It’s hard to believe, but as we entered 2020, there were still many entrepreneurs and small businesses who treated their website more like a static brochure. There was nothing interactive, and pages rarely (if ever) got updated. A lot of the time, there was no way to actually do business through the website.
Um, hello? This is 2020 — not 1920. Most of us spend hours connected to the internet every day — and we expect a lot more than a brochure when we go online.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for a quality, engaging website should be more obvious than ever before. When stay at home orders went into effect, brick and mortar businesses had to close their doors. People started spending more time at home — and online. And as people get more and more used to interacting with businesses of all sizes online, your website becomes more important than ever before.
No matter what your niche, there is no denying that business is more “digital” than ever before. Even decidedly non-tech industries are becoming more and more comfortable with operating online.
This isn’t a trend that’s going to change anytime soon. In fact, a recent survey from vcita, a company that offers small business management software, found that 33% of SMBs started offering online services for the first time ever during the pandemic. About 60% of businesses surveyed also reported that online appointments now make up half (or more) of their total number of appointments.
This shift was most obvious among business consultants, 83% of whom said that offering appointments by phone or online was the best way to get clients to book services. Even if you’re reluctant to take your business online, others in your niche won’t be. Using a website to enhance your availability will be key to staking a claim in a changing marketplace.
For service-oriented startups and SMBs, sales and fulfillment are pivotal to success. If you don’t have a way to get yourself (and your services) directly in front of your customers, you’ll be going out of business pretty quickly.
Sure, pandemics (or other similar disasters) are unlikely. But 2020 has proven that the unlikely is far from impossible. If you rely entirely on a brick and mortar location to meet with clients and deliver your services, you’re in serious trouble if something happens that forces you to close your doors.
With a website, however, you can continue with “business as usual.” Your clients will still be able to reach you, and you can still provide the services they’re looking for.
Business is all about relationships. This is especially true of service-oriented businesses. Developing a strong, trusting relationship with your customers is how you get them to stick with you for the long haul. It creates the type of loyalty that isn’t easily swayed.
With a website, you can further strengthen these relationships by making it easy for customers to stay in the loop at all times. Your website is where you can post updates about your services. It provides an “always on” resource clients can use to contact you.
The convenience and constant availability of a website will allow you to resolve client and lead concerns that much faster so you can deliver better results.
While a website is essential for any service provider, there’s no denying that not all websites are created equal. A few extra improvements that are often overlooked can make your website even more useful to your clients — and more likely to help you achieve the right outcomes for your business.
On-site messaging portal: When clients and leads visit your website, they may want to reach out to you immediately with a question or concern. An on-site direct communication portal gives them instantaneous access to you — and a fast response will certainly improve their opinion of your services. While you can’t monitor these portals 24/7, you could enlist the help of a chatbot or virtual assistant to handle basic inquiries, and then forward more complex issues on to you.
Prepayment-enabled bookings: Few things are more frustrating for a freelancer than trying to chase down a late payment. Installing a sales conversion mechanism that processes payments can make this process much smoother for you and your returning customers. Some solutions can even process credit card payments, allowing for simple, seamless (and secure) transactions directly on your site.
Self-service appointment booking: Filling out your calendar with meetings and calls can be a time-consuming process. Thankfully, you can work around this by adding self-service appointment booking directly on your website. These plugins can connect with your work calendar so that clients can see available times for phone calls, Zoom meetings or in-person consultations. This allows them to find a mutually open time, and saves you the trouble of manually scheduling each appointment and updating your calendar yourself.
Even if your freelancing or solopreneurial work isn’t particularly tech-savvy, you still have to adopt a website in our not-quite-post-pandemic world. Sure, it requires a bit of an investment. But it ultimately makes it that much easier for potential clients to discover and reach you.
Give your website the attention it deserves, and it will deliver results to match.