Many entrepreneurs who understand the need for having a website are doing it themselves with freebie web hosting that comes with free drag and drop page builders.
However, there are still a lot of small business owners who do not believe they need a professional website or even a website at all. They’ve either been in business so long without one they think word of mouth is all they need or they believe they can get all their customers or clients on Facebook or other social media channels. Not true!
If you’re a small business owner or you’re just starting out, like many, you may think there’s no benefit in having a website when you can do everything on social media. Or maybe you think you can’t afford a professional website so you get a freebie and do it yourself instead.
Perhaps you’re in the generation that didn’t grow up with computers, you don’t use a computer so you think your customers don’t use computers. You think if you are not tech savvy why bother with a website. But even if you are an established business that has relied on word of mouth and think you are doing quite well thank you, there are several reasons why your business needs a professional website too.
I believe, even with all that you can do on social media, and even if you’ve been in business for several decades, unless you do not want to grow your business or you’re about to retire and travel the world, your business needs a website and preferably one that is professionally designed and developed.
1. YOUR BUSINESS WILL GAIN CREDIBILITY
More and more people are searching online for things they want, for solutions to their problems, to compare prices, or just to get some information about a store, restaurant or business before they purchase from them. If you don’t have a website, potential customers will go to your competitors who do, especially if you are a home-based business without a bricks-and-mortar address.
Having a website will not only provide the information they are looking for, but it will give your business credibility. It says, I am here, I mean business, and I am in it for the long haul.
You may be thinking, I have a “freebie” website that I built myself, why should I pay for someone to do it for me? There are several reasons why I don’t recommend “freebie” D.I.Y. websites, which I address elsewhere, but even a “freebie” website is better than no website at all. However, if you are somewhat tech savvy and have the time to build your own website, I strongly recommend you at least use WordPress with a professional theme and that you pay for web hosting with a reputable web host.
If you do have a D.I.Y. freebie website, ask yourself, is it providing you with the professional image you desire for your brand? There’s nothing less professional online than a website that says “Hey, look, I used a free website builder!” Your business will gain so much more credibility by having a professional website designer help you design and build your website.
With careful planning, designed responsively and with your customers’ needs in mind, your website will provide a professional image and give potential customers a great experience when they visit, whether it’s on their computer, their tablet or their mobile phone.
2. IT SAVES YOU MONEY IN THE LONG TERM
As a small business owner, especially one that is just starting out, you’re probably thinking you can’t afford a professional website. But you really can’t afford NOT to. Although the cost of designing a website varies depending on your needs and your skill level, once it’s up and running, a professional website is worth the initial investment, especially if built using WordPress, which enables you to add and change your own content regularly, saving you money in updates.
Compared with the cost of traditional means of advertising, such as newspaper ads, radio commercials, promotional materials and even networking events that often include the cost of a meal or trade tables, when you consider the potential market you can reach with a website, it is a very cost effective way to promote your business long term.
Even if your skill levels are slim to none and you need to continually pay your website designer/developer to maintain and update your website for you, the upkeep costs are still lower than ongoing traditional marketing, and the investment is certainly worth the number of potential customers that will find your business online each year.
When it comes to comparing the cost of a professional website with a freebie D.I.Y. website, unless you are fairly skilled, your website will cost you in time and effort that could be better spent elsewhere in your business. Not only that, but if it’s not professional, or can’t be found in a Google search, you will lose customers and that will also cost you dearly.
Saving money is definitely a great reason why your business needs a professional website, but there are several more reasons.
3. CUSTOMERS CAN BE KEPT INFORMED
In its most basic form, think of a website as being an online brochure or catalogue that can be updated at any time. It is much easier and quicker to update information about your products and services on your website than it is in a print brochure or catalogue.
A website is an effective way of introducing your customers to new services, letting them know about new products, announcing upcoming events and special promotions. You can also provide added value by posting tips, resources and other information through a blog on your website. Unlike print ads, newspaper articles and flyers, which quickly become outdated, your website can provide current information and news. And if you discover a mistake after you publish a page or post, it is a quick fix.
A website can be so much more than just an online brochure or catalogue though. Now we have YouTube videos, Podcasts, Webinars, eBooks and other online media to showcase our skills, expertise and products, provide online classes, courses and workshops. Not to mention social media integration which enables you to share information on your website across numerous other channels and reach an even wider audience.
4. A WEBSITE IS ALWAYS ACCESSIBLE
Unlike you bricks-and-mortar location, which is only open a few hours a day, a website is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can provide both regular and prospective customers the convenience of reviewing your products and services when your store or office is closed.
Not only that, with so many interactive features and add-ons available, visitors to your website can contact you, sign up for your courses, schedule appointments and even purchase directly through your website even when when you’re away from your desk or after closing .
With today’s busy lifestyles, this is a great selling point when making a purchase decision.
