Business owners, listen up! This post is for you. Today over on my Facebook page, I asked what you wanted me to post about today. One suggestion was “the importance of having a website”, and it stuck out like a sore thumb to me because not only is it something I know a great deal about, but it’s also something that I would spend a good majority of my time explaining to future potential clients when small businesses were my main focus for web design.
Just the other day, I was speaking with a potential client who was unsure about whether or not they needed a website. “We are already listed in the Yellow Pages” he proceeded to tell me.
Alright, stop right there. Rewind for a moment and let’s take that in again… You are in the Yellow Pages!? First of all, when was the last time you personally looked through a Yellow Pages book? Would you consider the Yellow Pages website something that you frequent often or consider your first choice for finding a business? If you do, I apologize but in 2013 the first thing people do is hop on their computer and Google whatever it is they are looking for… and they will usually be looking for your official website, not a random text listing on a page filled with hundreds of other similar businesses.
The same can be said about using a social networking site like Facebook as your official “website”. Facebook is not supposed to be used this way. It is a social networking site, and it is great to have your own company page to interact with your customers and keep your business fresh in their minds, but it is by no means a great place to call home. Why? Because Facebook is not personalized. It’s freebie website jam packed with other attention-grabbing details that have absolutely nothing to do with your business. Your own website should have your own logo in the top corner, not the Facebook logo. So while it is a great place to increase your customer base and share photos, deals, and extras, an official website with proper navigation and important information should still be the place that you direct these fans to so that they can actually see all aspects of your business.
Think of it this way: Your website is your business card. It is your brochure, your flyer, your billboard. It is the very first impression somebody gets to see of your company, which is also why it’s important to have a website that is nicely designed. A poorly designed website is just as bad as having no website at all. It is like you showed up for an important business meeting with potential customers in your pajamas.
Your website should be easy to navigate and provide a wonderful visitor experience. What attracts you to other websites? Think about these elements and try to replicate them in your own design and user experience. It should contain your contact information, clear and straight to the point information about your company and products/services, your location and/or a map to your location if you are a brick and mortar business, great imagery with nice photographs, and overall it should be a place that gives the visitor the impression that you are a professional business and care about how you portray yourself.
If you hand somebody a business card without a website URL on the front of it, your chances of actually having that person check you out are slim to none. Why? Because they physically can’t check you out. You can talk somebody’s ear off about your business and paint a picture in their minds about what you do, but do you think that they will remember your story three weeks from now when they find your card sitting on their table? Chances are the answer is no. They will grab your card, look for a website URL in hopes of having that memory refreshed and be disappointed to realize that there is none. Case in point: we get a lot of people dropping business cards and brochures off at our house because we live in a newer development. From paving companies to landscapers and everything in between. If I receive a business card from a landscaper that only contains their phone number and no website URL, into the trash that card goes. How is somebody supposed to check out your landscaping work and choose you if you have no portfolio or web gallery? For something as visual as landscaping, there is absolutely no excuse as to why you don’t have a website.
So let’s recap all of the reasons you need your own website:
- To stand out among 100’s of other businesses
- To show your professionalism
- To separate yourself from text listings
- To attract new customers through web searches
- To brand yourself and not rely on freebie websites with their own branding
- To show that you care about how you are portrayed
- To paint a visual picture of your company
Finally, when creating your new website, I already mentioned how a great design is important, but something that is equally important is having your own custom URL and custom email addresses. This is just another way to (once again) portray your professionalism and show that you don’t need to rely on freebie websites like Gmail or Hotmail for email, or free website builders (i.e. yourcompanyname.freewebsite.com) for your domain. Is it easier to tell somebody to check out www.SallysSalon.com or http://sallyssalon.thisismyfreewebsite.com. Which one do you think they would remember?
Personally, I am hugely against businesses using freebie email accounts for the simple fact that it looks incredibly unprofessional. Your company is not affiliated with Gmail or Hotmail, so why lump yourself into that same category of people looking for a free email address? An firstname.lastname@example.org email address looks far more appealing than email@example.com. Not only does it look better, but it gives you a little more credibility with customers/clients knowing that you’ve taken the time to set up proper email accounts. A domain name costs about $10 (or less) a year and can be set up in minutes. With your domain name you usually get free email addresses. Use them! You can check out my Resources page for my recommendations on hosts, etc. Edit: If you are a Gmail fan and want to learn how to set up your custom domain email address to work with Gmail, check out Erin’s video here which will show you how!!
Hopefully I’ve given you some insight as to why having your own website for your business is super important. If you invest the time and a little money, I promise you it will pay off in the end. Good luck!