Build or bust: What does your website do for your business’ reputation?

Guest post by Sue Cartwright from Communication Tree

Over the coming months we are inviting several local experts in related fields such as design and marketing to give us their views on websites and digital marketing. The idea is to offer a variety of perspectives and tap into expert insights that will benefit our clients. Sue owns a communications and PR agency in Geelong and has been kind enough to provide her take on website marketing. Over to you, Sue!

I completely understand if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the advice thrown around about websites and online marketing. 

It used to be so simple (or so they tell me). You’d open a business; advertise it in the Yellow Pages or local media; make a few contacts; and maybe sponsor a couple of events or clubs. Then keep your customers happy so they come back again or recommend you to friends and family.

Now it’s all about being optimised, socialised and digitised.

However, I’ll let you in on a secret: the principles of business communication haven’t changed. At their core, it’s still all about marketing, building a positive reputation and maintaining credibility while keeping customers happy. The difference is we now have access to a wider range of tools to engage with our markets.

website reputation

One of the most significant of these new tools over the past 15 years has been the business website. In general, businesses have embraced the website as a shiny, new marketing platform. They see it as a way to advertise services and products without the need and expense of paying for ads in third party publications.

‘It’s great! We’ll just put it up online and wait for those inquiries to flood on in.’

Maybe for the early adopters this was the case but not so much nowadays. The internet is a behemoth of websites dependent on the power of planet Google and its ever-changing algorithm.

‘SEO is the answer. Stack your site with keywords and get your blog on. Now those customers will come flocking to you.’

Unfortunately, you can optimise your website to within an inch of its life but it’s still no guarantee you’ll draw in the crowds and get them past that last crucial step of contacting you.

Getting people to your website is important but the real value comes from keeping them interested and engaged.

The problem arises when a business has a different idea about the role of its website to what a potential client is thinking. From a customer’s perspective, websites are the link between finding a business that can provide services or products they want and deciding whether that business is the right fit for them.

In other words, the potential client is judging your image, reputation, credibility and standard of customer service based on your website.

‘Wait, websites are all about building trust and confidence in a business?’

To an extent, they are. Obviously, building your business reputation goes beyond your website. However, the information on your website and its usability must reflect the other ways in which you build your image if you want people to maintain confidence in your ability to deliver what they want.

Sorry, I snuck in a new term: usability. The techies refer to it as ‘user experience’ or UX. In our language, it means the ease at which people can get around your site to find information; make an inquiry; or, in the case of e-commerce sites, make their purchase. Quite simply, it’s customer service.

The easier it is to use the site, the more likely the customer will be satisfied with their experience.

What does this mean? Well, as a business, stop using your website simply as a marketing mechanism. Instead, start using it as a public relations and customer service tool. Understand what your potential customer may be thinking when they use your site and what image it’s presenting to them:

  • Are you coming across as trustworthy, credible and knowledgeable?
  • Are they judging your ability to meet their needs based on the customer service they receive from the site?
  • Importantly, are you giving them the confidence to take the next step to contact you with an inquiry or make a purchase?

Without doubt, having a website for your business is a must and having a good marketing strategy to direct people to your site is essential. However, ensuring your site has the right content and is expertly designed to optimise your business reputation is equally important.

If there have been any changes to the rules of business, it’s this:

With the amount of information now available to customers, it’s more important than ever to use all tools available – including your website – to build and maintain your business image and be seen as a credible and trustworthy supplier.

sue cartwrightSue Cartwright is a strategic communications specialist with over 25 years’ experience in media and public relations. As Director of Geelong-based PR firm Communication Tree, she helps give small to medium-sized businesses and organisations a creative and unique voice in an increasingly busy world.