Small businesses failing to understand the importance of their digital footprint

40 years ago businesses simply needed a small, two-line ad in the yellow pages and customers would be reached. Today, however, it is very different – now it is all about the shopping experience. This is something that many small businesses fail to understand, to the detriment of their business and its ability to grow.

The experiences I am talking about start in the confines of the shopper’s home. This is where shoppers start the search for products and services they want or need.

Assume you are looking for a plumber to fix your leaking roof, a roofing plumber no less. Let’s assume you’ve never needed a plumber before so you have no idea who to call or contact. Sure, you could ask around friends and neighbours but the specific plumber you are looking for has to be a roofing plumber, and not all plumbers do roofs.

Years ago we could pick up the L-Z yellow pages book that had been used as a doorstop since it arrived six months ago. The classic two-volume yellow pages had all businesses listed by category and location so you could find those closest to you. Great.

Today it’s different, few households have a yellow pages and although it’s online people want more than just a two-line listing.

Shoppers want to experience you…understand who you are, what you do, see if you fit their need. Shoppers want to know in seconds your location, prices you charge, what other shoppers have said about your business. Then, they really know if you fit their needs.

The best way your shoppers can experience you and your business is if you have a digital footprint.

Recent digital surfing within a 50 kilometre radius to find suitable dog-boarding kennel left me in a state of disbelief. Of the 10 kennels in my local area only four had a digital footprint.

I couldn’t believe it, only 40 per cent…I perused each one’s website. When I was happy with what I saw and read, I contacted all four by email.  Within 12 hours they all had replied to my emails. Instantly I knew who had vacancies on the dates I needed, and felt my dog could be taken care of in the way I wanted. It couldn’t be any simpler than that. I didn’t have to spend daylight hours (precious work time for me) trying to contact someone via phone.

So much business is done online today that if you do not have some form of digital footprint then your business will suffer – not in terms of the customers who know you, who’ve have been coming to you for years, but the new customers who don’t know you exist.

A digital footprint includes a website, great pictures, information, maybe pricing etc. However, if a website isn’t right for you, and let’s face it, it can be quite expensive, then there are other forms of digital footprint you can offer to your customers.

There is social media. Many businesses have used social media only as their platform to represent their business to shoppers. This is great way of getting people to see what you’re about, offering on a day by day basis. The challenge with social media is shoppers will only see you if they have first liked you or followed you or you’ve paid to advertise in their feed.

The third and simplest digital footprint is the easiest of all. Just have an email address that customers can contact you through. Domains are cheap, and there are services that will set you up with your own professional-looking domain driven email.

Don’t let clients pass you by simply because it’s too hard to find you online.

Annette Stafford, Co-Founder, 6Seed.com.au

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