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I live in a very small town (about 1600)

How can I convince small businesses a website will help?

     
10:58 pm on Apr 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Hello everyone,

I live in a very small town in eastern KY, needless to say most of the population doesn't even own a computer and many businesses don't have a website. What methods should I go about in educating them on how a website can expand their business and in the long term, their profit?

I have created a dozen or so websites for clients across the country but never a local client, so I am a little uncomfortable approaching them in person, breaking the ice would be my biggest problem I suppose.

Any input would be appreciative.

11:41 pm on Apr 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

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maybe they will be put off by the cost so in the beginning create a site that gives each of them a page describing business , contact details , as part of an overall site you own and manage and could earn money from advertising, also check re which local chamber of commerce they belong to and give a presentation on your services

The biggest problem is overcoming these very small businesses the fear of what costs they are getting into so keep costs plain and honest for basic internet presense maybe even do one for free or barter to get you started and go from there

steve

12:17 am on Apr 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

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With only 1600 people in the community I thought they would be banging your door down for a website.

Maybe they can't see how they coud gain customers by using one. do you have some similar good examples you can show them?

2:12 am on Apr 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

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You need to understand the prospect's business model before you can do an effective sales pitch on how a website might help them.

I don't usually do websites for other people, but I'm building one for a family member who has recently purchased a business. His main goal is to create a place where customers can read about what the company offers before they phone the office to ask questions. He says educated customers are easier to deal with, and he figures the cost of the website will easily be recovered in the value of staff time saved.

On the other hand, you can't just assume that every business will benefit from having a website. At a social event today I met someone who said he sometimes wonders if he should have a website, but he was already busier than he wanted to be. If a website created even more demand for his services, he'd be faced with the need to expand and take on employees. He wasn't sure he wanted to do that. He couldn't see any benefit from having a website, and I couldn't either. (His service is not one that needs much explaining.) I suggested that he register the obvious domain name for his business to protect his brand and keep his options open, but other than that there was no hurry to do anything else.

Different strokes for different folks ...

4:45 pm on Apr 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Thats a very good point. A lot of SEO/SEM types assume small business bottlenecks are always lack of sales. Very often thats not the case, and if it was, getting a good salesperson can be much more effective than doing e-commerce.

My mate hires tools and plant to builders, his rivals spend thousands on web sites and marketing but my mate has a ski chalet, guess who gets the most sales?

5:12 pm on Apr 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

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There is more than a billion Internet users. Why will you spend your efforts in your little town?
Go away and make a life in the www. You will never have an enemy/unsatisfied customer but a lot of people wondering how did you do it.
6:23 pm on Apr 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I live in a very small town in eastern KY, needless to say most of the population doesn't even own a computer and many businesses don't have a website.

And the prospects most likely know this, and may also know they can produce many times the revenue they are making now if they move to Internet commerce.

However, they may just not be ready for that, or even interested. Adding ecommerce or Internet of course makes for more work - they may be geared for local business only.

If you approach this, you first have to ask them if they are interested in tripling or quadrupling their sales in a very short time. The answer to this question will determine the rest of the conversation.

<-- Big-idea developer with small town experience. :-)

3:39 am on Apr 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

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interested in tripling or quadrupling their sales in a very short time

A more useful, less loaded question would be whether having a website would increase their PROFITS. That could vary a great deal from one business to the next, depending on what they do.

Businesses that perform services or handle physical products need to manage growth carefully. One of the most difficult and stressful things that can happen to a business is to get into a corner where demand increases faster than their ability to deliver.

10:20 am on Apr 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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You may need to do one or two projects on your dime, prove your model by putting together a business proposal presentation..

Sort of like a 3-panel brochure outlining your strategy (bullet points are best)...some figures for projects you have been involved with (though these may be national in nature)...you will want to understand who/what type of small business you are approaching...(know what their margins are if you can)...then
simply drop your presentation to your target businesses...and
make sure you follow up...

10:36 am on Apr 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Why not put a small website together for your town? Is the domain available?

If I were in your position? I'd take a day of my time and invest it in building a small brochureware site that would be used as a starting point for conversation with the locals. Once they "see" it, they may have a different perspective. And, if you can generate a few leads for local businesses, it will go viral. ;)

Take the initiative if you have the resources and your costs are minimal. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. :)

11:13 am on Apr 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I like discussing "Return on web investment"

DXL

9:28 pm on May 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

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If a website wouldn't improve their business much in terms of a return on investment, then why try to sell to them? You certainly won't get any referrals if you pitch a local business on a site and it does nothing for them in terms of improving their business. Its a different story if its a client that sells handmade products or something usually only found in your area, and there's an interest on the web outside of your area.

I'd spend my time pitching my services to people in the next big city over, or elsewhere in the state. You'll likely find a few people that are willing to hire a designer outside of their own city, but at least within the state.

9:35 am on May 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Firstly, sell the sizzle (extra sales!) not the sausage (the website). Perhaps the key might be to include in your offer full maintenance of the website for a retainer fee, so that the only commitment on the part of the small-business owner is financial investment (ie. they don't have to worry about extra time commitments etc.)

For any business a fully maintained website which costs them $200 a month to generate 1000 extra sales which brings in another $6000 per month is a no-brainer.

12:24 pm on May 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Chances are if you live in a small town, businesses really don't need web sites. Everyone knows everyone -- there are no customers to reach with a web site. Since there's probably not many computer literate people in your little hick town, maybe you should open an ebay type store (where you list people's stuff on ebay for them and take a percentage or fee). That would probably beat shoveling horse hooey.
12:59 pm on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

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The last poster beat me to it. With 1600 people in the town, that could mean 500-600 households, of which perhaps 50 might be likely to buy computers. Not much scope for local customers buying online.

But if someone in the town sells items that can sell easily online, then suggest a JV with them. This could be knitted dolls, local specialties - whatever.

5:56 am on May 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

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if you want to success,leave there
12:31 pm on May 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Having lived in several small towns like this when I first started, I can tell you - forgetabout it. There will never be enough local business to make a living no matter how good you are. I had to move.

Having said that, there are a few things you can try. Does your community have a web site, how about your county? Are there any tourism-related or economic development companies or orgs in the area that rely on getting business from outside the area? These are sites you could have a shot at.

Spread the net wider into neighboring areas and nearby larger communities - I used to spend 1 or 2 days a month cold-calling door to door when I first started out - and still have many of those clients years later, even after I moved away.

The money is not in creating websites - it's in SEO and promotion, so think that way. I was lucky and got some great accounts for SEO and now I'm back in the small town, enjoying the slow-paced lifestyle (and cheaper cost of living here in the mtns) not having to worry about local business at all.

 

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