Guest post by Hugh Yearsley. To gain exposure by partnering with us, read our write for us guideline.

It is a popular misconception that businesses only need a website if they would in a position to sell their products directly to customers online or have a service that can be delivered – or at the very least ordered – remotely.

However, while many companies can enhance their profitability in using the Internet in that way, every business – large or small – can benefit greatly from having a website or some form of online presence.

Your business an online presence for the following reasons:

1. Marketing and Reaching New Customers

There is no denying that business is tough for everyone at the moment and in this economic climate, every available opportunity has to be taken that may give you the edge over your competitors. With customers being increasingly savvy and more willing to shop around before spending, you need to ensure that potential customers can not only find you as a company, but also discover as much about your services as possible before your rivals.

For businesses which now rely on “traditional” marketing methods, there is only a limited amount of information that can be conveyed in a magazine advertisement or, a 30-second radio ad without being too complicated. Word of mouth is still an incredibly effective and underrated marketing tool, but its reach is often limited, so an online presence could truly revolutionize your business.

Potential customers have changed their habits when it comes to searching for products and services. Unless they are planning on using a business they already know, a lot of people no longer use traditional methods – business directories or newspapers instead turning to the Internet. Having instant access to company and product information is incredibly important and can be a decision maker for most people.

In the time it takes to find a telephone directory and find the right company (which can be random luck to find what you need these days), an online search could have found dozens of companies and a customer could have visited the websites of several of these. Sites like USYellowpages and 411.com and other print-based online versions may still feature businesses without websites, but have little more than basic contact details. If you have a website, it will make your entry stand out from the others, and yours will be the ones people will be more likely to look at before making calls to any of the others so without a website you could well be losing valuable business.

2. An Information Resource

At a bare minimum, your site can provide valuable information to customers about who you are, where you are located and what your company does and sells. Even if customers can’t buy your products directly, they can find out just where they can buy what you offer and you can let them know exactly why they should choose you over anyone else.

You’re no longer tied by constraints of limited physical dimensions of magazine advertisements or time limits in radio advertising and unlike either of these, the website can be as dynamic as you want it to be. Anything in print is out-of-date the instant it is sent to print, often weeks before it is seen by anyone, but information online can be updated in real-time. Information dissemination is a major reason you need an online presence.

3. Customer Interaction and Feedback

One thing that no business wants to do is loose potential customers, but that happens to thousands of businesses every day with many of them not even realizing it. As a business, if you’re not able to take a customer’s telephone call for any reason, your main switchboard is engaged or a customer needs to contact you out of normal office hours and can’t find a way to reach your business, then human nature dictates that they’ll look elsewhere.

With a website set up with a basic contact form, with popular options for the most common enquiries available, your customers will be able to reach you 24 hours a day at a time to suit them. If their questions aren’t covered by the form, just having a professional email address connected to your website (as opposed to a free email address provided by Hotmail, Google or similar providers) will give more credibility to your company and even if a customer doesn’t contact you through your website, your email address will be easier for them to remember.

Your website can also offer an invaluable resource for both you and your customers when it comes to testimonials. New customers are often wary of using businesses or products for the first time, and no matter how much money is invested in advertising or marketing, customer reviews are worth their weight in gold in comparison and are far more important. Sites can easily incorporate features to allow customers to directly offer feedback to you on your company as a whole or even each product or service.

If you want to make sure that your customers are kept up-to-date with all the latest news and developments with your company, you can post daily updates to a news blog on your website, Facebook or Twitter, or even offer an electronic newsletter through your website that visitors can subscribe to.

4. The Importance of Social Media

online presenceOver the last few years social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter have had an increasing impact on business as well. Successful companies are making use of both, in addition to their primary websites as a way to interact with their customers in new and innovative ways that they have never been able to before. They have provided business with a quick way to get bite-sized information and updates directly to customers and – more importantly – receive vital feedback.

While some businesses rely solely on Facebook for their online presence and don’t give the Internet a great deal of consideration, the combination of a website, Facebook and Twitter is the most effective way to promote your business online to reach the widest possible audience.

Ultimately, the true potential of what a website and social media can do for your business is limited only by your imagination.

Hugh contributed this guest post for WhoIsHostingThis – who provide hosting reviews on the top web-hosting companies, visit the website. Hugh is a freelance tech writer and marketing expert.

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