website. By my mathematical deductions, this means that half of the small business community in Australia don’t, and are therefore missing sales opportunities.
Not having a website is a big deal
In the consumer’s mind, websites and an online presence is a badge of authenticity. It’s a business’ way of saying, “Here’s our business, here’s what we’re about and we want to make it as easy as possible for you to engage with us.”
A website is a source of trust building between business and consumer. Ignoring this gives the consumer reason to doubt a company’s legitimacy. And when there’s doubt, there’s usually missed opportunities.
‘Real life’ word of mouth referrals are no longer enough
Anyone arguing that IRL word of mouth (WOM) referrals are still the mainstay for lead generation — and that’s their reason for not being online — may want to start rethinking.
It’s fine if you’re happy with the level of business you’re getting and don’t want to seek more. But the survey revealed that 71% of consumers say online search and reviews are more important to them than WOM.
Being mobile ready is just as vital
Eighty-eight per cent of Australians have a smartphone. This country is one of the leading global adopters of smartphone, mobile technology. A big user benefit is a consumer’s ability to look up things on the go.
For example, Brenda is out with friends but they’re looking to move to another bar. Maybe somewhere with food. There are several options in the. To avoid timewasting she gives the establishments she can see “a quick Google”.
When she can’t find anything about the first venue — like those online reviews consumers now hold in such high-esteem — she becomes frustrated and keeps shopping around.
For that first place, it’s conversion missed.
Whether shopping for goods or services, 48% are browsing for what they need at least once a week. If you’re not showing up online as an option, then your competitors who are will be more likely to turn that browsing consumer into a customer. Simply because they are there and you are not.
Getting a small business online is scary
In the same Business in Brisbane article, Terri Cooper goes on to comment:
“Going online can be daunting from a resources, budget and time perspective, but it doesn’t have to be. Even the simplest website can translate into sales and growth.”
She’s right. And I’ll hazard a guess that the 50% of small business owners who are without websites are missing in action because they worry about ‘perfect rather than done’. Getting over that mindset is hard. But doable.
With projects like websites, it’s sometimes better to ship it and make a start rather than wait until every detail is spot on. Especially if you’re sitting on something that could lead to more of the conversions and customer engagement you want.
Practical, simple steps you can do today, to get your small business online
Getting a website for your small business up and running is hard work. I’ve had to go through it too (and it’s still far from perfect). But there are manageable ways to start building you presence online.
Based on my own experiences and having worked with many small businesses to create their websites, here’s where to start…
First, find a website platform
WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, Go Daddy — all of them have free or simple options to get you started. An email address is pretty much all you need.
If the idea of trying to create a whole website on one of these platforms scares you shitless right now, then don’t do a whole website. Create a single front page with basic business details:
- Who you are,
- What you do,
- Why you’re different to your competitors and
- Contact details.
This’ll give you some breathing space to think about what you want to do with your website long term. But at least it means you’re visible to your audience right now.
Set up social pages
Some small businesses prefer to begin their online presence by getting set up on social media channels. This is even easier and quicker than registering a website.
A Facebook or LinkedIn business page, Instagram account, Pinterest, Twitter — all of them are there, ready, set up for you to use. Just register under your business name and you’re online.
Or how about local directory sites?
The big ones like Yelp, Rotten Tomatoes, Start Local or Brown Book. If consumers are likely to search your business name and you don’t want to do a website or social page, at least you’ll show up here on these trusted sites. And that’s a start.
Keen to get going?
There are some great resources out there that can help.
The Business in Brisbane article plugs the digitalbrisbane.com.au site.
I’d also highly recommend the forums and articles on flyingsolo.com.au as being a great starting place for small businesses in any industry. There’s heaps of digital marketing advice on there.
I’m also more than happy to offer help where I can. If you’d like a free, no obligation 15-minute consultation with me about getting your small business online, I’ll be happy to chat to see how I can move you forward.
Drop me a quick message using the form on my contact page and I’ll be in touch.