Ten common questions and concerns
I’m amazed at how many do not have websites. I am also constantly frustrated at all the business that have a website, but all it does is… actually, I am not even sure what these websites are even hoping to achieve. Here are the ten of the most common questions, concerns, and comments small business owners posed about getting a website.
- Does my company really need a web site?
- What is the cost involved?
- I already have a web page on someone else’s website. Why do I need two?
- I don’t sell merchandise on-line. Why would I need a web site?
- I don’t even use a computer. I can’t maintain a web site.
- Our customers like the personal touch and most aren’t computer users.
- I have a cousin and he said he is pretty confident that he can build a web site for me. I’ve promised him that he can do ours.
- Our upcoming advertising commitments will use all our marketing money.
- A website seems so sterile and impersonal. It won’t add to “our kind” of customer base that was built on personal relationship.
- I wouldn’t know what to do with a web site if I had one.
1: Does my company really need a web site?
The answer to this question could be “yes” or could be “no.” Only the business owner can answer it.
While making the determination, you want to consider that a website is multi-functional, and is a communication tool — not an advertisement. If your business is organized, all of your clientele is local, and you have a backlog of customers waiting to be serviced —and you can handle that service effectively — you may not need a website.
If you often wish you could communicate effectively with a broader range of clients/customers, publicly post answers to frequently asked questions, attract new customers, break in to new markets and take the market share from your competitors — then a website is a MUST!
A website is like your giant public bulletin board where people can get information on how to find you, where you are located, what you have to offer, why your service is unique, and what’s new in your company. It also is easily updated and changed frequently and is a communication forum through which your customers can communicate back to you with questions, concerns, and feedback on their needs. More importantly, a website is where people go to form an opinion and make a decision about you. This is why no website is ALWAYS better than a poor one.
2: What is the cost involved?
Having a website involves three basic costs: The development/design of the site itself, hosting the site, and registering the domain name.
The development of the site is the actual “building” or putting the graphics, text, links, and codes all together so you have web pages that look good and are informative when you see the site on the computer. This is the largest of the three costs and can ranch in price from $500 (probably should just save your money and reputation at this price point) to $10,000 (unless you are marketing to a very large area then this is to much) typically. The cost of your website is a one-time investment for a tool you own and can continue to use for communication and marketing indefinitely. It is always up – and always accessible.
Hosting the site means the website files are put on a large server so the general public can access your site by clicking through the Internet. Hosting costs vary but average around $20 to $50 per month, based on the website functionality and the hosting provider. Service varies widely as well. The ideal host will offer several services bundled together for one affordable price. Look for these services in a hosting package:
– The space provided for your site on the server should have ample room for high traffic (bandwidth). When a site doesn’t have enough bandwidth, the web visitor finds the site slow loading and difficult to access.
- The Hosting package should have a reliable track record of maintaining high dependability. When your server goes down, your website and associated email is unavailable.
- Good USA based support is an absolute must so always ask on this point.
Registering the domain name involves reserving a unique web address where users find your website (www.yourcompany.com). This is done through a public registry service and the cost is typically $7-50 per year.
I tell clients that getting a website is like getting a telephone. They both have similar cost structures. The website cost is like the cost of the phone and installation. You pay one time and the equipment is yours. The hosting cost is similar to your monthly phone bill — you own the equipment but you pay for the service of being able to use it. The domain name registry is like the phone number — a unique way to get in touch with only YOU.
- Additional Costs — can include:
- Email services with multiple email accounts.
- Internet marketing services — researching how best to promote your site and get the maximum visibility, drawing more visitors to your site.
- Maintenance services — updating the site continually, making changes, adding pages, delivering web statistic reports, and more.
3: I already have a web page on someone else’s website. Why do I need two?
If you have a web page with your Chamber of Commerce or with a listing service in your industry or parent company (e.g. realtor.com, Teleflora, bbonline, etc.), that is a GOOD thing! However, that is not a website. It more than likely only offers contact information and a brief description of what your offer. It lumps you into a wide category that generally includes your competitors, and in many cases, it doesn’t offer the interaction with the public that your own website would offer. Finally — you don’t own the site or have control over it.
Your website brands you as unique and reveals your identity. The good news is that having that page with the Chamber or another listing service will enhance and empower your new website. It will drive more traffic to your site and put you one step ahead of the marketing game.
Think about it. If a visitor is looking for a florist on Teleflora and finds five listings close to home — and one of the listings has a link to its own website — that visitor is going to go “one click further” and click on that florist’s website. When scanning a list, people always want to know more. Your link gives them that opportunity.
4: I don’t sell merchandise online. Why would I need a website?
You may not sell merchandise online, but do you sell something special that people are looking for? Do you ever have a customer say “I came here because you sell ________.” For example, a store that sells a line of products or brands that are highly sought after by a faithful following, (e.g. Dept. 56, Boyd’s Bears, Hallmark Cards, Red Wing Shoes, certain lines of animal products, clothing and accessories, tools) is going to have potential customers that search the Internet to find out who sells those brands in their local area. Will you be in the search results? Will your competitor be?
