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By Elizabeth Leer
When marketing a business it is important to see the business through the customer’s eyes. Think about how the business is perceived and compare it to the image you want the business to have. Also, consider how convenient and user-friendly your marketing tools are such as do online websites load easily and without a bunch of steps? Do mobile application websites work properly without the viewer having to modify their settings to read it? Does your marketing tool reach the right people? Is your contact information easy to locate? These are some basic issues that will frustrate potential clients and lose a business, customers if not done properly.
The last decade has thrown business owners into the world of the web whether they want to be or not. According to a survey of 800 small business owners by the U.S. Organization NSBA (National Small Business Association) in 2013, the majority of small businesses have a business website and almost one in five of those websites are mobile website compatible. With more than 250 search engines on the web today, and 85 percent of consumers using search engines in 2012 to locate products, services and businesses, having a quality web page has become a necessity for modern businesses.
Consumers automatically assume that all businesses will have an informative and easy to navigate web page. The days of picking up the yellow pages and flipping through to find an auto mechanic or a plumber are no more. Today consumers expect to be able to pick up their laptop or mobile device and search for whatever they need and have all the information easily at their fingertips. That is why it is a vital marketing tool for businesses to have a well laid out and formatted website. Some things to consider when developing or revamping a business website are:
- Is the website mobile device friendly? Smartphones have changed the way people use the web. Consider this, according to Belle Beth Cooper in her article “10 Surprising Social Media Statistics that will Make You Rethink Your Social Strategy” 30% of Facebook’s ad revenue is generated through mobile use and 189 million Facebook users only access the site through mobile devices. Websites need to be easily accessed by Smartphones, Androids, and Tablets since the population has transitioned to wanting to be able to locate places, information and directions through their phones while they are on the go. This means that website formatting needs to meet mobile web requirements in order to reach the full spectrum of any business’ possible customer base. Also, consider the mobile formatting that is used. It should be as simple as possible so that viewers are not asked to rotate their phone or enlarge the picture to see it. Different Smartphones, Tablets, and Androids have different capabilities and making an ad or site too extravagant or cumbersome may mean it will not work on all phones or devices. Keep it simple.
- Does the website contain all vital information? There is nothing more frustrating for a potential client than to go to a website expecting to find all the pertinent information they are looking for and have it not be there. Make sure your business website contains, hours of operation, contact phone numbers, address, possibly a map, details about the business or product etc. Although the idea is to get customers in the door, if your business website does not provide enough information that the consumer is looking for they will simply move on to the next business whose website does have the information. In the current highly competitive marketplace of the web, not having the information on the site does not mean potential customers will call to get the information.
- Is the information easily located on the website without having to search through endless pages? Make sure contact information is easily found and not buried behind pages of links. If a consumer is looking for a phone number or address they do not want to have to explore the entire website to find them. Tabs should make sense and provide the viewer with easy cues as to what will be found on each page.
- Is the website easy to read? Having clear and understandable text content is only part of what makes a web page readable. Make sure that the background color and the font color stand out from each other; or else it doesn’t matter how eloquent the content because no one will be able to read it. Consider color schemes; verify what they look like on screen before locking into that theme. Current logos and company branding images may need to be modified since print color looks different than on-screen
- Has the content been proofread? Make sure the content is accurate and complete. Missing information, obvious misspelled words, truncated text and confusing sentence structure will only send potential customers running to a site that has proofread their site. These simple mistakes make it look like the business is sloppily run and does not instill confidence in the consumer.
- What is the business’ prime target audience? The website should flow in a manner that caters to the target audience, but without alienating other possible consumer bases.
- Does the website have an overload of images that could slow the upload process when a potential customer logs on? There is nothing more infuriating to a potential customer than a web page that causes their system to freeze up or crash. Consumers typically will try a website once and if this happens they will not give it a second chance.
- Does the website design look dated? Try to create a design and layout that matches the company’s branding. Avoid dated color schemes or trendy items. This will make the web page maintain a new and vibrant look longer.
Do not rush through the web design process. Too many businesses rush through the process in order to get something up and running. A lot of times a business’ web page is the first impression to the consumer, so it is important that it be done right. Beta test the new or revamped website before making it live to the public in order to make sure everything is working properly.
Even though online marketing is a vital resource to any current day business, it is important not to rely solely on having a website for marketing. Although print ads are not as effective as they once were, they still reach a wide swath of people and place a company or product in front of the consumer’s eyes. Do not completely eliminate print marketing methods such as direct mail to past clients, or strategically placed bulk mailings.
Consider whether or not TV advertisement would be well-spent money. According to Neilson in 2009, 57 percent of TV viewers also simultaneously used the web. This provides the opportunity for viewers to instantly log onto a business’ website when the consumer sees the business’ TV advertisement.
Blogging and Social Media are the latest in marketing tools. HubSpot in their 2012 article “State of Inbound Marketing” sited that 92 percent of the companies who regularly blogged multiple times per day received a customer from their blog. This same article states that the number of businesses who believe Facebook is of vital importance to their business and marketing strategy has increased by 75 percent.
The automated and technologically based world we live in has changed the way businesses need to market themselves. Whether it is a large conglomerate or a small mom and pop store having a strong web presence is vital to creating a solid bottom line. It is important to keep in mind the customer base and impression while creating this web persona, as well as rounding out a business’ marketing game plan with other forms of non-electronic marketing platforms. Keeping abreast of new technology and comfortably transitioning with the technological tide will help businesses stay on track with the mobile and Social Media hungry consumer base of today.