5. A WEBSITE ENABLES YOU TO TARGET A WIDER AUDIENCE
Websites are accessible from anywhere in the world provided there is an internet connection. Since more and more people have access to the internet, even in remote locations, you can target a much wider audience if your business has a website.
Whether you offer products or services, or you’re business or consumer based, your website provides you with an alternative location to sell. As a retailer, an eCommerce website is a great place to sell your products to a wider market. Think of all the people who can’t get to your bricks and mortar store that you could sell your products to.
Even service-based businesses can offer their services globally through a website. Now that we have so many affordable ways to communicate with people, we can do business with anyone, anywhere, any time. A website makes it so much easier to attract clients from a global market.
6. IT PROVIDES A MEDIUM TO SHOWCASE YOUR WORK
No matter what type of business you’re in, a website is a great place to showcase your work or demonstrate your skills. By including a portfolio, image gallery or videos, as well as testimonials about your work, you can demonstrate what makes your company or you unique.
Back when I first wrote my original article, there was no Pinterest or Instagram. Now 9 years later, a lot of people are using these social media channels to showcase their work. But is your target audience on Pinterest or Instagram?
On Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and other social media channels, the quality of your photos or graphics is compromised and the size may be substantially reduced. Not only that but Facebook and other social media channels control how people interact with them and even WHO can see them.
If you have a website, your portfolio can be viewed by everyone anywhere and you are in control of what people see, the quality and size of your photos, and how people interact with those photos.
Not only that, but did you know, in most cases, once you post your work on these social media channels you no longer own the rights to those photos and they could be being sold to use in those sponsored ads you see throughout your timeline?
7. A WEBSITE SAVES YOU TIME
I touched on this point in number 2. Time is money, so they are often linked together. Saving time is another great reason why your business needs a professional website.
Time is an important commodity in our ever increasing fast paced world even if you don’t attach a monetary value to it. Most people these days don’t have enough time for leisure, pleasure, family or healthy activities. Having a professionally designed website saves you time both in the short and long term.
By providing information to your customers online, you can save a vast amount of valuable time that you would otherwise spend communicating to your prospects.
Talking to customers on the phone, in messenger or emails, face-to-face at meetings, networking events or trade shows, it all takes time. Creating flyers, brochures and other promotional material takes time – time to plan, research, communicate to your designer, printer and so on. Not to mention the time needed to distribute your marketing material.
With a website, you can save time by providing information about your products and services in various online formats—graphics, video, ebooks, flip books— or as text right on the page—no distribution required. Once your website is up and running, it is available to your customers indefinitely, saving you time having to communicate the same message over and over again to different people.
7. A WEBSITE CAN IMPROVE CUSTOEMR SERVICE
A website is a great way to provide value added service to your customers and clients, and is a great way to keep them coming back to your when they need your products or services.
No matter what products you sell, you can share tips to your customers on how to use or care for the products they’ve purchased from you. If it’s compression garments, you can provide tips on how to wear their garments. If you sell beverages, such as tea or coffee, you can provide brewing times and temperatures.
If you offer a service, such as accounting, you can provide your clients valuable advice to help them pay less tax at tax time or how to simplify their bookkeeping. Or if you’re in insurance, you could give advice on how to choose the right insurance policy for theirs or their family’s needs.
By including a FAQ page or a resources section, you can regularly add articles or upload newsletters to answer all your customers’ questions you can keep them better informed and up-to-date.
7. YOU OWN AND CONTROL YOUR WEBSITE
Even if you have a big social media presence, another reason, and probably the most important reason why your business needs a professional website, is so that you actually own or at least pay rent for your online space.
There are lots of free or low-cost ways to gain a web presence or claim your online space, but in most cases you don’t own your online home, office or store and, even worse, you have little to no control over all that’s contained in your online space. With a professional website, you do.
Social media is a great way to bring traffic to your website and it’s a great way to share content from your website. However, relying solely on social media to attract customers or clients is not only preventing several prospects from doing business with you, but you do not own your your stuff and you cannot control what happens with it. The stuff you’ve uploaded to your favorite social media channel could disappear at any moment without prior warning when they pull the plug for what ever reason and you could lose it all forever.
The same is true for a freebie website. When you decide it’s time to move on, you can’t always take your website content with you (at least not easily) and you will most likely need to start from scratch.
With a professional website, one that is self-hosted, granted you are renting space for your web address, but you own everything contained within your online space. If ever you want or feel the need to move to a different web-host, you can take everything with you (provided you have backups and/or do so before your account expires).
I’ve always maintained the importance of having a web presence that you own, and this is definitely a valid point to consider when determining whether your business needs a professional website or not.
If you’re still not convinced why your business needs a professional website, check out this article on Forbes.com or get in touch with me. I’d be happy to help you with any concerns.