In my web design and digital marketing business, I often encounter clients who are convinced that their brand is just too small to need a dedicated website. They use social media, like a Facebook Business Page, as their only digital storefront and are convinced that investing in a website or developing a digital marketing strategy is a wasted investment. These clients usually come to me with questions about generating more business from their social media sites or online ads. It is clear that these businesses are struggling to optimize their brand identity online, and they think acquiring new customer leads online comes down to pay-to-play advertising.

But we know that this is simply not true; brand awareness, lead conversion, and organic growth are all achievable without relying solely on your social media ads. Marketing your brand online, especially through informative, relevant content shared with new prospects from your brand website is a much more cost effective technique for consistent growth and customer acquisition. Remember, it takes on average 6-8 interactions, or touches, to create a qualified lead. In order to grow your business, you want to attract as many new prospects as possible and then convert those prospects to leads and clients.

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Most new prospects are simply aware that they have a problem: Bob knows he needs his car detailed, but is new to the area and is not sure which auto shop does quality work; Jenny and Tom just had their first child and need to find a reliable, experienced nanny in their city.  Bob, Jenny and Tom share the same problem: the know they have a problem and need to learn more. This stage is called the Awareness stage of the Buyer’s Journey, and it is integral that your business interact with as many of these awareness stage prospects as possible. These prospects have a problem, and need to understand that problem more to be guided forward towards considering a solution and deciding on a business (yours!) to provide that solution.

For those reasons, all small businesses, from 1 person to 100, need a unique website for their brand. Your branded website should be professional, functional, and easy to navigate. It should clearly establish your brand identity and explicitly demonstrate your value proposition. The website should feature content, like informative articles, tips, coupons and offers, ebooks, and videos. This content is key: it is the currency of inbound marketing and is the tool you should be using to convert new prospects to leads and customers. Don’t just think of a website as a business card or a contact form! A website, when done correctly, is an ever-ready, always open, self-regulating marketing entity; it is vital to your small business.

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Social media business pages in no way should be considered a replacement for this website. In fact, your social media pages should be driving your leads off of the social media platform and on to your business website for any hope of true, optimized growth. Think of your social media pages as the cattle driver that drives your prospects home: if you can get your prospects to your unique website, you have control of how they experience your brand, interact with your content, understand your unique value proposition, and gain trust in your business as a consumer. Establishing this trust and authentic repor with website visitors is how we convert prospects into leads and customers, and customers to brand advocates. It is the single most important thing a brand, big or small, needs to do to guarantee success in 2019.

Think about it like this: if your friend Jill suggests a new hair stylist for you to try, but when you go to look up that stylist online they don’t have a website that demonstrates their competence or showcases their portfolio of happy clients. In fact, you are having trouble even verifying the salon’s name, location, and contact information! How likely are you to follow-through with Jill’s suggestion? Sure, you trust Jill, but you probably need more information to be convinced that this is really the stylist for you.

Now imagine the alternative: Jill suggests the stylist, and mentions her website. You grab your smart phone and look up the website. Google serves you the search results, and right at the top is the stylist’s business website. You click on the link, and land on an organized, stylish, and modern website showcasing happy clients, customer testimonials, available hours, and qualifications or certifications. There is a call-to-action button on the home page that allows you to download a coupon for new customers, and an opportunity to enter your email into a contest for a free haircut and blowdry. There is a blog that offers free tutorials to visitors on simple hair styling techniques, and clear contact information with a map showing you the location of the salon. You can make an appointment online, and there is a pricing menu that gives you an idea of the cost of various services. Finally, all of this valuable information is presented in a modern, easy to navigate package that functions exactly as it should and easily directs you to the information you are looking for.

Compare the two experience and honestly think, which would you prefer? Which would convince you right off the bat to call the salon and schedule an appointment with this stylist? The majority of consumers would chose the second scenario because the business’s website makes a positive impression on the visitor, provides clear answers to their question or problem, presents the business’s value to the customer in a clear manner, demonstrates objective authority in their industry, and is a frictionless user experience.

This is how you attract and convert cold prospects to real customers online. No amount of social media advertising will function as your website does. Every small business, from 1 person to 100, should have a dedicated, updated, functional website to showcase their brand and services and share valuable content designed to educate their target audience. The investment is nominal compared to the amount of business you will draw from your site, and to really grow your brand and customer base, the website is a necessary tool.  Your small business needs a modern, functional, content-based website to educate prospects, convey your brand’s unique value to these prospects, and offer a solution (your services!) to their question or problem.

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