The Better Business Bureau recommends that small-business owners ask themselves four questions to help decide whether building a Web site should become a top priority.
According to Discover Small Business Watch, 47 percent of consumers surveyed say they are more likely to use a small business that has a Web site. Despite the fact that so many customers put stock in a Web site, most small businesses don't have one.
Discover Small Business Watch also found from a survey of small-business owners that only 45 percent had a company Web site.
A Web site is practically a necessity for attracting new customers in today's marketplace, but many small-business owners haven't made the time or found the resources to create one. Depending on your business and online presence, a Web site might just be the key to surviving and even thriving in this tough economy.
Small-business owners should ask themselves the following questions when considering whether Web site development should become a priority:
CAN CUSTOMERS FIND YOU ONLINE ALREADY? When local customers search the Internet using keywords such as your industry or even your business's name, you need your company's contact information, at the very least, to be listed in the top results.
The results might be your business's BBB Reliability Report, a review of your business on Yelp, or a listing on Yahoo Local, City Search or Google Local.
If you can't find your business among the top results, neither can potential customers.
DOES YOUR COMPETITION HAVE A WEB SITE? If your competition is online, your business needs to be right there next to them.
Many potential customers start and end their search online and might go with the first business they find that has an established Web presence. If that business is your competition, then you're already losing the battle over new customers.
HOW IS YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION FARING? More often disgruntled customers are taking their anger out on businesses online. They might post an angry review on Yelp, create a video on YouTube, or even build a Web site dedicated solely to complaining about a business.
If a chronically disgruntled customer is making a lot of noise about your business online, you can mitigate the damage to your business' reputation by countering with your own Web site.
COULD YOU EXPAND YOUR SALES ONLINE? Some small businesses can get along fine with a basic Web site that explains their services, location, and hours of operation.
If your business provides products through mail order, a Web site with the capability of receiving orders can provide an easy way to expand sales geographically to potential customers that are actively searching online.
REACH KELVIN COLLINS, THE PRESIDENT/CEO OF THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU OF CENTRAL GEORGIA AND THE CSRA INC., AT (800) 763-4222 OR WWW.BBB.ORG.