I often get asked whether, in this day of social media, funnels and email “landing pages”, you need to have a website.
And the straightforward answer is, it depends. There are many reasons why you should have a website, but before I go through these let me tell you who doesn’t need a website. At least yet.
When you’re just starting out in business I would suggest waiting. I see so many entrepreneurs putting off starting their business until they have a logo, business cards and/or a website – all things which require a significant investment of time and/or money. You don’t need any of that to start.
The best thing you can do is to test out your idea, use friends/family to get those first few clients, set up social media profiles and refine what you do. Because you don’t “need” a website (or a logo or business cards) to start a business. You just need an idea.
And you’ll no doubt find that you need to tweak that idea. Get feedback. Refine the offer. You may even have to go back to the drawing board.
A new website is a big investment. And if your business is still in its early stages and not tested or earning very much that investment will not get as high a return. There’s lots of other things you can spend your money on (most of which I’d also suggest holding off). The best thing you can do is to use feedback to shape your business idea, bring in a few clients to earn some money to invest and collect testimonials/reviews. And then invest in a website and photography. You’ll find the website is better as a result too, because you will understand your client needs better.
So if you don’t need a website to start, why bother with a website at all?
Well there comes a point when a website will help you find clients, convert potential clients into clients and save you time. And when you need those, that’s when it is time to invest in a website…
1. A website gives you credibility
The reality is that businesses with a website come across as more credible than those without. Public perception is that it is much “safer” to deal with a business with a website than one with just a Facebook page. Anyone can set up a Facebook page and ask for payment by bank transfer or PayPal…
A website gives buying visitors much more comfort that they are dealing with a real business and payment is through a secure portal – like PayPal or Stripe. Adding photos of you (with a bit about you) adds to that. It shows you are real not fake…
I know I will rarely deal with a business without a website or a physical presence (like a shop or office) unless they come highly recommended by a friend I trust.
2. Showcase what you do
It’s great to get people interested in you and what you have to offer through your Facebook page or Instagram feed. These are very visual, easily accessible to potential clients and people can see things that you do.
But people rarely buy from social media. A website is a much clearer way of showing exactly what you do, how you can help potential clients and the clients that you have helped. Designed properly, it can set out a clear path giving potential clients the information they need (and not distracting them with information that isn’t relevant to them) to take that “next logical step” to working with you.
You can make it clear exactly who you can help and how. The results you get. You can overcome objections and provide the information they need to book, including things like the cost. You can use case studios and testimonials to show the many people you have helped. You can also allow clients to buy or book an appointment if you don’t want them to buy without speaking to you.
Social media feeds tend to be a bit all over the place.
It is great for introducing people to your business and tempting them to get to know more. But your website is better for enabling them to see everything you do and to get to know, like and trust you and then ultimately become a paying customer.
And funnels/landing pages just lead to a single offer which might not be what a potential client is looking for. In any event you can add a landing page to your website, you don’t need to use any special funnel software.
Put bluntly, a website is going to give you more sales than social media alone or a funnel/landing page is likely to.
A good website will give you the base to easily grow your business.
When you’re first starting out it can be difficult to know where your business might go.
But a good website will enable you to add courses, memberships, a shop etc. You might not want a fully fledged shop, but you may want to sell downloadable pdfs, ebooks or similar.
Whilst you can do these without a website, using tools like Kajabi, Teachable, Amazon, Etsy, etc it is usually cheaper and more efficient to use your website. Many of the course and membership platforms explicitly state in their terms that they own the content that you upload onto their platform, which is something that worries me! And a platform like Amazon or Etsy can decide they don’t want you to sell through them any more or restricts your products. Having a shop on your own website (potentially as well as Amazon, Etsy etc) removes that risk. You own your website (and its content).
There are many other tools you can employ on your website to help you grow your business. Google Analytics is a brilliant free tool you can use to understand which parts of your website are most viewed and where customers come from. You can use heatmaps and other tools too.
