So, you’re building your marketing strategy and you figure, hey – I need a website. Well, the truth is, just like every decision you make in building a marketing strategy, maybe you do and maybe you don’t. Never assume you should do ANYTHING when building a marketing strategy. The strategic question is — do I need a small business website?
I even provide a step-by-step guide to help if you want to build a small business website of your own.
5 reasons why you don’t need a company website.
1. They’re expensive
Sure, I know. You have a friend, relative, etc who can build a website for $500. But what will a site like that look like? Will it fairly represent your business? And, isn’t that money that could be put into something else that would have a higher payback?
Costs for developing a small business website vary dramatically, but you can expect to pay between $4000 and $10,000 for a functional, reasonably attractive website. More in a larger city. A nicer site with more functionality, more pages, and some nice visual impact can easily cost over $100,000. You can use offshore developers to save money, but you’ll have more hassles and it takes longer.
Website proponents will argue you can build a WordPress blog for next to nothing. While that’s technically true, is that the image you want for your company? Take a look at some blogs, especially the free WordPress themes, and you’ll see these aren’t particularly attractive. And, to get the functionality you need, you’ll have to pay for a theme and customize it heavily. Do you know how to do that?
And, don’t forget, your website will have to be updated periodically to reflect changes in your business, like your product line. You may also want to add promotional elements, such as sales catalogs to your site. Thus, there’s an ongoing cost associated with having a website. So, you’ll need to allocate money every month or every quarter to keep your website fresh.
Does your marketing plan allow for these expenses? What marketing strategies will you have to cut to make room for a website in your budget?
2. Build it and they will come
People have this “Field of Dreams” notion when it comes to websites — all you have to do is put one up there and folks will flock to your website. Estimates from early 2008 suggest there are nearly 1.6 BILLION websites with about 30 BILLION webpages. And that number only reflects the ACTIVE website. The number is much larger if you include dormant websites. A staggering number of websites are NEVER VISITED AT ALL. In fact, 40% of the time people spend online is devoted to just 20 websites.
Driving traffic to your site takes a concentrated effort combining SEO (search engine optimization) and social network marketing. It also takes traditional advertising and promotions to bring eyeballs to your site.
If customers and potential customers don’t find your website, why have one in the first place? Do you know how to optimize your website for search engine traffic? Do you know how to engage consumers on social networks to build traffic?
3. It takes time
Setting up and maintaining a website will take time — time that might be better spent managing your business. Static websites, ones that don’t change very often, don’t build traffic to your website. So, it takes time to build traffic on your site. You’ll have to add material to your blog, if that’s the route you go, every day or at least several times a week in order to get some traffic. You’ll have to become a fixture in at least 3 social networks to gain some visibility there.
Of course, you can hire an employee or a consultant to manage your website, but that will increase your costs.
4. Your customers might not be there.
It’s true that internet use is increasing dramatically and spreading throughout the world. It’s true that the internet is replacing TV viewing for many people — especially young adults and teens. But, let’s look at what they’re doing online.
Internet usage falls into 4 categories. Roughly on the order of time spent, these categories are:
- social networks – like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube
- entertainment and news sites- such as Hulu, Wall Street Journal
- Gaming sites – such as Farmville
- Shopping sites – such as Craigslist, eBay, and Amazon, as well as coupon aggregators such as Groupon.
Online product search and e-commerce are still somewhat anemic, although growing. Moreover, much of this search occurs at well-known sites, such as Target, or for specialty products that are hard to find. Broad product categories are almost never searched online, especially utilitarian products and food products.
Does your target market search for businesses and products in your industry online? Will your website provide some value-added services to encourage your target market to use the website? So, do you need a website?
5. Does a website FIT into your overall marketing strategy?
A bad website is worse than no website at all. Your website is an extension of your brand and should reflect the same brand image as the rest of your marketing efforts.
A website also consumers scarce resources of time and money, so that these resources are NOT available for other projects that are important for your marketing strategy.
- What are your goals for your website?
- Do you need a website?
- Is achieving these goals realistic?
- Will your website support your other marketing strategies?
- In a cost/ benefit analysis, does developing and maintaining a website make sense?
- Is there a better use for the resources you will commit to developing and maintaining a website — ones that have a higher cost/ benefit?
Why you need a small business website
OK, now that I gave you some reasons for not building a small business website, let’s look at why you should ignore this advice and build one anyway.
Data shows that consumers complete much of the purchase decision before they reach out to you, including visiting your store. Without a small business website, you miss the opportunity to reach customers to get in their consideration set.
OK, you might argue, you use social media and don’t need a small business website. Well, what happens if you get banned from social media, even if it’s only temporary? Or if the platform changes the way you work with them in a way that makes it harder to reach your target market?
You own your website and no one can will it out of existence. You also use your website to build a community, address customer service issues, and generate trust in your brand as an expert. All these things drive more revenue to your bottom line.
Do you need a small business website? A website MAY be a valuable addition to your marketing strategy, but there are 5 issues you should consider before embarking on a website: 1) they are expensive; 2) the internet is cluttered with websites, so yours will be hard to find; 3) they take time; 4) your target market may NOT be searching for you online; 5) a website may not FIT your marketing strategy.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.