Why do I need a website?

Getting the hang of the WebQuestion everything.

It's the one question people may not ask but certainly wonder about - Why do I actually need a website?

From the web-sceptics I get to hear such things as: "I have Facebook and it's enough, the bulk of stuff online is irrelevant to me, if I get found among all the billions of sites it'll probably be a miracle, most of my customers are only local anyway, I have no plans to expand or do business abroad, the postage would be too much, I'm sure!"

I tend to think along these lines: So the biggest communications tool in the history of the known universe which you agree (virtually) everyone else is a part of, a near limitless repository of opportunities, information and commerce, and you think you should not be a part of it.

Good luck with that......

The thing that makes this a hard question to answer in greater depth is, paradoxically, that the answer is so simple - in fact to my mind it's glaringly obvious!
Granted that for years now the world has been saturated with physical and electronic advertising media - TV, posters, newspapers, handouts, telephones, SMS messages, movies, videos and DVDs and good old fashioned radio, and even well motivated sales teams who can worry about all of this for you.  With all of this, it is only natural that the penny-wise business person would resist the extra costs, after all there are always freebies like Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter and Pintrest!

How do we reply to this approach honestly?  It’s all marketing obviously, but are we just selling you a site or are you buying an investment in your business profitability?

Consider this:  Since there are over a billion websites available on the internet including sites by major players such as almost every newspaper on the planet, major/minor governments, McDonald's, BMW, hotels galore and the RSPCA then clearly someone must have the idea that web visibility is an idea worth talking about in a wide range of contexts. Facebook claims another billion all on its own and Pintrest another 100,000.  Most businesses would deem it a necessity to be findable at least on Facebook these days, even if they don't have a website.
This is where I must state that which seems obvious to me but is not as obvious as I would anticipate among some customers we meet.
Let me pose you this: If you had a shop, wouldn't you want to speak to your customers in the best way possible? Perhaps take the opportunity to draw their attention to any offers you may have available to them?  
Facebook and other social media will certainly help you with this, offering you the ability to reach out to people who – to put things simply - are not currently in your shop.  Bearing in mind that with social media your more savvy competitors were probably there first and may even be placing paid advertising on your Facebook page!
Your own website can go much further by  giving you the ability to bring people specifically to your shop (or office) without the distraction of  competitors, browser games, friends updates and random but interesting posts from other sources.  They may never meet you in the physical sense but they still have access to your online shop, alias your website of course.
Consider that one of the main uses of social media by marketing experts is to drive traffic to your products or services on your own website. Social media serves you best like this and should not, in my opinion, be the final cut of your business' online presence.

How can I earn money from my website?  How do you make money from any business?  You try to attract people to it and work to convert some of those people into paying customers. Granted traditional alternatives for achieving this exist, but slower-paced, labour intensive traditional advertising media can’t really keep pace with it’s modern on-line competitors. There was a time when you could just put leaflets under car windscreen wipers, for example. Besides the fact that this annoys the hell out of a lot of people it's even becoming illegal in many places. What about television spots? Truth is, they are just not as effective as they once were. Nothing is a one size fits all solution; you must fill the gaps with whatever tools available to you. The internet is an awfully huge marketplace to ignore or approach half-heartedly!  There are 3.2 billion people who have internet access as of 2016, that's billion with a B.  Plus these online users have access to effective translation tools and are enlightened enough to be looking for value like never before.  So the current, previous AND next  big thing in sales? Online of course.   It's obvious.   The problem lies in that not everyone knows how they should be doing it.  
For your average business person who's been doing similar things in the same line or varying lines of business throughout the last 10 to 30 years, it’s a whole new world.  This is the issue and its one they are not paying enough attention to. Consider that your site is available on every computer on the planet that has internet access. The possibilities that become available to you with just a small percentage of that kind of exposure could be unreal. You may very well be able to remain reasonably successful without an online presence of any kind, you may prefer traditional advertising channels – but why limit your success when you can have both?  The marketplace has changed, it has expanded and exists on many levels, recognise this fact.
Combined with traditional advertising, you can drive the public to your website where you can feel free to change what you have on offer ten times a day if you feel so inclined. 
Exposure to new markets with the flexibility to exploit them by means of practical applications of online technology such as e-commerce is the reason you need a website – plus the fact that that you local market isn't going to disappear if you invest a little cash in going online.  Having a website lets you grow.

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About the author

A commentator, designer and HTML wrangler whose experience dates back to when the web went Eeek! Eek! AAAAaaaaAAAAhhhhhh TSSSSSSssss down a 56k modem, those days before Flash was a security risk and Wordpress was still just for blogging.
These days he still designs, hand codes HTML/CSS and watches the latest developments on line on behalf of SCS Computerlab :-)