Posted: 2011-10-03

Business experts have recently announced that small is cool with customers. Small businesses, they say, have a personality, flavour and a sensibility that big businesses can’t match. When it comes to what you put on your website, they urge: Don’t be afraid to tout your smallness.

“Small businesses can have more fun with their sites, probable more than larger companies who have a corporate image restricting their creativity. A small-business site needs to include something that reflects the creativity and personality of its owner.”

Maybe you’re a couple working side-by-side in a spare bedroom.

Maybe you’re putting yourself through university.

Present this well on your home page and/or an “About Us” section; the way you operate your small business may have unique selling points to customers.

“People want character; it has meaning, a solicitor may not want a site that illustrates that they work from home with a dog curled up nearby or a child asleep. But that may work well for anyone in a creative industry including journalism, design, PR, product design, catering etc.

Customers want to know who you are!

Your website can make the difference of you being credible and a “real” company however small you are.

Read the experts’ top ten important things that customers want to know.

A clear sense of what your company offers

Make it a priority on your home page to provide at least general information about your products and/or services, with links to specifics on a Products page.

Contact information, including a phone number and physical location

This may seem like a no-brainer, but many companies are purposely vague about their location. Some prefer to do all of their business online and see no need to publish an address or phone number. Others are home-based or they worry that giving a street address or hometown will somehow hinder them.

Third-party validation

This means customer testimonials, client lists, case studies, awards and recognition you’ve received, positive news clippings and the like. Potential customers want to know whom you do business with, and what current customers have to say about their experiences


Secure Socket Layer (SSL)

SSL is an encryption system that helps protect the privacy of data exchanged between a customer and a website. If you have an e-commerce site that takes credit card information, customers want to know that their sensitive data is encrypted. Get SSL if you don’t have it. If you do, let customers know that and about any other safeguards you proactively take.

Ease of use and navigation

If people can’t find it, they can’t buy it. Porter advises keeping sites “crisp, clean, and easy to navigate,” but also for site owners to study traffic and usage patterns to adjust their sites based on what visitors are coming for. “The ability to search a site is very important,” he says. “Businesses should study their search data to see if there are trends and what to make front and center.”


Clear guidance on your processes

Let customers know, step-by-step, important things such as how to order–and where to go and what to do should something happen out of the ordinary. Customers also want to know your shipping costs and procedures and how they can get status reports. Last but not least, customers want to know how you handle complaints and problems, return procedures and whether you have a money-back guarantee.

An ability to give feedback

Encourage feedback about your products and services, your ordering process and your site in general, by providing a feedback mechanism–either feedback forms or e-mail links. Not every small business prefers to offer this, in some cases because of resource constraints.

Clear calls to action

Customers want signs or buttons in order to act, be it “Buy now” or “Sign up for our newsletter” or “Click here for more information.” But many small-business sites don’t provide calls to action or they don’t present them clearly enough, Cutler says. “This is one of the biggest things that nags me,” she says. “If you have a captive audience, this is the time to grab them!”

Special offers and personalization

By personalising a sale with a special offer, incentive or coupon, small businesses can gain an edge on their bigger counterparts, Porter says. “This can be as simple as a hand-written thank-you note, free gift wrap services or a special offer for repeat business.

“Having a personalized touch,” he says, “is something small businesses can do that many big businesses can’t.”

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