Does Your Home or Small Business Really Need a Website?

by Heather Melcer

If you’re reading this blog to begin with, you’re probably thinking, DUH, every business needs a website, what a preposterous thought!  However, it’s still a legit question these days as there are two scenarios that create exceptions to the rule that everyone automatically has a website: One, you somehow stumbled into some type of business that maybe started as a side hobby kind of thing that just took on a life of it’s own, and now here you are running a decent size business, sans website. Or, two you have been in business for many, many years, way before the dawning of the Internet era and have never needed one before.  So the question to be asked now is, do you really need a website?

Case in point are recent friends of mine, turned clients. Been in business for 25 years. Known locally for what they do. Have never, ever advertised.  Word of mouth and referrals have grown their business. And a successful business it is. I know it’s hard to think such people exist, but there are treasures out there to be found in nearly every industry. So why after all these years were they finally taking the plunge?  Simply put, the world is a changed place and “people” were simply asking for it.

Think about it – how do you look for resources these days? Personal recommendations still top the list when we are in need of products or services, but haven’t you noticed that even when a friend or relative e-mails you someone’s number to call for an appointment, you still go to the Internet first before calling? You look them up just for the sake of looking them up. It’s not that you don’t trust your Aunt Martha’s plumber of choice per se, but our modern minds have a new conditioning. The same way we never leave home without a cell phone, some things are just part of a new human nature.  And it now applies to everyone, young and old alike. We used to think it was just the young, facebooking tweeters that ruled the world, but more and more souls of all ages are using the Internet as a first line of defense for everything they do. I mean just two days ago I found out that my very own Dad, someone mind you who refused to use an ATM machine to get cash until just about two years ago, told me he was ordering stuff off eBay! I gasped and nearly fell off my chair! I thought holy moly times really are changing at warp speed.

The problem is, more often than not, people in business before the Internet revolution or who got swept up into something, seem to get overwhelmed at the thought of an online presence and don’t know the first thing about where to begin. For anyone in that situation, just think of it as nothing more than a grandiose business card. That’s all, simple, nothing more. The most important step is creating solid content that simply reflects what it is you do. Keep the design simple and straightforward (template designs are just fine), but write strong copy (which is always my number one tip) .

    Here’s a list with some insight to get you started. Geared to that “business card” notion, it can be a great starting point for everyone else too. It should be no more than 4-6 pages, which for an informational only starter site is all that’s called for, unless there is something very specific to your business model that demands more.
    HOME –  Write a few quick bullet points that describe the services and/or products you offer. Do not put tons of text on a home page, it’s a distraction and turn-off.  Light, informative, easy on the eyes is the way to go. Be clear about what you offer so people will immediately understand what you do and want to browse around your site.  
    PRODUCTS or SERVICES– This is a straight list of the products you sell or the services you offer, basically sharing with the world what it is you really do. List the benefits one gets from using your service and detail all the main things you provide as well as a list of add-ons that can be discussed if applicable.  Include the geographical areas you provide services to and how, or what market your products are geared for.
    ABOUT US – I know most of you have trouble writing about yourself, so get a friend or a copywriter (I know, shameless plug) to do it for you. Look over your resume, get your credentials and/or experience in order, and create a nice paragraph or two in narrative format.
    CONTACT US – provide phone, e-mail and physical address. In most cases it’s best to refrain from using a home address, so go get a PO Box at the USPS  with convenient location and pick-up hours, or a box at a private mail store with a street address which is just fine too. And if you don’t want that, at the very least you should include a line – located in your real City and State (even if what you do reaches customers far and wide, it gives your site visitors peace of mind and lends credibility over a site from nowhereville that appears vague).  Also, you can reiterate here what areas or regions you service if that applies.
    (Optional Pages)
    TESTIMONIALS – Demonstrating benefits is key to selling anything and others touting you can work wonders.  Look over e-mailed comments you received from happy customers to see if you can turn any into a good quote or ask a few clients to write one for you.  Also as a courtesy, always ask someone’s permission before using their statement and let them know if you will list their full name and title or just first name, last initial.
    MISSION– this is a page where you can share a little more about the mission of your company, what’s important to you, how the business came to be, or any type of standard you uphold. Sometimes a mission can be blended into the copy on the about us or services page, but depending on how much copy you have for each one respectively, no page should be screens and screens worth of info for a simple site. It’s ok for a visitor to scroll down a page for a list services for example, to find what applies to them, but you don’t want people to have to scroll down five screens on an about us page.
    RESOURCES – if you routinely outsource to others, or have services and/or products that you recommend, or perhaps want to share some helpful guides like a “how-to list” or a “what is something definition” you can do that here. But if it’s a business card kind of website, only have links to resources that are related to your business, don’t just make it a free-for-all.

As you can see, the answer to the question is yes, you do need a website, however it doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Depending on the nature of your business, a website for you is simply that validation tool to another that you do indeed exist and are running a real operation, it’s like having a listing in the Yellow pages 20 years ago, it meant it was a real business. It is, and has been the new business card for quite some time. That being said – solid well-written content, yes; flashy design, not so crucial. Though good looks overall is always a nice thing, there’s just no need to go crazy or pay thousands of dollars for something of this nature.  Here is an example of just that kind of site that was created for me friend Wendy and her husband:

Now, if your calendar is overflowing with appointments, or what you do is so exclusive that you do not want to advertise to the general public and don’t want a site, even to that I say yes, build it. Brand awareness is always important, and a contact page with no info that states “available by referrals only” can only help push you into an even higher stratosphere…ahh, that would be nice to have a copywriting website with such a statement, LOL.

Additonal posts that might be helpful:

The Number One Tip To Designing a Great Website – Write It First!
Template Web Design – Key Strategies to Make Yours Stand Out


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