By FRANK P. COSTABILO JR.
Most of us have had the experience of visiting a bad business website.
Within seconds, you discover that there is no telephone number, no contact information and little or no explanation of exactly what the company does.
It is annoying. . . it is discouraging. . . it is frustrating.
We all have the same reaction.
Why is it that most small and medium-sized businesses do not put a higher priority on offering a sophisticated website to their customers? The knee-jerk response is often cost, but the real answer is intellectual laziness on behalf of the ownership group. These owners freely elect to not invest in a quality website because they believe they can get away without one.
It is not 1996, folks; it is 2008.
For those owners unwilling to listen, we're eight years into the 21st Century.
Every business on the planet needs an informative website that is easy to navigate and designed to make doing business with the company an effortless affair for the customer.
I have compiled a list of 10 basic elements your business website needs.
Here's what you need to do:
Display your address, telephone number and contact information prominently.
Provide a brief overview of what your company does for your customers.
Divide your company by departments and offer an in-depth description of what each department does for your customers specifically. Offer samples of your work.
Share pricing information whenever possible. If this is not possible, offer a telephone number to the customer so that he or she can call someone and get pricing quickly.
Illustrate industry-approved certifications and association memberships.
Provide a list of references.
Develop case studies & client testimonials and make them freely available on your website in an Adobe PDF format.
Add an on-line catalog (where appropriate) and encourage customers to shop online whenever possible.
Keep an updated archive of industry-related news on your website; this makes your website a frequent return destination and increases the likelihood that a customer will bookmark your website and visit often. To date, the websites with the highest traffic are almost always news-focused sites (there are some exceptions to this rule, but it still applies for the most part).
Offer a purchasing incentive only available on your website; this ensures that customers come back to the website every time they buy from you.
Most companies may not be able to offer all 10 basic elements on their website, however, every company should have at least eight of these basic elements included in their website plan. When these elements are not included, typically your customer concludes that your business website is a bad one and they simply do not come back.
The format of your website is important, but the content of your website will either make or break your company in the end. Having a gorgeous website that communicates little or nothing about your business is a complete and thorough waste of everyone's time and money.
Frank P. Costabilo Jr. owns and operates a full-service public-relations firm and has worked with small and medium-sized businesses for the past 17 years. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: Monday, November 17, 2008