Build a customer base through Internet and social media

A small business owner might not prioritize their Internet presence as high as other needs, but more consumers desire the personal relationships that these tools can provide, according to a recent survey by Web.com.

Any financial plan should take into account the growing dependence customers place on mobility and Internet access, and a start-up or a small firm could see instant benefits from improving this aspect of the company.

Always remember the importance of the web
Multiple small businesses are missing a great opportunity to build connections, increase their number of customers and boost revenue by skipping out on the chances that the Internet and social media offer, according to the Web.com survey. 

Out of the 3,000 consumers and business managers questioned, almost 30 percent were the latter, which helped highlight the relationship between the consumer and the company, as well as point out exactly how many people viewed – and used – the Internet. Of note was the strong endorsement of personal relationships. Any financial tips that help firms improve customer relations might be good ones, because involvement, engagement and connection were the most important factors for why a consumer went with a small business instead of a bigger competitor. 

Also valuable was the transition of personal meetings into online ones, the survey noted. Out of all of the consumers questioned, 83 percent stated that a website and social media presence is an important reason why they choose a small business. Additionally, too many professionals feel that their company's Internet use is adequate, when in fact, many don't meet consumer expectations.

"Small businesses have historically relied on face-to-face relationships to grow and differentiate themselves, but today's consumers are demanding that these relationships extend into 'e-Main Street,'" said David Brown, chairman and CEO of Web.com. "Our survey found a significant disconnect between how small businesses decision-makers think they are delivering on customers' expectations versus the reality of consumers' perceptions. The good news is small businesses are starting to realize the web's untapped potential to reach consumers who are eager for online engagement."

Perhaps most crucial was the response of consumers who said they would be influenced to take positive steps if a small business met Internet and social media expectations – at 58 percent, making these resources critical to improving a venture's bottom line.

Make the Internet work for a company
The online world may be one of the fastest evolving places around. A website designed even months ago might already need a tune-up, and a financial plan should take into account the importance of the web and social media for a small business. 

For starters, more consumers are using smartphones and other devices to access a site, according to Inc. magazine. Similar to how mobile banking benefits the company, social media that works on-the-go is a big plus for the customer. A small firm may want to design a phone-specific website, or place added value on Facebook and Twitter.

In addition, a company shouldn't just have a social media profile. Those sites should be linked to the website and promoted regularly. With constant updates and product news, the consumer could quickly become a spokesperson for the business, according to the news source. Simplicity is also important. The easier a site is for people to read and comprehend, the better. Same goes for tweets and Facebook posts, and the cleaner the business' Internet presence is, the more likely people are to visit. 

More financial tips include saving money by cutting back on annoying features. A small company could devote time, energy and funds if it uses the Internet advantageously, without cluttering up websites with elements that negatively affect the user experience.

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