Three Reasons You Need to Convince Newbies They Need a Website

We recently started a side project working with people who have never had a website, a blog, or anything that requires more than opening an email – and sometimes they can’t even do that.

They’re all small business owners.

When I spoke with them about their business, they all had one common question: “Why is having a website such a big deal?”

Most people asking this question smile and nod when you tell them they really need a website, but most of them are thinking, “This person is trying to sell me something I don’t need. I’ve been doing fine for the past 10 years. Now this whippersnapper comes along and thinks his little internet thing is the next big revolution? I don’t need that. Never have, never will. Been doing fine without it.”

Well, they’re right, to a certain extent. The people I’ve spoken to have managed to be successful in their business. Many of them started with nothing 10 years ago and they’re still around running their business today.

And frankly, we ‘net-savvy people do talk about the virtual world and technology like we really can’t imagine how those businesspeople ever managed without it.

But these people really do need the internet. Should you ever be in a situation where you’re trying to explain to someone why getting online is a really, really good idea, tell that person this:

People Don’t Use the Yellow Pages Anymore

When was the last time you hauled the business directory off the shelf and looked up a business when you needed one? I’m betting it’s been a long time. The last time I needed a plumber, I looked one up online. The last time I needed the phone number, I looked online. The last time I went to a restaurant, I checked online for a menu before calling to make reservations.

If you’re not online, people won’t be able to find you – period. The majority of searches for new businesses, especially local businesses, take place online. The best damn plumber in the world might live in my town and be working in the building right next to mine (which, as a matter of fact, he does), but unless I knew him personally, I wouldn’t know it. He doesn’t have a website. And he doesn’t show up on Google Maps.

People Have Become Lazier

We’re the instantaneous generation. We want to know what we’re getting before we go to the trouble of getting in the car and driving five miles to find out. We want to see a website that shows us pictures. We want to hear about what we’re in for and be able to find reviews. We want to learn more about the people we’re going to hire services from.

We don’t want to have to call to ask. We certainly don’t want to drive out there and risk being disappointed. Going all the way to the home renovation warehouse the next town over only then to find it’s a complete pigsty and that the selection is really lousy?

No sir. An internet search is free and requires no effort. We make choices where to buy, what to buy and who to buy from before we even leave the house.

People Believe No Website = No Credibility

A few people I know are very good businesspeople. They’re awesome to work with. They have good stuff in their store. They get along without a website just fine. There’s certainly no reason to assume that a business isn’t good just because it doesn’t have a website (unless the person is advertising some sort of web-related service, in which case it’s a warning flag).

But think about an online dating site for a minute. You must have heard that people with pictures on their dating profile are 90% more likely to be contacted for a date. Not having a picture doesn’t mean that person is ugly. But it could. And we’d rather choose a person with a presentable photo versus someone who might be a better match.

The same goes for business. Not having a website doesn’t mean that you don’t have a professional business. But that’s the assumption most people make.

Think about it: You’re looking for a therapist. One friend refers you to someone who only has an email address, a generic address like annepottertherapist@mail.com. Would you search online for Anne Potter before writing her an email? And if you didn’t find her, would you do a few searches for other therapists before contacting Anne?

Most people would.

Small businesses need a website, even if they’re never going to use their website for blogging or selling or anything of the kind. These three reasons aren’t an exhaustive list, either. They’re just the beginning as to why getting online is a must.

Can you think of other reasons?

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. It helps businesses better control their reputations online. Regardless of whether you have a website, people are eventually going to start talking about your business on user-generated content and review sites (like Yelp). It would be unfortunate if someone searches for your business online, reads a less-than-stellar review, and then decides to do business with your competitor. If you have a website full of positive testimonials that back your business up, you can prevent that from happening. Your website is just another pathway to reaching your customers.

  2. A well thought-out website can show your customers you’re tuned into their needs.

    People are seriously fed up with lousy customer service. Your website can prove you’re not like the rest of the herd.

    But it has to be a good site. You have to do it like you mean it, not just because “everybody” says you need one. There are way too many small business websites that say, “Okay, we’re online. Now what?” That sends your customers the wrong message. If you’re paying attention, it’s not that difficult to send the right one.
    .-= Stacey Cornelius´s last blog ..How to write your bio and About page without driving yourself crazy =-.

