Article: Christopher J. Sewell

The Small Business Library

February 2, 2001

How Local Retail And Service Business Owners Can Use The Internet To Get More Local Business To Their Establishments And Increase Sales!

Just because the Internet is global, doesn't mean it isn't local. In preparing your business to be online, you will need a website. Now, the purpose of your website will be a little different than the purpose of a website owner who sells to an international audience.

If you want to keep your business local, your goal should be to make your business as efficient as possible by using the Internet. The first thing you must do is take inventory of how you spend your time. You probably spend more time running your business than actually servicing and selling to customers. Once you pinpoint where you spend most of your time (usually doing non profit-making activities), then you will know how to craft your website so that your website takes care of these non profit-making tasks for you.

Once this is achieved, then you can turn MORE of your attention to servicing and selling to customers... where the money is found! Let's go through a few non profit-making tasks that you probably do each day that you can use your website to manage for you:

People call and ask for sales information or to get more details about what you sell. They ask routine questions like:

  • "What time do you open?"
  • "What time do you close?"
  • "When can I schedule an appointment?"
  • "How much of a deposit do I have to put down?"
  • "What forms of payment do you accept?"

These are questions your website should be handling for you. If you had a commonly asked questions section on your website, you could simply direct potential customers there. And, in all of your ads you would have your website address listed so that prospects could find the answers to these routine questions so they don't ask you.

Believe me, most people will go there first to learn more about your business. Especially, as your local area gets more connected to the Internet each day. This ultimately means less people will call you to ask these routine questions.

  • Your sales literature changes constantly. Prices change. The types of services and products you sell change. So your sales literature is never really up to date. If your sales literature was online, you could easily change prices, products and services offered, office hours, etc - and it wouldn't cost you a penny.

  • You aren't as prompt with mailing sales information as you would like to be. Here's where your website would come in handy. Instead of mailing your sales literature or explaining what you do over the phone (killing precious minutes), you could direct people to your website for these details. When they call you, after visiting your website, they will be better informed about what you do, how you do it, and when it can be done. This means you will spend less time explaining and more time providing the actual service or selling the item desired.

When preparing for the creation of your website, you should concentrate on the following critical areas:

  1. Commonly asked questions. For one week write down every question people ask when they call your shop or enter your office. These questions and your responses to each will be the foundation of a commonly asked questions section of your website. Be as complete in your answers as you can be. The more complete you are, the less people will call you to ask these questions.

    Remember, your goal is to reduce the number of people asking routine questions so you can concentrate of actually providing the service or selling the desired item.

  2. Frequently asked questions about each product or service you provide. Again, for one week write down all of the questions and concerns people have about the products and services you offer.

  3. Details about each product or service you provide. Give details such as available sizes, colors, styles, etc. Talk about the limitations of each product and the best way to use them. If you offer a service, do the same for each service.

Basically what I am saying is that your website should be an extension of you. It should be an extension of your staff. Look at it this way, your website should contain as much information to service potential customers so that you or staff will be of very little need.

The purpose of your website is NOT to sell your product or service directly. Do you understand what I am saying here? Remove all thoughts of selling your product or service directly from your website.

Most commercial websites are trying to sell a product or service directly online to an international audience. This is not necessarily your goal if you only want to sell to people in your local area.

The main goal of your website should be to EDUCATE your website visitors about what you sell and how you sell it so well, that when they do call you or come into your shop or office - they are ready to buy!

Are you following me?
This is how you as a local retail or service business owner should be using the Internet to build your business. Simply use your website to educate potential customers so well about your business that you spend less time educating them in person or over the phone about these things. Now, you and your staff can concentrate on providing the actual service you're in business to provide or selling the goods you offer.

The Author Christopher Sewell, enjoys showing beginners how to successfully build a business online. If you need valuable advice to help you get your online business going fast, or advice on how your local retail store can use the Internet to increase profits.