Many people seem to be asking, Should all small businesses have a website? There are several factors that should be taken into consideration, so I thought I would give you the Pros and Cons to help you make that decision.
Works Around The Clock
One really great thing about having a website is that it is always Open For Business. At the end of the day, when you close your store down, lock everything up, and go home to relax, your website is still on the job.
Nowadays, with practically everyone having internet access at the tip of their fingers, people inquire, search, and shop for things at all hours of the day and night.
If something happens to somebody after hours and they need something done first thing in the morning, they will probably do all their research the night before.
When someone can’t sleep and they start thinking about things, they look for answers online. If they find something they decide they can’t live without and they need it tomorrow, your website is there, telling them why you’re what they need, where you are, and what time you open.
And of course, if actually sell something on your website, then you can be making money while you are sleeping…what’s better than that!?!
Makes You Seem More Legitimate
The truth of it is that when someone is looking for a product or service, they will typically look online first and make a decision from there. If your business comes up and has a nice little website to go with it, people are way more likely to choose you.
It makes you seem like a real company. And not only that, it makes you seem like a real company that cares enough about their business and their customers to give me some information. It is kind of like a virtual handshake. It just makes the consumer feel more comfortable, and makes you seem trustworthy.
You can set up and run a website for very little cost, and sometimes even for free (see one of my previous posts How To Start Your Own Website). This limited investment can allow you to have tons of free/low cost, easy to distribute advertisement possibilities.
Once you have your website set up all you have to do is let people know about it and then they can check it out from wherever they are.
There are so many ways to get your website out there, I probably don’t even know them all, but here are some of the easiest ways you can get your name out there for free.
Even if you don’t have a website you may already be advertising on social media, but it would be way more effective if you had a site those web surfers could just click on right then.
If you do not have any social media accounts out there promoting your business, you really should. If you are not very computer savvy, don’t be scared, most of it isn’t really that complicated. So, assuming you have internet access you can easily set up some social media accounts to get your name out there.
Which venues would be the best for you really depends on what kind type of business you have. If you are something that offers a local service, like a coffee shop, or a mechanic, etc, you really want to advertise locally. You would want to set up a Facebook page for your business/website for sure. Then you can easily share specials or like a weekly/monthly update, maybe some testimonials, in local forums and groups.
If you sell something that you would like to ship to places outside of your neighborhood, then you can set up Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest (plus many more) accounts. Setting up the accounts are easy. Once you’re in, no matter which social media platform you are in, you want to just start “following” or “friending” random people, pages, and groups (especially if they have interests related to your business), and then over time people will follow you back. Then you just want to somewhat regularly post some little comment or ad with a link to your website.
It is really up to you how in depth you go with social media. Me personally, I wouldn’t spend more than 15 to 20 minutes a day on it, but it is worth the effort.
In the town I live in, and probably in yours too, many small and large businesses have bulletin boards set up inside somewhere, often near the front doors. This is a place wear you could post your new website for local shoppers to see.
You can also see about ads in free circulars like The Thrifty, The Nickle, or The Thrifty Nickle…or whatever they call it where you live.
You can also sponsor local events or sports teams, for sometimes not much money at all, and get your website plastered all over stadium walls, flyers, pamphlets, t-shirts, etc.
Everything counts. Every new person that comes to your website and likes it, might tell someone else, who tells someone else, and so on. Plus every visit you get makes search engines (like Google) like you more, which is a good thing.
This may not be for everybody, but you can make a bumper sticker with your website (and logo if you have one, you can make a basic one for free on Canva) on it for probably under a dollar. You just need a computer, a printer, and sticker paper (or a kinko’s), and then everywhere you go, people see your website. They can even check it out while they are stuck behind you in traffic!
If you want to get really crazy you can even get one of those big car ads made for your vehicle that go on the side, or even cover the entire car.
We must not forget the best thing…when people put in your store name- There you are! There are literally billions of people out there online everyday searching for everything under the sun, and now you can be the answer to some of those searches.
Once you have been online a little while your site will gain popularity with the search engines and your site may pop up for many reasons.
Your store may be called Baking in the Sun. And you sell bread, pies, and the best upside-down cakes. When you list your items and discuss them on your website Google (and Bing, yahoo, etc) sees it. So, of course when someone types in “Baking in the Sun” you should be there, but as you get some longevity and popularity your website could start popping up when somebody types in “the best upside-down cakes”.
Once you get your website out there it is truly an unlimited amount of words and searches that could bring your site to the top of the list.
Answers Customers Questions
This is good for a couple of reasons. If you are a small business owner, you are probably very busy. Most of us that own a small business are working non stop. You may even be your only employee.
With that being said, it is often hard to juggle answering the phone and helping face to face customers. Or if you perform a service where you are busy doing things most of the day, like a contractor, or a glass blower, etc, it is hard to just drop what you are doing and answer the phone.
Having a website can field some of these calls for you. You can have answers to a lot of common questions you get from people, and other information you think would help your customers. The website can help gain future business, but it can also help with inquiries current or previous customers may have.
The basic, free website you most likely be setting up should automatically allow people to leave comments. You can also easily add a contact page where people can email you questions or comments. I would highly recommend this.
Depending on your company, if you get voicemails I would imagine you check them throughout the day. You would also want to just make sure to check your emails too, and then respond as needed. People really love to be able to email companies, and a quick response will get you lots of bonus points.
Another important aspect of this Pro is that a lot of people in this day and age don’t like using the phone. They just want to use the internet for everything possible.
