Why Every Small Business Needs a Website and a Digital Marketing Strategy
Note: I wrote this blog for MacMillan Design and have included it here as part of my blog writing portfolio. Most original article links have been removed.
You’ve secured financing for your business, ordered your inventory and hung out your shingle, but you may still be wondering, “Do I need a website?”
The answer is an unwavering, unequivocal, “Yes!”
In this blog, we’ll cover the most important reasons you should consider hiring MacMillan Design to build a website for your business.
The Numbers Speak Volumes
There are countless research studies available citing the impact that websites have on attracting, converting and retaining customers. Let’s explore a few.
Help Customers Find You
One of the most fundamental reasons to have a website is that Internet searches are the modern-day phone book. A full 88 percent of consumers do online research before making a purchase either online or in-store. Yet, surprisingly, 45 percent of small businesses don’t have a website. If you’re not online, only a handful of customers are going to find you.
Ecommerce Spending on the Rise
Even if you do most of your sales in-store, the writing is on the wall: ecommerce spending will continue to rise. US consumers increased online spending by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017, and that figure is expected to grow another 51 percent ($684 billion) by 2020.
Keeps You Open 24/7
You might be surprised to learn that 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. are peak online shopping hours and that Sundays are one of the most popular shopping days, second only to Mondays. Even if your website doesn’t offer an ecommerce function, potential customers can be learning about your products or services, checking out your reviews, or sending you an inquiry via a web form – all while you’re in the comfort of your home.
Return on Investment (ROI)
Dollar for dollar, the cost of a website – even if you take into account the cost of ecommerce website developers and hosting costs – is arguably the single most cost-effective marketing investment you can make in your business.
You’ll show up in search engine rankings, attract more customers, establish credibility, showcase your products and services, and collect important information from customers. What other marketing strategies can do all that? It’s the investment that keeps on giving.
Beyond just the numbers, a website lends credibility to your business.
Customers Expect It
Nothing says “mom and pop” business like doing a Google search to find out more about that business up the street only to find out they don’t have a website. It sends the message that you’re not knowledgeable enough to launch a website, you’re too stingy to invest in one, or you aren’t very business savvy.
Assuming you do have a website, here’s what customers want to find when they’re there:
A clear sense of what your business offers
Contact information, including a phone number and physical location
A secure site
Clear calls to action
Third-party validation (e.g., testimonials, reviews, client lists, case studies)
Your Competitors Are Doing It
When you lack a site, not only have you failed to meet customers’ expectations, you’ve just given them a nudge to buy that product or service from the next competitor – the one that’s part of the 55 percent of small businesses that does have a website.
It Provides Social Proof
Websites, Facebook pages, online reviews…they all contribute to the perception that your business is “legit!” It’s the way that the majority of users now search for products, make decisions about who they will buy from, and how loyal they will remain. In fact, 86 percent of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 95% of people aged 18-34), and another 89 percent of them read businesses’ responses to reviews.
Websites Are a Part of a Broader Digital Media Strategy
So, you know it makes sense from a results standpoint and that the public expects it, but what other benefits can a website provide? We’re glad you asked!
Perhaps the most important function of a website is its ability to serve as a platform for a lead-generation program. A lead is someone who has interacted with your business and has the potential to become a customer.
A quality website will have at least one, but probably several, strategic landing pages where visitors are asked to provide contact information (e.g., an email address). Landing pages are used by 68 percent of business-to-business companies to acquire leads, according to Marketo. Visitors are driven to this landing page from a variety of sources: mailers, Facebook posts, content shared via Twitter, or a video on YouTube.
Once there, the business provides a compelling reason for the visitor to hand over their contact information. It might be a discount code, an informative white paper, or a subscription to a newsletter.
Another way to gather leads is through a basic Contact Us page, for example, collecting emails or addresses from visitors who submit questions there. These contacts are now all leads that you can nurture over time to convert to customers.
Building Email Lists
Now that you have email addresses, you can begin to segment them into different categories (e.g., people interested in Product A, gender, etc.). You can develop email campaigns targeted to each one, building a relationship and brand loyalty over time.
A good email campaign will provide a variety of good content, not just repeated “buy now” messages. Your emails might include links to interesting trends in your industry, a short video showcasing your brand, or a how-to article.
Ideally, each email has a Call to Action that prompts the reader to take another action, for example, click back to a page on your website, Like one of your social properties, or submit a comment.
If you have the ability to conduct sales via both your website and a brick-and-mortar facility, do it. When you do, you’ll be opening up an entirely new channel of revenue. There are so many options for creating an ecommerce site, and reputable ecommerce website developers can help you make it happen.
Not every business model lends itself to ecommerce, however. For businesses in a service industry, for instance, online appointment booking may be a profitable alternative. You’ll be giving visitors the opportunity to schedule a haircut, reserve a dinner table, book a consultation, or register for dance classes.
Do I Need a Website for My Business? Yes!
Between the documented benefits of a website, the credibility it will bring you, and the opportunity for building broader digital marketing strategies, we think that answer to “Do I need a website” is a no-brainer.
If you’d like help envisioning and creating a website for your business, give us a call. We’d love to assist.