Monday, January 11, 2010

Puget Sound Small Businesses Are Wired

Local small businesses are utilizing company websites and other online tools more than the national average.

Puget Sound, good job. You have done something that the majority of businesses across the nation aren’t – marketing their business online. A recent survey conducted by a graduate student at the University of Washington’s Masters in Communications and Digital Media (MCDM) program shows that nearly 82% of small businesses in the Puget Sound have a website. Other surveys conducted nationally show that only 44% of businesses are online(1).

The difference between the sites is not only the industries their businesses represent, but also how they are created. Practically 46% of small business owners hired out the creation of their site, while the other 54% employed various methods. The most popular choice was the help of a website, followed by the help of software, templates, raw programming and help from a friend with experience.

So, what does this mean for you?  As a marketing and branding professional, I see two main takeaways from this survey for small business.

First, your website alone is no longer enough. The online listings for businesses through searches on sites like Google, Bing and Yahoo are becoming saturated and making it harder for patrons to find you. Optimize your sites potential by utilizing other online tools like blogs, social networks and micro-blogging. Content on both Facebook and Twitter is now appearing on search results in Google and can no longer be considered a fad or simply a trend. By engaging with consumers through these channels and others will show them you’re authentic and willing to work for their business. The types of conversation to promote through online technologies need to be original and beneficial but do not need to be of expert quality.

Second is that with such a heavy saturation in the Puget Sound of businesses having an online presence, something about your site has to be better then the next guy. How you get there can be done through various strategies. Maybe you need to not only present your companies contact data on your site, but start to contribute informational articles for your customers about new products or “how-to” techniques. Integrate a more solid brand presence by doing a simple redesign with uniform layout, colors and text styles. It could also boil down to being honest with yourself about not having the knowledge base or time to build a presentable website and your ready to hire a professional. Where ever your sites at, don’t neglect it. By not strategizing and brainstorming ways to build your web presence, you are literally turning away customers. You wouldn’tlock your door during business hours would you?

The Puget Sound is unique in a lot of ways, and the way your are doing business is no different. With almost 82% of businesses having a website, business owners cannot afford to think they’re online therefore, they’re covered. Almost half of these sites are being professionally developed, so the need to present your business in a unique and trustworthy manner is more important here then if you were doing business in another part of the country. Don’t let your website or any other online tool sit idle. Employ them daily. By simply setting aside 10 minutes of each day to converse through your chosen channels, a business can increase authenticity, increase their ROI for their web strategy and grow their customer base.

Guest Blogger:  Scott Loughran is a Marketing Strategist and local entrepreneur, currently working on a dot com. Having worked with Fortune 500 and small businesses alike, Scott brings a diversified perspective that is based on applied common sense. Dedicated to the success of local businesses, Scott consults companies with various needs and is well networked for those situations outside his expertise. The survey mentioned above was managed by Scott for his graduate work at UW MCDM and can be contacted through his site.

(1) Are you really connecting? (2009, March 23). Furniture/Today, 33, 2-2. Retrieved November 4, 2009, from Business Source Complete.

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