In this day and age, you'd think that "create a website" would be item No. 1 on the to-do list of any entrepreneur with a brand-new company. A website lends an air of credibility — it lets people know that you're serious and ready to do business. It's a guaranteed sales booster and a whole lot less expensive than renting a retail space or buying ads. Without a website, how would people even know you exist?
Surprisingly, lots of people still start businesses without websites. Only 45 percent of small businesses in the United States had a website in 2013, according to a survey by Google and research company Ipsos [source: Tsukayama and Halzack]. We're pretty shocked by this statistic, but it is somewhat understandable. The thought of creating a website can be intimidating. So many small business owners wear many hats at once — accountant, receptionist, buyer, salesperson — and adding "webmaster" to that list might sound like more trouble than it's worth. What if your business falls to pieces because you have to spend so much time maintaining the website?
We're here to allay your fears. None of those concerns are scarier than your business failing because you didn't take the leap into the modern age. It's the 21st century, people: Ignore the Internet at your peril. In this article we'll give you 10 reasons to build a website.
10: It's Not 1950
Back in the day, marketing a small business was an exhausting, time-consuming task. You had to do a lot of legwork and sink funds into advertising to let people know you were in the community. You had to have moxie. It's still a big job today (and a little moxie never hurts), but online marketing makes it so much easier! Why not let a website do some of the work for you?
You might be able to limp along without a website for a while, but you'll eventually fall behind. Going the bricks-and-mortar-only route is just not a viable mode of operation anymore — it severely limits your audience and shuts out so many potential customers. Most of the world won't even know you exist without a website. People who try and fail to find information about your business online may assume you're not credible and move on to your competition. Having to admit to a potential customer that you don't have a website could instantly take you out of the running for a sale.
9: It's Easy and Cheap
Even for those of us who are completely comfortable online and consider ourselves at least a little tech-savvy, the idea of creating a website might be a bit daunting. Hiring a designer could be really expensive, but what can you do if you have no design or coding experience? How do you make sure the look of the site accurately reflects the image of your business? What if it doesn't work correctly or isn't user-friendly? What if it ends up looking like an Angelfire site from 1999, and you scare away even more customers?
These are all legitimate concerns, but they're easily manageable. There are so many do-it-yourself options out there today for the small-business owner on a tight budget. No technical or coding know-how required — just drag and drop text and photos into a template, and you could be done in a half-hour. Even the most bare-bones website is probably the most cost-effective marketing tool you can invest in.
8: It'll Boost Sales
This should really go without saying, but we'll say it anyway: There's absolutely no way that a website will cause a drop in sales. If you want to go out and find a business owner whose business dropped off right after a website debut, go ahead, but we think it's a solid bet that a website will expand your business.
Even if you do blow your budget by springing for a designer, chances are you're going to make a big return on your website investment. You don't necessarily need to set up an online store, either. Just insert as much helpful information as you can. Personal info written in your own words helps, too. It provides a connection that you might not be able to impart if a customer wanders into your store on a busy day. The more information you offer, the more confident potential customers will feel in making a purchase.
An online store will provide double the buying options — why limit customers to your physical store location? They can make a purchase when the urge strikes instead of getting in the car and driving to your store, resulting in more potential sales.
7: It'll Help You Reach a Bigger Audience
This is another no-brainer. If you're running an old-school company, your audience is limited to the people who happen to know where your store is. Maybe they drive by it every day, maybe they've heard of you through your cold calls, advertisements, Yellow Pages listings or taped-up street signs. But that's a narrow customer base that comprises people who are probably in a fairly limited geographic area. If your business doesn't have a storefront, you have an even smaller audience.
Once you unveil your website, your audience immediately expands to everyone on the Internet. That's billions of people. Sure, the majority of them will never find you or have use for your business, but the potential is there. And the cost for this amazing result was maybe a half-hour of your time and a little money (yes, we're totally simplifying here, but you catch our drift). How's that for a return on your investment?
6: It's Always Open
Unless you're operating a convenience store, your business probably isn't going to be open around the clock — but your website will be! A totally offline business misses out on all those potential customers who can't shop during store hours. If you're online, you reach them 24/7.
If you've done your research (or reflect on your experience as a consumer), you know that a good number of people don't enter a store because they're necessarily ready to make a purchase. They might be browsing aimlessly, or maybe they'd like to pick up a product and handle it before making a decision. They might want to go online and compare prices before opening their wallet. With a website, you can grab those people after they've left the store. If they want your product, there's a chance they'll hop on your site and buy it right then and there, even if it's 2 a.m.