If you’re a small business owner and are trying to decide if you need a website for your business, first take a moment to ask yourself, “Why?” It’s a simple question, yet should be top of mind of every business owner whenever any decision should be made. “Why do I need a website for my business?”
Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Jumping on the bandwagon can sometimes be a foolish and potentially dangerous game to play. It can create a business based on following others, instead of innovating. If “because everyone else is doing it” is the only response you can come up with for any “whys” you ask, you need to rethink your reasons or look into other strategies.
But, websites are now a very integral part to any businesses’ success, large or small. Consumers are online more than ever. With the substantial innovations in mobile technology, many of us now carry the internet with us in our pockets.
So to answer the question, “does your small business need a website?” the answer is an unequivacal, categorical yes. Even if you don’t plan to transact online. Here are the whys.
Why #1 – It boosts your local online presence
Google. You might have heard of it. Google is the largest U.S. search engine representing over 75 percent of all online searches in the U.S. (as of 2015). Over 1 billion searches are made monthly by Google searchers and now more than half are coming from mobile devices.
With barriers of access being reduced further and further, consumers are now using the internet more and more to help answer on the spot questions. The accessibility of information in our palms will likely lead to more customers making more targeted narrow searches based on immediate relevance.
For a small local business, local targeted searches are critical for your business. Say I wanted Chinese food one night, I might try to run the above search. Google will automatically make recommendations based on my previous behaviors and current location, or I can focus it more specific to my needs. Many of us, and your potential customers, may search online this way whenever we are not looking for specific businesses or services. Several results will happen after running this search. One in particular is a list of nearby restaurants, along with Google’s map widget. From the list, I can view all my options along with directions and a link to each businesses website should the business have one.
Google and a number of other search sites such as Yelp have made it easy for smaller businesses to compete with bigger brands in the online space in terms of visibility because search results are shown based on relevance factors, such as location. This can make your public information visible even if you do not have a website. But, without a website, you are at a disadvantage compared to the other local search results as a customer cannot read further about your business. Your competitor could take that high purchase intent customer simply because you do not have a further online presence.
Why #2 – Your website is a 24/7 brochure
Your website is effectively an online brochure for the potential customer. Many large companies spend millions of dollars per year for printed collateral such as brochures, then spend even more time and money distributing them. A website is a fast and easy way to give a quick overview of your products and services and provide your general information for comparatively a very low cost. Because it’s online, it will for the most part always be available to a customer who can view it on their own time or when it matches their immediate interests. This reduces the amount of effort a customer must make to learn about your business.
Why #3 – Your website creates credibility
Having a website creates trust and a sense of legitimacy for your business within the mind of the consumer, assuming your website is done well. Because you’ve invested effort into creating a website, customers are more likely to see you as an honest and successful business venture. Having information about your business services and products online further establishes that you are the “real deal” and can help reduce customer doubts that comes with going into an unfamiliar store blind.
But, if you create a local business website, be sure that it is done professionally and is presentable. A poorly designed site with either bad visual appeal or difficult navigation could hurt your business, as it could make you and your brand look substandard. Your small business website doesn’t have to be complex, but it should be of quality. Nothing screams amateurish like using multicolored Comic Sans font all over your page.
Why #4 – Your website supplements your marketing
Your website can act as a marketing tool for your products or services even if you don’t do sales transactions online. Having visuals of your store or goods can help increase sales or traffic because a potential customer has a better idea of what to expect. If you’re a restaurant, for example, you can provide photos and your menu online so a customer can see your options before they even walk in.
A local business website can be an additional way for you to create and announce promotional campaigns or be used as a landing page for other creative marketing you may choose to implement. You can use a website to also announce new items, new deals and offers, or events.
Why #5 – Your website can be an influential voice
A website can be used as a personal soap box for your business in a number of ways. You can create and house self-created content on your site if you wish in the form of blog posts or information. Creating content around your business or service can help you become an influencer or voice of expertise on a particular subject. This can build customer trust in your brand and products.
Using a website, then expanding on the groundwork with a consistent social media presence, can help you become a valuable resource to consumers. Really good content and an influential voice can lead to more earned media in the form of press or shared content, which adds to your overall marketing strategy. For advice regarding social media, check out our post on How to Properly Use Social Media as a Small Business Owner.
Why #6 – Your website acts as customer support
Having a simple Frequently Asked Questions section on your website can help you streamline customer support and reduce the amount of time and resources you need to spend managing support tickets or answering the phone. Customers may be happier too if they can find the answers to their questions online instead of having to call someone, wait for someone to answer the phone, or wait for business hours to get their questions answered.
But even if you do have customers that wish to call in, it’s a good idea to have a website so you can place your contact information online. Few people today bother spending time to flip through a directory book.
Why #7 – Your website can bring you talent and make connections
Not everything on your site has to be catered to your primary customer. You can create separate sections, pages or microsites that may serve a different purpose but still have a value to your business. Having a careers section on your website, for example, can be a good, more permanent way to feature openings that are available at your company outside of the common online job boards. A good website might convince a potential quality prospect to apply for your job opening that might otherwise be missed in the shuffle of similar looking job posts.
Your website can also include sections for investors or partners. A site dedicated to information for business partners can act as a brochure or provide consistent news updates to people who can help grow your business.
Why #8 – Your website can get you hired
Perhaps your small business caters to other businesses or you offer contractual services to clients. Having a website is an opportunity to showcase your talents, services, and achievements. You can use a website to mention awards, recommendations, or testimonies about your great service.
Including a website link on your resume or other printed material directs a person to go somewhere to read further. Generally with print, you have limited space for communication. Having a website will increase awareness and understanding of your business, and also allows space to offer more detailed information about your experience and services to potential clients and employers.
Why #9 – Your website adds business value
Based on many of the previous reasons, a website can directly impact your profits in a positive way. A clean, structured website benefits your customers overall experience with your brand. By providing information and building trust, customers and clients alike may be more inclined to traffic your store or contact your business and spend their money. Additionally, having a well-built and managed website may increase your chances of receiving needed future financing from lenders, as it shows you are both invested in your business and can be a trusted professional.
There are many free website builders you can do yourself, but a better long term strategy may be to have a website professionally done, as it allows for a lot more customization. Initial costs of building a website by a professional can be high depending on the level of work you wish to have accomplished and who is doing the work, but overall costs are still comparatively low compared to many other marketing strategies available. Investing in a website is well worth the costs and the costs of monthly maintenance.