Every now and then, there’s a task I need to do that would never happen in larger business – not in a million years.
I send an email to the handful of clients who haven’t yet ‘published’ (or set live) their new websites reminding them that they hadn’t yet done so.
Some of these websites literally are left ‘unpublished’ for months, sitting in cyber limbo awaiting the day for the right buttons to be pushed to unleash them on an unsuspecting public.
Unfortunately though, most of these websites are virtually gathering dust for no good reason.
Despite being through a thorough draft and alter process, some smaller business operators just can’t seem to be satisfied enough with their websites to be publishing them to a waiting internet.
Virtual stage fright
Their reticence seems to be a kind of stage fright – as if the world will unfairly criticise the new digital face of their business or some people won’t like it.
But this delay is actually costing them considerably.
For starters, prospects won’t be able to find them online and instead click straight through to their competitors. Nobody really knows just how much business any particular business might lose as a result, but suffice it to say, it will be significant.
Unfortunately many business operators think that so strong is their brand, just not being online or at least up to date wont hurt them.
But this thinking is a delusion. Nothing has eaten away at loyalty like the internet, where all of your competitors and their great websites are but a few keystrokes away.
Next, they are losing credibility. Few buyers, be they consumer or business, purchase anything without checking out their prospective suppliers website – just to make sure that they are a professional and credibly business.
Clearly if you don’t have a website (or at least a reasonably recent one), any possibilty of credibility will evaporate as soon as they hit your ‘coming soon’ page or ancient website.
Thirdly, every day the website is not live, another opportunity to be found and cached by Google and other search engines is missed. This means that again, you are giving a free kick to your competitor when their website is found and given prominence by the search engines.
These days the sum of these three effects is bound to be significant as websites play a critical part in the purchase process of the vast bulk of both consumer and business buyers.
Printing, it isn’t
My observation of this reticence to publish is that small business operators are treating their websites like absolutely last chance brochures.
Anyone who has ever printed anything professionally will know that printed resources must go through a painstaking draft and alteration process, the core reason being that once printed, it’s very expensive to destroy the end result and print them all over again.
In some cases, like the once monopolistic Yellow Pages, you had no option but to grit and bear the error for a full 12 months, often with catastrophic results.
The fundamental difference with websites is that being digital, they can be altered at any time. Better still, with a good content management system (CMS) and perhaps a little training, most business operators can make their own alterations whenever they want to.
So apart from perhaps some design and technical considerations, if there are any errors or inaccuracies on the website, with quite basic skills you can go in and fix them yourself, 24/7, 365 days a year.
In this way, websites are like documents.
Go forth and publish
So if you are holding off publication of your website because you are uncertain about an aspect of its content or even its design, let it go.
Provided your web professional has done the right thing by you, it will either cost nothing or very little to alter the website in future.
And you will get an immediate result from the customers who are able to start visiting your new – if slightly imperfect, website.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.