If you’re not sure whether ‘going online’ is the right thing for your business, take our look through our Top 10 Reasons why your business needs a website, and see how many are relevant to you:

1. Create a professional image

When you’re trying to operate in a competitive market, first impressions are crucial. If you can project a professional, businesslike image, you are already making progress in building the trust and assurance that people look for when buying products and services. And if you think about it, a website is very much like a shop window: make it welcoming, clear and visually appealling and your visitors are more likely to stay and browse, rather than go across the street to your competition.

This is particularly important for small businesses, because a website is a great way of ‘levelling the playing field’ – you may not be able to compete with large organisations in terms of physical premises, TV marketing campaigns or budget, but a professional, engaging website should not be beyond the budget of any business.

2. Attract new customers

All businesses rely, to a greater or lesser extent, upon the acquisition of new customers. Seems obvious to say it really, but it’s one of the most challenging and frustrating parts of running a successful business. So the question is, how do you get new customers to ‘discover’ you? Sure, traditional marketing and promotion methods (local ads, sponsorship, radio and TV advertising) are still part of the picture, but the cost will often be prohibitive – and the pressure to make sure that these expensive methods of promotion actually deliver a return on that investment (ROI) will often mean that they don’t happen in the first place.

Well, having a website that potential customers can discover via search engines such as Google is definitely part of the solution. It’s not necessarily the answer to all of the problems though – depending on how competitive your market is, it can still be difficult to stand out from the crowd of other businesses offering your products and services – but a well designed website, built by someone who understands what search engines are looking for, will certainly give you an advantage over a significant proportion of the competition.

Don’t forget about Reason #1 though – getting visitors to your website is one thing – but keeping them there, and converting visitors into customers, will not happen unless your website projects a positive, professional image.

3. Develop your brand and build trust

Having a ‘brand’ is not solely the remit of big business. A website, with content that you control, is a great way to project the brand, the voice or personality of your business. It lets potential customers into what your business is all about, and helps to build trust. All other things being equal, it can often be a determining factor in the decision to buy a product or service.

4. Make it easy for potential customers to contact you

One of the fundamental purposes of most websites is to give visitors clear signposts of how to get in contact with your business – whether it be phone numbers, physical addresses with interactive maps and directions, email addresses, online contact forms or social media links – the objective is to make sure the customer ALWAYS knows how to get in touch.

5. Provide information for customer evaluation

A business website is a fantastic opportunity to provide information to customers and potential customers – there is absolutely nothing stopping you having a whole wealth of information about your products and services available online for visitors to view. Think of the last time you made any sort of reasonably significant purchase, maybe a TV or a car – did you automatically know exactly what you wanted? and exactly where to get it from? Probably not – most likely, you spent some considerable time researching the options online before coming to a conclusion. With a well maintained website, you can give your potential customers the information they need, and the opportunity to evaluate what you offer.

6. Do business 24/7

Even if you don’t intend to actually sell your products/services directly online, a website allows your business to be represented 24 hours a day – even if you’re not actually working, potential customers can be checking out your services at 4am if they really want to. Are you open for business on Sunday evenings? Possibly not, but your website should be – surveys show that between 5pm and 10pm on Sundays is the busiest period of the week for online browsing.

7. Be agile, change at the touch of a button

One of the real, tangible benefits of operating a website is the ability to change content quickly and easily. If you move premises and your address changes, your website can reflect that immediately. You can be agile to respond to changes in supply or demand, without the cost and long lead-times associated with changing traditional promotional material like printed brochures and sales lists.

Websites built using Content Management Systems (CMS) will even allow you to maintain your own website content (if you wish), so that you are in complete control of what your visitors see.

8. Make the most of your loyal customers

Genuine testimonials from real, satisfied customers can be one of the most powerful (and cheapest!) forms of promotion. A website can give your customers the opportunity to provide feedback on your serivces which can then be made visible to other visitors. Provided this is done in good faith, with genuine customer comments, it can work wonders to build the trust necessary to convert visitors into customers. Even negative comments can help – provided you act quickly and openly to resolve whatever the issue was – after all, no business is perfect.

9. Stand out from the crowd

Marketers will often talk about a business’ ‘USP’ – it’s unique selling point, the thing that makes you different from your competiton. Well, if you’ve got one of those, your website is a great place to talk about it, especially in a highly competitive market.

10. Listen to your customers and visitors

Listening to what your customers are saying about you can be both a nerve-racking and rewarding activity. Operating a website with comments and feedback facilities, or maybe online survey capabilities, gives you the ability to listen to what your customers think. And even if you don’t like what you hear, at least you know and have the ability to resolve. You might even get some great ideas of how to improve your business, for free!