A wise person once told me that no matter how small your business is, you should always organise it as if it were a much larger business.
You should organise all of your documentation and activities as if there was a separate department looking after each task – even though initially there might only be you alone running the business.
That way when the business grows, all of your business activities will fall neatly into the departments that you will need to create and make hiring people a whole lot easier.
So what’s that got to do with your website?
Now an intrinsic part of your business
As it turns out, quite a bit. Because in case you haven’t noticed, websites are now more important to your business as the storefront or office you once called or walked into.
It’s become your virtual premises, which in turn has become the new “go to” point for pretty much anything you want to do with that business.
You want to buy something, you go to the website. You want to complain, ditto. You want to speak to finance, you guessed it, your search starts at the website.
So websites are now an intrinsic part of the overall operations of today’s business. The question is, are they being treated that way?
Are you giving your website due priority?
Do you treat your website with as much priority as taxation, payroll, staff and clean tearooms, or is it just something you will get around to when you get time and/or money?
Unfortunately for many businesses, the website remains a pesky grudge purchase that they keep getting annoying cold calls about.
While I’m not for one second advocating cold calling (in fact the bane of the smaller business operator), these callers are likely to be right as they rattle off how many use the web, how much it’s a part of the purchase process, how much your online competitors are beating you to the punch and how soon you should start paying them to fix it all for you.
The web really is the first port of call with your organisation for the vast bulk of the public and the businesses they work in.
And the less your website allows them to do what they want at the time and place they want to do it, the more you will lose their interest and possibly their business.
The days of expecting them to pick up the phone to contact you are rapidly declining.
Money making AND saving
But websites are moving beyond just the promotional. What about the savings you can make from letting them interact with your website the way they want to?
Big organisations know that labour is probably the biggest expense they have. They (rightly or wrongly) seek to minimise it at every turn.
While many of us pine for a return to the kind of personal customer service we used to get from many businesses, the reality is that it is a very expensive commodity and as such, is going the way of the dodo.
Those cheap airfares you have taken advantage of are a perfect example. What airlines are telling you is that if you can help yourself to your own ticket online, we will share the savings we are making with you. It’s really not such a bad proposition.
In fact, a website is likely to be far more valuable to a smaller business because of these labour-saving capabilities.
If we can reduce the time spent on some individual customer or stakeholder communication, the more we can dedicate time to providing or producing the product or service we offer.
And that means a measurable impact on your bottom line.
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.