Having an online presence is officially deemed ‘critical.’  It was already important pre-Covid-19.  It’s been important for a quite a while.   A long time, indeed.  Just not necessarily as crucial as it stands today for many local businesses.

Nearly ALL consumers go online to find a business.  ALL?  Alight, close to, for sure.  Well over 9 out of every 10, based on the stats I sifted through.  97% was the highest.

Isn’t that what most of us do, as both consumers and business owners?  When we want to find out something, we search for it.

THIS is why having a web presence is critical.  To be found by people who are searching for a business like ours, but do not know us.  If we’re not present, we’re not even an option.  If we’re present, what a tremendous opportunity to interact, connect, get people to like and trust us.    

Strategically (in reference to my last blog post about SWOTs), having an online presence provides us with the ability to leverage our strengths (ex: unique value proposition), offset weaknesses (ex: reaching a broad and diverse audience), capitalize on opportunities (ex: to be aligned with our customer’s journey).  To name a few.

Also of importance is the online reputation of our business.  As buyers, we learn all about a brand’s reputation, and competitors, by what we find online and by “listening to” what other people have to say.  We seek it out.   Specifically, we want to “hear” from those who have had already had an interaction, their experience.  

Don’t you have the utmost respect for a business that engages with customers who review them online?  I do.  Especially when it was a poor experience, low rating.  It shows that the business cares.  It builds trust. 

We do all sorts of searching, research, vetting before we make a purchase.   Talk about a path, right?  It can seem really complicated and difficult to address as a business.   In part, because we, the people, are such a mixed breed.   So diverse in terms of behaviors, attitudes, opinions, needs and much, much more.  Part of what makes America great!    

Despite our uniqueness, though, we all have some common fundamental desires, as human beings.   As business owners, we have the ability to satisfy these desires and greatly benefit.  So while complicated, it’s also quite simplistic.

Provide meaningful and helpful experiences, create an emotional connection.   In person and online.  It’s a proven win-win.

All of this got me to thinking about some of my recent purchase decisions. Sure enough, it held true.  Each business I hired met this criteria.  In order from the most positive experience to the worse, here they are.

Electric fence installation for my beast of a Lab:  this one was easy, as I used the company (and individual) that I already had an established, positive relationship with.  Trust.  No need, nor desire, to look into alternatives. Think about that.  No search at all because trust had already been established.  No other business had the opportunity to win by business.  Very strong position to be in, and achievable.

Dishwasher purchase and install:  first stop, Google.  A variety of different searches, I focused on finding the best value for an energy-efficient one.  Narrowed it down to one product, with a similar price, at two retailers.  The one who got my business had the easiest path to purchase.  A few clicks, and everything from selection through delivery, and to hauling away the old one, was complete.  Upon delivery, the people were super kind (and wearing gloves & masks).  For the other retailer, the website was slow to respond, and I kept getting a little lost and frustrated. 

Garage door motor replacement:  first stop, Google.  A boatload of local outfits resulted from the search.  No prices, however.  So, I picked three with websites and solid reputations, and had them come out and provide estimates.  It was the actual individual representative that came to my home that sealed the deal.  Helpful, friendly and funny.  Made a connection.  Even though it wasn’t the least expensive option, although not by much, I knew I would be well cared, and I wanted this person to have my business.

Estimates for replacing shower and flooring:  Finding a contractor is not the easiest of tasks.  Referrals are huge.  So, in addition to Google, I searched local, neighborhood social media forums, seeking and requesting recommendations.   I won’t delve into all of the ugly details, but there is one company that I will never do business with.  Nowhere near helpful, and the connection made was emotional, yes, but not in a good way.  I’ll be going with another company, where the contractor showed up on time, was helpful.  He, too, made me laugh.  Connection

My next ‘to do’ is to get the brakes repaired on my Jeep (insert peace sign here 😊).  As with the electric fence, I have my regular shop for auto repair and service.  They ‘wowed’ me even more during my last visit.  Offered and paid for a rideshare.  When the Jeep was ready for pick up, they sent a driver to come get me, it wasn’t a question.  Rather, it’s part of their process, their customer experience strategy.

One other thing.  How many emails, calls, etc do you get on your birthday?  As a business, are you capturing customer information, engaging with them, making them feel valued and special?  I bought a different Jeep, long ago, from a local dealer.  Every birthday, I get the call.  “Hey it’s Lou at XYZ.  I just wanted to wish you a happy birthday!”  Zero discussion around auto sales.  It was my first stop the next time I went to shop.  And, even though I bought elsewhere that time, I still get the call.  It will be my first stop to shop next time, too.  Pure engagement.

What about you?  What have been some of your purchases and reasons you made the buying decisions that you did?  What path did you go down to get there? 

Relate this to your audience and your business.

You get the picture.   I realize none of this is earth-shattering.  Worth deeper reflection, I’d argue, right now though.  As a local business owner.  Search your business.  Can you be found?  Are you trusted?  Gauge your presence and your reputation.  Own it.  Leverage it. 

Strategically plan on how you, and your business, can provide meaningful and helpful experiences, create emotional connections.  Online.

They matter.  More now than ever.

Until next time, stay healthy and be happy!  THIS is what matters most.

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