Does a small businesses really need a website?
Don’t let the fact that we’re nearly a quarter of the way through this century fool you, there are still loads of businesses who don’t have websites.
These last holdouts aren’t without their reasons, and we respect that — so rather than persuade, we want to shift the frame of the conversation.
To kick us off, I’ll answer the headline question with a question of my own…
What do you want your prospective customers to think (and feel) about you?
Grab a pen and write out your answer.
In Wabbit’s field of expertise, the term we use is: optics. Meaning, what a given situation looks like through various lenses and perspectives.
- How are we perceived by those we aim to please with our products or services?
- What does the outside world think about when it comes to our company?
These are the views we want to take inventory of before we do anything else. And they are the first part of my answer to your question: Your small business needs a website because of the optics.
Let’s talk more about that…
Websites are the new business card.
I don’t know about you but, when I meet an entrepreneur, I inevitably ask these two questions:
- Do you have a card?
- Do you have a website?
Call me judgmental but, if the answer to either of these questions is a “no,” I automatically assume they are just getting started or, aren’t serious (or successful).
Similarly, if an entrepreneur calls themselves a CEO, and they have less than 5 employees — and a less than professional email address (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc)…
Many people will struggle to take them seriously.
Sure, it could be a true “unicorn” situation, where the tiny team had a blockbuster success — and they just haven’t had the time to make either of these two things, because they’re too busy trying to find parking spots for the dump-trucks full of money.
If that’s you. Rest easy. You’re doing fine.
If you’re already making actual millions of whatever currency you use, and you don’t have business cards, consider this our official letter of congratulations. You can stop reading right now.
Everyone else, proceed.
A website makes you appear more professional to customers.
While writing this article, our research team discovered some pretty shocking data.
First, some context:
- There’s a firm called TDF. They specialize in connecting business owners with the best design firms in the world.
- The Small Business Administration (SBA) in the United States defines a small business as one having limited revenue, and between 1 and 500 employees.
- In late-2020, TDF surveyed 500 small business owners (and managers) in the United States.
The results of that survey suggested that 72% of all businesses have an online presence in the form of a website. This is up from 2018, which suggested only 50%.
Think about this for a second…
That’s a significant increase.
Also, doesn’t that number (72%) feel both surprisingly high, and surprisingly low?
Here’s what I mean:
In a given market (perhaps your market) this suggests nearly 3/4 of the competition has a website — which suggests that a website is necessary just to be able to compete in the marketplace.
If we assume these owners are serious about their businesses, 72% is a surprisingly low number of companies who are seriously trying to compete.
It also means that 28% is a surprisingly high number (of businesses without websites), if we assume these owners are serious about their business’s stability or growth.
If we are talking about that kind of competition in the marketplace (we are), then even a basic website with nothing more than contact information on it is better than nothing. Business owners needs to be taken seriously, or they won’t be a business owner for long.
To succeed your business needs more than a social media presence.
Sounds blasphemous these days, doesn’t it?
It is easy to convince ourselves that a large following on a social media platform is enough of an online presence.
There are some tempting elements of that line of thinking too. At minimum, you don’t have to pay for it, and it seems to be everywhere!
Yet, the data paints a different picture. Among the many reasons this kind of presence isn’t enough, 2 stand out:
First, the customer expects more from you.
According to this Verisign study from 2015, 84% of customers today are more inclined to trust a business with a website than one with only social accounts.
92% of customers surveyed said they prefer to get information from a business’ website rather than their social media page.
And that’s from 2015!
The expectation has only increased.
In my opinion, that data alone is enough to sway just about anyone paying attention. No matter how good you are at social networking, it isn’t enough.
That data clearly suggests, an effective website is critical because your customers not only prefer it, they expect it.
You and I exist in the modern world — we are people, and we are customers. Because of this, we can trust our intuition and make some pretty accurate guesses about why we might overwhelmingly report to prefer visiting a website instead of a Facebook page (or other social profile) when we want information.
