I regularly speak with business owners of all sizes in my various networking pursuits, and I run into a lot of small businesses who don’t have a website. Whenever I suggest the importance of having an online presence and that many customers find businesses by searching online or using social media, I often hear one of several responses:
- I get my business through referrals
- I like to do business face-to-face
- I’m already too busy – I don’t need to advertise
- My customers don’t use the internet
In this blog, I'm going to tell you why none of those are good reasons for why you don't need a website.
Are you thinking about the future?
Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of those statements. Getting the majority of clients through referrals is an extremely profitable way to conduct business when you have a stream of happy clients advocating for you. And it's great if you're so busy you don't need more business right now. But as I said, none of those are reasons you don't need a website.
Here's why: Unless you’re planning to retire in the next few years, with no plan to sell or pass down your business, listen up. The longer you go without having an online presence, the further behind the digital pack you will be.
The Internet isn't going anywhere, and you will eventually need to be online to compete. There is no risk in getting online now, but there ARE risks to waiting.
- You could lose potential future customers
- You may face an economic downturn and need the extra promotion
- It could be harder to build a successful web presence after waiting
- The URL for your company name could be taken by the time you get a website
That's just to name a few. The sooner you get an online presence, the better you're setting your business up for the future.
It’s also about creating a professional image
Even if it’s true for your company that most of your new business comes through word-of-mouth, think about this. In today’s digital age, when a friend or family member recommends a business, what’s the first thing many people do? Look that business up online to learn more.
I’m not saying the power of the personal referral isn’t still strong—it is. Much of my business runs on referrals. But in the Internet age, with endless information at our fingertips, it has become natural to do a little more research when meeting someone new (or working with a new business). And why not? The information is freely available, and helps consumers make more educated decisions.
Your website, then, is not a way for you to attract new customers if you rely on referrals (though it can do that too!), but instead, it helps reinforce the referrals people are giving you. It presents a professional image of your company, gives more details than the referring party likely offered, ideally has some testimonials and samples of your work, and is another way to convince that potential customer to call you up.
So what if someone was looking for a new painter, for instance, and a good friend recommended your business based on a great prior experience. That person will likely look you up online to learn more about your business before calling you (and may even be comparing other painters in the area, just for good measure). If you don’t have a website at all, that might make your business seem less professional, less modern, less impressive than other painters who do have a nice website. Do you want to risk losing potential referrals just because you don’t have a website?
A great referral is strengthened immensely when it is backed up with a professional, informative website that shows your business in a great light.