“Why Do I Need a Website?”

Why do I need a website?
“Why do I need a website? I’m on Facebook!”

Recently I read an article over on Forbes.com called “How Small Business Owners Are Wrecking Their Own Chances Of Success”. In it the author shared some pretty disturbing stats from an survey from Yodle, an online marketing company.

According to the survey:

“Many small business owners are still not adopting modern technology and marketing approaches.  Although just over one in two SMB owners (51%) use technology to help with accounting operations, this dwarfs technology utilization for appointment booking and scheduling (39%), customer relationship management (34%), point-of-sale systems (25%), and acquisition marketing (14%).   Additionally, more than half of SMB owners do not have a website (52%) or even measure the results of their marketing programs (56%).”

Now as a WordPress and web marketing specialist, I knew from personal experience that the number of small business owners without a credible web presence was high but I didn’t know over half of these companies were NOT online.

And I also know that a lot, (a whole lot) of small business people think that marketing (online or off) lives next door to Satan and should be kept away from their businesses at any cost.

This is bad – because currently (stats from a report in 2010 by the ) found that “58% of Americans say they perform online research on the products and services they’re considering buying.

This stat includes both online and LOCAL businesses. Think on it a sec, when was the last time, you got dressed, got in your car , met up with your friends and then drove across town (or anywhere else for that matter) to check to see if a particular restaurant was open or offered what you were hungry for?

Hmm…I bet you either called or I bet you or someone with you ‘googled’ the restaurant’s website.

Now think back (and be honest) – what if that restaurant didn’t have a website? Would you have gone anyway or ‘googled’ and found another restaurant that did have one?

That was the key point in the article on Forbes – consumers (that’s you and your customers) are using the Internet and a company’s website as form a SOCIAL PROOF – a visual sign of a business’s legitimacy and reputation.

But when I ask people why they don’t have a company website I get a lot of silence and then the answers come flowing out.

  • “Hey… the internet just is a fad. It will never replace real belly-to-belly sales!”
  • “Websites cost too much and they just eat the money because they breakdown all the time.”
  • And my favorite, “Why do I need a website? I’m on Facebook!”

Mass Media Ain’t Dead but It’s in Intensive Care

mass-media

Well, I admit some people really do think that online marketing is a fad. Their thinking is that once the economy picks up, the newspapers and magazines will come back and they can return to their regularly scheduled advertising programs.

Sorry, not going to happen. The newspaper and print industry in an effort to save themselves, downsized to tiny little staffs and shed reporters and editors like dandruff off a teenager.

Then they increased their ad rates – which pushed out the smaller companies with tight budgets.

The decrease in revenues lead to the physical size of newspapers to shrink (at least the one in my hometown)  has become so thin and narrow it really wouldn’t fit the floor of good-sized bird cage anymore.

Building a Business Website Isn’t as Expensive as It Used to Be

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Back in the day, ALL websites were hand-coded and custom-made. This means that you HAD to hire a web designer to tackle the monumental task of creating a website because they were the only ones who know web programming languages like HTML > CSS . JAVASCRIPT > PHP, etc.

And because each website was a one-off, unique thing, highly-skilled web programmers seemingly charged you their weight in gold for their work!

But now, most smart developers and designers create or buy pre-made “templates” or a theme if they are using WordPress.

Themes and templates cut down on the coding and design workload and often the price. Of course this in turn created the dreaded “cookie-cutter” effect!

So for most small business people they have to juggle these two elements: the price of a hand-coded (i.e. custom-made) website vs. allowing your developers to use a theme or template (i.e. let they tweak it to with your brand and color to avoid some of the cookie-cutter look).

Naturally a wholly custom-made website starts at $5000 USD while a completely tricked out “themed” site can be as low as $999 USD.

Or due to the widespread use of WordPress, if you need a website, you should investigate creating it yourself > “How to Create a Website With WordPress”

Being Social Just Ain’t Gonna Cut It

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While less than half of all US small businesses have a website, over 90% have some type of presence on a social media site such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

Nothing wrong with that except I don’t believe social media is the marketing cure-all all the gurus say it is.

First, I don’t see social media as a “PUSH” form of marketing. Currently millions of people use their Facebook pages and LinkedIn accounts to “PUSH” out marketing messages to a motley collections of friends, family and semi-strangers.

Think about your own Facebook timeline – in between the bad selfies (self-portraits), the new baby/dog/cat photos, the gossips (both funny and malicious), the quotes, the invites to Farmville and the 100’s of recipes – in amongst this digital stew floats your lone ad or marketing message.

Did anyone even see it? If they did, did they click on it? If they clicked on it – did you lead/lure them out of Facebook back to your site (if you have one)?

Trying to push out your marketing message on Facebook is like standing up at a wedding or picnic and asking anyone if they want to stop what they are doing for a minute and talk business (and about their problems) in public!

Social Media is just Old School “Word of Mouth”

Now if you had a website – you could add social sharing buttons on it. This would allow people to TALK to their friends about the great article they just read or the cool photo they just saw on your site.

Instead of you, pushing a message to 300 – 500 “Friends” – 10 or so people who have read your blog post can now tell their 500 friends.

Let’s do the marketing math to see how this version of social media marketing works:

Your Facebook Friends = 500 x 10% (reach if you are lucky)  = 50 people who may have seen your message.

Your 10 Social Sharing Buddie’s Facebook Friends = (500 x 10 = 5000). 5000 x 10% (reach if they are lucky) = 500 people who may have seen your message + who will actually look at it since a “real” friend mentioned you!

The trick is you have to have a website – and one that is full of good educational content that people feel is worth sharing with their friends!

So as you can see not having a website can now hurt you.

Just like you knew when you first went into business that  you needed a phone, a filing cabinet and a computer for bookkeeping – and then some business cards.

Now just add a website along with those cards!

If you need to create a website, but aren’t sure how to do it, I invite you to read my > setting up a business website with WordPress checklist here.