  3. You hit the most important reasons, James. I would add that for freelancers such as guitar teachers, a lot of people don’t want to pay cash or (god forbid) by check anymore, they’d rather go to your website and hit the PayPal button.

  4. I just had this experience while looking for consultants to hire at my day job. We are getting quotes from 4 consultants, all of which but one have a website. And even though the other 3 sites are simple and a bit dated, my first question when I discovered the fourth company didn’t have one was:

    “Are these guys serious enough about what they do? Are they working out of their basement?”

    I thought that, even though we’ve worked with them 4-5 years ago, and people have told me they did a good job.

    Compounding the problem was the president giving me an @comcast.net email address. It just looks unprofessional for someone in their field…

    So overall, I agree–the first thing I do when hiring or looking at anyone for service is Google them and check their website.
    .-= Wojciech Kulicki´s last blog ..Somebody, Please Take My Money =-.

  5. Sarah Camp says:

    I once had a client who fell into the problem that Kathleen mentioned. They had many different reviews of their restaurant, but the ones that came up first were the negative ones. I told them that if they built a website and put all of their raving reviews on it, they could help combat that. We built a site, but 2 years have gone by and they still haven’t updated the review page (still says coming soon).

    I also have to agree with Stacey in that there is just as big of a problem with those who find the cheapest person to put a website for them just so they have a “web presence”. 99% of these efforts seem to be unfruitful and the person goes back to not having a site at all because they feel they tried and it didn’t do anything for them. I have a colleague with a client who has done this twice – the second time their site was built by her and was good, but they didn’t do anything with it, no SEO, no effort, so it just sat there collecting dust.

    Putting a website up online is not the end of it. You need to put time and effort into making it work for you, or hire someone else to do that.
    .-= Sarah Camp´s last blog ..By: Sarah Camp =-.

  6. Getting a website up and running is really so easy these days, there’s no excuse for not having one. But I would say it’s better not to have a website, than to have one that looks like it’s out of the 90s and uses Comic Sans and MS Word clipart (and I’m still coming across those). Or a blog which was last updated a year ago. That’s an instant turn-off, they’d better didn’t have one!

  7. I’ve created non-blog websites for small businesses. There is so much these folks don’t know about online business it’s amazing. All they know (think) is they need an animated graphic and magically sales will flow in. You really have to take these people by the hand and explain in plain English (or whatever language you speak) why they do or don’t need something.

  8. ***DISCLAIMER*** I work for the Yellow Pages Group. ***END DISCLAIMER***

    With that out of the way, and my obvious bias flagged, let me also state that I work on the online side, and more specifically, on the Search Marketing side of the organization. I also run a blog called, “Internet Marketing for SMBs,” so if anyone can relate to both sides of the Print/Online debate, I can.

    Let me start off by pointing out that people do use the Yellow Pages. Taylor, you don’t, and to be honest, I don’t. But we’re also in a younger demographic, and also have WAY more web savvy than the average consumer (I recall a video from a few months back from Google when they were launching Chrome, and most people didn’t know the difference between a browser and a search engine). My father taught me how to build a computer, and he still uses the Yellow Pages. Many advertisers who are tracking their ROI with the Yellow Pages are still seeing positive numbers.

    That being said, no one’s kidding themselves, usage of the directory is falling, and one day, you’re right, no one WILL be using the Yellow Pages print book anymore.

    However, when that day comes, I’m still not convinced that every advertiser will need a website. I am convinced that every advertiser will need a web PRESENCE, but a website, is going to soon be seen as “so ’00s” (that doesn’t have the same ring as, “so ’90s” does it?).

    Instead, advertisers will need a headquarters online. It won’t need to be as elaborate as a website. It might be as simple as a Facebook fan page, a Google Places page, a simple blog (a la tumblr), a Twitter account (some businesses have had success with this), or a (forgive me) Yellow Pages profile page.

    All of these above formats have the advantage of having built in traffic generation, as opposed to a website, which in-and-of-itself needs traffic to be driven to it. I also do recognize that for certain businesses, websites ARE essential, but the number of those will continue to fall as more and more options for online presence make themselves available.

