By Stefano Maruzzi, Vice President for EMEA at GoDaddy 

Small Business Friday (6 September) is our annual reminder of the vital role that South African entrepreneurs are playing in growing the economy, and a day on which people think about how they can better support their local small business community.

With so many consumers and businesses out there looking for smaller service providers and suppliers, the key challenge for the small business owner is to ensure that these customers can find them. In days gone by, they would find your company in an ad in the local community knock-and-drop or in the Yellow Pages.

These days? You may as well not exist if they cannot find you from the browser on their smartphones. Let’s take a closer look at why every small business needs a digital presence of its own and how your own website can help you to grow your business.

1.    It’s your customer information hub

A website is a one-stop hub for your business information and marketing messages. It’s the place where a customer can learn more about you after seeing your signage, hearing your radio ad or receiving your business card. To give customers what they need, add information such as:

·         Your address

·         Your phone number

·         Contact form or contact email address

·         Menus, products, or service lists

·         Prices

·         Special promotions

·         Customer Case studies or customer endorsements

·         Events

2.    Look like a real pro

Your own website makes your small business look legitimate, serious and credible. Today, many customers may be hesitant to engage with a company if they can’t find its website on Google. If they can look at your website, read your story and see what you do, they can feel more comfortable doing business with you.

Here are some tips for how to use your website to help build credibility for your small business: 

·         Clearly showcase your products and services.

·         Use original photos of your business, staff, products, and services rather than generic stock photos.

·         Collect customer testimonials and endorsements.

·         Show logos of your business partners and industry organisations with which you are affiliated.

·         Add an SSL certificate to your website to add an extra layer of security for transmitting personal information, so customers can more safely share personal and financial details as needed with your website.

·         Include links to your active social profiles.

·         Include terms and conditions, disclaimer, and privacy policy pages.

3.    Sell your products and services

Your website can be a great direct sales tool that, unlike you or your sales team, can work 24/7/365 to tell people about your products and services and complete purchases. You can start by making it easy for people who want to know more after browsing your site to find your contact details. You can also gather email addresses from people who opt-in to receive your newsletter, which can be a great source of qualified leads.  

Once you are more comfortable with your online presence, you can let people make bookings online or purchase your offerings directly through your own eCommerce website. It’s not expensive or difficult to add these elements to a website and get the benefits of having an online eCommerce platform.

4.    Connect with customers

Your website is where you can have conversations with customers and prospects. With a website, you have more control over your digital presence and can work to ensure that you’re discoverable on search engines such as Google.

Local search on Google is a real boon for small local businesses. For example, if someone searches for ‘Italian restaurants’, Google will highlight those closest to the searcher. It can bring attention to your pizzeria, even if you are not part of a national chain or franchise.

But it goes beyond that to engaging with existing customers. Your website is a great place to keep existing customers engaged, informed, and well served. For example, you can publish advice and news on your blog and offer some tax filing season tips to remind customers to contact your practice to get their tax returns done. 

You can also use your website to help generate leads from prospects and turn them into paying customers. To generate leads on your site, add an opt-in offer such as a coupon, free eBook, or a competition entry. Request audiences to enter their contact information to receive the offer and follow-up with them.

Websites for local small businesses are easy and affordable to set up

Building and maintaining a website is easier and more affordable than ever before. Even if you aren’t a tech expert or a creative expert, you can now use simple web publishing tools to quickly build your own home on the web. It’s a great investment in your small business’s future.

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