I just finished an amazing and productive lunch meeting with a prospective client whose work focuses on supporting start-ups and small to medium-sized businesses in the Simcoe County area, and the conversation really drew my attention towards how many new businesses and start-ups are really missing out by not having a website of their own. It would be hard for me to provide an unbiased assessment of whether or not a business needs a website, however, I would suggest to anyone that in this day and age, remaining competitive absolutely requires a website. Without question.
If you're on the fence as to whether or not to proceed with creating a website for your business, then at least consider these 9 reasons why your business is missing out by not having one.
#1 Get it While You Still Can
Inevitably, the first task of creating a website for your business is securing a web domain. Many new business owners are often surprised when the "perfect" web domain for their business is already taken. Choosing a web domain is important because it summarizes your brand online with its name and it needs to be simple, succinct and memorable. If your business is "QuickClean Vacuums", and "quickcleanvacuums.com" & "quickcleanvacuums.ca" are both taken then you, unfortunately, have to settle for a lesser-ideal domain name. If you don't need a website right now (maybe you don't have the skill to create one neither the funds to hire a web developer, or your business is still very early stages) it is still worth considering purchasing the domain name(s) if you know you'll need them in the future. It is much easier to make slight changes to your brand to match a domain name you own before you create a branding package (logos, business cards, marketing materials, etc), than it is afterward - and don't discount the value that continuity between your brand name and your domain name brings!
Remaining competitive absolutely requires a website. Without question.
#2 Snap Judgements
In such a volatile business market where competition is usually fierce, consumers are accustomed to making so many quick subconscious judgements about brands and products they might consume, that you really don't want to create any extra ones for them. Not having a website means that your business lacks an "official" status or measure of success because many consumers will assume that you either can't afford a website or don't care enough to create one for them to look at. You and I both know that's not true, and as an entrepreneur that's not how you feel about your customers. Often times we entrepreneurs have to prioritize certain tasks over others because there is never enough hours in the day! Don't let customers think for even a second that your business is not successful. Look for an affordable option that gets you the highest quality website for your customers to engage with. Happy customers equal happy bank accounts!
#3 Continuity & Repetition
Never discount the value of continuity in everything that your customers see - your website included. Whether it be making sure that your domain name closely matches your brand name (so customers don't have to look too hard to find your website), or using your domain name for email accounts, presenting a brand image that is consistent amplifies the overall sentiment that your brand generates with its customers. One of the principles taught in marketing is the concept of repetition, and this applies to this point too: the more times you repeat your brand name to a potential customer, the greater the likelihood is that they will remember it. We do this in subtle expected ways, like using a business' domain name for email (Bad: [email protected], Good: [email protected]).
#4 Consumers Don't Pay Attention
If your focus has been on generating content on social media alone, then you're definitely leaving your message up to chance. Social media platforms are designed to do two things: aggregate content and make money doing it. By their very nature, social media platforms give you the appearance of a valuable "free" pedestal to showcase your business, and in some cases, you can indeed create a lot of success on social media. But remember, social media platforms are monetized, which means any business that wants to get their brand message in front of their ideal customer has to fork out money to make it happen efficiently. Because social media platforms are monetized, you'll never find a single page that promotes only one single business.
Never discount the value of continuity in everything that your customers see - your website included.
Customers can get distracted easily on social media, not only because social media platforms are intuitively designed to keep users ensnared in their content, but also because there is just so much content amongst yours. The chances of keeping a social media user attentive to your brand message on social media is much more difficult than a visitor to your website. That is why you'll often hear digital marketing specialists talk about using your social media marketing as a means of directing traffic to your website. Once a visitor has reached your website, the content is all about... your business!
#5 Evergreen Marketing
A website's cost is predictable, and building traffic to it is achievable. When you build a great website for your brand, its value far exceeds the equivalent effort devoted to a social media page, and that value lasts longer too. On social media, if you create a great campaign, it disappears off the first page of customers' news feeds in less than 48 hours (based on the customer being subscribed to other content). That's how long that social media campaign lasts until it has effectively been erased from a customer's focus.
#6 The Employee That Never Sleeps
A website is all about your business. Nothing else. Your website also acts as the face of your brand whether you're awake or not. It's live 24/7. That means that you don't have to be awake at all possible hours that your customers might want to get more information about your brand. Having a high engagement rate on social media profiles connected to your website does help your website's visibility, but maintaining and improving the quality of your website's content is the best method for improving your business' visibility in our online world.
#7 Google Judges You Too
Not only is having a website important (how can a search engine find your business if it doesn't have a home on the world wide web?!) but even something simple like how many years your domain is registered for factors into how highly you'll rank in search results. Search engines employ hundreds of ranking "signals" (Google has over 200) that determine what websites will be recommended to searchers when they search for a given combination of keywords, and the exact algorithms are kept top-secret by these companies so that they are not manipulated and consistently return quality results. Having a domain that is registered for 5 years communicates to Google's search algorithm that "this website represents subject matter that will relevant for at least 5 years". Having a domain that is only registered for the minimum registration period of 1 year, while it isn't penalized, does not communicate to Google that there is a long-term commitment being made to this website.
#8 DIY or PRO?
The quick and simple answer to this question is that you get what you pay for. If your business is web design, then it's a no-brainer: do it yourself. If you're not designing websites full time, then the truth is you have little to no chance of keeping up with all the quickly-changing trends in web design; programming languages, new web browser releases, integration APIs, and the list goes on. If you want value get a professional who designs websites full-time to develop your website. If you want true lasting value, get a professional web designer who includes monthly maintenance in their design package by default. Websites, often like cars, start to lose value as soon as you drive them off the lot. Making sure your website continues to perform at it's best and delivers results for your business is the job of a professional - so hire one! Don't get sucked into the abyss that is Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, and the countless others that only give you simple bare-existence options.
#9 Growth Potential
The one thing that remains constant in the world of business is change. Change happens often in ways we can't even imagine, and even predicting how your market segment will evolve usually feels like the stuff of shamans and seers. One change that has emerged that appears at least for now to be a permanent fixation on the business world is the concept of eCommerce. Even if you don't sell products directly online to consumers, user engagement in your website fuels the commercial activity of your business. 72% of Consumers Who Did a Local Search Visited a Store within 5 Miles (Amy Bishop, Clix Marketing). That is one powerful statistic, but in order for you to get in front of consumers in local search results, your business has to be represented online pretty well as it is even more difficult to optimize online content to rank higher on mobile SERPs than it is on traditional desktop SERPs. It might as well be 0% of customers if you don't have a website!
One Final Takeaway
Ultimately, as a business owner, you have to consider all your options for building growth for your bottom line. Not having a website not only hinders growth but often has a long-term negative effect on your business's growth. The old adage is true: You have to spend money to make money. If you don't spend enough money on marketing your business, you could have the best product or service on the planet that no one has ever heard of!