When making a purchasing decision from a company that I am not familiar with, the first thing I do is to google the company to find out more about the company. However, I find that a number of companies, especially SMIs with good growth potential do not even invest resources in setting up their own official website. Some host their sites on free platform or get listed under shared directory hosting…. example…. www.hotfrog.com/companyname (hotfrog carries listing of some companies). It gives the initial impression that the company is a small fish in the big sea or that it may not be moving with times or market trend.
There is enormous marketing and cost saving long term solution for a company to have its own website. One need not invest tonnes of money to develop a state-of-the-art website with lots of flash, animations and graphics. Sometimes, these gizmos turn visitors off because of loading time and the request for them to download flash player before they can even view your site. So, a simple and functional site would do.
The very least is to consider purchasing and holding on to your domain name- if you plan to expand on the company. This is because they are many opportunists out there- who would buy and keep domain names of companies with growth potential. Imagine if you set up a company that is expanding- then you decide to get the domain name for your company only to find that it is taken up by a buyer who would only sell it to you for 1000x of the price of what he bought it for. Therefore, buy and keep the domain name of your company first- even though you do not have time and resources to get the website up. A place to buy is like godaddy.com.
Earning and Cost Saving Potential of a Website
I am a strong believer that websites are great and effective marketing tool. It markets your company 24hours/7 days a week with no off days (well, except for occasional down time- that’s why selecting a good hosting company is important). For a business to be able to thrive especially against hard times, long term cost saving strategy is paramount.
For instance, two greeting card companies actually place birthday and seasonal greeting card samples in beautifully binded books. They would print order forms on high quality paper and enclose together with the books which ta salesman or sometimes the MD himself will send over to my office.
These books would be distributed to many different potential companies. Their greeting cards, are creative and sold below market price. Now, compared to the relatively high marketing costs (of engaging a salesman, doing the books by hand- I could tell that they’re handmade and distributing tonnes of samples), do you think the company will be able to make enough of money to cover the costs? It would be most difficult. Even on their business cards, there is no website address provided- so if I want to browse their catalogues online, say at 2am in the morning when I don’t have the samples with me, I can’t. And they lose out on a potential customer.
Years ago, I wanted to learn how to make soaps and candles. So I was looking for a local supplier who sells the raw materials for soap and candles. Finding local craft supplier was a problem because a lot of them do not have any website. But one company had the foresight to list contact details, list of items and even a location map on their website. I found this company through their website, requested for a catalogue (which I have to pay RM10 for and is completely refundable if I buy above RM200 worth of products). I drove over 20km to the place, and bought few hundred ringgit worth of products. I knew their products were more expensive but I had to buy it from them because they were no other suppliers that I know off. Today, the company’s website carries a much more professional design compared to the initial functional one years ago.
You can run your consulting business from your spare bedroom in your pajamas- the customer would never know if all she sees is a professional built site that is user-friendly.
Case Study- Air Asia website
In a website, it is important that the navigation flow is to be well planned so that it is easy for users to find the information that is required. For instance, using the Air Asia’s site as an example, the main promotions run by Air Asia (the most popular budget airline company in Asia) is featured on the front page.
- There are a couple of side banners in smaller sizes on the right side.
- The navigation bar providing details of product and services offered by Air Asia are on the top.
- On the left bar, you find the user-friendly way of booking your flight
During the time when most airline companies are suffering huge losses due to the economy crisis and H1N1 threat, Air Asia is thriving, offering more deals and opening up to more travel destinations. They are able to compete because they have revolutionised online booking. Before Air Asia, majority of Asians would never want to book their travel tickets online. Through gradual online booking incentives (better deals can be obtained from booking online) and hassle free issuance of online travel itinerary, favourable word-of-mouth and recommendation, most people now have learned to plan their travel online.
Air Asia invests a lot to built its website to ensure it runs efficiently, loads fast, and changes/offers are quickly reflected in their websites. Electonic newsletter and sms are sent to customers to notify them of the latest deals and offers.
Even though the cost to run and maintain the website is high, in the long run, it is still much lower than engaging resources, setting up as many physical service centers, and using traditional marketing way such as sending brochures and advertising on national television. The lower operating cost have enabled Air Asia to offer more competitive packages to their customers and to remain highly competitive.
If you are not comfortable with websites or Web 2.0 technology, there are a number of companies and even freelancers that you can hire to do this for you for a reasonable fee. Ask around and before you make your purchasing decision, google on the review about that company. Or google around for companies with good reviews and charge a reasonable rate. But most important, do not let your fears about technology stop your business from moving forward.