Why Your Small Business Needs A Website

Why Your Small Business Needs A Website
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According to some surveys and stats, a shocking number of small businesses still don’t have a website. It depends on where you look for the numbers and what geography we’re talking about (some surveys put the number of site-less businesses upwards of 60%!), but numbers notwithstanding, it shocks me that any small business wouldn’t have a website.

I suppose I’m biased – I’m immersed in an online world – but when you consider that anywhere from 50-90% of consumers (again, depending on who’s asking…) search for and research products and services online, that’s a pretty big chunk of the market to be missing if you’re one of those businesses without a website!

Whether your website is “good” or not is a whole other question, but let’s start with the fact that you need one.

Some people I know don’t agree.

Some “have” a website but only have it “because”. They don’t see any particular value in it and don’t use it for marketing.

Others think that their Facebook page will suffice. (Here’s how we feel about that.)

Here’s why all of the above is crazy. And why, if you fall into the “I don’t have/need one” camp or the “It’s not important anyway” camp – it’s time to rethink your premises!

Surviving Is Not The Same As Thriving

Some business owners argue, “I’m doing fine without a website. I don’t need one.”

I suppose there are some cases where that’s true but I bet there are plenty more where just because a business is “doing fine” doesn’t mean it can’t do better.

“Better” might come in the form of increased revenue. Or a decrease in repetitive tasks (like answering the same questions over and over and over…) Or better customer service. Or more qualified leads and customers.

“Doing ok” is nice but “better” is… well, better.

I mean, you didn’t open the doors of your business just to “do ok” did you? May I presume that you had grander visions? That you wanted to be good at what you do, make good money, enjoy your work and the freedom that comes with it? That you (gasp!) started with a passion that went beyond, “I want to do ok”?

Bakeries, restaurants, electricians, artists and massage therapists everywhere, listen up! People are looking for you. And a boatload of them are doing it online. If you’re not there, you’re missing out. Especially if you’re a local business, where the number of people searching for you online jumps exponentially, why wouldn’t you want those people to find, work with, and recommend you so that you can grow and thrive?

Dig deep… I bet you do.

The Web Is The New Phone Book

For a large chunk of my life, whenever I wanted to find a business I pulled out the phone book and looked one up.

Now do you know what happens every year when the phone book gets delivered to homes in my neighborhood, tossed into our driveways sealed in their clear plastic bags?

They sit there. It snows on them. The plows come through and scoop them into a pile of sludge. In the spring, they emerge as dirty, crunched, soggy masses of tattered paper and plastic.

They sit there some more.

Fortunately I live in a townhouse community where the landscapers eventually come through and clean them up.

I seriously don’t think I’ve picked up a phone book from my driveway in ten years. Nobody else on my block has either.

A chunk of your customers hasn’t either.

When people want to look up a business, especially a local business, they go online. Do you want to be there when they do?

Because I Don’t Want To Talk To You

We’re getting busier and we’re getting crankier.

We want results immediately and we want them easily. Sometimes talking to a human is so tiresome.

That’s not to say your website can (or should) replace human interaction but it can (and should) be a place where people can ask you questions or make comments without going through the hassle of calling you – during business hours – and sitting through your phone queue.

I’m one of those people who really dislikes picking up the phone for a simple request. But give me a web form and I’m happy as a clam. I bet I’m not alone.

I know a lot of people who are either shy (yes, that actually exists) and not particularly comfortable calling a business or just in a hurry and can shoot off a question via web form in a fraction of the time it takes to find a phone number, call, wait, explain, go through the conversational niceties and get an answer.

We tend to be skeptical of pretty much everything these days. I bet you’ve hesitated to call a business at least once because you feared the hard-sell or the up-sell or just having someone try to market to you when all you wanted was to find out if the shirt you like comes in red.

Don’t put your customers (and potential customers) off by failing to provide them with the comfort and simplicity of a web form.

A Website Is Open 24/7

Are you?

