Does My Business Need a Website?
There are many small businesses up and down the UK that don’t have a website and assume that they don’t need one. Maybe you’re just one person working from your home to provide a service to local customers – baking, ironing or cleaning, for example. Or perhaps you think that a website is too ‘high-tech’ for your particular business. Some business owners simply don’t trust the digital world and refuse to join in.
Well, unless your business is taking up every second of every day and you simply don’t want to expand or bring in more revenue, the fact is that you most definitely do need one. The lack of a website could seriously harm your future business prospects, whereas a relevant and well-executed site can act as a fantastic marketing tool. Notice the words ‘relevant’ and ‘well-executed’ in that last sentence – a slipshod website will do you no favours at all! Yes, it will cost you money to set up a good site (but probably not as much as you are thinking), but it’s a long-term investment, so don’t let the initial expense put you off.
So if you’re still not convinced, keep reading to find out why a business website is so necessary in the digital age in which we live today.
Increase Your Customer Base
According to the Office for National Statistics, almost 90 per cent of UK adults had used the internet during the first three months of 2016. This figure has been increasing with every passing year, so there’s no sense in claiming that the internet is not for everyone. The online world is fast becoming a daily necessity to young people in the 16-24 age bracket, with a whopping 99.2 per cent going online on a regular basis. The only age group showing relatively low online figures is the over-75s, but even here there is a steady increase in numbers, with almost a third of people in this age group embracing the technology.
You only have to look around whenever you use transport, have a meal in a restaurant or simply walk down the street to see the numbers of people accessing their smartphones and tablets. Everyone is busy communicating with their friends, sourcing products or services or reading review sites. If you don’t have a website, you’re in danger of becoming completely invisible.
Try searching online for other businesses that offer a similar service to your own. Are they bigger concerns than yours? What sort of websites do they have? Are customers engaging with them? You don’t have to copy what they do, but looking at their sites should throw up some ideas to get you started. Perhaps you offer a better service than they do? Maybe your prices are lower, or you offer a superior product? Once you’ve established what makes you unique, you need to ask yourself how your prospective customers can be aware of these facts if you don’t have an online presence.
If you were planning on opening a shop, you would ideally choose retail premises on a high street or main thoroughfare which guaranteed plenty of passers-by. You probably wouldn’t choose to open a store down at the end of a cul-de-sac where hardly anyone ventures. Yet if you don’t have a web presence, that is exactly what you are doing to your business. You are actually sabotaging your own chances of success!
Back in the days before the internet became all-pervasive, the usual way to source products and services was through the good old Yellow Pages. You’d browse through the commercial telephone directory to find suppliers relevant to your needs, you’d single out a few companies that caught your eye, and then you’d give them a call. But life has moved on. The Yellow Pages directories have shrunk by 75 per cent, and although the company still has an online presence, people tend to look for a website as soon as they find a supplier who is relevant to their search. Having a website link to click on provides the customer with reassurance that they can find out more information to ascertain whether this is the appropriate company to deal with. It’s a fact that companies which provide potential customers with a site to visit stand more chance of retaining that customer and making a sale.
The lesson is simple: if you don’t have a website, you’re literally forcing potential customers to visit your competitors who do have a website.
Have an Online Brochure
Whatever your business, you need to spend money on advertising. Whether that’s placing an advert in a local newspaper or distributing flyers, every business needs exposure. Unfortunately, with these ‘traditional’ methods of advertising you have no control over the people who view your literature. Adverts remain unread, flyers and brochures are discarded or lost, and your business ceases to be visible. In fact, you need to think of your advertising budget as a constant flow, with repeat orders to newspapers and magazines in order to maintain a visible presence. Over the months and years, that figure can add up quite substantially.
A well-designed website works as an online brochure all day every day and is available to be viewed at all hours of the day and night. It can’t be lost, mislaid or accidentally thrown away, unlike paper adverts and leaflets. Carefully constructed keywords ensure that prospective customers will quickly be guided to your site by search engines, bringing a steady flow of traffic to your site and hopefully converting many of those visits into sales.
Unlike traditional brochures, an online presence can be configured to allow your customer base to interact with your site, helping to foster bonds of loyalty. Providing links to social media means that your customers will even promote your products and services for you, as they ‘share’ your information with their friends, helping to grow your business.
