The curse of the small business website

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It may sound ludicrous to say, but there is a wretched curse over the small business website. Maybe that’s why a recent survey indicated nearly 30 percent of all small businesses don’t even have one. Why is the small business website such a curse? Because most business owners have absolutely no clue how they work.
If you don’t have a small business website, that’s worse than owning a business and not having a phone number or an email address or an address where people can mail you an invoice payment.
Our company consults with thousands of small businesses every year, and the top complaint we get from our clients is that their website isn’t working. Here’s how that conversation goes: Client: “I’m not happy with my website. It’s not working.” Us: “What’s the problem? Is it not loading?” Client: “No, that part works.” Us: “Well then what do you mean it’s not working?” Client: “I’m not getting any calls from it.” If you own a small business website, and you’ve ever played that conversation in your head, please invest a few minutes to understand. (Article continues under video)

What a small business website doesn’t do

Let’s start with an analogy. Your small business website is a restaurant. That’s right – compare your website to a restaurant and pretend that’s what you own. When you open a restaurant, you find a building, you get the kitchen ready, you hire a staff, you figure out your recipes, then you cook food that you plan to sell.
Just because you open a restaurant doesn’t ensure success. Just because you launch a website doesn’t guarantee a flood of new customers.
Just because you have gone through all those steps, and just because you put an “Open” sign on the front door does not mean a hundred people will walk through the door. No, having a product (food) and a location does not guarantee anything. In fact, if you think that opening your restaurant is all you have to do to get customers, then you have absolutely no business opening a restaurant in the first place. Guess what: A small business website is exactly like this restaurant. You can have it built. You can load it full of pictures. You can get reviews. You can have elaborate descriptions of your services. You can optimize the thing with every keyword imaginable. If you do all those things, you still only have a website, and there’s absolutely no promise that having all the features will lead to traffic, much less customers. If you think turning on a website is all it takes to start getting customer calls, then you probably have no business owning a website.  

How a small business website actually works

Let’s stick with the restaurant analogy, because (hopefully) we’ve all been to one. Sure, there are always exceptions when a remarkable chef gets featured on a national TV show and the phone won’t stop ringing, but that’s not normal. Instead, most restaurants have to work at becoming popular.
Websites are not a short game. They take months and years to fully build.
What makes a restaurant popular? Well, it probably starts with location, though even that’s debatable. What’s most important is that it serves good food, consistently, at fair prices with wonderful service. That’s it. That’s the key to owning a good restaurant –though that doesn’t always guarantee success. What’s true is that, if you don’t have those things, you don’t have a shot at being a profitable restaurant. So think about your small business website the exact same way. It has to be consistent – for months and years, not weeks and days. It has to be dynamic with new content (recipes). It must be responsive (service). It must be listed in every possible directory (location). It must offer a value worth what you’re asking people to pay (fair prices). And just like the restaurants, even this doesn’t guarantee success. Websites are not a short game. They take months and years to fully build. Just to show up in search engines (assuming you’ve been consistent with updates and content and keywords) takes months. And that’s just the start.  

Information before implementation

If you have a small business website, and you have concerns about why it’s not driving more sales leads, the reasons go far beyond whether or not you have a website. What’s downright dumb is making a decision to stop paying to have and host a website. It is absolutely the worst thing you can do. There are thousands of articles freely available to tell you how to build traffic and results from a website, and we talk to clients every day trying to help them understand many of those steps. But if you don’t think your website is working because you aren’t getting calls, let me offer one piece of advice. If you own a small business and you don’t have a website, that’s worse than owning a business and not having a phone number or an email address or an address where people can mail you an invoice payment. Today, a small business website is critical for your existing customers and any potential word-of-mouth business you may get. The people who know you or have heard about you are going to look for you online before they do anything else. More than 80 percent of purchases start with an online search. If you aren’t there, you’re doomed. And if for no other reason than your existing customers, for goodness sakes, have a website.     Jonathan McElvy is the CEO of McElvy Partners. His company includes Targited Digital, the Greensheet, The Leader, Fort Bend Star, Charlotte Media Group, Coastal Bend Publishing and Texas Printers. If you need help with your website, click HERE for contact information. You can follow Jonathan on Twitter @mcelvy.  

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