First, the good news: the majority of small companies in the U.S. have a website that both showcases their products and services, and signals potential customers that they're open and eager for their business. The bad news: it's a slim majority.
Clutch—a Washington, D.C.-based market research firm—surveyed 350 small business owners and managers operating in the U.S. (most with 1 – 10 employees and less than $1 million in yearly revenue). The survey results show that 46 percent do not have a small business website to call their own.
The top reasons respondents cited for lacking a website include the belief that it's not relevant to their business or industry (32 percent), cost (30 percent), or an existing presence on social media (12 percent).
Small Business Website Options
Clutch's Amanda Soderland, the survey's author and an analyst at Clutch, said that small business owners are intimidated by the prospect of dipping their toes online. "The biggest misconception about launching a website is that, in order to for it be effective, a website has to be professionally done, fancy, and expensive," Soderland told Small Business Computing.
"However that's simply not true, especially for small businesses," she said. "They have various options for building a website, ranging from Web design companies that focus specifically on small business websites to DIY website builders that make it very easy for a small business to build an effective, good-looking website at a low cost."
Building a Small Business Website: Keep ROI in Mind
Although small business owners have many low-cost options for building a website, splurging a little on a custom website could be worth it.
"A well-designed, optimized website that's customized for a small business' specific needs can produce immense returns. While this type of website requires hiring a Web design company and a heftier bill, the benefits reach way beyond the initial cost," said Soderland.
A well-crafted website can produce leads for a business, a capability that Soderland calls invaluable. Such a site not only shows up in online searches (so that potential customers can find your business), "it also demonstrates a company's credibility, and that it's trying to provide the best possible customer experience."
Whether penny-pinching or pricey, getting your business noticed online justifies the cost.
"Even something as basic and simple as a one-page website that explains the business and what it offers, provides value. If potential customers can't find a business online, the cost of that lost business adds up," Soderland argued.
Small Businesses Must Not Ignore the Mobile Web
Among the 54 percent of small businesses that do have a website, 68 percent said it was mobile-friendly. Twenty-three percent of respondents reported that they didn't have a mobile-enabled site, and another 9 percent said they weren't sure if their sites worked well on smartphones and tablets.
"A mobile-friendly website is very critical, especially for any small business," Soderland said. "Customers are constantly on their phones checking for a company's hours of operation, or for specific products or services. If customers on the go can't find your site on their mobile devices, they'll find what they're looking for from a competitor that does provide mobile access."
Again, small businesses don't have to sit on the sidelines. "The good news is that nowadays any new website being built will have mobile-friendly capabilities," Soderland assured. "Most DIY Web builders offer responsive websites and all quality Web-design companies will design a mobile strategy specific to the business."
Whichever route you take to establish your small business on the Web, don't skimp on the planning.
"Even a small business launching website with a DIY website builder needs to spend the majority of its time planning out content, branding, and strategy for the website," Soderland said. "With the proper planning and strategy in place, a small business can launch a very effective website that provides exactly what their target audience needs, and at a relatively low cost."
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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