Why do I Need a Website?
If you’re a small business owner, you've probably had someone tell you to get a website. But why should you? Maybe you already have a steady stream of customers. Your day is very busy, and you don’t really feel like it’s worth the effort to teach yourself website design, too.
You aren’t alone. AS of 2018, 35% of small business owners felt that their business is too small to justify a website, and 46% of small businesses have no website at all.
Now more than ever, as commerce and more human interaction moves online, it’s important for your business to have a website. It’s true whether you sell a good, or a service; are a sole prop on your own, or an LLC with a healthy base of employees. Having your business represented online is critical to your continued growth.
If you’re still considering if, or why, a business website is actually important for your business, consider the factors below for some motivation:
You’ll Be Discovered by More Customers
97% of people learn more about a local company online than anywhere else, and the majority of customers won’t engage with your business at all if they can’t find you online. Even if most of your customers find you by word of mouth, a website helps confirm for new customers they’ve found the right person or business.
Consider if one of your current customers gives your name to a friend over the phone. This new potential customer has no other information, just a name and a business type-- possibly not even correctly spelled! 47% of people visit a company’s website before making a purchase. When your potential customer punches what they remember into a search engine like Google, and they don’t see your business come up, they will likely give up entirely, either assuming you’re no longer in business, or that they have the name wrong.
As a rule, you will always get more business the easier you make it for people to find you. This means keeping an eye on your Yelp, Google and Facebook pages, but having a website is key, as well. It’s what people will use to confirm your business exists. Once your website is built, you can start learning more about optimizing your SEO for your business, but that’s not required to start out.
Customers Will Trust You Faster
You know your business is a legitimate one -- but how do you convey that to future customers? Consider your website your public face. If it doesn’t exist, people will wonder why (even assuming you might be hiding something, or your product or service must not be that great compared to your competitors who do have websites).
You want to ensure your website answers (either directly or indirectly) these five questions:
Who are you?
An “About Me” section that tells your story, humanizes your business, and cements you as a trusted business owner.
What do you offer?
A list of everything your business offers. This could be in the form of a shop, a list of services, or a sample of offerings.
What do past customers have to say about what you offer?
Having a “good looking website” isn’t always enough to get customers to buy your credibility. Consumers read an average of 10 reviews before they feel ready to trust a business. Whether your reviews are listed on your local Google business listings, on your webpage, or on Yelp, (or preferably all of the above) having testimonials listed somewhere online will do wonders for your business.
How can customers contact you?
Be sure to put your contact information somewhere on your website. A contact form is a great idea to avoid bots or spammers.
How can customers purchase your product or service?
It might sound silly, but some businesses simply make it too hard for customers to give you their money. If you sell physical goods elsewhere online from your website (such as on Etsy or eBay), make sure your website links to your online shop. If you are creating an online store on your website, make sure your checkout process is straightforward and your inventory of goods is easy to find from the home page. If you sell a service, this advice still applies! Make it obvious how customers can book time with you, or sign up for your service. If the customer has to click around too much to figure out how to engage with you, they will often give up. If you prefer customers call you before booking an appointment, it’s OK to say that on your website, too.
A Website Saves You Time
A website is a great place to store answers to frequently asked questions, like your hours of operations, if you’re accepting new clients, and your rates. Many businesses get calls from prospects or existing customers asking simple questions about location and hours of operation, or shipping times and product availability. Having these answers listed online can save you significant amounts of time, and make the potential customer happy, as they get easy answers to their basic questions. Be sure to keep this information up to date, especially during the COVID pandemic, when customers expect a change in hours, shipping speed, or availability of you or your products.
Doesn’t Have to Cost as Much as You Think
While the best thing to do is hire a web designer, we know that’s not always in everyone’s budget. If you’re just getting started, a DIY website subscription plan (such as on Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly) typically ranges from $100-$400 per year, including your domain registration. The price range depends on the features you want on your website. Wordpress is a completely free website builder, but may require more technical skills, time, and learning on your part. Carrd.co is another free resource for simple one page websites.
All of these sites can help you build a website in about a day. If you offer a service like tax prep, massage therapy, or a mobile party service, you can probably get away with a simpler, one page website that costs less. If you want to add a shop where people buy things online, your website will be a bit more robust, and will likely cost a bit more on the spectrum. Website builders like Shopify are wonderful for building online shops, as well, and are focused on e-commerce and online retail right from set up.
Whatever you pick, budget a few hundred dollars per year, and about a day of work to build your site and register your domain-- but it could end up being quite a bit less, depending on your needs.
"But I’m Not Good at Design, and I Can’t Code!"
You don’t have to be a professional artist or web designer to build a great website. We have tons of pointers to help you out, but also know that most DIY website builders have templates. You can simply pick one and customize, making it extremely easy. No design or coding degree required! Professional photography that showcases you, your service, and/or your products is often worth its weight in gold on your website, as it adds an element of distinct professionalism, and will make potential customers see what they are engaging with, raising their trust. However, you can easily supplement your website with free stock photography from Unsplash.com or Pexels.com, until you get your own.
With all of this information, why don’t more small businesses have websites? Running a business is a hard job that requires owners to wear many hats. It is very easy to put marketing on the back burner. However, there are more and more self-service platforms that make building a website simple, and extremely affordable. All you need is some information about what your business does, what you currently have to offer, and how people can find you.
Know that what you put into a website now will likely pay for itself several times over in new business.
If you feel like getting more savvy, you can explore our resources on design, SEO (improving your search engine presence), and more. However, even just having a website with your own URL will do wonders for your online discoverability and legitimacy.