Some SMEs are missing a trick when it comes to digital marketing because they can’t seem to see that their website is an investment not a cost.
The majority of our business comes from word of mouth so I’m not sure I see the value in updating our website.
This is, pretty much word for word, something I hear a lot from small businesses, particularly service providers.
For companies selling product off the page, a well designed and maintained website is a given, but service-led businesses operate differently because the majority of their new business leads come from word of mouth recommendations and networking. That’s where this misconception arises.
I’m the first to accept that selling services is all about people, relationships and track record but a potential customer’s first step after the initial intro is likely to take them to your website. They need it to tell them what you offer, why you’re better or different, who you work with etc. It needs to inspire confidence so they feel compelled to pick up the phone. If their Googling takes them to a dated site with little or none of the messaging, professionalism and endorsement that came out in the initial discussion or recommendation, the competitive advantage that accompanied the referral will go up in a puff of smoke.
This makes your website an important validation tool.
Where’s the ROI?
The main stumbling block in this debate is ROI. Quite simply the sceptics see an improved or new website as a cost rather than an investment. Some perhaps think of it as a fluffy design exercise rather than something that could focus minds and deliver strategic benefit. Either way, even if they view it more positively, they want to see the ROI. And that’s where you need an open mind.
If you’re selling a product, it will be easy to measure the return on investment; with the right web strategy and analytics, leads and sales can be tracked. But pinning down the ROI of a website for a service business needs a broader perspective because it is often less a sales channel and more a shop window or a validation tool.
In truth it can be hard (though not impossible) to nail the ROI of a new or updated website for a service-led business because it’s less about numbers. I encourage people instead to think more in terms of business benefits. Even with the most passive approach to promoting your business, these include:
- You’ll be surprised how good it feels to be able to signpost new business prospects to your site, confident in the knowledge that it is an accurate reflection of your business and the work you are doing
- It can really help telephone conversations if you can point people to your web content as you talk
- A good quality website will make it easier for your happy customers to forward the link and recommend you
- A professional looking, search engine friendly site will inspire pride in your staff who are (or should be!) among your best advocates
- If you get the messaging, content and SEO right, you will improve your chances of picking up referrals via search engines
- You will no longer get that sinking feeling when someone asks you to forward a link to your website
If you ‘get’ this rationale, then think of the even greater value your website could add if it is placed at the heart of a properly integrated digital communications plan.
Your website is a vital expression of your brand – why shouldn’t its look and feel, functionality, site architecture and performance in search engines be every bit as good as the service you provide?