Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size image
Fast Lane: A Web Site Can Add To Your Business Bottom Line
While some customers may still use the “Yellow Pages” a much larger percentage are now using the Internet.
By Jim Walbolt
Hopefully everyone out there is familiar with the Internet. While there are some things about the Internet that most of us would rather not deal with, the value it has provided far outweighs any bad. A Web site is also the most cost-effective advertising you can do.
As a journalist, the Internet is the first place I go when I need to find information on just about anything. Most of the time, I can find what I am looking for and if not, at least it leads me in the right direction probably 99 percent of the time.
I guess, if there is a drawback to the Internet as an information source, it is that it has a virtually unlimited supply of information. You tend to keep following that information trying to get to the end, but of course, you never do! In the old days when you did your research at a library or via a phone call, at least there was a limit to the amount of information you would find.
Although I cannot speak for everyone out there, I bet that many (read “most”) of you are just like me. When you need some information, whether on parts, a supplier or other information, the first place you turn these days is the Internet. That being the case, you should realize that your customers find you the same way. While some may still use the “Yellow Pages” a much larger percentage are now using the Internet.
If you don’t have a presence on the Internet a Web site you need to reconsider why not? In this day and age a Web site is a must for any business and should be just another piece of your overall marketing plan.
Unfortunately, the results of the latest Engine Builder Machine Shop Market Profile (available for immediate download, coincidentally, at the magazine’s Web site www.engine-builder.com) indicate that engine builders are behind the times when it comes to online business support.
Across all segments of the automotive aftermarket, Babcox market research experts estimate that 41 percent of businesses operate a Web site. Yet only 18 percent of the Machine Shop Market Profile survey respondents say they have a Web site for marketing and sales of their rebuilding services and products. Of those engine builder shops that DO have a Web site, 35 percent say they sell products or shop services directly through the site.
While every business needs a presence on the Internet, they don’t all need to be fancy, glitzy sites like some we have seen. While some of these fancy Web sites might look cool, they may not be getting the job done that they were intended to do.
As a business owner, your Web site is just an extension of your advertising and marketing program, albeit, a little more interactive. The Web site must be easy to get to and then it must be easy to navigate. Nothing is more frustrating than not being able to find the information you are looking for on a Web site. The big multi-national companies are notorious for this; they get caught up in the design process and forget about those using their site.
Your Web site needs to be simple and easy to navigate. When someone comes to your site, you want them to find the info they are looking for quickly. Otherwise, they may move on to another site.
Realize, when I say simple, I don’t mean that it shouldn’t look professional. Your Web site needs to reflect your competence and professionalism. If your Web site looks “rinky-dink” then that is the impression visitors to your site will have about your shop and they may move on. You might be the best, most competent shop in the world, but it’s always that first impression that will make or break you.
A properly designed site is also important to keep your shop high in the search engine rankings. When someone is looking for an automotive machine shop in Toledo, OH. for instance, you want your shop to show up as high on the list as possible. Just as companies try different ways to list their businesses in the Yellow Pages so that they would show at the top of the list, you need to have your Web site show at the top of the list. There are many ways to tailor your site so that they rank high with the search engines, which is why you need to work with a professional.
You need to plan on updating your Web site regularly, another way to keep your site high on the search engines. I believe you should try to update your site at least once a week. You can do it yourself, or have your designer do it. Of course, it will cost you additional money to have someone else do it and it really isn’t that hard once the site is set up. Your designer can easily teach you how.
Updates could be anything, but they’re best if they are something that will garner the attention of visitors to your site. Give them a reason to visit your site often. Maybe incorporate a tips section or other informative area of your site.
If you are a retailer of parts or accessories, perhaps you should think about an E-Commerce site, a site that has a store where visitor can shop and purchase products online. Online sales surpassed retail sales at traditional “brick & mortar” stores this past Christmas season.
Consumers are getting more and more comfortable shopping on the Internet.
The best way to start your Web site process would be to just get on the Internet and check out other sites. Find several that you like as far as design and layout and then you can work from there. Of course, you don’t want to copy another site, but looking at other sites will give you an idea of what you like, then it will be easier for your designer to create what you want.
Watch for the next installment of Fast Lane where we’ll get into some of the “nuts and bolts” of creating your Web site. And we’ll give you some ides and good sources to help make your Web site the best in cyberspace.
The Internet can be used in many ways and it’s about time you got your business on the bandwagon. If you already have a presence on the Internet, congratulations, but remember to take a look at it from time to team and keep it up to date. A look through the pages of Engine Builder will reveal that nearly all companies advertising have included their Web site address in the print advertisement. Isn’t it time you did too?