I actually even know a few people who have serious anxiety about talking to people questions on the phone.
These people will attempt to only deal with companies that have websites. Which brings me to my next point…
Compete With Others
When today’s common consumer wants something they look on the internet first, and a lot of, if not all of, your competition has a website. Why should they be cornering the whole internet market. You should get a piece of that pie too.
I am not as addicted to the internet as most people that I know, but I must admit that I usually look on the internet before I buy something or obtain a service that I need. And typically, unless I am looking for specific company, one with a website is going to catch my eye first.
You can even try it for yourself. For instance I typed “bakery bakersfield, ca” in google. Five bakeries came up on the first page that had a website. I am probably 1000 times more likely to pick one of those bakeries, even though there are like 30 bakeries there. Any one of those no website bakeries could have the absolute best baked goods in the world and I would never know it, because they don’t have a website.
You should try it yourself. Type in what type of business you have and the name of your city and state, and see what catches your eye, and where you are in comparison. You want to be on top.
Even if somebody recommends your business directly to another person, they are likely to look you up on the internet, and it is a good idea to be there or they might get distracted by somebody else’s sparkly website.
Can Cost You
Either Time or Money…
But there are so many do it yourself platforms out there that don’t cost much at all (here is my article on one I recommend). You don’t need to make it too elaborate, just enticing and have the most common answers people are looking for (what you offer, why you are awesome, how much it costs, etc).
Of course, you can get all crazy and pay someone to set up a site for you, but it really isn’t necessary unless you are wanting some really complicated processes. Most of what you see on a regular website is something that is free and not very hard to learn how to set up. Almost anything you want has a plugin or a widget, which may be foreign language to you, but it can be explained in no time at all.
Setting it up and getting it the way you want it may take a little time initially, but will most likely have incredible benefits. And honestly you can have your site up and functional in like 30 seconds, then it is just about adding content.
Do you have a child, grandchild, or other relative who knows a lot about computer stuff? Kids nowadays can do magic online. Things that have taken me a bunch of time to learn are second nature to them. And more often than not they would be happy to help you and show you what a super genius they are.
Depending on what your business is about, you may need or want product pictures. There are a couple of ways you can go about getting these.
First of all, you can take them yourself. It is legal to post any picture that you take on your website, even a picture of a product. You cannot however, go to someone else’s website, or even the product website and copy and paste their image or photo without their permission.
If you are selling something you make or do, then obviously you are going to need to take the pictures. You can either do it yourself or pay a professional (I honestly have no idea how much that would cost). Most of us have pretty awesome cameras on our phones nowadays, so you may be able to do it on your own.
It is pretty important that your product images look really good though. Everyone will basically be judging you on how it looks in the picture. Images are probably the most important thing on your website. So you really want to take your time and do it right.
If you are selling products that you get from some where else, you can contact that company and ask them for product images. Most of the time they should have them and be able to email them to you for your use.
If you are selling a product online, obviously, there needs to be a way for the customer to get what they ordered.
Basically, they can either pick it up in the store, or you can ship it to them.
Let’s go back to the bakery idea. If someone orders 12 loaves of bread for tomorrow, then they should come pick it up in the store. But if you are selling to the whole country (or world) and want to get your cupcakes from New Jersey to Arizona, then you are going to have to ship them.
The same goes for any product you are selling on the internet beyond just the local market.
All this means is that you need to be prepared to box and ship, and charge correctly to compensate for the time, money, and effort involved.
You will also either need a pick up from someone like Fed Ex, or you will have to go the post office or UPS store yourself
Too Many Sales?
The only other Con I could really come up with is if you got too much business from your website. This seems kind of funny, but it could be a serious problem.
For instance, if you sell a product that you sell in your store online, you could be over selling your inventory without even knowing it.
There are ways to avoid this. You can have a running inventory available on your website that you either update manually frequently or have some kind of automated software that does it for you. Another way may be to only allow requests that you have to approve before the transaction is complete.
The thing is that the main reason you want to have a website is to improve business. People will get turned off really fast if they try to buy something from you and they can’t have it. So, it is really important to only advertise things you actually have the ability to sell in a timely fashion. And it is important to be up front about what it is and how long it will take to get it.
And then, of course, as mentioned above, you have to be able to package and ship it promptly. Just make sure not to offer anything you cannot actually accomplish, and keep a close eye on your sales. There are plenty of easy ways to monitor the traffic on your site and to see what people are clicking on, or which pages they seem to stay on the longest to help you keep control of your inventory.
I am sure it depends on the type of service you offer or what it is you are selling, but after looking at the possibilities that a website can offer you doesn’t it really just seem like it is worth a try? Should all small businesses have a website?
In my opinion, Yes!
You can give it a run for very little cost and it offers you truly endless possibilities of growth. It can help drive new traffic to your store, or give existing customers a way to see new deals and products, and allow them an easy way to communicate with you.
It will help you stay in the mix of things and keep your competitors from being one up on you.
It will legitimize your company to the masses. It will always be on the clock helping you run your company.
It will give you one easy yourstore.com address that you can pin up all over your town and the world. And when people do go to your website it will say and show everything you want your customers to know about you and your small business.
By investing a small amount of time and a little bit of money you can have a second store. A second store that has access to way more customers than your store front, A second store that takes up hardly any of your time, but offers endless income possibilities.
If you are ready to give your own website a try I can highly recommend the best way to get going on it for free. Just check out my How To Start My Own Website article for information on the only way I know to get all the tools you need in one place. It is also how I got started with my first website. I wish you the best of luck with your new website!
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can!