UPDATE: This small business website post was originally published on 2 October 2015 and was updated on 14 May 2020.
Many small businesses, especially new small businesses, run a lean operation. They focus on necessities and urgent matters, only spending money when they need to. So, it’s easy to see why some business owners might think a website is a luxury item they can afford to live without.
They might even believe a Facebook page is enough for an online presence, or that a sign with their phone number will generate calls, or that a traditional mailer will help them sell products. But the truth is, the only way to set your business up for long-term success is by building a professional website.
An effective website is the cornerstone of your company. Plus, your customers expect you to have one.
Your website acts as a portal so customers can learn more about your company, as well as research product information and determine if they want to do business with you. If you’re a small business owner, you need to realize that a website isn’t an expensive luxury or a frivolous endeavor — it’s an affordable, fundamental tool that every company needs.
7 good reasons to get a website
A lot of small business owners start really small — by selling to their friends and families, then graduating to local fairs, for example. But you're missing out if you depend on word-of-mouth alone for new orders or clients. Here's why a website should be on your to-do list:
- A website is the anchor for your marketing.
- A website sells your products/services online.
- A website helps you connect with new customers.
- A website has big benefits for local businesses.
- A website builds credibility.
- A website helps you control your online destiny.
- Websites are simple and affordable to set up.
Let's look at each of these in more detail.
1. A website is the anchor for your marketing
Before you print a business card or spend a penny on advertising, you need to start marketing by building a website.
A website will act as an anchor for all of your advertising efforts. All business details, product information and promotions should live on your website first. Then, you can create marketing materials that fall in line with your domain name, which will drive customers to your website for additional information.
2. A website sells your products/services online
Your website acts as a digital brochure, sharing up-to-date information about your offerings. A benefit of web publishing is that you can change information in real-time — no waiting or paying for new print materials.
Guide potential buyers to the products and services they need by creating an effective website.
Think of your website as a 24-hour sales staff. It provides answers to frequently asked questions and can even process sales. Websites with e-commerce and purchasing options allow users to make direct purchases online, thus simplifying sales for both your staff and your customers.
3. A website helps you connect with new customers
While you might already have an established customer base, a website is a surefire way to connect with new customers who might be unfamiliar with your business.
More often than not, people turn to the internet when they have a problem. Searching for solutions is easy — but is your business a potential problem solver? With a professional website, you position your business as a solution for your customers’ needs. Plus, you can optimize your site with search terms related to your industry. This will expose your business to new customers on the prowl.
4. A website has big benefits for local businesses
One misconception about websites is that they’re only for national companies or worldwide corporations with audiences around the globe. Actually, websites are just as, if not more, beneficial for small businesses. In fact, it’s a great way to connect with locals. LocalVox reports:
“70 percent of U.S. households now use the Internet when shopping locally for products and services.”
Plus, search engines often rank results according to location. In other words, if you’re looking for “shoe stores near me,” Google won’t offer you a name-brand result in New York (unless of course you live in New York).
So it’s pretty clear — an online presence has big benefits even for small businesses who deal locally. No matter where you are located, you can get started with an efficient website that draws in customers.
5. A website builds credibility
Nothing is more important than the ability to be found. If you don’t have an established online identity, then customers can’t find you. Not showing up in the search engines (or on the Internet at all for that matter) is one of the fastest ways to lose credibility as a business. It makes you and your company look dated, out of touch and untrustworthy.
Even if you’re fantastic at word-of-mouth marketing, you could be missing out on a ton of referrals. Happy customers are quick to share what they think about your business, but what about their friends who haven’t experienced your services yet? They’ll take to the Internet. And when they come up empty handed, you’ll have missed your chance for brand new customers.
6. A website helps you control your online destiny
If you think having a Facebook page or an online directory listing (like Yellow Pages) is enough to promote your business, you’re wrong.
Building your online presence through social platforms (while important) is not enough.
When you publish through, or rely on, a third-party platform, you’re at their mercy. If the platform decides to close your account, change their policies or revise their programming, you might lose the ability to connect with your audience. Yet, when you run your own website, you’re in control of both the content you produce and the platform you maintain.
7. Websites are simple and affordable to set up
Many small business owners rely on using third-party platforms or avoid setting up their own website because they think it’s complicated or expensive.
But building and maintaining a website is easier and cheaper than ever before. Even if you aren’t tech-savvy or creative, you can now use simple web publishing tools to build a website in a couple of hours. And the fees for hosting a website start at less than $10 per month — probably one of the cheapest marketing costs out there. Have a look at GoDaddy's cheap hosting options.
Take my advice, small business owners — there are no more excuses. If you’re putting off building a website, you’re hurting your business. It’s time to get started!
Editor’s note: GoDaddy now offers a basic version of Websites + Marketing free.