The same applies to restaurants and lodging. People are visiting a certain area. Over 70% of travelers in the United States and Europe use the Internet to set travel itineraries — and those itineraries include restaurants, accommodations, shopping, and even churches. Will you be among the choices found when they search the Internet? More importantly, will you look like the business people WANT to take the time to visit?
If you offer something that people are looking for, a large portion of people (perhaps a market unknown to you thus far) will search the Internet because it’s fast, it’s easy, it’s global and it’s private. A web site will get you new customers with very little investment of your time.
5: I don’t even use a computer. I can’t maintain a web site.
Using the computer is like playing the piano. You can play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or a Sonata by Chopin. Either way, you’re getting a tune out. To maintain a website you should have a computer, and you — or someone in your company — should be able to send and receive email. Your web developer can help you with maintenance, changes, and updates, which is generally simple and affordable.
6: Our customers like the personal touch and most aren’t computer users.
Your current customers may not use the computer much — that is possible.
A worthy concern should be about the potential customers that do use the computer and CAN’T FIND YOU. The fastest growing sector of the American population getting computer literate is between the ages of 50 and 75. This sector also includes those with the highest percentage of disposable income. A website helps you target that using population.
Another thing to think about – 75 years ago, the American population felt that the telephone was an expensive luxury and not crucial to business growth. That sentiment continued for 30 years. As social communication trends changed, and expenses decreased — businesses changed to ensure profitability. Use of the Internet will only increase in the next ten years. Also as a young adult when social media was just gaining dominance I remember a lot of people telling me it was pointless and not worth the time (they all now use facebook almost daily).
7: I have a cousin and he said he is pretty confident that he can build a website for me. I’ve promised him that he can do ours.
Is your cousin a qualified web designer? If so, you’re the lucky one. Be sure to impart a sense of urgency in getting the site completed. If he or she makes websites as a hobby, you’ll want to consider the following:
- A website can be compared to modes of transportation. You could ride a bicycle or drive a Mercedes — either way you can get around town, but one is more efficient, will take you farther faster, and will be a more comfortable ride.
- The flashy graphics and catchy text you see on websites is only about 20% of what goes into developing the site. Behind all those pretty pages are codes and tags, specifically written to attain a higher placement in search engines, make the pages load faster and be more user-friendly. Most beginners and hobbyists lack knowledge in the proper usage of codes, scripts, tags and search engine optimization. If you have a pretty website, but it lacks focus, and no one can find it, you lose enormous marketing power.
8: Our upcoming advertising commitments will use all our marketing money.
It is important to recognize that a website is NOT an advertising investment. It compliments and empowers your advertising efforts and “who you are”. Ads are the property of the advertising vendor and are a revolving cost to a company. You buy an ad for a specific amount of time — and then the ad is gone.
A website is a marketing and communication tool that belongs to you. You control it and you can use it continually. It is a company asset similar to a telephone or fax machine. You buy it one time and only pay for the service to use it. Websites reach a growing customer base that up until now has remained hidden to you. It also services your current customer base, giving them more options to communicate with you.
Once you have a website, you can include your web address on all of your advertising, offering potential customers and clients an opportunity to find out more. A website in today’s world is also a stamp of credibility to the public that hasn’t yet met you.
The following quote is an excerpt from Small Business Magazine — October Issue 2003.
“Customers and other people who come in contact with your business expect to find a reputable business on the Web, so don’t risk your credibility by not being present.” Personally, I would add “don’t risk your credibility by not being present or be present and look completely unprofessional”.
QUESTION 9: A website seems so sterile and impersonal. It won’t add to “our kind” of customer base that was built on personal relationship.
This statement is commonly made by specialty shop owners and real estate agents. Real estate agents will add “I already invest high dollars in space advertising.” This is probably one of the most frustrating objections for me because the business owners that say this are some of the nicest people I’ve met – and are usually sound business people. They know how to treat a customer or client with special care.
However, they don’t understand that all kinds of people view a website as the FIRST step in a relationship with you. It is all too easy for owners to look at the other business in the area or at Wix and come to the conclusion a website as impersonal. However just because that is what you may feel when on other websites it does not mean that yours has to be and feel that way. This is why we often say no website is better than a bad one.
QUESTION 10: I wouldn’t know what to do with a website if I had one.
In addition to the information above, understand that Internet users find you — you don’t find them. They will either search for you because they’ve heard your name from someone, or search for a product you’re selling. If your business is not listed, it doesn’t exist to the Internet user. If your business is found but does not represent all of the great little things about you then it is pointless.
Take the time to find a professional that you trust to assist with maintaining and designing the website.
A website is a marketing tool that costs you ONE TIME and continues to pay you back. It expands your customer base, enhances your advertising and marketing efforts and gives your business a mark of credibility.
A website at its basic level tells millions of Internet users:
— Who you are, how you began, successes you’ve had, your reputation in the community.
— What your company has to offer — products and services
— How to find your location.
— The different ways to contact you (phone #’s, FAX, email, physical address)
— Special offers and upcoming promotions, new additions to products and services
— The Latest NEWS about your company
— What others are saying about you — Client / Customer Testimonials.
When you consider the continual growth in numbers of Internet users and the growth of companies that are on the Internet, some of which may be your competitors, it could cost you NOT to have a website.