Local Business Marketing: How Good Is Your Website?

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by on January 29, 2012

How do visitors to your website react to its design and content? If you knew what visitors think about your website, would it change your approach to local business marketing? Discover insights into these important issues that may alter your Internet marketing strategies and techniques.

A recent survey queried consumers about their experiences with local business websites. It sought answers from 1,790 local consumers, of both genders, and yielded 1,212 responses from a mixture of ages and locations in the United States.

The interesting two questions, to me, were what factors might encourage or discourage visitors from contacting a local business while visiting its website. In marketing parlance, it impacts ‘conversion’ of suspects into prospects, and hopefully into customers. Let’s take a closer look at these two survey results for converting local consumers (published January, 2012).

How to Encourage Visitors to Contact a Local Business

Which of the following is most likely to encourage you to contact and use a local business?

28%  A good value, special offer or deal
15%  Visible prices
13%  Positive testimonial from existing customer
7%  Easy to find contact details
3%  Nice photo of the business owner/manager
33%  All of the these

The most frequently selected, single response was a ‘good value, special offer or deal’ on the website. This is a ‘call to action’, which should be part of any traditional or online advertising.

The most frequent marketing mistake that I see on small business websites is the lack or under use of it. A ‘call to action’ should be highly visible – often, the top right corner of a website page. Alternative forms of a ‘call to action’ are a forward phone number, address and/or email address, depending on the type of business and the page’s content and purpose.

If your website is not using prominent calls to action, your business is likely missing prospects that could be walking in the door or contacting it by phone or electronic mail.

When to Show Pricing

The second response, visible prices, is not necessarily a good business practice for local business websites. If the business operates an e-commerce website, where online purchases are transacted, prices are required.

For local businesses where purchases on made in a store or office, showing prices can promote premature price comparisons before the value of a potential purchase is understood. Pricing is most effectively provided after the prospect’s problem or need is identified, and a solution and its benefits are communicated. For many businesses, this is often best accomplished in person or on the phone.

How to Frustrate Visitors from Contacting a Local Business

Which of the following is most likely to stop you from contacting and using a local business?

40%  No physical address shown on website
22%  A website which is slow to use
21%  An ugly and badly designed website
10%  A website which looks old and ‘tired’
7%  A website which doesn’t have any pictures

It seems many offenses are poor usability and appearance, such as outdated design elements that can also impact ease of use. The largest single negative factor, however, is the lack of an address, along with photos, which do little to build familiarity and trust toward a business.

In particular, a physical business address on a website helps visitors decide whether to visit or call, based on its proximity to the prospect. Often, if an address is missing, it destroys trust since it raises doubts – “Is the website trying to appear as a local business, when it is not?” Marketing local businesses online requires building familiarity, transparency and trust into its online presence.

More authoritative advice on this issue, however, comes from a quote in Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, where Jobs said:

“Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

While his comments are often attributed to product innovation and design, Jobs also integrated it into the entire customer experience. We should use a little caution applying user feedback, even “things that are on the page”, could benefit from a little skepticism, and might inform your local business marketing.

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