10 things YOUR customers will want to know

Many companies try to look big, or pretend to be big. The good news for SME business is that research shows that being small is ok, and that customers often make buying decisions based on your personality, sincerity and sensibility that often big companies can’t match.

SME business can often have more fun with their sites, and can often include something that reflects the creativity and personality of the business owner.

People buy from people, and customers want character and meaning. If presented well, and professionally, your “small business” attributes may have unique selling points to customers.

Whatever your industry, tell your story online. Customers want to know who you REALLY are, and what sort of people they will be dealing with. If you lead a team, mention who is on it, and what they do. When there is nothing about you or your team, people wonder about whether you are a good company to buy from.

So don’t be afraid of personalising your site. Appropriately. Professionally. And with relevance to your clients.

1. How unique is your business?

Answers the question “who are you?” and “why do I want to do business with you?” as interestingly and compellingly (and honestly) as possible. Write a management bio that mentions your expertise, your tram’s expertise, years of experience and any unique attributes or details that may set you apart from others. Write with realness, leave the theory behind, and explain how what you’ve done has helped other companies.

What is unique about your business that sets it apart and why should people want to buy your product over someone else? Be concise, avoid any statement that could have a “so what” attached. And don’t write a novel.

2. Convey a clear sense of what your company offers

Make it a priority on your home page to provide at least general information about your products and/or services, with links to specifics on a Products page. It’s incredible how many sites you visit and you still don’t know what it is they do, or convey the essence as to why it’s important for their customers.

Don’t be concerned about divulging too much information about your offerings for competitive reasons. It’s how you satisfy expectations and engage with your clients that will set you apart. Some businesses feel that consumers will have no reason to contact them by phone if they get all they need from the website. There’s a balance that needs to be reached in giving the potential customer enough info to make a buying decision. More often than not, prospects will just move to a competitor site if yours doesn’t have what they’re looking for. They don’t care that you’re protecting your IP.

3. Make you contact information visible on EVERY page

This may seem like a no-brainer, but many companies are purposely vague about their location. Some prefer to do all of their business online and see no need to publish an address or phone number. Others are home-based or they worry that giving a street address or hometown will somehow hinder them.

This is a must, and it’s one small way of building credibility and trust with the consumer. Showing a physical location, even one that no one will ever visit, comforts a customer that your business is real and legitimate. Provide a phone number that maps to that location, rather than just an 0800 number.

4. Third-party validation

This means customer testimonials, client lists, case studies, awards and recognition you’ve received, positive news clippings and the like. Potential customers want to know who you do business with, and what current customers have to say about their experiences. This builds trust.

Client lists are especially important if your customers are businesses. If you’ve got some big-name customers, people like to see that. But make sure you get approval from those you list as clients.

Having a presence on social networking sites and blogs, especially those serving your industry, is an increasingly popular form of validation among customers. Buy formulate a social networking strategy with clear goals. Don’t just set it up because everyone else is doing it, and use the tools to build relationships through 2 way communication, not as a dumping ground for your boring thoughts.

5. Secure Socket Layer (SSL)

SSL is an encryption system that helps protect the privacy of data exchanged between a customer and a website. If you have an e-commerce site that takes credit card information, customers want to know that their sensitive data is encrypted. Get SSL and let customers know about it and any other safeguards you put in place.

6. Ease of use and navigation

If people can’t find it, they can’t buy it. Keep your site crisp and clean and easy to navigate. Study traffic and usage patterns to adjust your site based on what visitors are coming for. The ability to search a site is very important, and businesses should study their search data to see which trends determine front and centre positioning.

7. Clear guidance on your processes

Let customers know, step-by-step, important things such as how to order, where to go and what to do should something happen out of the ordinary. Customers also want to know your shipping costs and procedures and how they can get status reports. Last but not least, customers want to know how you handle complaints and problems, return procedures and whether you have a money-back guarantee.

Your processes can be described in a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page or separate “how to order,” shipping and/or confirmation pages. Include a way customers can contact your business or fulfillment agency for more information.

8. An ability to give feedback

Encourage feedback about your products and services, your ordering process and your site in general, by providing a feedback mechanism, either as email links or forms. You must decide what feedback is pertinent, don’t just gather data for the sake of gathering data. You must have a plan in mind as to what you’re going to do with the answers, and perhaps consider offering an incentive to respond. You might get some good stories to feature on your site or in your blog.

9. Clear calls to action

Customers want signs or buttons in order to act, be it “Buy now” or “Sign up for our newsletter” or “Click here for more information. Many SME business sites don’t provide calls to action or they don’t present them clearly enough. If you have a captive audience, this is the time to grab them!

10. Special offers and personalisation

By personalising a sale with a special offer, incentive or coupon, small businesses can gain an edge on bigger counterparts. This can be as simple as a hand-written thank-you note, free gift wrap services or a special offer for repeat business.

Having a personalised touch is something small businesses can do that many big businesses can’t.