- 1st March 2017
- Posted by: Kristopher Cook
- Category: Small Business
Having spoken to hundreds of small business owners in the Chester area, I realised that there are many growing patterns concerning each. One of which is the number of local businesses that don’t have a website.
Because of this I decided to write this article which will allow small business owners to recognise whether they need a website or not.
Here are the questions I will be covering below:
- Do I Need A Website?
- What Is The Overall Cost?
- I Am Already Registered On Yell.Com, Local Business Forums Etc., Why Do I Want Two?
- I Don’t Sell Products So Why Would I Want A Website?
- I Don’t Have Any Computer Skills So How Can I Maintain My Website?
- We Offer A Personal Touch To Our Clients. Can A Website Do This?
- We Already Advertise In The Local Newspaper, Which Takes Up Our Marketing Budget. Why Would I Need More Marketing?
- I Have A Nephew Who Makes Websites For Cheap. Why Don’t I Get Him To Do It?
- I Wouldn’t Know What To Do With It!
Question 1 – Do I Need A Website?
Well that depends on a number of factors regarding your business.
Last week I spoke to a local cafe owner, who runs a popular coffee / sandwich place in Chester. We got into a conversation about small business websites; and whether she had ever considered getting one.
To set the scene I arrived before lunch in the middle of a February week, so there was nobody around. Not a soul. I figured this would be the best time to talk to the owner, who as it turns out, was courteous enough to give me 10 minutes of her time.
I ran through the advantages of owning a business website for small businesses such as hers, to which she even made notes and was responsive throughout.
I ended with saying, ‘So do you think a website is something you’d want to hear more about?’
Here’s her reply:
‘When we originally opened we were a small bakery offering a few home baked cakes, nothing more. Then customers came in asking for warm drinks, coffee being an often requested drink. Later they wanted to sit down; so we added a few tables in the back-end and then that evolved into us also making sandwiches for the lunchtime rush. After that we struggled to fit everyone in, so we invested in some outside furniture (in front of the cafe) and that then developed into covering for the colder months.
Now that it’s winter time I thought that we would have the chance to close for one day a week but that hasn’t been the case. If a website is going to bring us more customers then we already have enough thanks!’
This is a business that doesn’t need a website.
Only you the owner can determine if your business needs a website or not. You also need to take into consideration that a website is multi functional as well as being an online communication tool – not an advertisement board.
If you are already a well organised business, all your clients are local, and you have a back-log of customers waiting for your products – you may not need a website.
On the other hand if you hope to communicate with a broader range of customers, attract new clients and break into new markets as well as take the current market share away from your competitors – then a website is a must.
A business website is like a bulletin board, accessible by the public, where potential customers can get information – such as; where to find you, what you offer, why you are unique, and whats new in your business. It’s also excellent when used as a communication tool, to answer questions, concerns and feedback on your customers needs.
Question 2 – What Is The Overall Cost?
There are three basic costs to a website: developing the site, hosting on a server, and registering the domain name.
The development of the website is the building of the platform as well as including all the text, graphics, images and general content that goes into the front-end of a website. In the back-end there needs to be an inclusion of code, which depending on your needs, can vary from a basic template to a fully-customised site. This is always the largest of the three costs as prices can range from £400 – £2,000 for a small business website. Yet, the cost of getting a functional website is roughly the same as getting a full page ad in your local paper once, maybe twice, a year.
The difference is that once the ad is seen it is then gone. The cost of a website is a one-time investment for a tool that you own and can continue to use for both communication and marketing indefinitely. It is always accessible to the public where ever they may be.
Registering the domain name is a method used to reserve a unique address (also known as URL) where customers will find your website i.e www.yourbusiness.com would be the domain name. Registration is done through a public registry service and costs about £15 a year.
I often refer to this in the same way that you would get a mobile phone; they both have similar cost frameworks. The website cost is the same as buying a phone and installation. You pay one-time for the handset and it is yours outright. The hosting cost is like your monthly phone bill – you own the phone but you still need to pay for a service to use it. The domain registration is the same as your phone number in it is unique to your business and a way for customers to get in touch.
Potential additional costs
Emailing Services – multiple accounts will lead to a small increase in cost but is often avoidable for most small businesses.
Internet Marketing – best practise for reaching a wider market of customers using online marketing methods such as; social media marketing, email marketing and search engine optimisation.
Website Maintenance Services – general maintenance of a website including updates to the platform, security measures, and weekly backups in case of either a general fault or a malware attack. This also includes general changes of the content on the site itself.
Question 3 – I Am Already Registered On Yell.Com, Local Business Forums Etc., Why Do I Want Two?
If you already have an online page with your local Chamber of Commerce then great, you are already a step ahead of most, but did you know that you are just another listing on their site. Oh and it’s not your own website because:
- It is only a page on their website, which will often only include your contact details and will but you into a general category alongside all your competitors.
- They own the website, not you.
A page is good if people are already looking for you, in which case they are less likely to visit a business directory, and more likely to search for your website or even pop in. For this reason it doesn’t offer any personality or unique selling points.
And 2. if they own the website it means that they are free to do what ever they want with your information, which usually means formatting it in a boring black on white contact sheet. No personality and worst of all there are links to all your competitors all down the side.
