If Your Business Doesn’t Sell Online, Does a Website Really Matter?
Author: Jeremy Harrison
Is your business still trying to compete by relying solely on marketing tactics that worked in the pre-internet era? An attractive storefront, a key location, an engaging logo—these are all proven marketing tactics that still work, but only if you’re also simultaneously building a digital marketing campaign, like having an engaging website. A website is an integral component—even if you never sell a single product or service through your website.
Right out of the gate, this strategy probably doesn’t make a lot of sense to you. Shouldn’t a business have a website in order to sell products and services online? Yes, if that’s how your customers buy. Yes, even if that’s not how your customers buy.
The online era
The majority of today’s customers don’t shop like they used to. In days past, you could effectively market your business through a smile and a handshake, or word of mouth. Today, customers use the internet to get familiar with businesses, conduct research about a product or service, or as a means to find a solution to their problem-before ever considering a purchase, or stepping foot in a brick and mortar business.
Here’s an example that highlights how a website works—even for businesses that don’t sell online:
Let’s say my dog is having problems digesting his food. I want to find a better, healthier dog food or a supplement that could potentially solve the problem, without having to pay for an expensive vet visit. I go online, searching for local vets, pet stores, and so forth, trying to find information that could solve my problem.
If I find my way onto your website, I’m going to scan the page, looking for helpful information and expert advice about my problem. On your site, I find an email signup box to get more expert advice about all things dogs. I sign up, which triggers the sending of a 10-part email series that covers the key questions owners have about their pets and information about common problems—like the best dog foods on the market that promote optimal health. As a pet owner, I learn to trust your voice and brand as someone who knows what they’re talking about, and I continue to visit your site over time to gain more trusted advice. Eventually, at some point in this process, which can take days, weeks or months, I show up at your store, ready to buy some of the products your email series and website have already taught me about, and I become a loyal customer.
The moral to this story is important. Today’s businesses must make a good first impression through a website—an extension of a storefront, if you will—which should strategically lead potential customers through the marketing funnel (a fancy term that simply means you’re leading the horse to the trough, so to speak), and get them to engage with your business in a deeper way.
The new marketing guide
There are marketing stats to back up this perspective, further proving the value that websites have—especially for businesses that don’t sell online. In the typical marketing funnel, only 3 percent of the people that visit your site are ready to buy. So, what are the rest of your website visitors doing there?
Build your website to address both groups: people that are ready to buy, and people that are somewhere else in the marketing funnel.
The site should clearly show visitors how to buy (either by contacting you via phone or email, or visiting your store), and also engage the other 97 percent of visitors with expert advice and information about products and services, strategically showcased to reveal how they solve common consumer problems .
Priming the pump
As you engage potential customers with advice, expertise and helpful information for solving problems, who do you think they’ll turn to once they’re ready to buy? Someone with whom they’ve come to trust and look to as an expert? Or someone with whom they’ve had a single point of contact (i.e., one visit to your website, which they quickly abandoned)? If you guessed the former, you’re right. That’s why businesses that do and don’t sell online need a website.