by Nancy Marshall, The PR Maven­®

I contend that in today’s business world, a website is one of the most important assets a business can own, second only to the customer list. In the eyes of many consumers today, if you do not have a website, it’s as if you do not exist. And without customers, you have no revenues, and therefore no viable business.

Your Website as an Asset infographic

Consumers are searching on their computers, and increasingly on their smartphones, for information of all kinds: a place nearby to get sushi for lunch, the best model economy car to buy, a good beach read, and which school is best for their child’s education. If your business doesn’t show up on the Web, or if it only shows up in the reviews left by other people, then you are missing a huge opportunity to present your business in a positive light and tout the benefits it offers to its targeted audience.

The time and effort you put into improving your website so it is easily findable and relevant to the needs of your targeted audience is one of the most important activities you can engage in as part of growing a business. A website that offers valuable information and educates visitors about the benefits of working with you or buying your products and services will improve your relationship with current customers and attract new prospects that are an ideal fit for your business.

The customer list is a business’s number one asset. Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that making repeat sales to existing customers is the most cost-effective way to grow your bottom line. Maintaining a customer list will enable you to market directly to those who already have a proven interest in what you have to offer and make the relationships you already have with these people even stronger. So it’s important to tend to your customer list as you would tend to a garden. The idea is to grow your customer list over time in order to grow your business.

Enabling those who visit your site to sign up for an e-newsletter on your website Home page or offering them exclusive resources and information in exchange for their contact information are some of the ways you can use your website to help grow your customer list.

Other online tools, including social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, can help you engage your customers further so they feel they are part of your business and feel a sense of trust in what you say and do. Always remember, though, that the spirit of the Internet is to provide value to your followers, not to hard sell your company’s products or services. What you post on your social media pages should be educational, informative and engaging, not overly promotional.

Your website and your customer list are closely tied together. Your current and prospective customers will refer to your website for useful information that will enable them to learn more about your company and what you have to offer. Value-added resources you can provide for your customers on your website can include resource articles and how-to videos. The more useful background information you are able to provide to a member of your target audience, the more likely they are to make a purchase. Regularly posting new information and resources will give them a reason to return to your website again and again, helping to facilitate a long-term relationship with customers.

Accountants may argue with me about classifying a website as an asset. That said, if you own a bricks and mortar store, and you qualify that as an asset, I believe a website is as equally valuable to a business, particularly if customers can make purchases from that site.

Finally, just like the upgrades you make to your business’s physical location and the equipment you need to operate, the money you spend on marketing is an investment in the future of your business. All marketing initiatives should start with a strategic marketing plan, and a strategy to maximize your company’s Web presence and website should be at the center of your plan. Like any good investment, your marketing strategy should yield a measurable return calculated by clearly defined measurements of success determined before implementation.

At Marshall Communications, we offer our own version of a strategic marketing communications plan, and we call it The Marshall Plan®. One of the features that makes The Marshall Plan® unique is a time-tested development process that engages the leadership of an organization along with the best minds from our agency to collaboratively develop a road map to generate the return on investment your business or nonprofit needs to grow. Please call me if you want to talk more about how a Marshall Plan® can help you improve your bottom line and deliver measurable results that will get your entire organization energized about your growth potential.