Years ago, people were skeptical about horseless carriages ("cars" for those of you born in the last 20 years). But something happened and it seems that we've become at least comfortable with the idea. Most people initially couldn't imagine going to an ATM machine. After all, who wouldn't rather go inside to wait in line to work with that incredibly helpful bank teller? Phones that aren't connected to the wall? Who'd want to have to carry one of them around with you? Phone books, from multiple phone companies, and they all get delivered to your front porch or office...who wouldn't want that? Then there was this crazy thing called the "inter-webs" or something that Al Gore's inventing. Who'd want to use something like that?
When you look back, it's amazing how far things have progressed in a relatively short period of time. Most people have a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to new things. It might not be something we're used to seeing. It couldn't possibly be as easy as they say. We've been taken advantage of before. But over time, we eventually warm up to some of those innovations. That's exactly what's happening with the Internet.
Try Googling yourself or your business. What do you find? In 2 previous posts, I've spoken about the value of online reviews and how a website is your virtual front door. People want to know something about the person(s) with whom they're about to do business. You can take advantage of this natural curiosity and possibly use it to your benefit. Most importantly, use it to build trust.
In today's world, not having a website is a liability. A reputable company should (maybe even must) have a solid website that provides information about its philosophy, service, products and reputation. Unless you're ashamed of it, why wouldn't you make this stuff readily available?
For most of you who already have websites, what type of image does it convey? Is it simply a template that looks like your neighbor's kid slapped it together for gas money? If people find typos (it happens more often that you'd imagine), how does that shape their image of your work product? If your site still uses Flash technology, did you know it might not work on iPhones and iPads? Would that make you look out of touch?
Beyond simple pictures of projects your company's completed, or long lists of awards that other people might not recognize, consider using descriptive content. Go ahead and show that picture of the large project, but include a testimonial -- better yet -- a case study about how you solved the problem, came in under budget and on time. Then, encourage the client to tell others if they'd consider hiring you again. If you're fortunate enough to have won awards, why not take the time to explain the significance of the award and why you earned it? Now the reader has a much better understanding of your capabilities and the quality of your work. Now you're beginning to use your website to effectively market.
The Internet has become the de facto public record. It's rapidly replacing printed phone books as a way to find information. Your website can be a great tool for attracting new leads and a way to drive sales. But keep in mind that you've got to make it easy for them to learn about you. Hey, we're all a bit skeptical at first. But given the chance to find out more information and to see what others are saying about you, I just might be inclined to give you a shot at earning my business. So how about it, if I Googled you right now, would I be inclined to trust you?