FAQ: I already have enough clients. Do I really need a website for my business?
The question of whether you need a business website when you already have loads of clients is one that comes up every now and then for prospective clients. I had this question just yesterday from a client who runs a successful migration service, and a few months back from a therapist who already had a website but was unclear of how the site could be used to make it easier to run her business. It’s wonderful that these business owners are already doing really well and attracting lots of new clients through referrals alone! In this blog post I will discuss how a new website can prove your credibility, reduce business risk, save you time, and help your business grow.
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Do I really need a website for my business?
I know there’s a huge learning curve when you establish a new business (trust me, I’ve lived it!). There’s so much marketing mumbo jumbo to get your head around. You know you need a logo design and a business email address. But what does web design really get you?
The simple answer is that if you’re looking to build trust and prove your credibility to potential clients, then yes, you really do need a website for your business.
A client referral already has a great level of trust in your business — you’ve been vouched for by someone they know. But not every one of those referrals are going to convert into a paying client. One thing you can do to increase the likelihood of referrals going on to hire you is to have a professional website design that reinforces that trust and proves your credibility. Better yet, clever site design will improve the credibility of your business compared with all the websites and businesses that compete with you.
Differentiate your expertise
One of the most important reasons to have a website for your business is to prove you’re the real deal. There are several competitors providing the same service as yours. Having a new website that represents your brand and provides the clear information your users are looking for is one way you can differentiate yourself from the competition.
Can I start my business without a website?
You can start a business without a website
In fact I often recommend to clients that they shouldn’t let not having a website be a barrier to getting the business started. Starting any new business is all about getting your ideas out there and providing services to clients, experimenting with what is and isn’t working, and iterating until you are happy with where the company is going and the types of clients you’re working with.
But, you may lose out on professional credibility
However, you should be mindful that people may have questions about your legitimacy if you don’t have a website. How many times have you Googled a business to check they’re the real deal? I do it all the time, and I definitely judge a business on the quality of their web presence. Having a website is an opportunity to make a positive first impression and reassure clients that you’re a real business. The importance of credibility and trust will vary between industries. You may care less about the credibility of your local coffee shop (which you can check out on foot anyway) than about a legal or financial services firm that you are trusting with secure documents and private information.
Start small and iterate
So if you have the budget, investing in custom website design early can be a key investment to validating your existence in the eyes of all the people searching for proof and trust. The website design and strategic direction can evolve as the business evolves and the website will become more valuable over time through a longer history in the eyes of search engines like Google (simply existing for a longer period of time improves your search rank as it takes a while for organic search to build up).
How can a website reduce risk for my business?
Many businesses who start out relying on referrals eventually hit a wall where the referral network alone isn’t bringing in enough leads to support their business goals. According to Department of Treasury data, over 30% of service-based businesses fail after 3 years of operation. Managing the finances of a small firm is a constant balance between the number of clients you can manage, the prices you can charge them, and the number of staff employed to share the workload. If any of those three levers changes, one of the others needs to change in response to avoid a problem.
How COVID has changed the way your clients are searching for you
The Australian Communications and Media Authority have released some fascinating data in response to a survey they ran, looking at changed online behaviour in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their data showed that in the 3 months from March to June 2020, 13% of people surveyed had accessed legal or financial services online for the very first time and 26% of people surveyed had increased online access to these services. This data is only likely to continue to trend upwards as more businesses transform their operations to a digital-first strategy. That’s a huge pool of potential clients that don’t know you exist if you don’t have a website where they can find you to compare you with competitors (which they most certainly will do).
Websites that convert new clients fill the void
Clever websites help to protect against the negative impact of referral downturns, price hikes that may lose you clients, or the extra expense of a new employee. Your website has the benefit of exposing you to more leads searching for your services online, so new users can be onboarded to maintain your revenue levels or to offset an increase in expenses. Without having a website running in the background, magicking this extra source of clients is very difficult to create on the run if things go wrong.
How can having a website save me time?
Empower clients to communicate on their timescales without encroaching on your boundaries
Clients can discover a lot of the information and resources they’re searching for on your website without needing to call you. Empowering clients to find the answers they are searching for quickly and on their own terms—they may want an answer at 3am when you aren’t available for a call—results in an overall better user experience for the client and less admin for you.
Optimise tools, systems and processes
And providing info and resources is just the tip of the iceberg regarding how a clever website can save you time. Small business teams selling services online can save a ton of money, time and stress by optimising their business tools, systems and processes around their website.
If your website is the digital front door to your business, your systems are your house. I don’t just mean the technology needed to run your company, but also all the little steps that make up your process. For example, when a new prospect lands on your website, what happens next? Can they book an appointment without needing to speak to you? On booking the appointment will they get an automatic email notification welcoming them and telling them more about you? Will they be prompted to pay without you needing to be online or on the phone? What happens after that?
Automate tasks that would otherwise require staff-or you on evenings and weekends!
Your systems are the hub of your business: your admin assistant, your communications manager, your accounts assistant and your sales rep all in one, but without the expense of having all of those roles on your staff. And all of these systems can be synced to each other and automated through your clever website, making it easier to run your business, and a better experience for your clients.
How can a website help me grow my business?
Resource hub for brand consistency
In it’s simplest form, your website can help to grow your business just by being an information resource for your clients — a place where you can answer all the myriad of client questions that come your way. This also forms a great knowledge base for any staff you hire, so you can be providing a consistent response to those questions you get time and again (great for brand).
Attract clients away from your competitors
The even bigger benefit is that in answering all the questions your current clients are asking (usually through a blog), you’re also answering the questions your future clients are searching for on the internet. An important thing that a lot of new business founders don’t realise is that answering questions on your website is good for SEO (search engine optimisation). If you’re providing quality answers to things that people search for on Google, Google will be more likely to serve your site up in response to a search query than your competitor. That means more of your competitor’s potential leads coming your way instead. Win.
Create your mojo
Websites are where marketing and business ideas are tested, processes are refined, feedback is collected and reflected, and the world can learn what you’re all about. Websites are so much more than an online point of contact or glorified business card.
Conclusion: to invest or not to invest in a business website?
Until you fully understand your business model and exactly what your goals are, it’s wasteful to invest in any marketing that doesn’t form a foundation you can build on. You want the marketing you create in these early days to count—from logo design to custom website design, or social channels you decide to use—you want every marketing piece to count to maximise ROI as your company grows.
Companies can be launched without a web presence, but people may question your legitimacy if you don’t have a way they can check you out. An online presence has many benefits, including helping protect against negative impacts like referral downturns or price hikes that might cost you clients.
If full-on web development isn’t for you yet, then creating a simple one-page website design with a home page, your logo, some company info and contact details can be a great start to building your credibility. Add a case study or two and think about a blog down the line and you’ll solidify your credibility and move toward a space where you are building your authority.
A clever website can help reduce administrative tasks while also boosting internal productivity by making communication more streamlined and efficient. It can also give potential clients easy access to information on what you do—and leveraging SEO lets them know that YOU are the expert in this field! In other words, a good website is one of the most important tools in your marketing arsenal to establish your new business.