The good news is that if you do have a page with the local Chamber of Commerce then you can use it to drive traffic to your website and it will put you immediately in front of the majority of your competitors.
Think about it for a moment. If visitors look up your industry, in this example let’s say hairdressers – and ten listings come up for local hair salons – and when one of these has a link to a website, that visitor will go one step further and click on the link.
When looking over a list such as this people are curious beings and always want to know more. Your website gives them such chance. This will immediately pull them away from your competitors and focus them solely on your business.
Question 4 – I Don’t Sell Products So Why Would I Want A Website?
Even though you may not sell products per se, I am sure that you are selling something that people are looking for. Do you ever hear clients say that they came to you because you sell ______?
An example would be a store that sells a certain line of products and / or brands that are highly sought after, e.g. Dr. Martens, Converse, Beanie Toys, or products not tested on animals. People will search the Internet for these products in their local area – Will you be on the list? Will your competitors?
The same principle applies to restaurants and cafés. People in the area will often be on the look out for something near by and according to recent surveys, over 70% of people use the internet to find what they want.
Will you be amongst the online choices they find?
If you offer a product or service that people are looking for, a large proportion of people will search the internet because it is not only fast but easy, global and private. A good website will put you in the running with others online.
Question 5 – I Don’t Have Any Computer Skills So How Can I Maintain My Website?
Using a computer is like learning a musical instrument. If you learn to press the keys, or blow in the correct end, you will get a tune out of it. To maintain a website you need a computer and either yourself or an employee who is able to send and receive emails.
Question 6 – We Offer A Personal Touch To Our Clients. Can A Website Do This?
There is a chance that your current customers don’t use a computer all that much.
But a large concern should be on the potential of future customers that do use a computer and can’t find you.
87.9% of adults in the UK (45.9 million) had recently (in the last 3 months) used the internet, compared with 86.2% in 2015 – ONS.gov
As you can see the numbers are up from the previous year and they will only continue to rise. To put it into further perspective, these numbers have never decreased.
When it comes to certain age ranges the numbers are also taking a dramatic turn, – Almost all adults aged 16 to 24 years were recent internet users (99.2%) and Women aged 75 and over, had seen the largest rise in recent internet use, up 169.0% from 2011.
To summarise with another phone analogy; when the mobile phone came out in 1973, most people believed it to be a luxury item that was not important to a businesses growth. As communication trends began to change and expenses decreased, businesses changed according in order to maximise profits. Use of the internet will only increase over the next 5 – 10 years.
Question 7 – We Already Advertise In The Local Newspaper, Which Takes Up Our Marketing Budget. Why Would I Need More Marketing?
It’s important to recognise that a website is not an advertising expense. It’s there to compliment and improve your advertising efforts. Advertisements are owned by a vendor and are an ongoing cost to a business. You buy an ad for a limited amount of time and then it is gone.
A website is a marketing and communication tool that belongs to you. You have control to use it indefinitely. It is a business asset in the same way a phone or printer is. You buy it one time and then you pay for the service to use it.
Websites reach a new customer base that, up until this point, has been hidden from you. It also services your current customers by giving them more options to communicate with you.
Including your website on all your future advertisements is a great way of offering potential customers a chance to find out a little more about you. In today’s economy a website is also a sign of credibility, even if the potential customer is yet to meet you.
Question 8 – I Have A Nephew Who Makes Websites For Cheap. Why Don’t I Get Him To Do It?
Is your nephew a qualified web developer? If so, then you’re in luck. Get it done as soon as. If he makes them as a hobby, you will want to consider the following:
A website is often compared to a mode of transport. You can struggle to ride a bike up-hill or you can cruise through in your Mercedes. Both will get you around but one is more efficient than the other, not to mention faster and more comfortable.
Behind all those pretty pages are hundreds of lines of code, tags, and meta-data that is specifically written to attain both a fast and responsive site but also to rank higher in Google. Most hobbyists lack the skills and knowledge needed to optimise a website and it therefore results in a non-user friendly website that is slow to load with no marketing power.
Question 9 – I Wouldn’t Know What To Do With It!
You need to understand not only the information mentioned above but more important; you don’t need to find customers – they will find you. They will either search for you because they’ve heard goo things about you, a product your selling or a service that you provide.
If your business is not listed then it doesn’t exist to internet users.
Your website developer is a trained professional who will assist with maintaining and updating your website.
A website is a marketing tool that has a one time cost and continues to pay you back. It helps to expand your customer base, enhance your advertising efforts and gives your business extra credibility.
On a basic level, a website shows millions of internet users:
- Who you are, how you got started, past successes and your reputation within the community.
- What you have to offer (both products and services)
- How to find your business
- Contact Information (Phone, Email, Address)
- Special offers and promotions
- Latest news and articles concerning your business
- Client recommendations and testimonials – which builds further credibility
When you take into consideration the growth of internet users and the growth of companies that are on the internet, some of which are competitors, it will cost you more not to have a website.
For more information on how to grow your small business, leave a comment below explaining your needs and I will get back to you or if you want to find out more about web development in Chester visit here.
If you found this information helpful then please share it with others who could also benefit in your local community.