Published: July 06, 2019
Author: Martin William Harvey
In 2018, the United States has suffered from 15 Atlantic storms, 8 hurricanes, over a 1,000 tornados, and 51,898 wildfires burning over 8.5 billion acres. As business owners, we often overlook the importance of a robust, quality website until its too late, much like we don’t think about the quality of our car insurance until after we get into an accident. In this article, we will look into how natural disasters affect businesses, their employees and their families and why businesses with quality robust websites and digital marketing have a greater chance of recovering and achieving greater success after catastrophe hits.
On the evening of September 14, 2018, in the small town of Morehead City, North Carolina business owners and residents prepared for what looked like the most-devastating hurricane to hit the eastern coast of the United States in over a decade. The streets were empty, windows of local business boarded up and sandbags stacked to prevent flooding.
Most had already evacuated inland, those who chose to stay retreated to shelter and higher ground.
Owners of local brick-and-mortar businesses expected to lose anywhere from 50–100 percent of sales profits for weeks or months to come, hoping that insurance companies would bail them out if extensive physical damages were sustained.
For businesses reliant on physical walk-in traffic, hurricane Florence brought anxiety, stress and panic. On the other hand, business owners with stable, robust websites and eCommerce stores could sleep a little easier knowing that their digital presence was almost untouchable by the impending weather system.
David Ferree, co-founder and CEO of Anson Belt & Buckle was interviewed by Guadalupe Gonzalez, Staff Reporter for Inc. shortly after hurricane Florence tore through the Carolinas with over 9 trillion gallons of water and sustained winds of over 90mph.
According to Ferree "It's not like the hurricane hitting this region slowed down sales, emails, or inquiries. That's all that comes with having an online business. It never stops." By taking his business online, Ferree’s business was virtually untouched by hurricane Florence and remained a vital source of income for Ferree and his employees.
Maybe you don’t have an online eCommerce store or a global market for your product, or maybe you don’t have a product at all, but sell a service. What can a quality website do for you when disaster hits?
According to a 2015 survey, 75% of small businesses in the United States do not have a disaster relief plan, and 52% of small business owners estimate that it would take at least 3 months to recover from a natural disaster.
Below are 5 reasons why all businesses located in cities that are subject to natural disasters such as tornados, blizzards, wildfires, hurricanes, dust storms,earthquakes and even volcanos can benefit from having a quality website when disaster hits.
Before, during and after a natural disaster occurs it is essential that your business has the ability to communicate with customers and employees near and afar. Businesses that are likely affected by a natural disaster can add a popup window or a communication bar to the top of their website to inform customers of their operating hours, closure dates or alternate business practices.
Small business websites can also be used to communicate with remote customers who may not be aware the product they purchase from a local store, supplied by your business, will not be available for a period of time.
If you have employees or suppliers who work remote, your website is a way to keep them up-to-date on the latest need-to-know information.
The greatest quality a website can offer is invulnerability. Whether your have an eCommerce store, or just a “contact us” form, your website works for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, sunny, cloudy, and even on holidays. When a blizzard, wildfire or tornado hit, your website continues to work, continues to capture leads and most importantly, keeps your businesses marketing alive.
Many small businesses operate a single brick-and-mortar location, whether using a space in their house or a rented commercial property. During times of crisis, a website offers a crucial additional store-front in which you can operate your business.
If you are someone who normally networks for business, when that sales avenue becomes unavailable, online advertisement is available to pick up the slack. Directing your ads to your website, allows potential customers at home or remote the opportunity to continue shopping with you.
In some cases, it may be appropriate to reach out to your community for help when rebuilding your small business. A donation service or GoFundMe account can be linked to your website and social media accounts to drive community engagement.
When everything seems like if is falling apart, your small business website provides an ability to control your business while in the process of rebuilding or repairing. Whether your business sells a product or a service, a website can give you control over your marketing message as well and become a megaphone for your business and your community.
So, you need a website to make sure your covered when catastrophe hits. Here are some helpful tip as to how to smartly invest in your online presence so when that storm, fire or eruption occurs, your business is prepared.
Business owners are challenged between “DIY Marketing” or hiring a professional to build and manage the maintenance of a website. DIY website development most of the time only costs you your time, if you need your website to act as a powerful advocate for you in the aftermath of a disaster, we recommend working with a professional.
At White Whale Web Design, our clients are located across the United States. If there is a natural disaster in the area of one of our clients, we assist them with updating and maintaining their online marketing presence so they can focus on repairing and rebuilding.
If you locally host your website in your building or in your community, when that natural disaster hits, you servers could be damaged or destroyed. To avoid a website crash, ensure your website is hosted in a remote location or on multiple servers in different remote locations.
At White Whale Web Design, we encourage all of our clients to take server location into consideration when choosing their hosting provider. Our preferred host manages servers from Arizona to Chicago and around the world, ensuring that our clients have a 99% website up-time.
If you are expecting a natural disaster to hit you in the next month, you may be too late to reap the rewards of your website. We recommend preparing for natural disasters much like you purchase business insurance months or years before the storm hits. The longer the website is live before a natural disaster occurs, the better chance it has to work for you instead of against you.
Website maintenance, security and backup are essential to having a healthy growing website. Website maintenance ensures your website will is always up to date and working for your business. Website Security ensures your website does not get hacked or maliciously breached and Website Backup ensures that your website can be restored if the servers crash or malfunction. Maintenance, Security and Backup are three tools you will want to have when owning a website.
Don’t wait until after the storm hits to add a closure notice to your website, and don’t keep your website dormant and untouched until you need it the most. Use your website as a powerful marketing tool to grow your business now. Then when you need it the most, your website will be strong enough to work for you.
When disaster strikes, marketing can easily become the lowest priority for any business, and for unprepared business owners lacking powerful websites, they may be unable to fully recover. For prepared business owners, when storms hit and earthquakes tremor, they can rest a little easier knowing that they prepared their marketing for sustainability.