Before I start, yes - I know this is 2015 and not 1995... the benefits of having a website for your business should be apparent to most people. Amazingly, I find some companies I talk to still think a website isn't necessary for their business and that they've "managed alright without one so far".
To them, I say this: you're wrong! There are umpteen reasons why, if you don't have a website, you NEED to get one. And the same goes for those of you who do have a website if it's five years old or more.
Here's my top ten reasons why YOUR business NEEDS a website:
1. 24/7 coverage
When you lock up at the end of the day and head home for a well-earned rest, your website is still online showcasing your products and/or services and selling the benefits of your business to potential customers. With more people viewing websites on the move with smartphones and tablets than ever before, it's a no-brainer!
2. Business perception
If you look the business, think the business and act the business, people will think you're the business. NEVER underestimate the importance of your image - nobody wants to buy from a website that looks like a five year old did it (no disrespect to five year olds!).
As much as you may like your firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail address, you'll be taken far more seriously with an address that originates from the same domain as your website.
4. It's your online brochure
It's great having a snazzy, professionally designed brochure. Ok, I'm bound to say that as I've designed loads of them for many different clients. But one area your website can succeed where your brochure may struggle is in personality. Everything from the subjects you blog about to the way you talk about your products or services and the tone of voice you use throughout. People buy from people, and your website provides a wonderful platform to show that not only do you do great work, but you're human like the rest of us as well. Oh, and you can update your online brochure anytime, which you can't with a printed version!
5. Downloadable content
Want to grow your mailing list? What simpler way than to provide your visitors with useful, meaningful content? Ask them to provide you with a few details in exchange via a simple form and hey presto - your mailing list will expand before your eyes. And better yet, they're all opted in so it's fine to send them promotional mailshots!
6. Market reach
As soon as your website goes live, it's accessible to anyone around the world connected to the Internet. There could be a market for your work somewhere you least expected it, and your website is your gateway to finding it... or it finding you.
7. Establish credibility
Similar to point (2). A well-structured and beautifully designed website, coupled with quality, meaningful content will define you as an authority in your field and result in business coming to you, reducing the amount of time you need to go out and find it. Post enough useful content and you can even influence the market(s) you operate in!
8. Promote your offline presence
Even if you don't sell your products or services online, you can bet your last fiver that people will still be searching for them online. Think about it - if you're looking for a plumber, do you still reach for the Yellow Pages? Of course you don't - you probably go straight to Google like the rest of us. A website is essential for picking up that business, even if someone is just looking for a number in order to give you a call.
9. Good customer service
Tired of answering the same questions from different customers all the time? A Frequently Asked Questions section enables you to provide this information up front, putting your customers in a position where they're ready to make an informed purchase. You can provide loads of information on all kinds of topics, all of which will reduce your customer service costs too - bonus!
10. Press releases/news
We live in an instant world. When I was growing up, I was told "today's news is tomorrow's fish and chips paper". These days, today's news is today's fish and chip paper... or at least it would be, if it wasn't for more and more people consuming their news online. Take advantage of this and publish your latest business news on your website. Circulate it to local, regional, national and industry press and let it drive the traffic back to you... then just wait for the phone to ring!
As I said at the start of this piece, there are many many reasons why you NEED your own website and those listed above are just a small selection. If you don't have a website for your business yet, my question to you is: why wait?