A lot of searching and shopping is happening when you’re not working, on vacation, or tucked snugly into bed.

Florists, doctors, plumbers, designers and spas, pay attention! People still want your products and services even when your doors are closed for the day. Do you want to simply hope they’ll wait until the morning to call you or do you want to be sure to capture their questions the moment they’re inspired to ask?

If you do business internationally, you’re competing with some very different time zones. Don’t make someone in the US work around your Australian schedule to contact you.

Just be on the web.

Because Answering Repetitive Questions Is Repetitive

How many phone calls does it take from people asking, “Do you clean upholstery, too?” before you put the answer on your website? Oh wait, you don’t have a website…

Every business has a pretty stock set of questions that people ask, whether it’s about pricing, services, location or other details that you can easily provide on your website.

People research online to find answers and if they can only find those answers at a competitor’s site then that’s bad news for you.

A website gives you the opportunity not only to answer questions but to educate your prospects and customers about your products, services, values and business. It may be the only chance you have to make an impression. Take advantage of it!

You Can Outpace The Competition

You know all those other dentists, attorneys, party planners, contractors and salons without a website?

Me either.

Because they don’t have websites.

It’s long past time for the excuse that “people in your industry” don’t have websites. The only thing I can say about that is: exactly.

Be the one who does and you’ll be the one who people find when they’re ready to do business.

One Word: Legitimacy

It’s a truth of doing business in a digital age: if you can’t be found online, your business just doesn’t appear as legitimate as one that can.

Imagine you’re looking for a new hair stylist. All other things being equal – meaning you don’t know anything about hairstylists and nobody has come through with any glowing referrals – would you rather entrust your silky locks to one that has a website with color photos of gorgeous hairstyles, bios and credentials of the stylists, an interesting story about their history and some hair care tips for winter frizz and summer chlorine-green… or one that just has a phone number and a pin on a Google map?

A website is your chance to create an impression, to build a brand and to convince people that you’re for real and you know what you’re doing.

It also gives people a comfort level that you’re not a shady fly-by-night that’s going to disappear tomorrow and abscond with their money. For small service businesses this is a real threat that you need to overcome. Take away some of the perceived risk by “proving” your legitimacy with a well-thought-out website that ensures people you do have a history, you do know what you’re doing and if things go wrong, there’s a way to find you.

Two Words: Home Base

With so many other options for being found online, including Facebook, Google Plus Local (previously Places), Yelp, Foursquare or other services, it may be tempting to think some good reviews and a presence is enough.

Nope.

You never want to rely on “other services” for your business welfare. When Foursquare disappears, Facebook changes the rules or someone finds a way to slam you with bad reviews that may be baseless, what are you going to do?

A whole lot of not much, that’s what.

Your website is your home base. It’s your property, where you make the rules and you create the experience.

It’s great to be found in a variety of ways but you want to be able to bring people back to your home where your own brand of hospitality is on full display.

And, if you’re smart, where you can test other marketing ideas, like offers, deals, sales pages, email list-building and content marketing.

If you don’t have a website – or if you do but it’s only there “because” – I hope you’ve reconsidered and are starting to see that a website can be an invaluable asset. Otherwise, it may be time to start counting those lost opportunities.

Do you disagree? Are you running a booming business without one? Let me know what you think!

Carol Lynn Rivera

Carol Lynn Rivera

I'm a business owner, content creator, podcaster and marketer. In 1999 I founded Rahvalor Interactive, a web and creative services production studio, with my husband and business partner Ralph. In 2011 we created Web.Search.Social, a consulting and marketing service line for small businesses. We also cohost the Web.Search.Social Podcast where we challenge the status quo of marketing and the Carbon Based Business Units podcast where we talk about the human side of being an entrepreneur. On any given day I wear the hat of project manager, consultant, social media manager and content marketer. My true passion is writing and in my spare time I'm busy planning my early retirement to Barcelona as a famous and wealthy novelist.
Carol Lynn Rivera
Carol Lynn Rivera