If you don’t yet have a business website, likely you’ve been hearing about having an online presence for over a decade.
Perhaps friends have looked at you askance, wondering how in the world you can operate without a website.
Maybe you look at them strangely in return — you’ve never needed a website, you tell them. Your business runs perfectly well offline. People find you in the yellow pages, or perhaps via leaflets that you occasionally have distributed. They call you up and, voila, you’re in business.
In many respects, you’re probably right. So why do you need an online presence — specifically, your own business website — to be successful?
COVID-19 taught us that nothing stays the same
If there is one thing that COVID-19 taught us, it’s that being able to work remotely is an absolute must. Those companies which were prepared to handle the fallout once the lockdown hit are the ones who survived.
The remaining UK businesses had to scramble to get their online tools going rapidly — implementing work-from-home (WFH) solutions, team collaboration software, and plenty of other tools that they were not using before.
Now, I hear you, if you’re an offline business that can’t work from home, how would being online help you in such circumstances?
Let’s say you’re a plumber or a painter. Would having a website be of benefit to you during lockdown?
Those traditionally “offline” companies that did not have a website would be hit hardest by the WFH regime.
What did people do when they were stuck at home all those months? They went online.
Having a website would give people a way to find you when delivering leaflets was not an option.
Accepting payments is easier
Although having a website is not absolutely necessary to use Credit Card Payment Gateways such as PayPal or GoCardless, it inspires confidence in people who wish to pay for your services online.
It’s a lot simpler to take credit card payments using one of the systems mentioned above than to have to go through the rigorous procedure to be able to run credit cards on your premises.
Relatively low setup costs compared to an actual shopfront
It is so easy and cost-effective to get a website running these days that not doing it is folly.
There are numerous solutions for getting a simple online presence going quickly, including WordPress, GoDaddy, Weebly, Wix, Squarespace and others.
Even the designs for these sites are top-notch. One needs little-to-no knowledge of website design to get something professional up and running.
Perhaps you’ve been considering getting a shopfront going for your business. Putting up a website is the easiest way to get a public-facing front that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to get going.
No long-term contracts
Unlike setting up a brick-and-mortar shopfront, you can test things with your site without too much initial obligation. If the site makes you money, keep it. If it doesn’t, let it slide.
Ability to change branding quickly
If you print leaflets or have a physical shopfront in place, it’s difficult to change branding quickly. With a website, the decision to change branding can be done almost overnight with minimal expenditure.
Collecting email addresses to get future business
It’s a lot easier to collect email addresses via your website than in person.
Using a website, a lot of tasks can be automated. Instead of having to manually input addresses of your clients into a master list, your website can automatically collect those addresses at the time of payment so that you can then send those clients of yours a newsletter in the future.
This saves time and opens the door to potential future business.
Word-of-mouth referrals are facilitated
Social media is the name of the game these days. People share anything and everything with their friends and colleagues on sites such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
And then there’s LinkedIn which is aimed specifically at businesses, and people seeking new business.
If you have a website with social-sharing buttons conspicuously placed, it’s easier for people to share your site’s address and recommend you to others via these social media platforms.
Even if they do tell their friends about you on the phone, for example, it’s unlikely the friend will ask for your telephone number and call you up. They’re far more likely to receive a link via a WhatsApp message and then go see your site before reaching out to you.
Central location for information about your business
It’s likely that your business is already online without you even knowing it.
Websites such as LinkedIn and Google Business, amongst others, can index your business without your knowledge, stating that it is an “unclaimed” business. People can then review your business on some of these sites — all of this done without you knowing about it!
Having a website is a key way to consolidate all that information, and send people to one place where they can read up on reviews or services offered.
In short, the onus is on you to put your business online the way you want it to be viewed, otherwise, someone else might do it for you!
So, should you go online?
The world is becoming more and more digitised. When looking for information on things, people reach for their phones and do an internet search.
You might be doing fine today without any business coming directly from the internet, but no one knows what tomorrow will bring.
Those companies which are online will have a far stronger chance of succeeding in this New World of ours than companies who are not.
Shoaib Aslam is the co-founder of Pearl Chartered Accountants, a UK-based chartered accountancy firm that has multiple locations across London. They are experts in helping startups and established businesses with all aspects of growth, strategy, scaling up, accounting and tax planning.