Friday, June 15, 2007

Do I Have to Have a Web Site?

In short: Yes. These days, every business needs a web site. No matter how small you are, you don’t want to fall through the cyber-cracks and get missed by the Net-dependent. Without a web site, you lose credibility instantly. And I can assure you that you lose business.

This week, a friend commented to me that she uses the Web for “everything.”

“Seriously,” she said, “I don’t ever use the phone book anymore.”

And you know what? Neither do I.

When I want directions to a store, someone to cut my trees, or to know the hours of a new restaurant, I go the Internet to find it. The information I’m looking for is usually on the company’s web site, but even if it’s not, I can look up the company’s phone number there without ever having to find where I put my Yellow Pages.

If your business carries the product I want, you cut trees in my neighborhood, or you opened a new restaurant recently ~ but you don’t have a web site ~ you didn’t get my business. And you didn’t get my neighbor’s either.

The kind of web site you need depends on the nature of your products or services, but it doesn't have to be complex, expensive, or daunting. Sure, if you’re in the music or movie industry, you may want exciting audio and visual features on your site. On the other hand, if you’re an independent massage therapist, you don’t need complex programming ~ a few static pages that contain persuasive information about you, your services and training, and how to contact you will do the trick.

Still not convinced? Think of a web site as a way to increase sales, reduce your overhead costs, and enhance your customer service. Who doesn't want a simple way to do that?

If you have a bricks-and-mortar retail shop, you might be able to increase sales 10-25% ~ without having to relocate. Consider what would happen if you had a web site that entices visitors to come to your store, signs them up for a newsletter that offers special subscriber discounts, and features an online catalog or even a “Buy Now” button.

Restaurants can use web sites to promote special events, new hours, and seasonal menu offerings quickly, inexpensively, and without the hassle of direct mail.

And every type of business owner, but especially those in the service industry, can cut down on the number of unproductive phone calls from people who inquire about the same basic things. Your web site can answers frequently asked questions before people call. That saves you time and helps make your work day more efficient.

The phone book may still end up being your biggest source of referrals, but without a web site, you’re missing out on a whole market of consumers that now “let their fingers do the walking” on the keyboard.

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