by Greg Ingalls, Sr.
CEO, Park Lane Services
19 February 2012
Many small business owners are struggling with the question of whether they need a website or not. Let's take a closer look:
One of the comments I frequently hear is, "I've gotten along without a website for so long, I don't really think I need one". I suspect that, in the early part of the 20th century, small business owners were saying, "I've gotten along without a telephone for so long, I don't really think I need one". I wonder how many businesses tried to "hold out" before they realized that a telephone was becoming a "business necessity". These business owners failed to realize that business practices were changing. Customers were beginning to "call ahead" for information rather than visit businesses directly. And so, it became important for businesses to have a telephone.
Another comment I recently heard was, "I already spend money on advertising. I just mailed a flyer to every household in town." I don't know about you, but I can't always find that flyer when I want to order a pizza, but I can check online and see who to call, what they offer, how much it will cost, and how to order! And I can choose from any of the pizza places in the area (that have a website, of course).
With a website, your company information is available 24/7, 365 days a year. This is one advantage that can't be overstated. Have you ever needed information about something at night and had to wait until the next day for a business to open in order to find out what you needed? Or worse, thought about something over the weekend that you wanted to know and had to wait until Monday morning before you could call someone's office? If your customers need information about your business or how you operate your business, they would be able to find that information if you had it on your website. And what about that person looking for information about what you do? Perhaps they'll find someone doing that very same thing by checking your competitor's website! Then they won't need to contact you at all.
Even if you're the only person in the world who does what you do, can prospective customers find out how to contact you? Do they even know you exist?
Another approach to the question of, "Do I need a website?" is to ask the question, "How do I find new customers?". Certainly, word of mouth works, but is limited in scope. Mailed flyers also work, but many just get tossed. Phone books are becoming a thing of the past as many more people simply use the computer and, of course, the internet to search for businesses. Many modern families now discard phone books as soon as they arrive!
So, rather than asking, "Do I need a website?", perhaps you should ask, "What do I need to know to have my own website?" We'll explore aspects of your own website in future articles.