If there's anyone who knows a thing or two about small businesses, it's Rieva Lesonsky. She's been covering America's entrepreneurs for more than 30 years, as the long-time Editorial Director of
magazine and today as the CEO of GrowBiz Media
, a custom content creation company focusing on small business and
entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com
That's why we're so thrilled to feature her in our Small Business Q&A today. According to Rieva, a lot of small business owners skip the basics when it comes to putting their businesses online.
Fortunately, these are easy issues to fix. Read on for more of my chat with her:
What would you say to a business that doesn't have a website yet?
You won’t be in business for long. The web is how consumers find you these days. Without a website, you’re lucky anyone knows you exist.
Can you achieve the same goals of a website with just social media pages?
No! This myth is often “pushed” by people who work at these social networks. A site is yours
. Whatever you post on a social network is ultimately theirs. They can—and do—change the “rules,”
change their algorithms, change whatever they want. It’s their
site. You need your own site to be found, to engage with consumers, and even to sell on.
What are some common website mistakes that you see small businesses making again and again?
Well, in addition to not having a site in the first place, today the biggest mistake is not having that site be mobile-friendly
. Consumers are quickly adapting to mobile usage, and if they can’t easily read your site on their phones and tables, you’re in trouble.
A lot of websites also have outdated information, which drives customers crazy. Make sure that you know how to edit your own website and don't forget to keep the information current!
Consumers also want to be able to get in touch and they want you to respond quickly. Make sure you have your contact information readily available on your website—phone number, address, directions,
and hours of operations. And when people do get in touch, either through your website or social media, you should respond within 24 hours
You also cover retail trends—what's your number one tip for people running their own online stores?
I actually have a few tips here:
- Change your site often, especially what’s on the front page. Otherwise you’ll look stale.
- Make your navigation easy and simple.
- Put your phone number on the footer of every page.
- Make it really easy to contact you or customer service. The ability to offer real-time chats helps the consumer make purchases and gives them peace of mind.
- You need to list your products and prices. It sounds obvious, but some people skip this!
- If you also have a physical store, you need a map and directions showing people how to get there.
What do you love seeing when you visit a small business website?
White space is important. Don’t cram so much on a page that a consumer doesn’t know where to look first. I love it when there’s a blog, so you know the business owner is updating their site, and
paying attention. I don't
want to see typos or bad grammar or fuzzy pictures. It makes you seem unprofessional.
You've covered small businesses as a journalist and editor for years. If you had chosen an alternate career, what do you think it would have been?
What a great question. I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was in high school. But if I had any talent, I would love to be a musical star on Broadway. Unfortunately I can’t carry a tune. That
said, I would love to travel around the world, buying stuff I could sell in a store or online.
So if you could hop on a plane tomorrow, where would you go?
I have always
wanted to go to Morocco. Hopefully I’ll get there one day. Right now, however, I’ve been working so many hours, I’d like to go to Hawaii and sit on a beach and read novels for
Thank you, Rieva, for sharing some time and wisdom with us! For more of Rieva's straight talk on small businesses, you can follow her on