4. Ease of Admin
In these days of Messenger, Instagram DMs, LinkedIn messages, texts and emails it is very easy to lose track of conversations with clients/potential clients.
If you have a product based business it can be even harder to keep track of who has ordered what, whether they have paid and whether you have sent their items out.
And if you have appointments there can be so much wasted time going back and forward checking availability.
A website makes the whole process so much easier – for clients/potential clients and for you.
You can choose how you want people to contact you. And make it easy for them to contact you in that way.
You can have a shop with a secure payment system where customers can make payment directly and you get notification of that order. All the details of the order are in one place – what they have ordered, any special requirements, address to send it to and the status of the order. There’s no trailing back through your emails or messages to find details of the order and you can see very easily which orders are still outstanding and which have been completed. You can also integrate it with your accounting software, making bookkeeping that bit easier.
You can have a system for booking appointments, either directly on your website or integrating with a system like Calendly, Acuity Scheduling or Dubsado (which we use). You can set your availability for different types of appointments and clients/potential clients can then book directly – completing any forms you want them to at the same time. They can also reschedule or cancel easily. You can even take payments for the appointments, if appropriate.
Whilst you can run a membership through social media and a payment processor like Stripe or PayPal, it is much easier administratively to do so through a website. All resources like videos and pdfs can be kept in one easy to find place. As soon as someone signs up they can be given immediate access (and if they stop paying access can be stopped automatically). You can still use social media but if Facebook or Instagram decides to close or restrict your account your members can still access the content.
Don’t underestimate the amount of time you spend on administering your business. Thinking through what you do and what you can automate through your website is a really useful exercise.
5. Collect emails.
You can collect email addresses to make a mailing list without a website.
But a website puts it all in one place and makes it a very easy process. You can ask people whether they want to join your mailing list when they buy a product. You can have a pop up which asks them if they want to join your mailing list when they’re browsing through your website (which of course they can’t do if you don’t have a website). It just makes building an email list easier than without website.
6. Find new customers.
Many people choose to have a website because they think that by having a website, they will automatically be listed on Google. And people will magically find them. It doesn’t work quite like that. The reality is that to get seen through Google search takes time and effort. And sometimes it’s just not worth it to be honest.
However, a good SEO strategy does allow people to find your website when searching through Google (other search engines are available!). Something which is not available if you don’t have a website (unless you are on someone else’s website in which case you may come up).
It’s an extra way that people can find you.
7. It’s actually not that difficult.
Yes, building a website takes time and effort. But if you have the right plan and the guiding hand it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Working through who you help, how you help them, the benefits they get and your offer is the best place to start, whether you decide to build your own or get a professional to help.
Then take a look at which other websites you like (and what you like about them) and which you don’t (and what you don’t like about them). Don’t restrict yourself to competitors or those in your industry – think about other businesses your target audience might use.
Whilst I always recommend getting a professional branding photographer to take images of you (if you’re a service based business) or a product photographer if you have a product business, you can also use stock photography. In any event images should present a “coherent” look and fit in with the image you’re looking to portray.
Then it is a case of thinking about the “customer journey” through your website. What do they need to know? How can you guide them through to take that next logical step?
Whilst you may not need a website when you’re first starting out and testing your idea, a website will help you find clients, convert potential clients into clients and save you time.
It gives your business instant credibility. It makes it seems more established which is an important factor in creating trust with potential clients.
It allows you to organise your information in a way that is both more complete and takes potential clients along a “journey” that gives them the information they need to work with you.
But a website allows you to do much more than that. You can add courses, memberships, a shop and you can automate processes like booking an appointment. You can make it a more seamless experience for clients (which in itself will increase sales – no excuse to drop out part way through the process) whilst taking up less of your time too.
Investing time and effort into SEO will also enable your website to find new clients through Google/other search engines.
And finally a website is no longer the preserve of “techies”. There are many low/no code website solutions (that’s what we use) which mean that it is more important to focus on the content of your website – what is going to convert visitors to clients?
Of course if you need help with a new or revamped website then please get in touch. You can find out more about our bespoke websites here.