When I moved to Regina a couple of years ago, one of my first priorities was finding a new dentist, hair stylist and veterinarian. So I did what most people do when they’re investigating potential service providers: I headed online and started my research. I was surprised to find that many of the results turned up only a company name with a phone number, but no website where I could get a solid handle of whether the business was the right fit for me.
Some had social media business profiles, but like many people, I don’t have the time or energy to comb through a lengthy feed. For me, a website is always ground zero in selecting a company I want to do business with.
Size doesn’t matter
A recent survey shows that while many small business owners acknowledge that a website is important, nearly one-third still don’t have one. The reasons they cite for not doing so include having a social media business profile instead, a lack of technical skills, lack of resources or the fact that a website isn’t necessary for their type of business.
I can’t think of any type of business that legitimately fits into that last category. In fact, these days, there’s really no excuse for even the smallest company not to have a basic website. There are endless options for creating an informative and inexpensive online presence, and the potential payback is enormous.
The psychology of customers
In Canada, almost 90 per cent of people use the Internet. So if your business doesn’t have a digital presence, you’re missing out on one of the simplest and most inexpensive ways to attract new customers.
In a previous post, three options were presented for creating a business website: build your own, work with a website developer or hire an agency.
The cheapest and fastest fix for a siteless business is a build-your-own template design system offered by companies like Yola, Squarespace and Jimdo. They come with a range of drag-and-drop widgets that allow users to customize the look and feel.
When Aleana Young launched Takeaway Gourmet in Regina a few years back, she knew it was important to have a digital presence that would give would-be customers the information they need to decide if an in-person visit to her store was in order. However, she was working with a limited budget — so she ended up choosing Wix because it was affordable, easy to use and easy to maintain, she explained.
Kathleen O’Malley is a Regina-based Squarespace Web Designer Partner, who provides training, design and copywriting services for companies looking to create a business site.
She and partner Squarespace specialist Sarah Moon of SMCo offer Design in a Day™ workshops that enable clients to design and build functional websites in, you guessed it, just one day.
“We help our clients prior to their design day with a strategy call and educational videos on how to plan website content based on their business goals. And we provide them with a simple, streamlined process for organizing their conversion-oriented copy and images,” O’Malley says.
Her clients include academics, writers, lawyers, dance instructors, wedding planners, florists and non-profit organizations. The majority are from the U.S., but she has worked with people all over the world, including Japan, Australia, England and across Canada.
Most of the sites O’Malley and her partners help create are geared to service-based businesses, so the requirements are relatively straightforward. But they often integrate more advanced functionality such as scheduling widgets and customized forms for lead generation.
“While our clients may have been in business for themselves for a while — such as lawyers or consultants — this may be their first website, or they’ve decided to switch to Squarespace so it’s easier to manage,” she says. “I’d recommend evaluating all of your must-have tools prior to committing to a platform so you’re not frustrated down the line.”
O’Malley says not every business is an ideal candidate for a do-it-yourself website. For example, those with very complex ecommerce needs or ones requiring more than 40 pages may want to consider outsourcing to a developer.
“Most business owners don’t need a site that big, though,” she says.
6 reasons you need a business site
If you’re still not convinced a website is necessary for your small business, The Balance Small Business has six solid reasons to create one:
1. People use the Internet like they used to use the phone book.
2. A website gives your business legitimacy.
3. A business website gives you another marketing channel.
4. Your website is another opportunity for data collection/lead generation.
5. Ecommerce spending is increasing every year.
6. Webrooming can lead customers into your store.