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Important site building information for traditional ‘Bricks and Mortar’ businesses. How to increase your bottom line by effective use of your website.

According to latest figures in the internet media, business confidence in the internet is currently at an all time high. And so it should be! But if you talk to many small businesses, you might not come to the same conclusion.

There is still a lot of confusion out there; many people still don’t understand how to use the internet to increase their profits and many have become disillusioned.

But if you understand the market place this is not really that surprising, since in reality, the website market has been ‘mis-sold’ in much the same ways as the ‘pensions’ market was here in the UK a few years ago! And this has fuelled a slight lack of confidence amongst many businesses.

So what are the reasons for this? And more importantly, how can a traditional, small ‘bricks and mortar’ business really make the most of the opportunities on the internet?

To answer this we need to first look at the overall marketplace for business websites!

The Current Market

Before we can explain how you can make the most of the internet, it is important to understand where others have gone wrong.

For example:
  • You need to realise that many of the websites which traditional businesses have on the web are not working for them. Some are very low quality 1st generation sites; basic, static "pages", which never change. In fact there are literally millions of ‘abandoned’ pages out there on the web, which the owners have basically ‘dis-owned’. But since the business paid for them up front, they still sit there on the web, untouched and unchanged, doing nothing for them.

  • Then there are the many businesses who have been ‘mis-sold’ the concept that having a really flash, bells and whistles website will make all the difference. But the reality is, all the unnecessary animations and large graphics slow down loading times and actually put visitors off. And lets face it, its not how pretty your site is that interests people, it’s the quality of your content that counts.

  • There are also the huge number of businesses who bought expensive sites with ‘shopping carts’ added to them, to enable them to sell over the internet. As if, just having the ability to sell online was going to make a difference. When in reality, most traditional businesses will not benefit from trying to sell their ‘traditional’ products online anyway.

The reasons?
  1. Most ‘traditional’ businesses do not have products/services suitable for selling directly over the web. So no one will buy them online.

  2. Most traditional businesses who do have (at least some) suitable products cannot compete with the big Dot Com giants selling the same product range. But they still try to!

  3. Most businesses do not know how to promote their website anyway, in order to generate the traffic to their site. So no one ever goes to their site.
Selling these businesses a website, shopping cart and then telling them to just register their site with the search engines and await the floods of orders is the way most website sellers have mis-sold websites over recent years.

This is highly irresponsible, but has been an all too common practice. And most businesses have fallen for it, since they know no better. They just relied on the website designer to tell them how to do it. They trusted them, but were told wrong.

I have encountered literally hundreds of businesses like this over the last couple of years. They’ve been mis-sold a dream; they don’t understand the reality of the situation, and don’t realise they’ve been mis-sold. Instead they just assume the internet is not for them.

It’s from people like this you hear; "the internet doesn’t work".

Unfortunately, these people are now in the majority. There are hundreds of thousands of businesses like this all suffering in silence. All wrongly assuming having a website will do them no good. And it is the industry itself that is to blame. The hype went into overdrive, and everyone jumped on board until the bubble burst.

Now its time to do the job right.

The way forward

Here at Zed One, we are in the business of helping other small businesses run successful online enterprises. And part of our service is based upon educating our customers to the realities of the internet and their role in it.

As an example, one of the first things we do with our ‘traditional business’ clients is to educate them about the realities of why they need a website:
  • If their product range is not suitable for Internet Sales we tell them.

  • If they are insistent on wanting to engage in Ecommerce, we show them how to locate sources to develop ‘internet suitable’ products to sell from their site.

  • Most importantly, whether their products are suitable for the internet or not, we remind them of what their website is really for; what it is and why they need it.

Why most small businesses need a website

It isn’t there necessarily for them to sell products over the internet. They don’t have to engage in Ecommerce!

Think about this for a moment.

If you are running an existing offline business you’ve probably been very successful for years before the internet ever came about. And the reason was most probably the quality of your product; your service; the friendliness of both your staff and yourself etc. Whatever it was, it was direct contact with your customers (either by phone, mail, or often face to face depending upon the business) which created your success.

Yet with most traditional businesses when they think of getting a website, they immediately assume they have to instigate a cold, non-human, shopping cart system to sell something. And they think they will have to compete with thousands of other websites in the same market, all vying for high positions with the search engines (but obviously not everyone can get a top 10 placement, and as you probably know, very few people look through more than the first 10 or so results they get from search engine searches).

If you look at it in the cold light of day like this I’m sure you can see this is ludicrous. And its no wonder many businesses out there are disillusioned. They have unrealistic expectations. And it's the media, the salespeople and website designers, the whole industry which has given them those expectations.

Truth is, most small businesses should concentrate on creating a simple (but professional) looking website, which imbues warmth and friendliness, is easy to use, and encourages visitors to email or preferably phone in or visit the business. Just as they always have done with all their other advertising/promotional methods over the years.

Their website is, after all, merely just another promotional medium. A very powerful one I agree. But just a promotional tool nonetheless. So it can be used simply to:
  • Support their offline efforts, and

  • Improve the dialogue between themselves and their customers.
Their site is there to show people who they are, to showcase their products/services (rather like an online brochure!) and tell potential customers how to contact them.

Sure they can have a shopping cart too if they really want one. And it is important to keep the site up to date with latest news, and useful content where relevant.

But this is the important bit so remember it well; the site should really be used, in most instances, just ….

…. to support what they have always done,
and what made them successful in the first place!!

So, if you are already running a successful, traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ business, and you’re looking to set up your first website (or even if you’re just looking to improve your existing one!) consider carefully the real reasons why you need a website, and what it is really for.

If you think about it carefully and consider the points just mentioned, you might be surprised at the conclusion you reach.

If you need any further assistance with setting up your site, or need information about marketing, promotion, or how to add content, or produce or source ‘internet suitable’ products and services, please contact us and we’ll see what we can do to help.

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