April 30, 2013 Leave a comment
There are many predictions about what the average business of the future will look like and how it will function. From dramatic flexible and remote working policies to the number of entirely virtual organisations, the single undisputed fact is that being online will be the central element of business. So what about those businesses who still haven’t considered the internet a part of their plan?
Worldwide communication, ever faster download speeds, online storage and back-up, communities covering every possible area of interest, the internet clearly does and will play a major role in the way we all do business now. That is why the finding that over a third of UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs) don’t even have a website is such a surprise.
Lloyds Banking Group surveyed SMEs at the end of last year and found that 37 percent do not have a website, 30 percent are not developing their use of the internet in any way and 1 in 5 businesses (20 percent) are actually ‘deliberately disconnected’. In fact, only 28 percent of SMEs reported having a fully developed and functional website.
A positive offline presence is vital for almost all businesses with local marketing campaigns and word of mouth providing much growth and profit. However, another survey has now highlighted the reason why every business should have an online presence. In fact, results suggest that dedicating some time and energy to developing your business online could be the difference between business as usual and above average growth.
The findings of TalkTalk Business’s survey pin point the focus on an online presence as the difference between companies they called ‘Thrivers’ (who expect significant growth in the coming year) and ‘Strivers’ who only expect modest growth levels. They also found that almost 80 percent of British SMEs believe this technology plays an essential part in planning for growth, challenging competitors and reaching larger customer audiences. The crucial role of the internet in streamlining a business, making it more efficient and saving money was also recognised by the majority. These findings make the number of companies not taking advantage of the world wide web even more baffling.
Martha Lane Fox, Chair of Go On UK said “The internet contributes more to UK GDP than to that of any other G20 country. It is critical that our SMEs embrace the Internet, develop their online skills and general digital capability in order to ensure their future in a competitive market both here and abroad.”
However, what if a website doesn’t really suit a business’s needs? Or the online presence is rushed or ill-thought out? Wouldn’t this do more damage than good?
People4business’s advice is to consider your online presence just like you would any other form of advertisement. You wouldn’t just stick any old poster on a board for the sake of putting your name out there so don’t just stick any old website online. Make a plan that suits your business; there are as many options online as there are off it so make the most of them.
For example, if you are one of the 20 percent who are ‘deliberately disconnected’ because a website would serve no conceivable purpose for you then that’s fine. Consider instead ensuring your company is listed on all relevant online directories – something that can be done easily and cheaply (in some cases for free). That way if a potential customer types your name or service into a search engine your business will appear in the list.
Having an online presence doesn’t have to mean having a fully integrated website or social media community if that doesn’t suit your business model – it just means being as accessible as possible for prospective customers and, if the UK’s online spending figures are anything to go by, they are to be found online.
Although, as we’re on the subject, we do have a great selection of web experts for hire here if you find yourself in need of expert help!