What does your website say about you?

I think most people in the industry would admit that website design is not exactly a forte of the catering equipment distribution sector.

But then why should it be? Most dealers will tell you that the majority of their work comes from referrals, tenders or the usual methods of lead generation rather than somebody hopping onto Google in a bid to find a company capable of fitting a £150,000 commercial kitchen.

That may well be the case. But in this age of digital ubiquity I think it is becoming harder to use that as an excuse for the website neglect that is prevalent throughout the market.

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Whether it is a potential supplier, customer or any other party in search of information, websites are invariably the first point of contact for most people these days and, depending on how much care you give to your website, that can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Like it or not, when somebody clicks on a website they will form an instant impression of the business, its areas of expertise and its likely professionalism, even if they are not consciously aware of it.

I’m not advocating dealers chuck thousands of pounds at turning their websites into something that Apple would be proud of, but there are definitely some sites out there that could do with a decent spring clean. I visited one dealer’s website recently whose ‘news archive’ hadn’t been updated since 2007. That’s six years ago. Surely something must have happened to the company during that time which is worth shouting about!

Websites that still require you to type a message into an embedded box if you wish to contact the company are also a pet hate of mine. In this day and age an organisation should at least provide email addresses of a person or a department. I sent a message via one of these anonymous boxes recently. Did I get a reply? Of course not.

Websites today are not as expensive to maintain as they used to be, nor does keeping them up to date have to be a huge burden on resources, especially when for most dealers you are talking about a trade-facing website, not a consumer-facing one.

Distributors with the most impressive websites seem to be the ones which understand that keeping things informative, well-organised and fresh can be incredibly effective.

They recognise that their website is a platform to market their services, demonstrate their credentials and make it easy for prospective partners or clients to contact them.

Having a good website isn’t going to make or break a business, but it wouldn’t harm companies to remember that it is the modern-day version of a corporate brochure.

There is also another very good reason why dealers might want to think about stepping up their game if their websites are a turn-off for visitors: their nearest competitor is only one click away.

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