Digital marketing is quickly becoming the number one way consumers interact with brands, products and services. Why? Because it’s cheap, reliable, specific, powerful, and a host of other adjectives attractive to the small business owner.
If you’re part of this group of professionals, you may question the validity of such tools. “The large majority of my customers find out about my business through word of mouth,” you may say, “so do I really need a website?” The short answer to this question is simple:
Yes. You absolutely need a website.
Many small business owners ask the same question that you may be pondering – 85% of small businesses get customers through word of mouth1, and 86% of consumers trust referrals from friends and family2. It makes complete sense that one would question spending money on online marketing when most of their business is referred to them for free. More often than not, however, the things that seem to have obvious answers are more nuanced than they first appear. This is most definitely one of those cases.
First, people are looking for your business online—even if they are referred.
This is an important clarification to make, because it’s one that small business owners don’t often realize. Yes, you may be getting plenty of clients through word of mouth marketing. Unfortunately you are probably losing a number of potential customers due to the lack of an online presence. Nearly 90% of Americans use the Internet regularly3, and 70% of those people use the web to shop locally for products and services4. That number jumps to 81% when it comes to making significant purchases5 .
If someone recommends your product or service to a friend, that’s fantastic! But if that friend looks online and can’t find you, they’re likely to research the options that appear at the top of their preferred search engine.
Second, people trust online reviews just as much as friends and family.
Consumers love to leave and read reviews: 59% enjoy telling others about the products and services they use2, and 97% are checking out your online reviews. With this in mind, think about the fact that 87% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal, word of mouth recommendations4.
“That’s fine,” you may think. “I just so happen to have online reviews.” And while sites like Facebook or Yelp can present positive reflections of your business, you have little control over how these resources illustrate its identity. They may not properly communicate what you do, demonstrate the benefits of working with your business or delineate your call to action. Lack of control means less opportunity to educate people about your business, and a loss of potential clientele. Investing in a good tool or team to help you manage your online reviews is crucial.
Third, you’re limiting yourself by relying solely on word of mouth.
It’s clear that word of mouth is one of the strongest ways to get new clients, but relying on this marketing strategy limits you and your business. While you may attract new customers, they are all from the same network, rising from your existing client base. Like a stock portfolio, it is dangerous not to diversify. You become reliant on one small branch of a community, a limited pool that will eventually dry up. By using online marketing, you are able to attract new customers actively, and those that choose to work with you extend your group of word of mouth devotees.
There are thousands upon thousands of individuals waiting to learn about your business, unaware of the benefits you can provide them. Take charge of your online identity, and start founding an online presence you can be proud of today.