Some things never change. About 20 years ago, I first heard the statistic that only half of small business owners had business websites. (That actually wasn’t bad for the turn of the century.)
But according to Blue Corona, only about “50 percent of small businesses have invested in a website.”
Twenty years ago, setting up a website was expensive—which was the primary excuse entrepreneurs gave for not having one. But even today, Blue Corona says 30 percent of the business owners who don’t have websites cite cost as the reason. That’s just not accurate. As PC Magazine’s list of the 10 best website builders for 2018 explains, it only costs about $10 per month (or around $25 if you’re selling products) to create a unique, attractive website. What’s more, there are many options for creating a website with no tech experience that take just a few hours of your time.
So, if cost isn’t your excuse, what is? Many business owners claim they don’t need a website because “I’m on Facebook” (or Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram). Although having a social presence is important for a business if you’re relying on social media as a website substitute, you’re getting it wrong. For a small business, social media’s primary purpose is marketing and attracting consumers to your website.
Why you need a website
Among the many reasons having a website is essential for a small business, control is perhaps the most important. Your website belongs to you, whether you do it yourself or hire web design experts to build it. You select the design, create the content and set the goals.
Social media, in contrast, is under someone else’s control (something no entrepreneur should stand for). And since social media companies constantly change their rules and algorithms, you’re at their mercy.
Recently, you’ve undoubtedly heard about high-profile people deleting their Snapchat and Facebook accounts. This can create a domino effect of other people deleting their accounts, as well as giving the social site a poor reputation that can reflect badly on your business.
Also, consider that no social media site will be around forever. MySpace was the world’s largest social networking site between 2004 and 2010, but now is just a memory for most.
Finally, keep in mind that not all consumers use social media. Those who do can be fickle—abandoning a platform that you’ve carefully cultivated on a whim. Even heavy users of social media often prefer not to hear “sales pitches” or interact with businesses; they just want to talk to their friends and family.
What do consumers want?
The “wild West” days of the World Wide Web are long gone. In the 21st-century, your customers have far different expectations. Millennials and Gen Z, the generation that follows, are digital natives. They expect businesses to have websites and those websites to be mobile-optimized. Why does this matter? Well, according to Bazaarvoice, millennials have the most spending power of any generation in history—so ignore their wants at your peril.
Some two-thirds (63%) of consumers go online when looking for local businesses, according to the Local Search Association. If consumers look up your business online before they decide to buy from you, but you don’t have a website, many will suspect you’re not trustworthy.
Without a website, your sales will suffer, too. On most social media sites, consumers can’t make a purchase directly—they have to go to your website, so you’d better have one!
Ready, set, domain name
There’s no excuse not to have a business website—not when it’s easier and more affordable than ever to build one. Think of your website as your business’s storefront, and everything you do to promote your business (social media marketing, search engine optimization, content marketing, and online advertising) as the spokes. Together, they’re a powerful tool that builds awareness, attracts new customers, and primes your business for growth.
SCORE mentors can help you with all aspects of setting up your website. Get matched with your SCORE mentor today.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.