Remember that preference, we will come back to it later…
The second point which stands out is: your social media platform can be taken from you at any moment, without warning, and there may be nothing you can do about it.
After all it isn’t really yours. You don’t own it.
The platform owns it (even the sensitive information you put on it) and they can delete you with or without cause.
When you take your business online with a website, rather than a social network, You own that website. It is an asset that generally (ie. unless you break the law) cannot be taken from you.
Don’t miss how significant that point is.
Websites improve the optics of your company, and you own the asset outright. They improve how your customers perceive you, and the asset can’t be taken from you. Let’s call where we are right now, the middle of my answer to your larger question.
Why do we need websites? Because they are incredibly valuable assets in the digital world.
I know I keep saying the word asset, so let’s make that an official headline and continue our conversation.
I’ll state it plainly for us…
4: A website is your most important, most valuable digital asset.
Consider it for a moment and you’ll realize… even massive companies would be crippled without the extensive value a quality website provides.
Web pages are the foundations of presence on the internet. The humble HTML document is one of two fundamental pillars that make the internet possible.
The asset you have in your website is like your plot of land in an infinitely vast digital world.
This plot of land is a kingdom, and you are its lord.
The dictionary tell us that an asset is a useful or valuable thing (or person, or quality).
We could argue that this online presence (the website), for many entrepreneurs, is the single most valuable asset which they will ever possess.
This is due to how perfect websites can be at their jobs. We’ll get to that in a moment. For now, know this…
When built correctly, websites are lead-generating, free-time creating monsters — whose potential can be harnessed to build whatever kind of relationship you want to have with your customers.
Better still, you can give your best clients and customers the kind of relationship they crave having with you.
As an added bonus, having a website (on a domain you own) also allows you to use custom email addresses (email being the second sacred pillar of the internet) which will give you even more credibility when they ask for your contact information, or see that custom email address on your newly-minted business card.
This digital asset we are discussing is a haven where potential customers can get everything they need in just a few clicks. They can ask questions about the business, learn more about your value, contact you if needed, or make a purchase. Meaning, your site is the most convenient place to interact with your company.
Suddenly, you are never more than one google search away from your current and potential customers.
So that’s all pretty awesome. And then, there’s the administrative benefit to you.
The administrative benefits deserve special recognition because you can create best practices, and automate the tasks that currently devour the majority of your time.
I’m won’t bother to measure the potential value of that because it is so incredibly high.
- It can be a content management system.
- It can be a relationship management system.
- It can power your entire marketing strategy.
- It can process and ship orders.
- It can book appointments for any consulting business.
- It can integrate with your existing calendar.
- It can help you attract, and pre-qualify your prospects, allowing you to spend less time answering the same questions over and over again.
- It can run all day, every day, and never need sleep, which means it can out-perform the sales of you and any team you can think of, as long as it is built well.
- etc. etc. the list goes on…
Every bullet point up there should read as:
“Exponential potential ability to improve your personal quality of life as an entrepreneur.”
Now, let’s get saintly and philosophical for a second…
Giving this haven to your customers is an act of kindness. Sure, you’re selling something (we can be honest about that, it’s just you and me) but, you’re also metaphorically opening your doors, holding our your hand in welcome, and saying to your audience:
“I made this all for you, because I care about you, and I believe I can help ease your burden.”
That compassionate mindset should not be overlooked.
In a way, the website is like the entryway to your home, or the lobby of your office. It is the first thing a guest sees when they walk in your door.
Said another way… if I’m a prospect and I’m headed over to your house to meet with you — tidy up and put your unmentionables away. It shows you care about the relationship between us. Don’t invite me in, and then ask me to sit on old pizza, I guarantee I won’t be comfortable.
When you build an effective website for your small business (one which can connect with your customers on a personal level) you will inevitably build relationships that will encourage people to return to you in the future.
Ideally, each experience will feel helpful and comfortable, which makes it easier for them to want to come back.
A customer might think of it like this:
“If you don’t care enough about your business to have a nice website, how can I expect you to care enough about me to take care of my needs?”
