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Stop Selling Traditional Websites, Sell SMBs a Future Online

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There is no alternative to a small business (SMB) website, though some marketers may argue this is the case. While Google My Business and Facebook are critical to any digital presence, new tech, features and capabilities are allowing for more dynamic, customer-focused websites, central to the marketing stack.

And aside from creating a catchy headline, the claims that voice search will make websites irrelevant, is short sighted. Voice search requires authoritative and structured content, making the website more important than ever. The business website is the only online real estate where a small business truly owns and controls the content (data) around their brand.

That all said, SMBs and the marketers that serve them need to expand their thinking when it comes to websites. Websites of the future may not look or function in the traditional manner because today’s website is capable of much more than looking good and providing contact information. Marketers need to understand these new capabilities and transform how they approach (and sell) SMB websites.

Re-thinking websites as local data hubs

In a recent report we put together with the LSA, we outlined the critical role of modern SMB websites as a single source of truth for local business information and data. From supporting search engines, virtual assistants and third-party directories with authoritative content, to capturing customer data, today’s website is far more powerful than a passive information source.

From the SMB perspective, a 2017 study from Clutch found that 91% of SMBs want to improve their websites in some fashion (see below). The desired improvements included creating more high-quality web content, mobile optimization, UX, security and SEO.

mono-chart

Despite arguments that websites are less important today with widespread usage of Facebook and Google My Business, survey after survey shows that consumers rely on websites when making purchase decisions. According to 2018 LSA data, 71% of U.S. consumers used a company website in the past month to access local business information.

Modern websites, more capabilities

With the capabilities of websites have expanded and SMBs are hungry for better websites, plus the fact that consumers continue to rely on them to make purchase decisions, how can sales teams more effectively sell websites to SMBs? It starts with adopting the philosophy that today’s website is more than an information source and serves as a local data hub that can benefit and help drive business for the SMB.

With a recognition of the potential websites offer SMBs, sales teams need to understand the new product set or critical features associated with websites. For example:

  • Transactional: Booking, buying, scheduling, request quotes, etc.
  • Technical: Mobile optimization, user experience (UX), SEO, schema markup
  • Data-driven: CRM, customer data collection/analysis, personalization, association with listing providers, etc.
  • Content: Design, branding, blogging, copy, customer reviews, etc.
  • Security & Legal: SSL (https), GDPR compliance, cookie policies, etc.

Selling future-proof websites to SMBs

Sales teams need to be versed in these items in order to identify which tools make sense for a given SMB prospect. With the local data hub philosophy, and a fundamental understanding of modern website features, here are some questions sales teams should ask when analyzing a customer or prospect website:

  • Is the website’s data informing third-party sites and search engines?
  • Is the business in question represented consistently and accurately online?
  • Do I have access to or know where I can access the data sets discussed above?
  • Do I know what the data means and can I tell a story using the data?
  • Can I draw conclusions from the data and create marketing strategies?
  • Is customer data being used to improve the customer experience?
  • Does the website prompt (intelligent) engagement for the end customer?

Any of the above questions you answer “no” to represent opportunities to bring the customer or prospect’s website to the next level. Additionally, the aggregated data of all of your customer websites can serve as a tool to inform product/service improvements.

In many ways, selling a modern SMB website requires an understanding that you aren’t just selling the website itself, but more importantly, everything that the website allows. Additionally, part of the “how” to sell will be sales education. Not only do sales teams need to understand the power of websites as local data hubs, but they need to communicate this in terms an SMB will appreciate.

Overall, local digital service providers and agencies need to overcome old thinking about websites as static information sources. This requires an understanding of how websites today serve as the local data hub placed right in the center of the local marketing stack.

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