One of the questions I’m often asked goes along the lines of “I run a small business and I can’t sell my product or services online. So do I need a website?”
My answer is always, unequivocably “yes”. Even if you believe that your product or service can’t be sold online, a website is an invaluable marketing tool.
Increasingly, when someone wants to find out about a company, or particular services local to them, they will search for it. I do it all the time – I don’t bother picking up the Yellow pages or Thomson Local – I go online and use Google, Bing or one of the other search engines. I get the information I need instantly, and also, my first impression of the company is often gained from how their website looks. If it’s badly designed or obviously older than say 6 – 7 years, I will often go elsewhere.
Take a local beauty salon for example. Many of their products and services can’t be sold online, however they can be advertised effectively online.
I might use Google to do a search for ‘beautician york’ or ‘beauty salon york’. Such a search will instantly give me a ‘Local business results’ listing (including a map) of all beauty salons in and around York – those which feature the words ‘beauty salon’ and ‘york’ in their home page’s text.
This also gives me a link to their website, and their phone number and address so I can contact them and make an appointment. Job done.
Without a website, this sort of marketing just wouldn’t be possible. I believe it’s invaluable.
Let me clarify one point: I’m not saying you should put all your efforts into selling your wares over the internet, though if your product lends itself to easy online sales, you should certainly be considering it. The point to be made here is that you should at the very least have a presence on the web so that customers, potential employees, business partners and perhaps even investors can quickly and easily find out more about your business and the products or services you have to offer.
That said, it’s not enough that you just have a website. You must have a professional-looking site if you want to be taken seriously. Since many consumers now search for information online prior to making a purchase, your site may be the first chance you have at making a good impression on a potential buyer. If your site looks like it was designed by a colourblind monkey, your chance at making a good first impression will be lost.
One of the great things about the internet is that it has levelled the playing field when it comes to competing with the big boys. As mentioned, you have one shot at making a good first impression. With a well-designed site, your small business can project the image and professionalism of a much larger company.
Here’s the exception to my rule: It’s actually better to have no website at all than to have one that makes your business look bad. Your site speaks volumes about your business. It either says, “We take our business so seriously that we have created this wonderful site for our customers!” or it screams, “I let my 10-year-old nephew design my site. Good luck finding anything!”
I have come across several businesses like this. Some are happy to take advice, and I have been involved in replacing many sites designed by school children or college students. Others, well, their websites are years out of date and give a bad impression. Very few of these attract any business.
Take my advice and get yourself a website for your business. You will definitely reap the benefits.