March 2011

Flying your Flag

Flying your Flag

By: Keiran Prather

In today’s modern world of internet and social media the necessity to keep ahead of the game with your website has become mighty important.

Internet and web-based media access has increased immeasurably from years gone by and the internet, or perhaps more specifically Google is now the first port of call for most when searching for something, perhaps anything, online.

You could run a company perfectly, making millions, keeping staff turnover down, ensuring logistically and professionally you are sound though the ability to attract new business and new customers could be significantly decreased if your website is not up to scratch.

An updated, nice, clean and functional website can make a massive difference to customer perception, whether that is for existing or potential customers. If you were to search two websites, one old, tired, unmaintained, with links and images not working; and the other fresh, new, easy on the eye and updated, which company would you rather work with?

Your website is also crucial for how to position yourself as it gives you that control of how you would like others to perceive your company. Your company website should never be underestimated as a communication tool. It really fly’s your flag for your company and offers a fantastic understanding for would-be customers of what sort of company they could be dealing with.

The prospect of increased business through the website from prospective new customers is perhaps the most obvious reason to improve your website. Customer retention is of course crucial, and similarly a new site can have a very positive impact. For example, say a customer is searching for a part on PowerSource Online and see’s your company listed against another they may want to check out the company profiles and browse their websites. If what they see from you is a nice, organised, useful website they would be more inclined to work with you than the next company’s static, uninspiring and tired one…I’m sure everyone can think of examples where this is the case.

Further to retention of customers and the prospect of new ones, the level of exposure potentially available online is now huge. Through Twitter, Facebook, Bebo etc you have such great potential exposure. All it takes if for someone, anyone, to see something positive on your website and send a Tweet with a link to your site. The impact can be huge. Similarly, a website not updated can possibly bring with it negative exposure…there’s even Twitter accounts set up for the naming and shaming of bad websites! You wouldn’t want your site to be held in this perception of course.

Charterpoint Ltd is an example of one PowerSource Online member who has taken the step of updating their website, as Marketing Manager Paul Traill explains.

“We’ve needed to update our website for quite a long, long time. It’s not always the easiest thing to getting round to do, but is something which is definitely very important and we’re glad we’ve now taken the time to do it.”

Therein lies the problem. If updating and creating a new website was really that simple then of course every company would have their new website completely updated. Unfortunately this is not the case. Creating a new website requires time, planning, careful management, and perhaps most critically for businesses – investment.

Essentially there’s two ways of creating a new website. Either by in-house development or through a website design company or agency. Both can and probably will be expensive…perhaps the area which detracts companies from carrying out this job…such is the investment required it’s always something which is easy to put on hold.

“We recruited in-house with the work. We felt expanding the development team would assist this and rather than outsourcing thought recruitment was the method which suited us best. This isn’t always the best thing to do of course, it depends on company requirements, but we have plenty to get on with here” explained Paul.

Perhaps more crucially than investment is the website planning. How would you like to position your website? Which prospective customers should you be targeting? What features do you put onto your website? How much company information do you want to give away? What design are you looking for? A lot of topics require careful consideration before any serious progress is made.

“A website could be professionally drummed together very quickly but are you always going to send out the correct message? It’s taken us quite a long time as we wanted to ensure an accurate portrayal of ourselves as we’d like to be perceived by fellow suppliers and brokers – an upwardly mobile, progressive, reliable parts supplier.”

Analysing competition is essential for this. The longer you are in the industry the greater knowledge of competitors you develop which can give you a helpful insight into if a competitor’s website reflects their company. PowerSource Online is certainly a fantastic tool for this as it gives you an opportunity to view a wide range of websites for companies selling similar products and services to that of your own.

“We’d be lying through our back teeth to suggest we haven’t looked at competitor websites and borrowed ideas from elsewhere. Obviously you have your own ideas of what you want and need from your website and the concept has to be your own essentially as it simply won’t fit into your business model otherwise. However, competitor analysis is very important and gives you a nice idea of how to do things and how not to do things. We found one site very useful indeed for this in that it did some things very well and other things very badly. We think this has helped us be consistent throughout our new website.”

Now certainly appears a great time to be ensuring your website is kept updated and modernised. Whisper it quietly but we appear to be coming out of recession, companies don’t seem as reluctant to spend and banks are starting to believe in borrowing again. Meanwhile the power of the internet and social media just gets bigger and bigger, meaning your website and then perhaps your company could be left behind.

Of course this isn’t the quickest, easiest or cheapest thing to do. Indeed the whole process is quite the opposite – time consuming, challenging and probably expensive, but if done effectively and followed through consistently your business rewards could be reaped spectacularly.