Here at 5030 Media, we have something of a love/hate relationship with bad websites.
On the one hand, when a business owner or executive comes to us with a web presence that is outdated or poorly-designed, it’s a good thing because we know we can help them to see some really amazing improvements. But on the other hand, we are well aware that there are a lot of people out there who don’t realize just how they are being held back by a bad website… or what it could actually be costing them.
This notion hit home in the past few months as we found ourselves looking for a few new vendors to help out with our growing company. It’s been wonderful watching our clients succeed and send us referrals as their favorite Web Design team but expanding means looking for help from lawyers, accountants, financial planners, and numerous other professionals.
When we started checking out potential vendors we did exactly what you would – gathered some suggestions and did a bit of research on the Internet. Unfortunately, some of the candidates who were pointed out to us had websites that were really underwhelming.
You could say we are biased, but seeing a supposedly-successful professional firm with a poor digital presence made us wonder about other aspects of their practices that might be neglected. Ultimately, several were scrapped from our list before we even made our initial contacts. There were simply too many good choices to spend time on possible vendors who didn’t present themselves in a credible and professional way.
The experience got us thinking about a new way to communicate the need for effective web design. Far too often, we speak with business owners and managers who don’t really understand why they need to keep the digital-facing parts of their companies current. So in today’s post, we want to highlight some of the “hidden” costs you incur when you use a bad website to tell the world about what you do.
As we move towards a new year, and an even more competitive digital business world, let’s look at just some of the ways an underwhelming web presence hurts you…
An Outdated Website Hurts Your Credibility
There is a big difference between a bad company and a bad website. That can be a problem for marketers and customers alike.
We were fairly certain some of the vendors we checked out were credible, professional, and trustworthy. But, their marketing and branding certainly didn’t reflect that fact. Instead, they looked like businesses that were on their way to bankruptcy, or companies that had stopped promoting themselves years ago.
It’s somewhat ironic that many of the owners and executives running financially-successful professional practices don’t see any need to update their web presence. They aren’t feeling the pinch, so they assume what they have must be fine. In reality, though, potential clients (even those who have been referred) can’t know all about the history or background of the practice. All they see is something that doesn’t look as professional as it should.
As humans, we are literally programmed to make snap judgments about trust, value, and credibility based on visual cues. If your website doesn’t put your business in a positive light you’re going to lose a lot of potential business because people simply won’t bother to pick up the phone, stop by your office, or take the next step.
Website Inaccuracies Can Cause Problems
Usually, when new clients come to us to talk about their websites they are thinking in terms of what they see visually. That’s only natural, as we mentioned, given that humans are predisposed to make assumptions based on what their eyes are telling them.
However, it’s almost always the case that an outdated website, or one that has been put together in a hurry, is going to have inaccuracies. There might be pages that refer to products that are no longer sold, old information dealing with prices, calendars, or team members who have left the company. Little details like street addresses and phone numbers might not be current.
These might not seem like huge issues, particularly if you’re used to getting lots of repeat business from existing customers or clients. But what about referrals or those who find your website when looking for a specific type of business or practice? How many of them might turn their attention elsewhere because they didn’t know how to reach you?
In a less direct way, inaccuracies can harm your business because they can cause Google and other online directories to ignore you. That’s because each of these services uses automated software to scour the internet and make sure identifying details (like contact information) matchup to one another. So, if search engines can’t decide what your real address, location, or phone number are they won’t send traffic to your web pages in the first place. Why would they, when it could lead to confusion or frustration for people who need answers or appointments?
And finally, even if you can overcome these hurdles, having inaccurate information online still undercuts your professionalism. If people can’t believe what they read on your website then they have to wonder how trustworthy your company really is.
A Bad Website Can Put You in a Poor Negotiating Position
Let’s assume for a moment that potential customers aren’t turned off by your outdated website, or at least that they aren’t bothered enough about it to seek out another vendor. Let’s also imagine that everything on your pages is accurate and up-to-date. It’s still the case that a website that doesn’t have the right look or functionality can hurt your bottom line.
To understand why, just think like a buyer. Suppose you saw two different professional practices – one that looked modern and intuitive, and one that seemed like it hadn’t been paid any attention in many years. Which business would you assume was charging higher prices?