    My 2 cents.
    .-= Adam Di Stefano´s last blog ..The Hidden Treasure of the 2nd-Tier =-.

  9. Number three really resonates with me. I don’t see how most independent consultants, editors, authors, free lancers, etc. don’t have a website.

    Yes, the second reason is still true, although I chose my plumber recently based on a referral. I didn’t read a “plumbing blog” or anything of that type.

    Yes, you could be completely unprofessional if have a proper web site, blog, etc. But you always question people who don’t. Are you going to give them the benefit of the doubt when it’s quite easy to find others who do?
    .-= Phil Simon´s last blog ..Web Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics =-.

  10. It is true I never use Yellow Pages, but to be fair last time I needed a plummer I looked on Yell.com

  11. All very great Reasons to have a website.

    I would like to add one more if I may.

    Having a website can get your URL listed in certain business directories within your industry and drive customers to your business.

    For example, we recently did a website for a dentist in the Houston area. He did not have a website for about 8 years till now. He suddenly started getting about 2 more new patients per month than he usually does so he decided to investigate why.

    The new patients told him they found him through a link to his website on an online Dental Insurance Directory. His name had a URL they could go check out, while the other dentists had none. This again boils down to credibility.

  12. @Nick – I get people coming to Men with Pens from the weirdest places, much like that. 🙂

    @Sol – Hm, I’ll have to check that out!… though probably useless for where I live *sigh*

    @Phil – Very often, I already know who I want to call, go see, contact, etc, and I have all the info I need… and out of curiousity, I say, “Hm. Wonder if they have a website?” I mean, I don’t even NEED the info. I’m just checking. One more little, “Ah, they do! How cool!” that makes me think better of that business.

    No website? My first reaction is ALWAYS, “Sheesh. They need to get with it.”

    @Adam – Website, web presence… All the same to me, no? A website can be a simple one page affair. A blog is just a fancy website. A CMS is just a fancy name for an easy to use site… Ah well. Web presence DOES sound cooler.

    And yes, the older Baby Boomer generation still uses the yellow pages extensively. However, those Baby Boomers – and even older generations – are coming online more and more, because technology keeps them occupied and helps them feel younger, more with the times.

    Bye bye Yellow Pages… 😉

    @Shane – I am, almost every day, reminded of how very few people are as technologically savvy as we are. What we use and live with like breathing, they see as an elephant in their room that they don’t know what to do with.

    @Antonina – Getting a website up and running these days is very easy. However, in most cases, they look pretty horrible because they’re amateur DIY creations… which does no business any favors!

    @Wojciech – You wouldn’t believe the number of people who apply to work on our Men with Pens team. “I’m a designer!” Great. Portfolio? “Uh, I don’t have a website yet…” “I’m a writer!” Perfect. URL please? “Uh, I’ve been meaning to set up a blog…”

    Oh for god’s sake. NEXT!

    @Annabel – There were three online purchases I was about to make this week – and didn’t – because I couldn’t, for lack of proper technology and PayPal integration. SILLY!

    Which reminds me of charity donations – “Hi. I’d like to give you money. What’s your PayPal?”

    “We don’t have one. It’s too expensive.”

    Uh?

    @Stacy – YES! Do it like you mean it!!! (A good website, that is…)

    @Kathleen – There’s another good reason for a website – so you can proudly display testimonials.

  13. If a newbie is hard to convince about starting a web site, then it may be impossible to bring that newbie into the modern era. Having a traditional web site is nearly as bad as not having one at all. An online brochure gets a quick glance without inviting visitors to return. Blogs, Facebook fan pages, Youtube channels, a Twitter presence… these are the platforms that garner attention and participation. Sure, a web site implies the writer exists, but a social presence reveals the writer and builds relationships with people who can help.
    .-= Daniel (social marketing strategies)´s last blog ..An Ugly Twitter Presence =-.

  14. I think the credibility thing is real. Most of the time I search the company and if it is not on the web then might not be credible.
    .-= clickonportal´s last blog ..Alice is a Wonderland of Visual Fascination! =-.

