I recently spoke to a small business owner who runs an art studio teaching teaching both children and adults. Her studio has this wonderful vibe and she has students that stayed with her for many years.
She has a nice photobook showing some children who are painting… and a few boys gathered excitedly to show me the pictures which have them in it. Wow, you could see how the boys have grown with her.
But she does not have a website. A Facebook page, yes, but not a website. I can’t help but feel she is losing out a lot of potential clients to her competitors.
I asked her that aside from referrals, how did she get new clients? She explained that she relied on Google- basically people searched for art class in the town that she lived in and some of her photos showed Google Maps. From there, the visitors browse at the photos and then if they like the photos she has posted about her studio, they would call up and then come over. Some signed up to become their clients.
Here are common reasons why small business owners/entrepreneurs are reluctant to set up a self hosted website.
Note: Self hosted means a website with paid hosting and domain name. Not those that are hosted on free platform such as blogspot, wordpress.com, tumblr or Facebook pages.
If you approach a hosting company (who bundle in website development) or a web developer, it costs at least a few thousand dollars just to set up a website. No one would be willing to do it for you for literally pennies unless they are starting out and require a portfolio.
That amount of money feels like a heavy upfront investment especially for business that is just coming up or trying to make ends meet.
I consider this as an investment- no investment is guaranteed but for a relatively low cost, you get a huge return in investment.
2. Did not think would matter
A few companies who initially did not own about website started setting up professional looking websites after the blog posts that I wrote about them sent them a lot of customers. I know they did not have a website because I always check for their web presence in order to link their website to my articles. They did not have.
One company who was struggling to stay afloat and got a lot of referrals from my blog post eventually got a professional site build.
Therefore having a proper website is important.
They know it is important but they put it off because they have 101 things to do that are more ‘urgent’ including managing the accounts, cash flow, trying to bring in more sales, designing brochures, employing people to distribute brochures, etc.
4. Bad experience.
They could have been previously cheated by unscrupulous web developers/ agencies. Perhaps they have previously had a website but before they could see results, the website encountered some issues (sometimes things like a plugin conflict can bring the entire site down with an error message). And the issue was not being fixed, leaving them in a limbo and a bad taste in the mouth. Often the business owners themselves may also lack the technical knowledge to try to solve the issue themselves.
5. More business than one could handle
This is the least common reasons but it happens. I have a friend who decided to go full time as an insurance agent years ago. She was the most honest, helpful and kind person that I have ever met.
At first, she struggled like everyone else to get clients. But she did not give up and after a few years, her income was steady. Eventually, she got her new clients purely through word-of-mouth referrals.
When I asked her why she did not want to build a website, she told me a few years ago she has started setting up a free site on weebly after everyone seemed to be doing so. She got a number of contacts from strange men that seemed to have a more sinister motive than seeking for financial services. She already made it clear in the site that she is married with kids.
After that, she thought to herself that she does not need this and it made her uncomfortable. She took the site down and is still earning a good income.
Why every business needs a website- if you plan to grow your client base
Except for the last reason, all other concerns are not valid. There is so much to lose if your business does not have an online presence.
In the case of the art studio I have mentioned earlier in the article, her competitors are also trying to rank for the same terms. One of her competitor actually place a Google ad which resulted the result to appear above her studio in the search results.
And search results are volatile. This afternoon when I google the term for her art studio, it came up third in the search. I googled again at night as I am typing this article and it has dropped below the search results. In such a short time!
Yes, that brings me to another thing- I sometimes don’t understand why companies would rather spend so much more on ads that they do on website. The funny thing is that her competitor also is like her… only have a Facebook page. The ad is pointing back to the Facebook page.
You can save a lot in advertising (well, at least you do not need to advertise regularly) if you have your own site build. Aside from filling with photos, you can also get some content and testimonials / positive reviews about your company. You can also have some blog articles written (if you are challenged in the writing section, then outsource it) with SEO in mind that would drive in traffic.
For example, art is a form of therapy. It helps build to expand their minds and creativity. I know because I got where I am today because I nurtured my creativity and it sort of expand into other skills which helped me secure a stable corporate job doing what I love. If more of such articles are included in a blog or sharing section, it would drive in traffic from searches. It would also be the deciding factor of why a customer would choose you.
Having a Facebook page and Instagram at the least is still better than having no online presence at all. But both these popular platforms are not your own. They do not get owned by you or within your control.
In the past, having Facebook pages are more helpful for business but Facebook have changed their algorithms- even though people liked your page, your updates mostly does not show up on their newsfeed unless you pay for the Facebook ads.