How professional is your web presence?
In this day and age, it's amazing how many businesses still have a poor online presence or none at all. It doesn't matter whether you're a florist, a handyman or an accountant – if you're relying on customers to find you then you need to be online. It's an old story but the message still hasn't got through to many businesses.
As more people reach for Google rather than the phone book, if you're not online you're invisible. It's even possible that your competitors are using keywords relating to your business to drive traffic to their website, cashing in on the fact that you can't be found online.
Setting up your own online presence doesn't necessarily mean building a complicated website and ecommerce platform. Even a simple page detailing who you are, what you do, where you're located and how to contact you can help bring in business which might have been lost to your competitors.
It's not complicated or expensive to create and maintain a simple but effective web presence. If you shop around, you'll find a .com.au domain name such as joesmithaccounting.com.au costs less than $50 per year.
You'll probably need to produce your Australian Business Number (ABN) in order to claim a .com.au domain name. Keep in mind that you'll need to renew your domain name every year or two. Make sure you do, because if you let it lapse your website will go offline and someone else might snap up the name.
Straight away this gives your business a more professional look, especially when you're handing out business cards. Using an email address from your internet service provider, such as bigpond.com or optus.com is a bad idea because if you change your internet service provider you can't keep that address.
If you decide to upgrade to a business-grade email service you can always take your email address with you, just like you might keep your phone number when you move premises.
Creating a professional-looking website is obviously more of a challenge, but once you own a domain name you can start creating email addresses straight away and sit on the website name until you're ready to use it.
There's also a growing trend to use a Facebook page as a business webpage, especially if you want customers to "Like" your business and "Check in" when they visit your premises – spreading word of your business to their friends. Of course, whether a Facebook page conveys the level of professionalism you're aiming for depends on the kind of business you run, but it certainly could help you expand into new areas and bring in new customers.
You don't need to create a new Facebook account for your business; in fact, Facebook's rules forbid it. Facebook accounts are only for people, while entities such as business are only permitted to create Facebook pages. Click the "Create a page" link on Facebook's left-hand menu and follow the prompts to enter the details of your business. Once a few people like your page you can even create a custom URL.
Facebook pages are visible online even to people who don't use Facebook, making them a cheap and easy way to establish an online presence and interact with your customers.
David Hancock is the founder and managing director of national on-site computer repair and support company, Geeks2U. Founded in 2005 and with a team now over 300 strong, Geeks2U is one of the biggest Australian businesses of its kind.