Let's say you're a small business owner, you've been around for a few years and you're reasonably content with how things have turned out, just the way they are. People know you and your business primarily by word of mouth, or by reputation, and you're okay with that. But if things aren’t growing as quickly as you’d like and you're not exactly okay with your company's growth, it might be time for you to consider building a website as another way to get your name out there. Perhaps you’ve come up with a bunch of arguments as to why you don't need a website for your business. Some of them may sound like this:
- We’re so small, we don’t need a website yet. There’s no hard and fast rule about when a company is ‘big’ enough to merit a website, and that’s because even fledgling companies can benefit from an online presence. A website will show the world what you do, and that you’re serious about your business. And there’s no wrong time to make that statement.
- We have a social media page; that should be good enough. There's little doubt that social media is a great start! But here's the thing; not everyone uses social media. Some may not use it all, or some may have only limited experience with Facebook or Twitter. Are you everywhere on social media? Does your company have its own Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube page? If you don't, you're missing out on a broad audience.
- It costs too much; I don't have that kind of money to lay out. Who said you had to pay for a website? There are plenty of platforms that will let you create your own website, for free, using their templates. Of course, prices for website range from free into the thousands of dollars, but which direction you take is up to you.
- I'm not that computer savvy or I don't have the skills or imagination to make one. As previously stated, some web platforms give you your choice of templates, fonts, colors, effects, styles, etc. You can play with it to your heart's content until you have your website exactly the way you want it. If you do hire a firm to build a website for you, they will customize it to your specifications. Of course, you can always hire a design company to build it for you, to get your vision right without spending your precious time on it.
- Our clientele doesn’t use the internet. News flash! Everybody uses the internet!! Or, almost everybody. In 2017, there were 272 million internet users in the United States. If you don’t have a website, you’re literally missing out on millions of potential customers.
Those are the basic arguments a small business owner might have against getting a website, but here are the arguments why you absolutely should have one (and we're backing it up with figures).
- A whopping 97% of consumers use the world wide web to track down a local business. Remember the days when you used to pore over the yellow pages looking for a great restaurant someone told you about? The phone book was thousands of pages thick and you'd flip from page to page trying to remember the name or location, because that was the only way business could be found. It was a hit-or-miss proposition, most of the time. Unless it's being used as a child's booster seat, most people who still get the yellow pages toss them straight into the recycling can. In other words, the internet is the new phone book, and you need to be ‘listed’ in order to get found.
- A recent analysis showed that small businesses with a digital footprint (i.e., a website) had revenue growth of about 400% compared to revenue in a year when it didn't have a website. Moreover, job creation within the business expanded by about 300%, largely as a result of that higher growth.
- Consumers expect a business to have a website and look with disdain on those that don't as “less professional.” It’s sad, but true – having a website today makes every company seem more trustworthy and more professional. Sure, a website is important if you’re in a visual business such as hairdressing or graphic design, but it’s also important for product designers, retailers, lawyers, accountants and even private tutors. Your website is a great way to make the strongest first impression.
- Many bankers and lenders, including the Small Business Administration, take a very broad, holistic look at your creditworthiness if you're applying for a small business loan. That includes your visibility online. They will score against you if you're not actively marketing your business using a medium that the majority of consumers hold in high regard.
- A whopping 69% admit that they look at a small business' website before they make a decision. Most consumers want to feel comfortable in that decision, and look at as much information as possible about you and your business. If you've been in business for a decade, say that. If you've won awards within the industry, make it prominent on your site. Tell the world about you, your beliefs, your goals, the reason you created the business you're in. These are the things that make you a credible entity.
- A website answers the basic questions consumers want to ask… where you are located, do you take credit cards, do you deliver, what are your hours, etc. Reduce the questions you get by answering them in advance – this will give you more time to focus on your business.
- You can compete with the big guys, just by having a website. Yes, you may have believed there was no way your small business could get a leg up on a major competitor. But many consumers prefer a local business for a number of reasons – local businesses often offer a more personal experience, quicker service, a more solicitous attitude. With a proper website, you can let your local customers choose you, their local small business, in favor of an impersonal national chain.
Hopefully, after reading this, you'll understand exactly why your small business needs a website. Whether you try yourself first, enlist the help of a friend a little more computer savvy than you, or just go straight to hiring a professional, it will be time (and money) well spent. Once your website is up and running, you'll wonder why you ever thought you could do without it!