Does My Business Need A Website?
This is a simple question and to make the answer just as simple – Yes!
Yes, your business needs a website. Tongue-in-cheek aside, this really is a common start up business question. A lot of start-up business owners want to know what they can get by with or do without when operating on a shoe string budget. I normally wouldn’t even bother addressing this question, but I continue to be surprised by how often it is asked, so it got me thinking. . . what are people really wanting to know when asking the question, “Does my business need a website?” Is it a genuine question, or is the root of this question a cost issue?
I’m going to go ahead and make the assumption that anyone asking this question is thinking about or launching a brand new business and just like most small businesses you are really, really cost conscious. Believe me, I feel ya. When every penny counts and you’re budgeting for expenses to make it through your first year or two, you tend to ask questions like, “does my business really need a website right now?”
My answer is still yes, but there are certainly factors that are going to contribute to your ultimate decision or how much you should spend on your website. Let’s take a quick look at what you have to gain by having a website before we get into what you should consider when budgeting for one. A solid web presence lends credibility to your company, products or services. If you don’t have a website then you probably come off as a fly by night who is operating out of their garage trying to make this venture work. It’s o.k. if you actually are, but you don’t have to look like it. A professionally designed website can give you the appearance of an established and trusted business even when you’re operating out of your garage.
So, what factors could potentially play a role in your decision making process? Let’s take a look at some of the most commonly overlooked questions to ask when budgeting for your start up. . .
1. What are your goals for the first year of business?
The first year of business is a tough one, you should put some thought into setting some business goals before spending money on assets. Put some thought into who your target market is and how you plan on reaching them. Often times reaching your clients will involve some type of website.
2. How do you plan on generating leads?
Reaching your clients ties right into how you plan on generating leads. This is often an area that is under-emphasized with new start-ups. What your business does impacts your lead generation strategies. Are you planning on handing out a few business cards to see how it goes? If you have a product you're selling, will you primarily be attending trade shows to generate leads and take orders to grow your business? Perhaps you plan on acting as a reseller for a product line, in which case your business will depend entirely on your website and online marketing.
3. Is your business an eCommerce business?
If you plan on selling products online then you obviously need a website. There are only two questions you need to answer in this instance:
- how much can I afford to spend on my website?
- and how much can afford to spend on marketing?
It would be good to note that when selling online, the design and layout of your website can impact your sales and conversions greatly. If your entire business relies on your website, it's probably not a good idea to cut corners on the website design budget.
4. Do you have a marketing budget?
I'm hoping that if you're asking the question, "do I need a website", it's because you have decided to put all of your money into marketing your business offline. I've seen way too many people who have a very passive attitude towards marketing their business. Let me save you some time right now, if you don't have a budget to build a website or market your company - put it on hold until you do. Sitting back and waiting for clients or customers to come to you is a sure fire way to fail.
It's safe to say that today, you do need a website which means the real question is, "what is this going to cost me?" I typically find this to be the real question with 80% of all start up businesses.
There are thousands of agencies and web designers out there to choose from. You could pay anywhere from $200 to $20,000 depending on your needs. I'm going to use some broad strokes here to cut to the chase and provide some numbers and guidelines. To do this we'll eliminate cheap templates or overseas developers.
If you are serious about your business, compare a handful of reputable agencies with a proven track record. If you have a standard business site with content management and custom brand design you could be looking in the range of $2,000 to $5,000 depending on the agency and your requirements.
If you are planning on starting an eCommerce business you should spend some time determining how you're going to sell, who you're selling to, how you plan on shipping, and how you're going to market your site. These questions will help you determine what eCommerce platform is best for you. I personally recommend BigCommerce as a turn-key eCommerce platform that is also great for SEO and easy to manage and update through the user friendly admin area. BigCommerce has free templates to choose from or you can contract a BigCommerce website design company to customize one of their templates or create a custom solution for your design and functionality needs. I would estimate that 80% of people who start with a free template decide to hire a design company within 3 months in order to customize their site so that it doesn't look like a template anymore. Custom BigCommerce template design could start at $2,800.
I've tried to address the root of the original question posed, "does my business need a website" by addressing the cost potentially involved in creating a website, which I believe is the real question. The bottom line is that a website is opportunity and by not having a website you are choosing to pass on this opportunity for potential leads, sales, and brand visibility.
Author: Chris London is the art director at www.pixelproductionsinc.com, a strategic graphic and web design company where his focus is to continually find creative and innovative strategies to implement with businesses who need brand design and marketing with impact.