An own website is today one of the basic standards in online marketing – also for SMEs. But does an elaborately designed website result in the profits a small enterprise expects?
Yes to digitalisation, but not as an end unto itself
In principle, many statements being made about the advancement of digitalisation within the German economy have the same standard tone: medium-sized companies are lagging behind and need to basically catch up. Compared to the robots in a car manufacturing plant, a diligent medium-sized carpentry business does indeed seem backwards. A slight grin appears when the media and politicians talk about the term “digitalisation” as if it were a medicine against perceived backwardness. Must a medium-sized company truly fear for its future if it does not do everything in its power to somehow become more digital?
The tendency across the board to continuously accuse medium-sized companies of lagging extremely behind in the global digital game starts with the smallest of digital mandatories: the website. According to the SIINDA Landscape Study 2018 by the industry association SIINDA, 28 per cent of all SMEs still do not have an own website. There is a good reason for this. After all, many small businesses simply cannot afford a proper homepage in the World Wide Web. And this is not just in financial terms – many small companies shy away from the prospects of having to present unique or informative content to the wider public. But is a big company website even necessary?
A website must match the business model
Unlike companies whose business model is based on e-business from the start, many SMEs do not guide sales to an own website. And in this case, it seems therefore to make even less sense to overload an own website with additional functions and content.
In the first years of the Internet, it was desirable to fill a website with lots of graphical elements, moving images and flash animations. Of course, a website today must also have an attractive design and give a professional impression; however, the times when buyers and end consumers had to patiently learn about a company’s philosophy through playful animations are long gone. Products and services from small companies are found by professional buyers today on brand portals and on Internet marketplaces.
Reach is more important than an own website
For SMEs with small marketing budgets, the most important thing is achieving an optimal reach with their offers. The own website is more like a possible end of the line, instead of the starting point of a successful product search.
A buyer discovers a supplier on a portal. If the offer features a link to the supplier’s website, the buyer can also take the opportunity to learn more about the future supplier. If further content – for instance special technical information, product application examples or special services – is provided, the potential buyer is satisfied at first. The own website should naturally be used to present the company, its products and services, with confidence and in a customer-centric way.
How much website is enough for small businesses to be competitive?
For companies of every size, it goes without saying: the most effective and successful strategy is to concentrate on the core business. Big corporations certainly have capital reserves at their disposal to tap into completely new business fields. Smaller business, in contrast, have to budget their resources.
When it comes to a website, the goal of an SME surely cannot be to keep up with consumer and branch portals on the Internet. At the same time, there is no guarantee that big-name search engines will reward the content with a top ranking on their results pages. But small, local companies, too, can successfully leverage search engine marketing (SEM).
Less website, but not less marketing
If an own website plays a strategically important role for the business model, it should offer an optimal value to the target groups. However, this involves the nearly daily maintenance of the website as a main company task within the scope of marketing.
If you simply view a website as a digital duty, you should design it to be simple and provide a clear overview. After all, less really is more sometimes. To be more easily found on the Web, there are numerous alternatives to having an own elaborate website.
An own website: dos and don’ts
Here’s a short overview of what you need to consider for your company’s website and what you should avoid.
- Clear structure: The website must have a clear, manageable structure so that each visitor can easily find their way around – and, ideally, stay a bit longer.
- Easy-to-understand text: The necessary information should be short, concise and always understandable.
- Products and services: The own products or own services should be presented with all the necessary information – with confidence and centred on the customer.
- Frequent maintenance: An old website from around 2010 gives an unprofessional impression and scares visitors away. If new content is not frequently added, the current relevance of existing content needs to be taken a look at.
- Mobile: “Mobile first” is nearly already an ancient saying. But just as a reminder: the website should be optimised for computers, smartphones and tablets from the get-go. Mainly because the topic of voice searching will fundamentally change users’ search behaviour in the coming years and they will be visiting websites even more frequently via mobile end devices.
- “About us”: Short and concise introduction of the company. In this context, remember to think about including a legal notice, which is legally required in some countries.
- “Contact”: If products or services are offers, it must be easy for the user to immediately see where these can be purchased – in the company’s own online shop, through a dealer or on a B2B online platform. The price should also be shown. What you also need: address, phone number and, if relevant, individual contact persons and their email address.
- Optimised online presence: be visible to purchasers on B2B platforms, such as on Europages, to generate leads and improve your rankings.
No, thank you:
- Too much interaction and lots of graphics: Long loading times due to unnecessary and sophisticated graphics scare visitors away. The same goes for useless clicking back and forth.
- Blog: Yes, an own blog can be interesting, entertaining and even informative – but only when it is frequently fed with new content, which also requires a good writer. If in doubt, do without.
- Images from the Internet: Careful when using photos! Each picture is protected – those from free databases as well. So, always pay attention to the copyright or simply use your own photos.