If you own a small business you might be missing out on the real power of the Internet.
But you’re not alone. In fact, most small businesses aren’t fully utilizing the Internet, according to a 2015 global survey of small businesses conducted by Redshift Research and commissioned by web hosting company GoDaddy.
Of the small businesses surveyed, 59% did not have a website. That’s 59% of small businesses that don’t have total control over their online presence.
Now let me share the good news: 56% of the small businesses included in the survey said they planned to create a website within the next two years. Many of those respondents felt that having a website will have a positive impact on their business and anticipate that it will help their business grow. On the flip side, those that reported that they don’t plan to start a website have lower expectations for their business.
Common reasons cited for not having a website were that the business owner was concerned about the cost of starting a website, the business owner felt they lacked technical expertise, or the business owner felt the operation was “too small” for a website.
In reality, it’s quite the opposite. A business of any size can benefit from owning and operating a website. Let’s talk about some of the top reasons why a website is crucial to your small business. Here are five ways a small business website can benefit you:
#1. You own the website.
Many small business owners choose to maintain a Facebook page as their “official” home online. While this is a better choice than not being online at all, it’s important to remember one thing: a Facebook page cannot replace an official website. A Facebook page can be a great tool in a small business’s marketing toolbox, but it is not meant to shoulder the burden of all customer interactions. Facebook pages are not comprehensive – they leave something to desire and oftentimes don’t provide all the information that your customers want. Did you know the average attention span dropped in the year 2013, down from 12 seconds to eight seconds? How likely is it, really, that your customer found all he needed on your Facebook page within eight seconds?
Putting all this aside, there is one big advantage that an official website has over social media profiles: you actually own the website. You don’t own your Facebook page. Facebook does! What happens if you wake up one day and find that Facebook has decided to delete your page? You’ll have lost the only way you had to reach your customers. And even if they don’t delete your page, Facebook still has an incredible amount of control over your content and which of your fans sees it. Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm limits the amount of fans that see your posts. Organic reach for pages droppedto just 6.5% as of March 2014. Compare that to the 100% of your customers that are able to see 100% of the content on your official website, and you’ll see why only maintaining social media profiles for your business could be costing you customers.
#2. A website acts as the heart of your marketing and lead generation efforts.
Like your other marketing materials, your website should reflect your business and the customer experience. Traditional marketing methods can accurately represent your business, but these initiatives don’t exist in a vacuum. In fact, it’s quite likely that these campaigns will actually lead a potential buyer to seek out your website. Many of the people that see these campaigns will go online to learn about your business. Don’t you want their first impression of you online to be something that you have complete control over? Websites are also great resources for building email and prospect lists through the use of landing pages and other information gathering forms. You can then later use the contacts you gather for remarketing and nurture campaigns to capture these visitors at a later time. Without a website, you miss out on these leads.
#3. Your customers want you to have a website.
Traditional advertising can be effective, but did you know that 70% of today’s customers prefer to get information on a company through content rather than ads? Your website is the perfect place for this informational content to live. Customers want answers to their questions, and they want those answers now. With a website you can offer answers to your customers’ most frequently asked questions, share directions to your location and the best way to contact you, post testimonials about your services, and more. Having a website makes things easier for your customer, and customers love businesses that make things easier for them.
Your potential customers also want you to have a website, because many people turn to the Internet when they need help solving a problem. A website can help demonstrate to these prospects that your business is the right choice and you are the problem-solver they have been looking for.
#4. A website enhances credibility.
Your website is an important part of establishing credibility with your desired customer. According to research from Stanford, approximately 75% of users say they make judgments about a business’s credibility based on its website. Your website should act as a credible “first impression” of your business. Not having a website and not having a presence in search engines can make your business seem out of touch or less credible than your competitors that maintain a website. In a 2015 survey of 6,000 US adults, 67% of respondents said the number one change they wanted to see from small businesses over the next 12 months was an improved website. The message is clear: having an up-to-date, mobile-friendly website helps to instill confidence in your customers.
#5. Your website works 24 hours a day.
Unless your small business just happens to involve tea leaves and a crystal ball, you likely can’t predict when a customer will be searching for information on your business or the services you offer. Customers don’t limit their research time to business hours – they search when it’s convenient for them. Thankfully, with a website your business will be ready for these customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A website can act as a digital brochure that customers can access at any time to learn important information on your products and services. It’s like having a salesperson on-call 24 hours a day, but at a tiny fraction of the cost. (After all, you don’t have to pay your website a salary!)
You don’t need a big budget to make a big impact with your business online. A good website design is important, but it’s just as important to be accessible and relevant to your customers. A small business website can be the perfect platform on which to promote your offline business and inspire customers to work with you and buy your products.