I received an email the other day from someone genuinely wanting an answer to the following question:
Does my business REALLY need a website?
At first glance it might seem that the answer is obvious (a resounding yes!), but for many small business owners who have relied on word-of-mouth, marketed themselves at brick-and-mortar shows, and who use social media well to effectively build a client base, I think it is a question worth taking seriously. And for business owners who already wear so many hats from designer, product developer, sales person, to mom, employer, accountant, photographer and everything in between it can seem like just another thing to be done. A chore. And an expensive chore at that. The options out there are also overwhelming - how should I go about it? How much is a decent amount to pay? Who can I trust? How long will it take? Can my business really afford it? And what will the return on my investment really be?
You as a business owner might be feeling a bit like:
Everyone makes a big fuss about having a website. I have a business, and it's doing fine. I have a Facebook Page, and that's free. If it’s all working for me, why should I change it? Why should I pay for something when I could use that money elsewhere? And how will this website practically help my business grow, in real everyday ways?
When is it best NOT to have a website?
I really tried my best to think of genuine reasons why you SHOULDN’T have a website, and it was hard - very hard - to come up with anything good. Even the answers I came up with turned into reasons to have a website in the end. But here is my attempt to answer this honestly. When is it best NOT to have a website?
- If you have a physical shop or a restaurant and you’re too busy with too many customers and have too much money and can't accommodate any more people, then it probably best not to get a website built.
If you plan on quickly throwing something together just to be able to say, 'There! I have a website!' then it is probably better not to have a website.
I couldn't think of any more reasons so I did some research hoping to find some good answers to this question. After reading between 15 and 20 online articles on the topic of ‘reasons NOT to have a website for my business’ I could only find two more reasons:
If you’re a spy!
If you’re marketing to the Flinstones!
So then, why should I have a website? What are the benefits? And how can it grow my business?
1. Your website makes your business more accessible
Your website isn’t for you, its for your customers. 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. On your website they can get directions, find out product information, learn about your opening hours, returns policies, design process, and more. Your website works for you 24/7. It is a digital shop front for your business,
2. Your website communicates credibility
What is credibility? It is the quality of being trusted and believed in. Your site communicates to customers, clients, investors, collaborators and other interested visitors that you really do exist as a business. It builds trust. Trust is important because it gives potential clients the confidence to take the next step with you.* That next step could be hiring your services, purchasing something from your online shop, or reaching out to work on a project together.
Building a site for your business adds another layer of legitimacy not only for clients but for yourself. Remember when you printed your business cards? Someone asks for one, and you hand it over thinking "Wow, this is me! I really have a business. This thing is real!"
4. Your website makes your business relatable
When you use your website as a platform to share who you are, why you started your business, what your values are - both through the written word and through your choice of images - you help people relate to you. This relateability is the beginning of a relationship. Many potential customers want to learn a little more about who you are and what you’re about before they buy from you.
5. Your website enables you to communicate with your customers
A website doesn't have to be a dead static thing that was built three years ago and has stayed exactly as it is since then. Because your website is exactly that - YOURS - you can do with it what you like. You can update content, share news and knowledge, write about topics that interest you, build client questionnaires, gather information and feedback, educate, and inspire!
Gone are the days of building a website for the next five years and hoping it continues working for you. Website content can and should be dynamic and exciting. [As an aside, that is one reason I love working with Squarespace - managing your content as a business owner is totally doable!]
6. Your website puts you in front of the global market place
With a well designed website, the whole world can be your market. Your business is no longer confined to your geographical location, to word of mouth sales (as excellent as that is), even to your friends and family (as wonderful as they are!). Anyone from anywhere in the world can shop your products, or use your services.
7. Building your website is a rewarding process
The last thing I’ll say is this - the process of building a website, or working alongside someone to build your site, is a very rewarding and stretching process. It is like taking the dream you’ve always had of having your own office space, with all the features you want, decorated just the way you want and seeing it come to life. You get to say what you want, how you want, and when it's finished, you have somewhere dedicated to making your mark.
8. Building your website challenges you to see your business from a new perspective
(Okay that wasn't the last thing I'll be saying.)
When you build a website, either for yourself, or with a web designer, you are forced to think from the perspective of a first time visitor to your business. You need to think from the perspective of your clients and customers. This is hard work! Many of us are so deeply immersed in our own work that what we do is obvious to us but not to anyone else! When you take a step back to frame your work, categorise your services, and really grapple with the flow and content of your site, you begin to gain greater empathy for your clients and greater clarity on what you have to offer. Its rejuvenating, stretching, and entirely worthwhile.
But why can’t I just use a Facebook page for my business?
With your own business website you have complete control over your brand, what it looks like, and how people interact with it. A Facebook page is great, and definitely worth having. I won't go into all the benefits here, but to answer the question "Why can't I just use Facebook for my business?" this is what I would say:
- You don’t own your page, Facebook does
- If Facebook owns it, they can take it down
- They can change how your page looks at any time
- They can change who gets to see your page when they change their algorithms
- You have zero control over these things
If you're still on the fence about whether to go ahead and build a website for your business, here's one last word of advice I would like to offer. Your business deserves the best representation online. You've worked hard to get it to where it is today. Don't compromise all that work by putting together a less-than-professional site. Don't throw something together just to tick off another thing on your 'to-do' list. Whether you go the DIY route, or hire someone to do it for you, make sure you get it done right so that it serves your business well and takes it to a new level.
Would you like to chat more about having a website designed for your business?
Just fill in the form below, and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.