Every so often I am approached by a friend or acquaintance who is just starting a new business and they ask me the big question – Do I need a website for my business?  What do you recommend?

After many years of discussing this topic with all those friends and acquaintances, I would like to share with you my thoughts on the topic and hopefully give you some direction as to what to do.

To answer this question I have found it necessary to first understand the main goal behind building a website.  Based on my understanding of the website goals, I can then direct the individual to the appropriate solution.

I can now categorize the goals into three major topics: Basic Business Website, Lead Generator and Online Sales.  Based on where you find yourself with your business in the next 1 to 3 years within these categories will determine your plan of action.  

However I would caution that sometimes the best plans do not always play out in reality and often business people find themselves moving along a continuum from one category to the next.  That’s not so bad as long as you are prepared to either start from scratch or make further investments as the needs arise.  I will now describe in more detail what I mean by each of these categories.

Basic Business Website

This category is for those businesses who wish to have a website as a form of online brochure about their business, products and services.  In 2016 a basic business website is a prerequisite to doing business.  The fact is that most people use the internet today to learn, gather information and find answers.  If you are not there when people are looking for you or your business or your business category then you are losing out. 

To build a basic business site today is very easy and requires very minimal technical skills.  Gone are the days where you have to hire a graphic designer, web developer and a SEO consultant.  There are a number of very easy to use website platforms which are more than what is needed to build a basic business website.  Wix, Yahoo, Webydo, GoDaddy, Jimdo, Squarespace, Weebly are but just a few of the platforms that are ideally suited for this purpose. In my next posting I will be covering in more detail the various options available in this category.

Lead Generator

There are three types of lead generators: online sales leads , offline sales leads, and leads to “Bricks & Mortar”.  Those looking to sell online will need to not only have a site which supports selling a product or service but they will also need to build and experiment with web pages or landing pages which are used to convince people to buy your product or service.  If you are interested in offline sales lead generation you will also need to build and experiment with landing pages, but since you are not selling online, the goal of the landing pages is to generate email or phone leads which then can be used for follow up with interested potential customers.  The final category is Bricks & Mortar businesses which simply want people to pick up the phone or send them an email that they wish to buy or learn more about their products or services.  In this case it would be wise to consider in addition to a basic website, adding your business to various local and general online business directories.

There are a couple a number for options available for building and experimenting with landing pages.  The first option is to use your website.  Build a page on your website which is dedicated to closing traffic.  This may be the simplest and fastest way to get started.  If and when you get started with online advertising you will be able to point the advertising traffic to this specific page on your website.

Another option is to use a landing page platform.  There are a number of these companies who have entered this market over the past few years.  Unbounce is probably the most prominent one.

 

Online Sales

For those businesses that wish to sell online, unfortunately the basic website will not do.  Customers who purchase goods online have come to expect a very simple and easy way to go from selection of product to check out to delivery.  If you fall down with this process you will fail.  There are a number of options available to you and they differ by complexity and cost.  The most basic option is to open up an eCommerce site on a eCommerce platform.  There are a number of these platforms available today such as Yahoo eCommerce, Shopify and Ebay. These platforms will provide you with everything you need to build the sales process described above.

The next option is to open a store on eBay or Amazon.  Again these platforms provide you with the necessary tools to carry out a simple sales process but there are more costs involved.

The final option is to build your own eCommerce site using eCommerce software.  There are a number of eCommerce products on the market.  These products provide you with the maximum flexibility but will require significant ongoing maintenance and development costs.