I've seen a lot of conversations about websites go something like this:
Business Owner: "I need a website."
Website Developer: "Why do you need a website?"
Business Owner: "Because I want to generate more leads, make more sales, get more customers, etc."
Website Developer: "Great! We can help you use your website as a marketing tool to generate more business."
Sometimes the conversion goes something like this:
Website Developer: "Hello Business Owner. Nice to meet you. Do you have a website?"
Business Owner: "I don't need a website because my business comes only from referrals."
Website Developer: "Don't you think having a website would bring more credibility to your business for those referrals you get?"
Business Owner: "If that's the case, I'd just need something basic then."
The challenge with most conversations about websites is that they are usually focused on websites as marketing tools. This makes sense because when the Internet became commercially popular, websites were mainly used as online brochures. This was especially true for small businesses that didn't have the resources to actually sell product.
That was 15 years ago. Unfortunately, the conversations and thinking still haven't changed much for small to mid-sized businesses. Such thinking is a serious impediment to adopting technology that can reduce valuable time spent on mundane tasks, enable employees to work anytime and anywhere, expose companies to a wider audience and ultimately drive growth.
Here are 4 ways a website can be used as a business tool:
An Extension of Customer Service For those that think they don't need a website because all of their business comes from referrals, are missing out on a big opportunity to use their website to improve customer service. From allowing customers to read frequently asked questions online to opening support tickets and paying bills online, a business website can save support staff a significant amount of time answering basic questions via telephone and enable customers to do business with the company at any time of the day.
Let's face it, if you provide a service to customers that work 9 to 5 jobs and your office hours are only 9 to 5, it's going to be very difficult to service your customers. With a website available 24/7, you can handle basic customer service needs at a time that's most convenient for your customers.
An Extension of the Office for Employees on the Go If you are in a company that has sales representatives that physically visit customers, empowering them to actually conduct business remotely makes sense. From having access to a web based calendar to check availability and book appointments to the ability to generate and deliver proposals to customers on the fly can help improve the sales process and shorten the distance from prospect to customer.
A Replacement for Specialized Equipment & Software There are still some small businesses using outdated technology such as DOS because of a need for compatibility with older hardware. It's time to ditch those outdated systems and move to a web based system. Not only can you have secure access to your data in realtime, you don't need special software or equipment.
In addition, being able to share files from wherever and from whatever platform removes the hassle of tracking physical computer hardware and purchasing special equipment for everyone to be on the same platform. When you properly web enable your business, all you should need is a web browser and Internet access.
A Recruiting Tool for New Hires Even in a down market with sky high unemployment, the need for quality workers has never been greater. You need allstars that can perform the work of many. You need people who are committed to serving your customers because they realize that competition has never been greater. You need employees you can rely upon to be connected and handle challenges that will inevitably arise at a moment's notice.
Your website can be an invaluable recruiting tool from posting job openings to accepting resumes and employment inquires.
There are a number of other ways beyond those listed in which you can utilize your website as more than just a marketing tool. In some cases, the fact that you offer such services on your website can actually increase your company's marketability. When it comes down to doing business with your company versus your competitor, the organization that is the most convenient to do business with usually has a greater value proposition and is more likely to win the customer.
The same holds true when recruiting top employees. They want to work for the organizations that have the technology in place to make their jobs easier and provide the best possible experience to customers.
|About the author
Mark Cenicola is the president and CEO of BannerView.com, developers of BannerOS, the software that helps companies turn their websites into powerful business tools. Mark is also the author of the book "The Banner Brand – Small Business Success Comes from a Banner Brand – Build it on a Budget." Read Mark's full biography. You can find him plussing on Google+, as well as tweeting on Twitter and starring in videos for the company's YouTube channel.
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