Provide Up-to-Date Information
Traditional flyers, brochures and leaflets can quickly become irrelevant and out of date. A change in your pricing structure requires a whole new batch of printing, and anyone who has gone down that route in the past knows how long that can take! Sometimes the information is already out of date before the leaflets have even been distributed, and customers can be very unforgiving about inaccurate information.
When your pricing and special offers are online, it takes a matter of moments to update them, along with alterations to stock levels. Your customers will always be presented with timely information, so no more red faces when special offers run out or prices are higher than they expected. Stock control can be built into your website too, so customers know when stocks are running low. You can even include an option to email customers when you receive new stock, so you don’t automatically lose a customer when you don’t have their chosen item in stock.
Many people in the past have been put off the idea of a website because web developers were slow to make amendments to the site. The business owner used to have to make a request for changes, then wait for them to be executed, and then face a bill for the additional work. Nowadays, thanks to the rise of Content Management Systems, it’s a simple matter to make the changes yourself, whenever you need to, at no extra cost – and with intuitive systems you don’t need a background in web design to keep on top of your website.
Give Customers ‘added Value’
A website isn’t just a static set of pages showcasing your products and services. Search engines love websites which update their information regularly, and one of the best ways of going about this is to provide a blog, or virtual diary. No matter what you are selling, you can add extra value by providing your customer base with additional information relevant to your business.
You can explain how to use your products effectively, provide examples of how your products have helped other people or give insights into your particular industry. Customers love to engage with brands, and a blog can allow people to make comments, add their own information or provide photographs of your products in action.
A Good Website Will Save You Money
This is a surprising fact to many people who don’t yet have a website. One of the most popular reasons given for failing to join the digital revolution is that a website is expensive, but this is actually incorrect thinking.
Add up your spending on your advertising budget, whether that’s taking out newspaper advertisements, printing brochures or paying someone to deliver leaflets. Each time you spend money on one of these activities you are buying short-term advertising which is only in circulation for a matter of days each time you undertake it.
Now compare the long-term benefits of a website, which continues to be relevant all day every day for as long as your business is still running. Your one-off payment has incredible staying power – although you can choose to spend more and increase your web presence at a later date if you so choose.
The type and size of your business will dictate the amount of money you will need to spend on a website. Very small businesses may only need a couple of pages, telling people who you are and what you do. Any self-respecting web design team will be prepared to discuss your requirements with you free of charge and prepare a quote for you to look over before getting the go-ahead for work to commence on building your site. It could cost a lot less than you are expecting, and the benefits will soon cover your initial outlay.
A Good Website Will Save You Time
Every business owner knows that time equals money, so saving you time helps to rein in expenditure too. A good website will answer your customers’ questions without disturbing your day – depending on your line of work, you may choose to include a FAQ page specifically to answer the most common queries that your customers tend to have.
Clear guidelines about your delivery and returns policy, for example, mean less time for you on the phone repeating the same information to yet another customer – time that could be spent more usefully elsewhere in your business.
A good website provides potential customers with all the information they could possibly need about you and your business, including ways to get in touch with you. A dedicated email address means that a prospective customer can ask that burning question in the middle of the night if they so choose, leaving you free to answer when you arrive at the office or log on to your computer. No more annoying missed calls or garbled answerphone messages or questions that leave you stumped – you can source the information that your customer requires and answer at a time convenient to you.
Your website should also have clear details of how to find you, if that’s relevant to your particular business model. A map pinpointing your location means you won’t need to take phone calls from frustrated customers wanting directions to your place of business.
Provide Customer Feedback
Everyone loves a review these days – just look at sites such as Trip Advisor, where everyone is encouraged to be a critic. Love them or loathe them, reviews are here to stay, so jump on the bandwagon and use them to your advantage.
When you get great feedback from a customer, display it prominently on your website as a message to other prospective customers. A queue of glowing testimonials adds real value to your brand and provides site visitors with the assurance that you provide an excellent service, which is something we all want from any transaction.
Your website is a great tool for showing visitors what makes you different from your competitors and encourages them to choose to spend their money with you rather than click elsewhere.