Quality websites vital for business

ADAM ROBERTS
Last updated 13:00 14/06/2013

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Social media is "word of mouth on steroids", while a mobile website is essential, a group of the Nelson region's small to medium-sized business owners have heard.

They were at the Tahuna Beach Function Centre yesterday for The Biz, an event hosted by Yellow and featuring speakers from Google, Xero, Telecom and BNZ.

Google small business partnership team manager Alex Storey said that while Nelson should celebrate recently being named Google's top "eTown", business owners needed to update their websites to accommodate customers who increasingly used mobile phones to access the internet.

New Zealand was a country of enthusiastic technology adopters, with smartphone use at about 44 per cent, but businesses had not kept pace with consumers' changing habits, he said.

A Yellow survey of digital readiness, conducted by Colmar Brunton, showed that 38 per cent of Tasman small to medium-sized businesses did not have a website, and of those who did, only 13 per cent did any mobile marketing.

Mr Storey said businesses needed to embrace responsive design, where websites scaled according to the type of device on which they were accessed.

The business owners also heard from Misha's Vineyard owner Misha Wilkinson, who shared her story of becoming a successful Central Otago wine brand, and how a strategy of "relentless marketing" had made a decisive difference.

The brand was named among the top 20 New Zealand wine producers by wine magazine Decanter, and exports to 22 countries.

Mrs Wilkinson said marketing was the most important part of a business but was more than just sales and promotions.

Social media was an important aspect of that marketing, but it was useless without a quality website that worked well on all devices, she said.

Social media was often thought of as a mass communication platform, but it was a place to have one-on-one conversations, she said.

"It's word of mouth on steroids."

Twitter was particularly useful for her brand, and she described the social network as like "being at a trade show all day, every day in both the countries that we already export our products [to] and countries I want to export our products to".

Syth Hoyle, of Combo Marketing, a web design and hosting company, said that while her company was already up to speed with many of the suggestions made at the conference, it had been a good networking opportunity, and she hoped that businesses without websites would be inspired to set them up.

Cibocal Ltd director Graham Drummond, whose company sells specially-designed cutting boards to people with disabilities, said he learned a lot from the conference.

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Mr Drummond said he suffered from rheumatoid arthritis but loved cooking, so he developed the product for himself and fellow sufferers. It meant people with arthritis or other ailments did not need a strong grip to be able to use a knife.

He had a patent for the product in Britain and had filed patents in four other countries, including New Zealand.

Mr Drummond said he went to the conference feeling like he was up to speed with digital technology - he chose the made-up word "Cibocal" for his company because it returned no Google search results - but left feeling concerned that his website was not optimised for viewing on smartphones.

When he made his website, mobile was just a secondary platform, he said, but now he was being told that websites had to adapt to one platform.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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