Post by Cheryl Santa Maria, contributing Women On Business writer
Today’s unstable economy – rife with contract positions and outsourcing – has made the 9-5 workday more unpredictable than ever, prompting an average of 600,000 people per year to strike out on their own. Unfortunately 50% of new businesses will fail within the first year, mainly due to lack of planning and foresight. In today’s fast-paced marketplace entrepreneurs need more than a good work ethic and a solid product to stay afloat: they also need to be adaptable, ahead of trends, and able to connect to a large audience.
According to recent statistics 74% of North Americans are registered internet users and an increasing number of people are turning to Google to find services in lieu of yellow pages. Businesses that are easily accessible online have a huge competitive edge over those that are not.
Rhia Amio, a makeup artist from Toronto, would agree. Since launching www.artistrhi.com in January 2009, her business has tripled. The website, which is search engine optimized and easy to navigate, is now responsible for 60% of Rhia’s overall bookings. “With a few clicks, potential clients can instantly browse through my portfolio and see a calendar of my availability,” she tells me. “They can get this information without having to interact with me directly at any given time of the day.”
Rhia also maintains a blog that can be accessed through artistrhi’s home page. Aside from the blog “add[ing] dimension and personality to an otherwise flat and static website,” it gives potential clients a reason to return to her site when they aren’t in need of services. The blog then becomes a cheap and effective way to build loyalty, brand-awareness and personify her business. This, in combination with the Facebook fanpage and the Twitter account she holds, give the impression that artistrhi is in touch with current trends. “This can carry over to how potential clients interpret your business,” she says.
While company websites don’t need to be flashy, they do need to be clean, informative and easy to navigate. A poorly-constructed website will have the opposite of your intended effect and drive potential clients away. Fortunately, there are quite a few reputable web-developing companies that will create and maintain a professional-looking site.
In short, a well-constructed website will create a reputable online presence, build brand loyalty and, when combined with social mediums like blogging, Facebook and Twitter, demonstrate that a business is adaptable and modern. The internet, with its 24/7 operating hours and practically unlimited audience is a cost-effective marketing tool that should be harnessed by every business owner.
If your business isn’t online, consider establishing a website immediately. It will give your business a competitive edge and it has the potential to increase your sales exponentially.