So you’ve started up a small business, and you’re raring to go. You’ve got your office, or your shop all decked out, and you’re starting to get a decent amount of customers. But maybe not quite as decent an amount as you’d hoped. What are you doing wrong?
If you want to grow as a business, there’s one thing you need: a website. A physical premises is great, but there’s so much more you can do when you add an online presence to it.
1. It helps people find you (even when you’re not in)
Think about your day to day life. How many times do you search online for something, whether it’s a product, a business, or just the answer to a question?
Search engines are how most people find out information these days. So if someone has a question that you can answer, or is searching for a product that you sell, surely you want to be the one they find.
But if you haven’t got a website then what is the customer going to find? Your competitor who does have a website, that’s what. Why would you hand all those potential customers over to someone else when you could have them yourself just by having a website?
And not only does having a website mean people can find you online, it means they can find you even when you’re not at your desk or in your shop. People don’t just go on the internet between 9 and 5 when you’re business is open.
So having a website means that people can browse your products and find answers to their questions when you’re not open just as easily as when you are. I can’t count the number of times I’ve browsed clothing stores while watching TV in the evenings and ended up spending a fortune (I’m looking at you BooHoo!). Having a website means you’re not missing out on potential sales just because you’re physical premises is closed.
2. It helps you reach a wider audience
When you’re closed people obviously can’t visit your physical place of business. But they can when it’s open, so what’s the problem? I hear you ask.
Well, what about the people who can’t visit you when you’re open? The people who don’t live close enough to get to your physical premises? 93% of consumers don’t want to travel more than 20 minutes to buy something, but why should that mean that they don’t buy from you?
If you have an eCommerce website, then you can sell to anyone with an internet connection. So get seen by search engines, and reach a bigger audience, just by having a website.
3. It makes you look professional
Have you ever heard of a company or a brand that you thought sounded interesting, then Googled them to find out more but there’s nothing online for you to look at? It’s disappointing. And it stops you from looking into that company any more because you have nowhere to look.
This happens to me a lot with restaurants. I’m the kind of person who likes to look at the menu for a restaurant before I go. Whether it’s because I’m on a budget so want to see what I can afford, or if I’m watching what I’m eating, or maybe I’m just plain hungry and want to know what delicious food I can look forward to.
Often I’ll search for the restaurant, and all that will come up is their Facebook page or a TripAdvisor page because they don’t have a website. Nine times out of 10 these don’t have a menu, and that annoys me. Now maybe I’m just easily annoyed, but it’s an issue for me.
Having a website makes you look like you care about your business and your business’ online reputation.
I will say here, though, that the only thing worse than not having a website, is having a bad one. If your site looks cheap, it makes your business look cheap. A lot of times if I see a bad website I assume the business isn’t operating anymore, so they do not need to update it. Don’t lose customers because they think you’re out of business.
It doesn’t have to be expensive to set up a website. Personally, I use Squarespace and find them so simple to use. But there are plenty of other website building platforms, such as Wordpress, which you can use without breaking the bank.
4. A website is easy to update
Print ads, radio ads, direct mail, posters, and any other sort of traditional marketing are great, but what if you make a mistake that you only realise once you’ve sent them out? A spelling mistake, an error in pricing, anything like that would be a pain to have to fix in print.
But on a website, it can be fixed in an instant. You can fix any misprints or even outdated information with no cost and minimal effort. If you have products or services that need updating regularly, then it’s easy to do so on a website.
If customers have questions they frequently ask you, you can update your website to include the answers, so you’re also saving yourself the time it would take to answer each time.
5. You can show yourself as an expert in your field
Those customer questions I was talking about? The best way to answer those is in a business blog. Being able to solve queries and problems your customers and potential customers have makes you seem like the go-to guy in your field. If customers know that they can count on you to solve their issues they’re much more likely to buy from you.
So having a website with a blog does so much more for your credibility than a physical shop alone can.
6. Your website isn’t going to disappear one day
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Most of those things I’ve just listed you can do on a social media page, like Facebook, so you’re still not convinced that you need an actual website.
But what happens if Facebook shuts down? I know it sounds unlikely, but at one point we all thought MySpace was going to be around forever.
I was listening to a podcast recently by one of the guys from the Rubberbandits (the Blindboy podcast, if you haven’t heard it you really should, it’s brilliant). He told us about the Rubberbandits’ old Bebo page and how they had accumulated a large following on it. But after posting something about mental health, Bebo cancelled their account with no way to reinstate it. They had to create a new page and start building their followers from scratch.
Can you imagine having to start your Facebook or Twitter account all over again from the very beginning, not only having lost all your followers but your content as well? It sounds like a damn nightmare to me. This is much less likely to happen with a website, so why put yourself through the torment?
I hope I’ve convinced you of the importance of having a website for your small business.
Now if only you could find someone to help you write up all that web copy you’ll need to fill it *ahem* shameless plug *ahem*.