  15. Hehehehe, I pulled out the yellow pages (physical variety) twice in the last week. Google just doesn’t get it for local businesses here, although I doubt that’s google’s fault.

    I wrote an article recently for business mums on why local brick and mortar businesses need a website, and I said exactly the same thing – make it easy for people to find you ONLINE. That’s where they’re going to look first. If you’re there, and they can see that you’re local, you’ve got their business.

    And look how much more information you can put on a website that you can’t put in a Yellow Pages ad. Parking, directions, a picture of your storefront to make it easy to find, you can talk to people and sell them before they ever walk in the door.

  16. @ James, don’t get me started on the lack of paypal or online shopping carts. This week I was on a very well ranked and highly recommended site and went to buy two books, US$80 plus shipping. Their cart wouldn’t process my payment. Why? Because I don’t have a US address on my credit card. I clicked the button for it to be “Processed manually offline”.

    They emailed me “You’ll have to buy from Amazon”. Ok… and I won’t recommend you either….
    .-= Melinda | SuperWAHM´s last blog ..Black Magic SEO vs Logic =-.

  17. Ita, and we are in the process of launching a local business for my husband this spring (with a website OF COURSE!), but I’ll have to tell you we’ve been hemming and hawing about advertising in the yellow pages and we’re finding our community actually does still use the phone book. (I know–I’m shocked, b/c I haven’t in years.)

    We keep talking to small business owners who say their business sky rocketed after putting themselves in the yellow book. I think we’ve decided to go there for a year or two while getting his name established and then I feel it will turn into mostly reputation and word of mouth.

    I agree, that for the future a business owner shouldn’t be relying on the yellow pages as a long term solution and a web page is necessary.

  18. Another reason to have a website is that it can answer a lot of FAQ’s, so that you don’t have to, which saves you time.

    When people want information about a certain product or service, you can refer them to your web site to read more or better yet, to watch a video that will answer their questions.

    This helps you be more efficient with your time.
    .-= David Wilcoxson´s last blog ..Keyword Selector Tool =-.

  19. I think one of the strongest motivators is simply to have a world-wide market at your fingertips.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Work is a Rubber Ball that Bounces Back =-.

  20. First your site’s busted, then my Internet’s busted, and I get here a day late…

    Now Adam stole my “the whole world’s not as web-savvy as we are” comment.

    Yep. Lots of folks still use the Yellow Pages. Lots of folks will never Google you. Even younger folks, because many—*gasp*—don’t have ‘net access, even now. I’m afraid we live a rich and spoiled (and youth-oriented) life if we think *everybody* is on the web, even in the wealthy U.S. and Canada. They aren’t and they won’t be for a very long time.

    Why, just yesterday when I was without the Internet for a day, I stared at my Yellow Pages quite hard…

    Anyway, on every other point—including the fact that even people who won’t use your site want to know you have one to decide if you’re legitimate—totally, totally right. In business? You have to have a website. Full stop.

    Great post, Tei.

    Regards,

    Kelly
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Inspiration Points: Miyazaki-san Directs! =-.

  21. WoW! Interesting that a guy in sales can’t fathom a website earning him more money. Or a girl who has a service business doesn’t consider all of the positiveness of a website.

    Thoughts… people have fear! Scared of being responsibly creative. It does take skillfulness to create a domain that someone hasn’t chosen. Get a logo and creating words seems a large task for the new online user.

    There are great copywriting and content creators that have enormously popular websites that do that for you. Wink wink ; ) James is the best- writing content for my site saved me. I market my services in a much more professional and efficient manner.

    In my industry, I hear excuses like it cost too much. I will do it later. Those responses help me in the long run. The people who never take the time to put up a website are the ones who ask me over and over “where do you get your business/clients from?” . Funny part is when I tell them it’s my website that generates my clients, they don’t listen. Great advice I got years ago “if everyone were like you, you would have a lot more competition”.

    Things I despise- how frustrating it is to get resumes from people with e-mail addresses like pupluvr29@yahoo.com. It doesn’t tell me anything about them except they love baby dogs and most likely are 29 yrs old (or was 3 years ago when they created the e-mail). I will hire in a minute a therapist that takes the time to throw up at minimum a splash page of his/her interests, ambitions and goals for themselves in the industry. Shows they have an ounce of marketing savvy and a lot of common sense.

