Lack of online presence a major factor behind SME failures

According to figures from Office for National Statistics (ONS)

A recent article published on SimplyBusiness.co.uk quoted figures from an Office for National Statistics (ONS) study that found nearly half of all startups in the UK will cease to exist within five years (45%).

The three main reasons behind these depressing survival rates were identified as:

1. Cash flow (or a lack of one)

Typical figures suggest that around 80-90% of small businesses fail because of bad cash flow. A chronic late payment culture isn’t helping, with delays of over two months now common. However, over optimistic spending and flawed financial planning is also a factor.

2. The current tax system

According to a recent survey conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), over half of small firms believe that the tax system is bad for business, with 60% shelling out an average of £3,000 a year to demystify their responsibilities. There’s also evidence that new legislation is causing chaos for many, with recent changes to EU VAT rules damaging profitability.

3. No online presence

Another recent ONS study suggested that 76% of British adults use the Internet every day, with 74% buying goods or services online at some stage in 2014. Despite these overwhelming figures, the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills suggest that up to two million small firms have no online presence.

Without some kind of online presence British businesses are missing out on free exposure to a massive audience as well as potential sales, intensifying challenge number one – achieving a healthy cash flow.

We aren’t in the business of offering financial advice so we’ll steer clear of reasons one and two, but we can offer some advice on how easy it is to get your business online.

Getting a website

Whether it’s to actually sell your goods and services online, or just provide a shop window for your business, it’s relatively quick and cost-effective to set up a small business website. If you don’t fancy taking this on yourself a website design and development agency will be able to design and build your website for you for a fee. Costs may vary depending on the size and functionality required for your website but once it’s online there is little to pay thereafter. To get your site online it has to be hosted on a server, for most small firms this shouldn’t cost more than a couple of hundred pounds a year – a small price to pay to be accessible to millions of potential customers, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you instruct your digital agency to include an easy to use content management system (CMS) in your website you’ll be able to log in and add or make minor tweaks to content such as images, text and products. Again, if this really isn’t your thing then your digital agency will be happy to maintain and edit your site whenever you need for a small monthly fee.

Setting up a social media page

Some businesses have managed to be successful online simply by having a social media presence such as a Facebook page, Twitter profile or Pinterest Board. We’d recommend having a website and a social media page, but if you want to dip your toe in the water then social media is a good place to start – it’s also free. However, be warned – it can take time to build up your ‘Followers’ and ‘Likes’ and not everyone who accesses the web is on social media. You can quickly boost your Likes and Follows by running a short digital ad campaign to promote your page. These do cost money – not thousands of pounds but it’s likely you’ll want to turn these off once you’ve got your page established.

If you’re spending time and money establishing an online presence – do it right

A bad website or stagnant social media page is as bad (or potentially worse) as having no online presence at all. Seriously.

If you’re investing time and money into a website then make sure it meets all current best practice guidelines in terms of usability, functionality and search engine optimisation (SEO). For example, Google, the world’s number one search engine, prefers websites that adapt to the users’ device. Websites that are responsive, adaptive, or mobile-friendly, provide a user experience tailored to the device they’re being viewed on. This will also please your customers – as well as Google’s robots.

If you’ve set up a Facebook or Twitter page then make sure it is branded with your logo, displays your contact information – but most of all ensure that it is regularly updated. Users and customers can’t engage with your business if you don’t appear in their newsfeed and you’re only going to do that by updating your page on a regular basis.  It doesn’t have to be every hour, just 2-3 times a day to begin with. You can even schedule posts to go out automatically using free online social media monitoring tools such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite.

And here’s a special bonus tip…

Don’t use free email accounts for business

Just don’t. We’re all for saving costs, but setting up a website and then using free email accounts such as Gmail, Yahoo! and those offered by your broadband provider, as your business email address gives your customers the impression that you simply aren’t serious or passionate about your business – even if that’s not the case.

Absolutely anyone can setup a Gmail account. Take the time to set up a couple of email addresses that incorporate your business name or website URL. Again, most small businesses will be able to set these up for less than £100 per year with the right provider. If you’re unsure about how to set these up on your computer or phone then contact your web company. If they’re any good then they should be able to set these up for you – or at least provide you with some easy to follow instructions.

About Vizulate Digital

Vizulate Digital is a digital marketing and web design agency based in Brighouse on the outskirts of Huddersfield and Calderdale.Every website designed and developed by Vizulate Digital is responsive, and therefore mobile-friendly, as standard. We employ SEO best practice and every site is created with a simple to use content management system (CMS).

For more information contact us on 01484 950 200 or email us at info@vizulate.com