The Internet. This word was scarcely part of the language two short decades ago and now is as common as the word "Coca-Cola," and it has spread worldwide as well. As we all know, the Internet has become an indispensable resource for historically unparalleled access to goods, services and industry in addition to email, VoIP phone and chat communications. No other force in history has so quickly and thoroughly reshaped human culture.
The growth of the Internet since 1990 has occurred at a rate unknown in almost any other industry, from a few thousand users to almost two billion as of last count. With the current world population at 6.8 billion, that represents about 30% of the people on Earth utilizing the Internet. Those users divide their time among 250 million websites around the world, which works out to be 27 users per website.
By now you are asking, what do all these statistics mean for me and Mason County? The answer is "Plenty." Any business, whether it is retail sales, ranching or deer hunting is at a distinct disadvantage if they don’t have a website. Increasingly, people are turning to the internet as their first choice of locating a product or service rather than the Yellow Pages, newspaper or other resource. If they want a B&B, they need only to Google "B&Bs in Mason, Texas" and will almost immediately have a number of choices available to choose from. Therefore, if you DON’T have a website, you will most likely not show up on their searches. To have any kind of marketing advantage, you MUST have a website, especially if your customers live outside Mason county. Out of 170 members of the Mason Chamber of Commerce, less than 20% have websites.
Free social networking sites like FaceBook, MySpace and Windows Live Spaces make it easy to connect with other subscribers of your choosing, providing a means for you to post commentary and photos through an easy interface. FaceBook also provides business accounts which allows limited promotion and, with a paid account, broader advertising possibilities. While these sites are great for maintaining connections with your friends and limited acquaintances, none have the flexibility and marketing potential of your own website, especially when it comes to web searches.
A few more statistics:
* Online retailers are acquiring new customers at a 15% annual rate versus 2% for traditional brick and mortar retail outlets.
* U.S. consumers are expected to increase their retail online spending from $877 per consumer in 2005 to $1,512 per consumer by 2009.
* 16% of consumers say they would contact a vendor through e-mail. 68% of consumers say they would use the phone number listed on a website to contact a vendor.
* 54% of consumers referred a friend to a vendor found online.
* 1 out of 2 of the nation’s businesses are operated from home.
* 66% of newer businesses that have been in operation less than 10 years use a company website for marketing, while only 51% of older businesses do so.
* 47% of small business owners use the internet to market or advertise their business.
* 6 out of 10 small and medium-sized business use e-mail marketing.
* 44% of small businesses promote their products online.
You might ask, "I’m just a small-town company or a rancher with a part-time business. How can I compete with multi-million dollar corporations who have their own full-time website designers?" The good news is that the Internet provides equal opportunity to everyone with a properly-designed website. To a potential customer, if you have a good website, they don’t know if you’re operating from a large corporation or out of your garage. If you have what they want at a good price, they will buy from you. The Internet is full of people who operate successful businesses out of their homes by having a good website.
A website allows you to sell products via PayPal or credit cards automatically. It allows you to provide detailed information about your goods or services along with maps to your location as well as streaming videos and slide shows. A website allows you to control all of the content and customize it exactly to your specific needs.
What about a do-it-yourself approach to your website? Experts say that you will not have a successful website, unless you are already skilled in design and internet code programming. In order for the search engines to put your business on the first page of results, you will need the special programming skills that a web designer has. Also, since the Internet is a visual medium, if your website looks "homemade" or is not graphically optimized to load quickly, you will immediately lose credibility to potential customers. An affordable, well-designed website can look just as good as Sony’s or Ford Motor Company’s sites.
The bottom line is: if you don’t have a website, your customers will not easily find you. Without a website, you are increasingly at a business disadvantage.
For any questions or information, you can contact Spider Johnson at Info@SpiderJohnson.com or at 325-347-6360.