Do you see the cause of their concern?
When you have a website, it shows your potential clients and customers a couple of critical things:
- That you have invested in your company and, you are a legitimate, serious business.
- That you care enough about them to take advantage of current technology — to at least make their lives a little more convenient — since they are doing you the favor of trying to buy something from you.
Which brings us to the money portion of the matter…
Websites can be extremely expensive. We recognize that.
We also believe that many businesses don’t need half of what they assume they want.
(More on that later…)
When built with the right mindset, you might be surprised at the level of value one can squeeze from a tight budget, without being “cheap” about it.
5: Even a modest website can be intimidatingly effective at bringing new leads and customers to you.
I mentioned this point a little earlier and, I want to come back to it now because it would be foolish to overlook or dismiss how incredibly helpful this digital asset can be.
Websites are not bound by hours of operation. Meaning, they are capable of doing their jobs non-stop, forever.
Said another way, we are talking about building an immensely productive machine — your website — and it can function perpetually.
You, human, cannot outperform it.
Your website will continue running — while cackling digitally while it laps you again, and again, and again… until the day the internet disappears.
And even then, it might come back.
A custom website, built on sound principles is one of the most valuable members of your talented team.
Among many reasons for this is, in part, because it can act as a virtual storefront, or concierge, open 24/7, for anyone who needs it.
Your online store. Available any day, any time.
If a customer needs something from you (that isn’t speaking with you, personally) the website has them covered, and, will even help make any necessary contact.
It allows customers to learn more about the company (and its products or services) whenever they choose.
It can serve them.
It can educate them.
It provides an avenue for them to get what they need from your business, when they need it, no matter what.
By approaching the website with the mindset of making it a resource for the customer, we become much more likely to stand out from the competition.
The potential administrative benefits only add value.
Which brings me to my final point…
6: Websites are an essential component of modern marketing systems.
A professional, high-quality site (even a simple website) allows you to build better relationships with your current customers, and simultaneously helps you reach a wider audience. But, it won’t do any of that if we don’t understand that we still have to send traffic to it.
If we think of the internet as a giant digital planet, and imagine a business as a plot of land on that planet. We could easily imagine an example like this:
Our business is a rustic storefront on a pleasant street in the middle of town. Generally, a steady stream of people pass by the window. Not as many people stop to step inside as we would like, but we do get a few.
Wonder how can we increase the number of people coming in our rustic little storefront?
My high-altitude, nuance-free answer is that we likely have two, very general options for our approach:
- Increase the volume of traffic passing by.
- Increase the percentage of people choosing to enter.
These two approaches are like twin pillars of marketing. And even with how fundamental they are — regardless of which tactic we try — we still have one element in the analogy which we completely take for granted…
We have a storefront for them to pass by.
What point is there in discussing how to get more customers to come in our door if we have no building?
I know, it probably isn’t a perfect analogy… yet.
Sure, it will take time to achieve any goal, and the road will be complex — but, it will also be possible.
Don’t ignore my use of that word here.
The distinction between possible and impossible is critically important.
What do I mean? Check this out…
If I want to directly reach 1,000 people in the modern world, I can approach it in a few ways:
- I can text them
- I can call them
- I can email them
- I can send them physical mail
- I can visit them
Let’s go through the list…
Right from the start, we can forget about visiting them.
Not only would it be creepy to show up at anyone’s house unannounced, it would take a lot of time and effort to meet with 1,000 people individually.
And it would be creepy.
So, from the top…
We could spend the time sending individual texts or, we could mass-text them. Mass messaging rates might cost less than $200 in this case.
Still, affordability isn’t the critical thing to consider here. Believe it or not, this will be true for most of our possible tactics. We’ve started looking at solutions, without asking the most important question:
What am I trying to accomplish by reaching them?
Answering becomes easier if we first define the goal. Am I texting them because I want them to set up an appointment? To buy something?
It is normal to answer, and move on. But we can’t stop with that question. We have to follow the trail…
Let’s say I’ve convinced them to take an action with my text message. How are they going to do that thing?
