There's no argument that an online presence is valuable for technical companies, savvy, youth-centered ventures and global markets, but what about more traditional established bricks and mortar businesses? Is there really any reason for your business to have an online presence if it's been doing just fine since your father or grandfather started it in the 1950's? The simple answer is, "yes." In today's world, if you aren't building a new client base, you're actually losing customers, and the Internet is the new corner store and water cooler, where casual conversation has been replaced by Internet search engines. You need to be a part of the online chat if you want others to find you.
There are lots of ways that having on online presence can benefit you as a business owner. Just imagine owning an auto body shop in a mediums-sized town in the mid-West. Sure, you probably have a pretty good stream of steady clientele, but what about all of the people you're missing? How do you find them? A yellow pages ad won't do it anymore; not even a four-color ad. Why not? Because today most people turn to their personal computers to look up businesses online instead of thumbing through the yellow pages. After all, the online yellow pages give them more information and can even link them to maps that will lead them directly to a business's front door. So if you're going to take out an ad in the yellow pages, be sure you don't skip the online yellow pages as well. You'll get more traffic, more inquiries and pull in new business from farther away.
Even if you have a physical location for your business, consider building at least a basic website for it. Regular customers will appreciate having a site they can log into to double-check your business hours and see if you're running any specials. If you update it once a month with information about specials, offer printable coupons and mention sales or upcoming events, you'll find that more and more people visit your site. Consider creating a blog where you answer visitor questions or just provide information and interesting facts for visitors. Using the auto body shop example again, if you have a blog with car care tips, you could have suggestions on how to winterize your car, how to check the air pressure in your tires, when to consider repairs vs. replacement, etc. If you post new content regularly, you'll soon see a rise in site visitors that will translate into new customers at your business. Be sure that you include clear directions to your business location, a map or both on your site for the best possible return on your website investment.
Remember that websites are visual, and a picture is worth a thousand words. If your body shop excels at restorations, include a few pages of "before and after" shots of cars that you've restored to their former glory. A photograph of an old, junked 1966 Mustang convertible that was destined for the scrap heap that your team restored to pristine condition with gleaming chrome and a candy-apple red gloss-coat paint job with racing stripes will have car enthusiasts drooling and your phone will be ringing off the hook. Without that website, those classic car buffs would have had a hard time finding you.
Whether you have a simple listing on your town's community website, a listing in the yellow pages or a full-blown website, it's essential for all businesses to have some kind of Internet presence these days. Almost everyone has tried to locate a business or service by typing in the name of the business or the type of service needed on his or her computer's web browser to find what they're looking for. You don't want to be the one business they couldn't find.