Why does a small business need a website?

As a sole trader or small business owner, you may have asked yourself, “Why do I need a website?” Nowadays it seems the number one piece of advice for businesspeople is to get online. This can be a hard concept to get to grips with if you’re not personally interested in computers, and avoid using them yourself, but there are plenty of sound reasons why getting your business online has become plain common sense. We’ll break down what we feel are the top 3 most important reasons below:

It’s the most popular way to find local businesses

A website is essential if you want your customers or potential clients to find you, as the web – and the search engine Google especially – has become the number one port of call to find out about pretty much anything. Whether you’re a huge international company, or a fledgling microbusiness, you can expect anyone who’s interested in you to Google you before doing anything else. In fact, if they can’t find your business with a quick Google search, people are more likely to assume you’ve gone out of business rather than that you’re simply not online: over 80% of all businesses in the UK have a website. There’s no benefit to being in the 20% that gets left behind!

It makes your business look professional and established

Forbes recently published an article called “How Small Business Owners are Wrecking their Own Chances of Success”. It was written by a small business owner, looking at the importance of getting a web presence in terms of connecting with customers. She argues, “I know that when I’m looking for a local business to deal with… the first place I look is online. And if I find that the store or restaurant or service provider doesn’t have a website – or has one that clearly hasn’t been updated since 2003, or doesn’t provide an email address or phone number on the home page – I discount it immediately.  I assume (rightly or wrongly) that the enterprise is unprofessional and low quality.”

This is harsh but in some ways fair, as those in the know as well as the general public will tend to assume that, since maintaining a website these days is so cheap and easy, a company without a website is a company with nobody looking after it.

A great website allows two-way communication with your customers

As a sole trader or small business owner, you’ll know how important it is to make yourself available to your customers- either face-to-face or over the phone. You’ll also be familiar with how demanding that can be sometimes- especially when your non-business life is overlapping with your work, and there still needs to be someone answering the phone.

A website with ‘social media integration’ means that potential customers will be able to contact you through social media services such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+. This is far better than having them only contact you by phone, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, an email or social media message can be responded to as soon as it’s convenient for you to do so, which means you won’t be dropping everything to answer the phone nearly as often. People who use social media expect a fairly quick reply, but it frees you up to schedule an hour every day (for example) to respond to comments and questions in one go, rather than having a steady stream of phone-calls throughout the day.

Secondly, every time someone sends you a message on social media, by re-tweeting one of your business’s own Twitter posts for example, or by messaging you on Facebook, it is free advertising for your company. Whether the message is positive or not, all of that person’s friends will see your name and know their friend has chosen to interact with your company- this is a very valuable form of advertising, and negative messages can be hidden if you choose to do so.

Additionally, by interacting ‘publicly’ on social media with your happy customers, you are showing off how friendly, how on the ball and how in-demand your company is. There’s no need to worry that you may not understand or be ‘good’ at social media: as long as you are replying to messages in a friendly and professional way, customers will feel more confident in your business to see that you are a real, trustworthy person, and you’re interacting directly with your client base. This is a new way of doing business which was, arguably, created by social media and the internet itself, and it has given sole traders and small businesses around the world a massive boost in sales and trading.

There’s one more reason why investing in a new website will benefit your business: according to The Guardian, “a worrying 80% [of business websites] simply aren’t fit for purpose in today’s digital age. The vast majority of microbusinesses are using sites that are based on out-of-date technology. They tend to be “static”, limited to five pages and offer no content management. Hence they can’t perform basic but essential marketing tasks, such as posting photos and publishing customer testimonials.”

In other words, if you invest in a technologically up-to-date website of the standard Ecran Web Desgn provide, you’ll be ahead of 80% of the other businesses with websites in your industry- let alone the ones with no website at all!

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