Why a Website Is So Important for a Small Business

The stats on Australian small businesses with a website vary, but there are still at least 30-50% of Australian small businesses without a website. If you don’t have a website for your business, get a taste for the potential right at your fingertips, now.

This article explores how important the website plays for a number of different small business owners. In fact, the website is the business for a lot of small businesses.

Having a website provides numerous benefits, many business owners say they wouldn’t be in business without their website!

David Negri, owner of Hampering Around enthuses “our website is our window to the world… our online storefront powering our 400 square metre warehouse and office.” Wouldn’t you like to feel as excited about a business asset as this?!

Many benefits are obvious, yet still worth stating as the simple is often what is overlooked, including:

To be considered and to be competitive – don’t be left out when a customer is searching for a provider and your main competition has a website and you don’t.

To act as an information resource and to help customers know more about your business, help them ‘qualify’ themselves as needing your products or services (much more efficient than taking enquiries and explaining the same thing about what you offer over the phone or face to face).

Enabling customers the convenience of engaging services online is an expectation of most consumers nowadays and Julie Sweet of CertificatesOnline has tapped into this need by providing access to birth, marriage and other official certificates through an online service, supported by 24×7 phone help. Julie acknowledges “I wouldn’t have the business I run if it wasn’t for our website.” The service they provide is so critically about convenience for their customers that they couldn’t offer this benefit without effective website interaction for customers.

Website business work is extremely flexible as Richard at Property Geek says “I can work on my business anytime, anywhere, as long as I have web access”.

A website can profile you globally as Kylie Saunder from Pilates YogaBiz says “without a website I wouldn’t be able to have an international business presence” and the 24×7 nature of a website overcomes timezone issues with global customers.

For businesses with a market niche, such as the toy train etailer TootTootToys, “having a website is critical for the small niche market I service, it is my shop and my gateway to customers.” Many specialist businesses have flourished in the online world that would never make it in the retail dependent world because they can simply be ‘open’ to such a wider market and not restricted by physical demographics of customers.

Attracting business opportunities from all walks of life has seen the brand and business profile of organic foodie Samantha Gowing flourish, not least through the profile and reach enabled by her website.
Apart from the obvious, a website can also provide some indirect benefits like:

Building a database and subscriber base (many websites include forms and database capture and storage functionality) – enabling you to grow your contacts and potentials for future business
Attracting employees and helping to create an impression of what your business is like to work at
Giving your business a professional public profile that satisfies the investigations of your bank as they check you out as part of their credit check process to assess if you are established and credible
Is an eBay store or a Blog sufficient as a website?

There are no doubt many ways a business can have a web presence, but they each provide different benefits and drawbacks.

Andy Henderson from web development and training company comments about businesses on eBay “They certainly have a “web presence”, but as far as I am concerned they don’t have their own website. With eBay they have limited control over layout, content and functionality.

Yet blogs on the other hand may be perfectly suitable for a businesses web presence. A blog can be a very powerful marketing tool and is great for search engine optimisation. Many high profile blogs generate lots of money so I guess in that sense could be considered as a business. But more traditional businesses are probably better to include blogging functionality as a part of their main website. Fortunately WordPress (the worlds most popular blogging CMS) is easily customisable to give it more of a website “feel” and naturally also incorporates all the blogging capabilities.”

Many business owners found the hardest part of getting online was developing the content

Planning a website can be a bit like a swimming competition. There’s a lot of thinking before diving in, lots of practice to map out how to create the best path and leveraging expertise from others to tackle your weaknesses.

Interestingly most small businesses who are not yet online, avoid doing so because they think it will be too complicated in a technical sense, yet a variety of small businesses interviewed for this article commonly concurred that it was in fact the simple aspects that proved hardest as they were unfamiliar with them, like “trying to anticipate how customers will interact with the site and product mix” says Richard from Property Geek; and “the text and content was probably the most time consuming…it can be arduous to convert ideas and visions into a website that encompasses what is in your mind” reports Julie of CertificatesOnline.

Don’t get bogged down in the technicalities, utilise the myriad resources available to get online or work with a professional, which is actually really affordable.

A website is an ongoing business resource and investment

Some business owners put all of their money into developing a website and overlook the need to actually market it and maintain it. Many websites are supported by marketing efforts, often numerous ones, including social media marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), pay per click (PPC) and offline/ traditional methods like promoting your website URL on merchandising and communications materials.

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