One of the ongoing debates of the past 10 years or so is whether a small business really needs to have a website. Frankly, I can’t believe this is even a question we’re asking in 2011, but for years, many studies showed that the percentage of small business owners who had websites was shockingly small. In the past few years, though, the numbers finally seemed to be on the rise—though are not anywhere near what they should be. Clearly, more entrepreneurs were recognizing that websites aren’t extras anymore—they’re essentials.
But suddenly the question, “Do you need a business website?” is being asked again. This time, the issue is the popularity of social media. Given how easily small businesses can interact with customers and prospects on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp!, and so on, the argument goes, maybe you really don’t need a separate website for your business after all.
In fact this question has come up several times in the past few months at seminars and workshops where I’ve been speaking. I’m sorry to spoil the party for anyone who was hoping to get out of having to create a business website, but the answer is yes—your small business does need its own website. And to make that information a little easier to digest, I’m here to tell you that creating a website doesn’t have to be that hard.
Why are some small business owners scared of creating websites? Maybe they think their site has to be as massive as Amazon.com or as wordy as the New York Times website. Not at all. For most small businesses, all you really need is a home page that tells users what your business does and who you are, plus some key information like your location, hours, phone number and photos. Of course, you’ll also want to include other ways to get in touch with you, like email and social media. So if you think of your business website as something like a Yellow Pages ad updated for the 21st century, isn’t that a little easier to take?
If you still think a website won’t benefit your business, consider this story. Last year my company worked with a small business owner whose company’s sales were sinking fast. Her income had plummeted by 50 percent and she was scared. She was blaming the recession, but what was the real reason? Customers just plain didn’t know she existed, because when they searched online for her type of business, she had no presence. Creating a simple website (just a few pages with the basics I described above) not only got her sales back to pre-recession levels, but also boosted them beyond her expectations.
There are plenty of ways to take your business website above and beyond the basics, and plenty of reasons you might want to. But for now, if you don’t have a website, start small. Claim your little piece of the Internet, and grow from there. It’s easier than you think.
To help you get started, SCORE has launched a new initiative, eBusiness Now, that helps small companies get online. Visit SCORE’s eBusiness Now site to take online courses, access resources and get matched with a SCORE Technology Mentor.