- Build a Web Site. You cannot revolutionize your web site until you have one. If you are still wavering on this, consider the many consumer opinion websites that have sprouted up as of late that rate local businesses. I can develop a first impression about your business either from your website or from the comments and ratings of your past customers on a third-party website. The choice is yours.
- Street Address. A few weeks ago, I was searching for a part. I found a website that was selling the part. I also could see from the area code of the phone number on the website that the company was nearby. But, it had no street address listed on the website. Why is this? My first thought was that this was a home-based business that was selling parts out of the garage. But, as it turned out, that was not the case. This was a retail store. I was shocked!
Let me know where your business is located. If you meet with customers or clients, include your street address so that they will know that (1) you are located near them and (2) you are not a home-based business. When I need to purchase some merchandise, I prefer to visit the shop that is closer to me. Also, I want to buy from a store and not out of someone’s garage, so list your street address.
- Online Map. Some businesses list their street address, but do not link to an online map. Let me tell you what happens then. Usually, I type the street address into Google using my handy toolbar. Google will then show me three links to maps for that address. Google will also show me search results for that address, which may or may not distract me from the maps. If I’m searching for a map to your business, then I’m a highly motivated buyer at this point. Don’t lose me at this stage in the process.
Make it easier for me to find your business. Link your street address to an online map, whether that’s on Google, Yahoo or Mapquest. Or, even MSN. A lot of people link to Mapquest, but I like Google Maps more because I can drag the map around to look for familiar nearby streets instead of having to keep loading a new page each time I want the map to scroll over.
- Store Hours. Tell me what times and what days you are open. I don’t have to call your phone number and either have to be put on hold or have to decipher your voice mail system. You can focus on the customers in your store instead of answering my call. Really, this is a win-win situation.
- Holidays. Happy Independence Day! So, are you open? Holiday schedules for stores are wildly inconsistent. Some stores have Independence Day sales. Some close. Same for other holidays. Let me know whether you are open or not. The worst case is when you force me to call in, but all I get is an answering machine with your regular store hours. Is Independence Day a regular day?
- SEO Store/Office Locations. When I search for Santa Clara Costco on Google, the web page for Costco Santa Clara comes up as the first result. This page includes that location’s address, store hours and phone numbers. Nice.
Now, let’s take a look at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has a store in Mountain View, CA. When I search for Wal-Mart Mountain View, I don’t see a page for Wal-Mart’s Mountain View store. Instead, what I see is a Wal-Mart – Mountain View – Yelp page as the second search result. (The first search result was not relevant). And, the Yelp page includes 10 customer reviews giving that store 1 1/2 stars (out of five). I’m pretty sure this isn’t the impression that Wal-Mart wants people to develop while searching for their stores. Wal-Mart needs to learn from Costco.
- Contact Information. I really don’t want to call a business because the experience is almost always uniformly unsatisfying. Difficult voice mail navigation. Long wait times. That’s enough to make me opt for the web every single time when presented with a chance to interact with a company. However, when your website does not contain the information I am seeking and I absolutely must call in to obtain an answer, please make it easy for me to find your phone number.
- Inventory/Services. If you sell merchandise, let me know which products you have in-stock. Save me from making a futile trip down to your store. Also, don’t make me call in and be placed on hold while the call is transferred to some department where no one answers the phone. For smaller stores, let me know what types of products you carry. It helps me find you when I am searching for a dealer of a particular product.
If you offer services instead of products, then list the types of services you offer. This applies to law firms and other service providers. Give me as much information about your business as possible. That way, when I call you, I will be a qualified prospect and you will be a qualified service provider.
- Offer Solutions. When people are confronted with a problem, they sometimes don’t know what products or services can solve their problem. So, think of what problems your products or services solve, and describe these on your website.
- Feedback Loop. Incorporate what your customers are telling you into your website development process. For example, maybe you’re getting tired of answering the same questions every day. If so, consider posting the answers to these questions on your website. Take this opportunity to educate your customers before they come into your store or office, so that both of you can have a more meaningful experience.
Have a Happy Fourth of July!