    I don’t have the gift of expression like the blog/comment posters here. Glad I found you guys, not only to hire for content, but to get advice to use to gain new clients.

    Hey at least I have a website, right?

  22. MTgirl,

    LOL—I think you expressed yourself very well. Looks like you’re gifted, too.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Speedy Pizza by Joe =-.

  23. Good stuff! I started with a blog, enjoyed it and tried (badly) to expand it into a website. Mattchevy is on the case now so we’ll be fixed soon. Lots of folk go on line to check other folk out. I use LinkedIn and many other sites to build a picture of who is offering me something, ans well as what they are offering and how. If you don’t have the online presence I think you are limiting yourself bigtime. And this is coming from an early stage GenX er!!

    Good work Men With Pens!
    .-= Doug Shaw´s last blog ..What’s the least I can do today to have a positive impact? =-.

  24. @Kelly – I love you right now for clearly writing AND CANADA! when referring to the internet. *weeps with relief* Yes, it’s true… we DO use it!

    Yellow Pages story. I live in a small town (where yes, we still have dialup in places and no, not everyone has a computer. WIFI? What’s that?!).

    There’s another small town about 30 minutes away across the Ontario border. All my life, people between these two small towns travel back and forth shopping at each other’s stores, and you won’t find one single store, not even Wal-Mart, that has a store in both locations. (That’d kill sales, eh?)

    So yesterday my buddy holds up a package. “You want this? The guy came to deliver the Yellow pages for the other town. I got you one.”

    “YES! YES, THANK YOU!… How’d you manage to get two copies?” I was a little impressed.

    “I asked,” he retorted proudly. “I know you can’t get this because you’re too far from the border. And you need this. Everyone needs this. What if you want to call someone?”

    All you Yellow Page lovers win. Alright, ALRIGHT?!… What’s funny is that I feel like someone slipped me some high-value contraband.

  25. I love you right now for clearly writing AND CANADA! when referring to the internet.

    And rich and spoiled and youth-oriented folks. 😉

    (The course of true love doesn’t always run smooth, lol.)
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Speedy Pizza by Joe =-.

  26. Hey! Your new blockquotes come out below where you try to put them! That was supposed to be first! Ack!

    (Too many exclamation points!!)
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Speedy Pizza by Joe =-.

  27. @Kelly –

    Hopefully this test works and I get to laugh maniacally:

    There is nothing wrong with these blockquotes.

    Hittin’ enter now!

  28. *laughs maniacally!!*

  29. I don’t believe you.

    So naturally, I must check for myself.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Speedy Pizza by Joe =-.

  30. You might want to curb that maniacal laughter now, James. *points up* Whew is that one weird!!
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Speedy Pizza by Joe =-.

  31. Excuse me Kelly and James, don’t you two have serious work to do? Sheesh…..
    .-= Melinda | SuperWAHM´s last blog ..Why a Business Plan Will Save Your A$$ =-.

  32. Not on the weekend. I just spend 48 hours ribbing James on Saturdays and Sundays.

    A lady deserves some fun after working her tush off all week!
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Speedy Pizza by Joe =-.

  33. Just wanted to say have found the same thing about small business not realizing the importance of having their own website. The yellow pages are way too expensive. I live in an area where there is still dialup and my supposedly high speed is so slow, but at least it frees up my phone line! Technology will arrive here someday, soon I hope!

  34. @ Wes, it says ‘therapist’…..
    .-= Melinda | SuperWAHM´s last blog ..Why a Business Plan Will Save Your A$$ =-.

  35. Wonderful article!!! Couldn’t agree more, and everyone’s comments are great! THANK YOU!!

  36. Hi,

    Please keep passing the word – People NEED a website now a days – I 100 percent agree – My business does so much better having a website – Thank you 🙂

  37. Mr Silver says:

    Hello,

    I agree with all the points in your article but does having a Facebook page for your business considered as an alternative to have their own website? Most small business nowadays create Facebook page instead of creating their own website since it’s cost and hassle free.

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