Do I need a website for my business?
Is it really *that* important?
When they first started, websites were a novelty and you were considered so "cutting edge" if your business had one. And if you did, it was likely little more than an online brochure so people could quickly find your contact information, and you never thought about it again. But what about today? In the thirty years since websites became a "thing," are they really necessary for the daily needs of a small business? Does your business really need a website?
Spoiler alert . . . your business needs a website.
Now, before you write me off and think, "Of course she's going to say that! She runs a marketing agency for Pete's sake!" hear me out. The contribution websites make to your overall marketing strategy has only increased since their invention, and they're not going away anytime soon. This is true even for B2B companies—the need for a website (and its care and feeding) is only increasing. So let's get down to it and discuss some of the reasons why you need a website for your business.
1. Customers won't consider you without one.
It's true. And the percentage of customers who prefers to shop at and work with a business that has a website grows every year. Why? In the 21st century, it's considered as necessary to customers as your products or services are. If you don't have a website, customers won't take you seriously. And if they can't find you online, they often won't bother to hunt you down. They'll choose your competition.
Think about how you look for a local business. Do you go to the Yellow Pages? (Are you even old enough to know what that is?) More than likely, you search for a local business through your favorite search engine—hey, you are reading this online.
2. Customers use them for research.
Before they come to your store or contact you, they want to learn as much as they can about you. Rather than stalking your store by repeatedly driving in front of it, customers turn to the internet to learn what they need to know. In fact, 55 percent of people search online before making a purchase, and 47 percent of them will visit your website first. Since they're looking for you anyway, why not provide them with the best possible information available online? (You do know what a troll is, right?)
In addition to pages like "About" and "Contact," your website is a great place to . . .
Showcase products and services. Use great photography and product/service descriptions to entice buyers to make a purchase. Highlight new products or services on the home page. You can even go to the next level and sell your products right online. (FYI, this option is increasingly becoming the preferred one.)
Highlight customer experiences. In addition to learning more about you, customers want to hear from other customers. Most of the time, only cranky people leave reviews online. Don't let the minority be the loudest voice in the room! When you get glowing reviews from your customers and clients, share them on your website.
Answer basic questions quickly. Many times, customers come to your site because they have questions. Create an FAQ page to answer quickly the common questions you get. Don't make customers call or email you. Most customers won't bother.
3. Search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO works hand-in-hand with the first two points. Think about how you search for things online. You typically open your favorite search engine, type in your question (called a long-tail search string), and faster than a blink, you get millions of responses to your query. How in the world does Google (or Yahoo or Bing) do that?
Search Engine Optimization. When you type your question, the google bots search the entire internet for exact (or close-to-exact) matches to your question. It also looks at how recently your website was updated and what your authority is. All of these things (and a few others) play into SEO. And those who are the best at it rank the highest.
4. Social media ain't enough.
Now, I'm not proclaiming the demise of social media. It isn't going anywhere any time soon. But as we learned from the pandemic, not everyone is on social media. Many of these social networks have a firewall, so you can't access the information if you don't have an account. And have you ever tried scrolling through a company's profile to find the post you're looking for? If you can't find it quickly, you're likely to give up the hunt. If you have a website and a Resource section that's categorized, your customers can quickly find the information they need. And social media is notoriously horrible at converting sales. If you're relying solely on your Facebook or Instagram feeds to bring in sales, you're missing out on a lot of business opportunities.
5. Customers judge you on appearances.
So, it's not enough just to have a website. It needs to look professional. It needs to be easy to use on a desktop or a smartphone. It needs to be organized so customers can quickly find what they're looking for. If you have a storefront or not, your website is an extension of your business. It's often where first impressions are made. Not surprisingly, 75 percent of website users make judgments about a company's credibility based on the look of its website. Just like when we meet face-to-face, those first impressions are extremely important, and the design and content of your site are critical to that success. So, if you haven't updated your website since Al Gore invented the internet, it's time for an update.
6. It's just as important for B2B companies.
So often, I hear, "My company is B2B, so it's not as important for me to have a website." Au contraire, mon frére. Think about every business you work with. Now visualize the person you most often communicate with.
That's right. It's a person. And that person will answer their business questions in the same way they answer their at-home questions—through the internet.
Be like Disney
If you're not familiar with the House of Mouse, you might be living in a cave. Among all the things Disney is known for, their ability to project a consistent message and experience throughout all their channels—theme parks, retail stores, websites, etc.—is legendary. So much so, they created the Disney Institute to teach other businesses how to replicate that.
Think about the feels and images your mind conjures up when you think about Disney. It's likely that people in China, France, and Guatemala all have similar thoughts. Why is that? Because Disney took the time to make sure all their channels reflect that famous experience.
Your website is an extension of your business. Before you can get customers into your store or purchase your services, you must have a website that engages them. Google averages 40,000 searches every second, but only 64 percent of small businesses have a website. Your customers are out there, searching the digital jungle for you—they may not know it yet.