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How a Website Supports Word of Mouth Advertising

A little disclaimer here. I’m from a generation that grew up with computers, so websites make sense to me. I used to think if you had a business, surely you had a website. However, there are many small business owners who don’t have one or have a poorly made one. The arguments against a website tend to be a variation on:

“My customers find me just fine through word of mouth.”

“I have all the business I need already, so I don’t need to worry about a website”

These old school business owners (perhaps you’re one of them) are happy with zero to low digital presence, relying on recommendations alongside an occasional direct mail campaign.

And. . . it’s true. There are a lot of businesses, especially in the trades, that do just fine without a website. But just fine is cutting it short. A website shouldn’t be viewed as a competing form of advertising. Instead, it supports recommendations.

Word of mouth + a good website can help you:

  • Get Business from Customers New to Your State
  • Deliver the Contact Information a Prospect Needs
  • Serve as the Final Push to Contacting You

I’m going to review each for your consideration.

Get Business from Customers Who are New to Your State

Word of mouth recommendations are great when your customers have family in the area. However, not everyone has the luxury of having family or friends nearby. If I move to North Carolina from Pennsylvania, then my mom’s glowing review for “Mr. Bob’s Plumbing Repairs Extraordinaire” in my old hometown isn’t going to do much good.

In this case, I’m left with a few options:

  1. Ask a coworker, neighbor, or random local
  2. Ask for a recommendation on Facebook or another social media site
  3. Search Google or an online directory

The first and second options rely on me trusting someone I don’t know. My next step in both instances is going to be searching the business online to make sure it’s legitimate. I also might need the contact information (more on that later) and want to see if there’s any information on pricing and availability. Seeing a website pop up for the business name is a good sign. It’ll be my first stop to see if this is the right option for me.

Of course, this assumes I have time to ask for recommendations. Depending on the severity of the problem, I might need help now. In this case, #3 is the only practical option.

Now, there is the chance I might find your business in an online directory. However, I’m also going to find your competitors. If you don’t have a website but your competition does, I may decide to go with them instead.

In short, you might be losing a few or more customers per year if you’re depending on word of mouth advertising without a website. Having a good website can help new customers find you when they only have acquaintances and strangers to trust.

Use Your Website to Deliver the Contact Information a Prospect Needs

Don’t expect a recommendation to include your contact information. Unless the person has your phone number handy, they’re going to assume the name is enough for someone to find you. So what happens when you get a recommendation but the person can’t find you online? Unless they’ve got a phone book handy (yellow pages stopped printing in 2019) and the desire to retrieve it and look through it, they may go with a business they can find.

A Website Serves as the Final Push to Contacting You

Even with word of mouth advertising from friends and family, you should expect a person to go online to look up your business. They may want to see examples of your work or find out if you have prices or estimates available. If they can’t find you online, they may assume you’re not in that line of work anymore and choose someone else instead.

A website that’s done right can be the final push a potential customer needs to act. You can think of your website as a 24/7 storefront that complements word of mouth advertising. It provides a way to contact you and show your affiliations. You can even use your website to blog about topics that show your expertise. Building trust through your website can be the final push your customer needs to contact you.

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That’s my two cents on why a website is valuable, even if you’re doing just fine right now. You might not need a website to stay in business, but the money from any extra customers could go toward a well-deserved vacation or provide additional support for your family.

A final word of advice: you want an attractive, well put-together site. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it should be responsive (adapts to the screen size of the device), function properly (no dead links), and the text should be legible and match the tone of your business.

Thanks for your time.

Stay safe out there,

Nicole Yachera of OneBuilder