When your website is aesthetically poor a couple of different things happen. The first is that clients or customers who have the resources to work with the best in the field take their time and money elsewhere. They keep looking, just as we did, because they aren’t seeking a bargain-basement price. Instead, they want the very best product, service, or expertise they can afford.
The potential buyers who do remain are the ones who are incredibly price conscious. That might seem like a good thing if you pride yourself on offering reasonable rates, but it probably doesn’t mean anything good for your business in the long run.
Consider this: it is well-known that customers with the lowest budgets tend to have the biggest expectations and generate the most complaints. Likewise, if you’re holding onto an outdated website in the hopes of attracting bargain hunters, you’re inviting your competitors to step in and undercut you with their own discounts. Whether you can win that battle or not, it’s never a good idea to find yourself in a race to the bottom.
Your Competitors are Just a Click Away
We have already touched on this briefly, but it’s worth addressing the issue of competition directly. It used to be the case that a website was just one piece of information a potential customer or client would see before making a decision. These days, it’s often the only point of contact they will look at during their initial research.
If you had a phone call to win over new clients, or better yet an in-person meeting, a website that didn’t look all that great probably wouldn’t kill your chances. But, given that someone who is thinking about working with you will likely go online before taking any of these other steps, you can’t afford to swing and miss.
Just in case you have any doubt about this, check out this article by Forbes that points out the average web searcher will spend no more than three seconds on a website before clicking away to a competitor if they don’t see the content they are looking for. The buyers you want to win don’t have to flip through the Yellow Pages or ask for another referral if your website doesn’t impress them. They just move on without ever telling you why.
Customers Hate the “Cheap Suit” Factor
Think of what it would be like to suddenly find yourself needing an attorney for a very important case. Imagine that in the situation you get a referral, make an emergency phone call, and find someone who seems to have the right credentials and temperament to represent you. Then, when you show up to court, they are wearing a cheap and ill-fitting suit. What would that do for your confidence?
In some industries, projecting yourself with credibility isn’t just about impressing your potential clients, but also making them feel comfortable in introducing you to others. In fact, that was a major reservation we had about a few of the vendors we ultimately rejected based on their websites. We worried that if they weren’t interested in putting forth a professional digital identity they would be sloppy in their dealings with other colleagues and vendors we rely on.
A bad or outdated website is like a cheap suit. It tells the world you aren’t serious, and certainly that you aren’t the best of the best in your field. Some clients might get over that impression some of the time — particularly if their budget doesn’t allow them to look for a quality provider. However, none of the people you work with wants to be put in a position where hiring you means sacrificing some of their own credibility.
The Wrong Website Can Hurt Your Recruiting
If you look far enough down the road, an outdated website can make it harder for you to attract employees, interns, and even vendors. That’s because the people who are interested in working with you are going to research businesses just like customers would. A poorly-designed web presence tells them you aren’t looking for the best and the brightest (or at a minimum, that your company is behind the times).
In any kind of professional endeavor, it’s the talent, perseverance, and passion of your colleagues and employees that can make all the difference. A company like ours can’t run without all kinds of vendors who bring unique skills and talents to the table. And, the partnerships we form with other firms, and even students or job-seekers can make all the difference.
The same is likely true in your business and industry. Keeping an underwhelming website is a surefire way to find that future resumes, applications, and opportunities for collaboration are going to dry up. When that happens your business isn’t as competitive as it used to be, and might even be on the path towards shutting its doors.
The Best Reason to Update and Improve Your Business Website
To this point, we have focused on all of the things that can go wrong when your business website gets stale. In truth, though, you shouldn’t really use any of them as a reason to pick up the phone and call us today. Instead, you should reach out because of all the things that can go right.
No matter how successful your professional practice is right now, a strong web presence can help you improve. With the right layout, programming, and marketing plan you can attract even more customers, clients, and search engines. You can also build your reputation through online reviews and social media, or even give yourself an extra edge when it comes to gathering referrals or promoting employment opportunities.
Nothing about this project has to be expensive, stressful, or time-consuming. All it takes is a willingness to explore the possibilities and fill in the gaps that might be missing in your current website.