For all the information on the web, it seems when you are running an off-line or brick and mortar business, it seems difficult to find useful web resources on how you can leverage the web for your business. Everything seems so on-line business oriented. Here, you don’t have to worry. I hope to provide you with both some ideas on how you can use the web to your advantage, as well as point you at some resources.
There are some core reasons for using the web to improve your business:
Even if the product you sell can only be delivered in person to your customer, common with a service-based business, having a web site helps people find you. Combine the general concept of marketing with tools like Google Maps, and your stores need to be findable in that interface! I did a test search for “Chinese restraunt Boulder, CO” and found many restaurants to choose from. I doubt they would deliver to my current location in Tennessee… but, I’ll also bet there were many that did not show up in the list because they did not investigate using the web for their restaurant. It’s the modern day yellow pages… and a lot cheaper!
Online sales! For those of you with products that can be shipped, or perhaps a service that can be purchased as a gift card for a local customer. It’s a must, even if you don’t sell electronic goods. Just check out eBay and the millions of dollars that pass through there daily! An online store can be simple, or as complex as you want to make it.
If you are selling off-line, you need product to sell. Buy it online in bulk or wholesale, and sell in your physical stores. You may have current vendors that would welcome you doing business via their web site, as it make work easy for them too.
Meet other business owners. Either friendly competitors or peers in another market. You both can learn from each other. They may have run into a problem you have recently, and already solved it! If you own a franchise, this is great way to make connections with other franchisees. Of course you can meet other businesses that might be compatible with yours so you can send each other customers. That’s what networking is all about.
Today, many people look to use a businesses web site first for support before picking up the phone. Having great information about your products, and solving potential problems in their use just raises your value in your customer’s eyes. I love it when a vendor as a knowledgebase of questions that previous customers had, with the answers already there! I not only look for my current problem for solution, but browse the categories so I know what is there in case I need to return.
I hope these have given you some ideas to research and inspire you to use a web site for your brick and mortar business. Here’s a few great resources I found on entrepreneurship and business:
For other blog resources specific to your product, service or field, try searching for your product name and ‘blog’ in your favorite search engine. I also recommend reviewing online blog directories such as Technorati or Blogflux. One of the reasons I suggest in researching blogs in your field, is because it becomes very easy to network with other like-minded people whether it is the publisher of the blog or other commenters on the site. It becomes a very natural community of people with a common interest. Speaking of which… get involved! If you find a site you like and read something interesting, make a comment! Join the fun! Feel free to comment here and add to the list of ways the web can be used for off-line businesses. Everybody wins from sharing information!