It seems far too common these days for small business owners to get by without a website. While it is true that a website alone isn’t going to be the magic pill that will supernaturally transform your business into a gold mine, it is more necessary today than it has ever been.

Your Reputation Depends on It

Like it or not, your clients are forming judgements about you based on your online presence. I was recently making a presentation to a business owner who was oblivious to the number of websites found online with their company information and where people were posting reviews about their place of business. Many of these reviews were less than favourable to the business.

Major web companies have been making a push for a number of years now at getting as much local information online as possible. They aren’t waiting for business owners to be ready for it. These giants like Google, Facebook and Microsoft are putting this information online whether you know about it or not and whether you like it or not.

If you choose to ignore the impact of the internet you do so at your own peril. The younger generations are more connected online than ever before. According to some data I’ve seen, as much as 97% of people under 35 check online review sites and your business website before coming in to buy. This is especially true of restaurants and any business that sells items more expensive than dollar stores.

Can People Trust your Business?

People do business with people they know, like and trust. All buying decisions have their root in emotions. People buy with emotions and then justify it with facts. Don’t believe for a second that your clients / customers are different. If they do business regularly with you it is because they like you.

My wife and I are foodies. We love to eat out. We will willingly drive up to an hour to go to a restaurant that we like. The same goes for our favourite shopping stores. This emotional connection people make with your business is also known as branding.

Is Your Brand Damaged?

I know, you are probably thinking that branding is something only the big companies have to worry about. If that is how you think, let me be the one to burst your bubble. Everyone is a brand. Look at Donald Trump. Do you think he could have become President of the United States if he wasn’t already famous? Not a chance. One of the reasons he could be so brash, bold and outrageous during the Presidential Campaign and even while in office is because he developed a huge following of people who like him. It is true that there are probably as many people that hate him but one thing the Donald knows how to do is to evoke emotion in people and then capitalize on it.

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, people in your town, city or region have already formed an opinion about you. Make no mistake, this opinion can be influenced one way or the other. If you care about your business and about longevity, I would strongly urge you to become more proactive about your online presence.

A Website is an Important Indicator

Years ago, when Lucy and I started our retail computer store, one of the business owners down the street told me that a retail business isn’t a real business until they have a proper sign out front. People make snap judgements about businesses all the time based on how they look outside. I’ve seen a number of restaurants over the years that look scary from the outside yet for some of them, they look nice inside. Unbeknownst to these owners, they are losing a lot of business because of their restaurant’s bad appearance. The same can be said of a website.

Yes, you can get a website today for free. A number of sites offer them. You can also get someone to build you a website for $100-$200. Do yourself a favour though and invest in your brand. Appearance matters. One doesn’t show up to their own wedding in jeans. Most of us wouldn’t present ourselves for a professional interview without being properly dressed. A lawyer better not show up in court with a t-shirt and jeans and expect the Judge to take them seriously. The same can be said about your business.

Having a website isn’t the end, it is the beginning of turning around your brand on the internet. People have formed an opinion about you and your company. It can be changed but it will take work and money. Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work?

Joe Duchesne is a certified web designer and is also a digital marketer who has been building websites and working with businesses for over 20 years. He sold his first computer program for profit at the age of 12. He has a passion for marketing and for seeing small business owners succeed and gain both time and money freedom.

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