According to Intuit, a leading provider of business and financial management software for small business (and the maker of QuickBooks, Quicken and TurboTax), approximately 50 percent of SMBs do not have a website. Thats nearly 15 million businesses in the United States that are missing out on one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to market their business to prospective and existing customers -- and to increase sales.
Why do so many small businesses still not have a website? Theres a lot of apprehension and concern about How do I market myself online? explained Angus Thomson, vice president and general manager of Intuits Grow Your Business division.
Some business owners still prefer or are more comfortable with traditional marketing, such as the Yellow Pages and newspapers, explained Thomson. But offline media is increasingly going away, and/or shifting online, he said. Other business owners see the value of having a website, but fear it will be too expensive or will take too much time to manage -- or both. And some believe all of the above.
As for Intuit, it believed that if it could help millions of small business owners improve their bottom line with easy-to-use, cost-effective software (e.g., QuickBooks), it could also help them improve their top line, by providing them with easy-to-use, cost-effective tools to create their own full-service website.
To that end, Intuit went on a buying spree, acquiring Homestead, a leading website design service, and StepUp Commerce (as well as other Web solutions companies) and spent more than a year crafting a convenient one-stop site for small business owners looking to create their own full-service website or ecommerce site -- complete with design help, ecommerce capabilities, search engine optimization (SEO) and social media and analytics tools.
And Intuits strategy, targeting first-time website owners and/or those who want to take back their websites from designers, relatives or expensive services appears to be working.
Small Business Web Design: DIY or Get Help for a Modest Fee
Mike Braga owns and manages Braga Organic Farms, which grows and sells organic nuts and dried fruit. Easy-to-use tools, step-by-step instructions and the option of using the companys design services (for a modest fee of $600) sold him on Homestead, which Intuit acquired shortly after Braga launched his ecommerce site.
You can change a picture any time you want. You can change the pricing. You can pretty much do anything you want [with Intuit Websites] -- without incurring fees every time you want to do something to your site, said Braga.
But thats not the only reason the Braga and his family (his wife and sons all help manage the farm and the website) became fans of Intuit Websites. It was how easy it is to manage their site and the customer service and support they received, particularly with ecommerce, shipping and SEO and SEM help.
Per Intuits Thomson, all of Intuits website offerings, including its least expensive $5 per month option, come with unlimited free support, though Intuits professional design and SEO and SEM services cost extra.
Braga, who uses QuickBooks Pro, also feels he can trust Intuit not to leave him (or his website) in the lurch. I have a friend who had a website that was being managed by somebody who just went out of business, said Braga. He lost the whole website -- and had to go and start from scratch again.
Thats why Braga said hes sticking with Intuit -- and has recommended it to other small business owners.
Ease of Use, Flexibility, Plus SEO and Analytics
Like Braga, Nick Labadie, managing partner of Elemental Therapy Group, a company that provides professional therapists, psychologists and social workers to families and schools, likes how easy to use and flexible Intuit Websites is particularly in terms of graphics. It's similar to Microsoft Office products, where you can cut, paste and copy, he said.
He also likes how easy it is to add widgets (like a Google Calendar, Google Maps, YouTube videos, even a blog). I can insert forms and have files available for employees to download, he said. I can [also] password protect employees' pages. Thats great.
And Labadie likes Intuits built-in SEO and analytics tools, which allowed him to increase Elemental Therapy Groups visibility on Google and the major search engines, and track the results.
When asked about his overall experience with Intuit and if hed recommend the Web service, Labadie responded, I dont ask a lot in a Web service, but I expect to get everything I ask (and pay) for, which was the case with Intuit -- and why I continue to use it. I think if we had gone with any of the other services, I would have had to make sacrifices and concessions that would have left me feeling like I could have a better site, whereas I am perfectly happy with our Intuit site.
It Pays to Be a Smart Web Services Shopper
So should you use Intuit Websites for your new or next small business website?
You have to be a smart shopper, said Laurie McCabe, a partner at the SMB Group. There are all kinds of places where you can go to create a website these days. But one size [or site] does not fit all. Intuit Websites is designed for companies that have never really dipped their toe into the whole website area. But before you dive in [to Intuit or to any site], try a couple out, using the free months trial -- and look on social media sites for comments and reviews.
The bottom line: Even though Intuit Websites was the right choice for Elemental Therapy Group and Braga Organic Farms (and thousands of other small businesses), it may not be the right site builder for you if you are not comfortable using it.
Intuit's Small Business Web Design Options
Intuit Websites offers three different packages.
- Personal Website package: $4.99 a month
- Business Website package: includes the website builder plus a personalized domain name and up to five email addresses; $19.99 a month
- Professional Website package: includes the website builder, up to three personalized domain names, up to 50 email addresses and analytics; $49.99 a month
Intuit's website offers more detailed pricing information. Note: All three packages include access to Intuits Small Business Community, where you can connect and chat with other small business owners.
The company also offers two design packages (beyond the built-in/free design tools -- QuickStart, for $599.00, and Deluxe Design, for $999.99.
And if you want additional SEO help, Intuit offers that too. For $399 an Intuit SEO expert will help you with keyword selection and optimize your site for you. Then for a $99/month subscription, you receive ongoing link-building, monitoring and reporting assistance. For a one-time fee of $499, then $149/month, you get all that plus Intuits Professional Website package and Intuits QuickStart Design Service.Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a regular contributor to SmallBusinessComputing.com and writes a blog for and about small businesses.
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|