Do they keep texting me, or do I send them somewhere else to complete the deal?
If fifty people out of that thousand respond to my text, how am I going to manage that administrative volume?
Do you see where I’m taking us?
If you really wanted to juggle and process 50 text conversations — I’m sure you’re capable of it… I’m just saying that I don’t think it would be your favorite day.
And it won’t be the last time I refer to that bottleneck…
So, text messages are an option, but they might not be the best of our options.
Calling 1,000 people is also an option. A lot of small businesses still default to this method for their interactions with customers. There’s nothing wrong with it — I mean, cold-calling isn’t the most fun but, it can still work if you’re good at it — and yet, there are two problems with calling directly…
- It is time-consuming.
- The rise of SPAM phone calls has made people hesitant to answer unrecognized calls.
Yes, we could call, and (like texting) it may not be the best option. It doesn’t scale well — and again, people are hesitant to answer unfamiliar calls.
Then there’s email, which is a great option — and is another asset we strongly encourage developing.
We have other content here which talks about why email is really compelling for marketing, but (in the context of our current conversation) the efficiency of it still breaks down at scale. It breaks down at scale even when we consider all the incredible automations we can do with it.
Because of potential quantities of information.
Because of the average cost of processing — in time, or money — large quantities of information.
If a customer has questions and their only option is to ask you, via email. You might end up having to write some pretty lengthy emails.
What happens when you’re having to do this for:
- 50 people?
- Per day?
The answer is, after a certain level, personal communication doesn’t scale well.
In personal correspondence, like we saw with texts and calls, we are practically guaranteed to hit a threshold where we can no longer keep up. Responding to everyone will begin to feel impossible at some point.
Even a basic site has marketing features which can handle a greater number of interactions than a single human ever could, and it can do so with laughable ease.
It can serve every visitor that comes to it, simultaneously, translating into a practically immeasurable value in efficiency and time saved for whomever owns the site.
When done well, a website makes responding with high-quality content, and doing so at scale, possible.
It gives us a consistent place to send our audience, with relevant, useful content, no matter how we reach them.
Finally, because I can’t leave it out, there’s direct mail.
I’m not going to get into the details because the only one that matters here is cost.
If you’re a small business sending 1,000 pieces of direct mail, it could easily cost $5,000 or more.
After you consider printing costs and postage, it’s just expensive, and prohibitively so for most startups.
It isn’t that direct mail won’t work, because it does work. The point in our context is, you’ll still run into issues when trying to scale any correspondence. For example: what happens when 100 prospects need answers from you at the same time?
A very familiar bottleneck.
A website allows you to build solutions to this problem.
Just look at the size of these articles!
And yet, this content you’re reading right now is designed to answer some big, common questions that we would otherwise have to answer via email, or meetings, or some other venue, every single time we’re asked.
This page serves anyone, any time, any where.
Rather than rewrite this stuff every time, we make something permanent (which we can edit or add to at any time) and put it somewhere visitors can find, easily.
This piece (the one you’re reading right now) educates our audience, and filters our prospects all at the same time. Plus, when people have questions now, they are much more interesting, more nuanced questions.
It is a better experience for all involved.
Alright, let’s close out this topic, there’s a lot more to talk about. We’ve covered a lot of ground. You’ve taken in tons of information. Let’s summarize it and keep going.
Your small business needs a website because:
- Having a website improves customer’s perceptions.
- It can handle interactions with more people than one person could ever do alone, making it an incredibly efficient administrative assistant / salesperson.
- It is a resource which saves the small business owner time — since they’ve built a resource to answer common questions, they no longer lose their day in email and phone calls.
- They are an indispensable cornerstone in any modern digital marketing strategy.
- It can become a revenue-generating, lead-creating monster. An elite public relations rep, working 24/7.
- Customers today expect you to have one.
So basically, I’ll conclude this section by saying…
If you don’t have a website yet, I want to hear why in the comments section. What are you waiting for?
While they go comment, the rest of us can talk about the critical components of a good site…