Given the economic disruption caused by COVID-19, many entrepreneurs are deciding to take the plunge and start their own business. Not only are more people looking for alternative employment, but the pandemic has created new shifts in consumer behavior, created new needs and opportunities.
Here are two key stats from a recent Wall Street Journal report:
- “Applications for the employer identification numbers that entrepreneurs need to start a business have passed 3.2 million so far this year, compared with 2.7 million at the same point in 2019,” according to the Census Bureau.
- Even excluding gig-economy workers and independent contractors, “new filings among a subset of business owners who tend to employ other workers reached 1.1 million through mid-September, a 12% increase over the same period last year and the most since 2007.”
Regardless of the drivers behind the decision to launch a startup, anybody starting a business needs a web site as the foundation of their marketing efforts.
Not only is a web site how most consumers research and engage with a business—whether it’s a dentist’s office, a restaurant, or a construction contractor—but it’s also a way for you to promote your brand, communicate what you do, how you do it better than others, and how to engage with your company. It’s an investment that will pay off as you grow your business and engage with customers.
Word of mouth is essential for gaining awareness, but it’s not enough. Once someone hears about your company, then what? The first thing they are going to do is look it up online, probably on a smartphone, and find out what you can do and if you are a fit for their needs.
A web site is working on your behalf at all times, especially after normal business hours, discoverable by search engines and customers when they are most likely to be doing their own research. You can provide all the information a customer or prospect needs to know about the brand, product features, services, hours, location, experience and more through your website. Your web site can answer common customer questions, saving both of you time.
Not having a web site for your business can work against you when customers are evaluating their options. Research by Verisign, a web domain services company, found that 56% of people don’t trust a business without a web site. Think about your own online research habits: if you are looking for a business online, are you really going to do additional digging to find out about a business that doesn’t make it easy to find out about their products or services?
People also pay attention to the quality of a web site. A Stanford University study in 2019 found that customers will judge a company’s credibility by their website design. An outdated web site, or a web site that looks homemade can be a strike against you. A web site that doesn’t display information easily and cleanly on a mobile device is also a negative.
If you are starting out, you may regard a web site as an expense you cannot afford until you have grown. But if customers can’t find you, it will be hard to grow. A web site is not as expensive as you may think, and when balanced against the cost of acquiring customers it is one of the more critical marketing decisions you can make when starting out.
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