A question your business should never ask …

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“Why would we need a website?” These statements often quickly follow this question: “We’re busy enough,” or “We’ve never needed one in the past”. Being so immersed in the web and marketing I often forget there are still businesses out there that refuse to acknowledge that the web is here to stay and that older methods that customers and clients might have used to contact a business are going the way of the dinosaur.

Phone books and other ancient tomes …

Telephone directories are a perfect example of this. For years, many businesses have relied on advertising in the phone book because for years that was the main way people had to find out about businesses in their area. Now, even the companies printing these things must know they are fighting a losing battle as they are now pushing online directories and advertising as well. However, they still try to claim high numbers of printed phone book users. According to a poll set up on http://polldaddy.com/poll/1483411/ over 7000 people profess that they do not use a printed phone book anymore compared to 400 people who do. Clearly the phone book publishers are still clinging to years old statistics that their books really are being used for the intended purpose and not a total waste. Newspapers and print magazines I imagine are not feeling the love anymore either. These standard traditional methods of advertising have become over-priced and even less effective for businesses. That is not to say a highly targeted, well-placed ad cannot garner any attention anymore, it’s simply not cost effective for many businesses.

Cost-effective marketing …

I spoke with a local business today about a website. They knew they needed one and they shared with me that they also knew it was more economical for them to have a website and promote that rather than to keep paying the $500 a month for their phone book ads (by comparison, the average informational website generates about $10 in hosting costs a month). Even though they have been in business longer than the internet has actually existed, at least they’ve finally determined that they can’t go on without a website.

These benefits, what are they?

The most obvious is of course that many people now turn to the web to search for business and products. If you’re not on the web, people are obviously not going to find you utilizing that method. Another benefit would of course be 24/7 access. You may have regular business hours but the website is working for you all day and night every day of the year. Many things that used to have to be answered on the phone (from something like seeing your products or portfolio to something as simple as your business hours and address) can now be handled online. A website opens up a lot of possibilities for dissemination of information (text, video, audio, downloadables, interactive presentations, etc.), ability to sell services or products, ability to interact with your customers, and much more. And don’t forget that for a large percentage of people the first encounter they will have with your business will be through your website. First impressions really are lasting ones so do yourself and your business a favor and hire a professional to work with you and design the perfect site to wow your target audience.

A website is now a necessity …

Don’t kid yourself by making the statement, “we don’t need a website”. I’m sure there were once people also saying they didn’t need telephones and cars. I can really not think of any business that would not benefit from a presence on the internet. However, even after convincing a business they do need a website there is one more pitfall they need to avoid.

Don’t just leave it sit there …

After talking a website up like some magical marketing elixir for a business some might expect to experience a boom simply for putting one up. If you had a really awesome postcard created but left them sitting in a stack on your deck collecting dust rather than getting them out to potential customers, that wouldn’t exactly be effective, would it? The same thing can be said about an awesome website. It can be a very effective way to market your business but you have to get it out there to your potential customers and not leave it gathering dust.

Marketing and updating …

While a website is a form of marketing for you it works best in conjunction with other marketing. I’m amazed that people sometimes forget even the simplest ways to market the new site – like putting the URL on all printed marketing materials, business cards, email signatures, etc. Many forms of online marketing can also help bring attention to the site. From optimization and pay-per-click advertising to social media and blogs there are many avenues to be explored. To make sure your site is not gathering any virtual dust, consider adding resources of information such as a blog, news, social media, or simply reevaluating and updating page content on a regular basis.

Don’t get left behind …

As time goes on, business who do not acknowledge the fact that they need to be on the internet run the risk of falling behind. Most likely, your competition is already on the web. If they are, find out, then make your site stand out. If you decide to jump on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), then be present there – interact as well as promote. Get a great website, get it out there, and then get busy with marketing it. Oh, and welcome to the 21st century and beyond!

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