Are you one of those entrepreneurs who doesn’t believe your business needs a website?
By Rieva Lesonsky
Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in a small business version of the movie Groundhog Day. I can’t recall when I first learned that only 50 percent of small business owners had websites, but I’m guessing it was it was at least two decades ago. And yet, in 2018, according to Blue Corona, about “50 percent of small businesses have invested in a website.” In another report from CNBC from last June, “45 percent [of small business owners] say they don’t have a business website.” Are you one of those entrepreneurs who doesn’t believe your business needs a website?
Back in the day, the excuse was “websites cost too much,” and surprisingly, Blue Corona says 30 percent of the small businesses that don’t have websites today cite cost as the reason. But that simply doesn’t reflect reality. According to PC Magazine list of its picks for the 10 best website builders for 2018, “For about $10 per month (or around $25 if you’re selling products) and a few hours of your time, [you can] create a unique, attractive website.”
A more modern excuse for not needing a website is, “I’m on Facebook” (or Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram). While I applaud those who understand the importance of having a social presence, they misunderstand the primary purpose of social media—which is marketing. Social media is not a substitute for having a website. In fact, one of the goals of having a robust social presence is to drive consumers to your website. In short, your business needs a website.
Why your small business needs a website
There are numerous reasons having a website is crucial to a small business’s growth. One of the most important ones is control. When you build a website, it’s yours. It’s all about your brand. Whether you DIY the site or hire web designers to create it for you, the end result is 100 percent yours. It’s up to you to decide on design, content and goals.
If you rely on social media as a website substitute, you cede control to someone else (which is the opposite of being entrepreneurial). You must use their design, abide by their rules and drive consumers to their site. In essence, you’re spending money to promote their brand. Plus, these companies change their algorithms and policies all the time.
You have no control over the fate of a social site. In the last several months, we’ve all heard about high-profile people deleting their Snapchat and Facebook accounts, which often leads to other people deleting their accounts. This trend can create an overall negative impression of that social site—which can spill over to your company. And of course, no one can guarantee any social media platform will be around for the long term. Remember MySpace? It was the world’s largest social networking site from 2004 to 2010.
Despite the buzz, not all consumers are active on social media. Even if you have a presence on one or two platforms, your customers could be active on another. And many consumers use social media to be, well, social. They want to look at family pictures and talk to friends, not hear a business pitch. (Find out more about how consumers use social media.)
Meeting consumer expectations
Your business needs a website–but not just any website will do. We’re no longer in the early days of the internet. This is the 21st-century, and customers have different expectations. Bazaarvoice says millennials have the most spending power of any generation ever. This demographic, and Gen Z, the one that follows, are digital natives. They expect the companies they do business with to not only have a website, but for that site to be optimized for mobile viewing as well. (Get some tips on designing a mobile friendly website.)
Not having your own website can hurt your sales. If your marketing directs consumers to a social site, can they make a purchase there? In most cases, they cannot.
Consumers often look up a business online, before they decide to do business with you. If you don’t have a website, what will they learn about you? Most consumers today consider businesses without websites to be less than trustworthy.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) of consumers turn to the web when they’re searching for local businesses, according to a study by the Local Search Association. What’s more, the LSA reports, business websites are the number-one place shoppers go when they’re ready to buy something.
Get your own domain name
Simply put, every business needs a website, and there is no longer an excuse not to have one. It’s more affordable and easier than ever before to set one up.
First step: You need a name. For maximum effectiveness and credibility, you need your own domain name (e.g. YourBusiness.com). That is how you build a brand. That is how you create a consistent online “home” for your business. That is how you give your customers and prospects direct access to your business.
Once you choose your domain name and register it, you need to create an effective website. Remember, your ultimate goal is to drive consumers to your website so you can convert them into customers. Think of your website as a hub, and everything you do to promote your business (social media marketing, SEO, content marketing, and online ads) as the spokes. Together they’re a powerful tool that drives traffic, builds awareness, attracts new customers, better engages with current clients, and creates a stronger business primed for growth.