Why does your firm need a website?
Even today for some professional services firms it isn’t obvious that they have to have a website. Surely, someone might feel it is yet another impediment, and rightly so, especially when the benefits aren’t crystal clear and potential issues — innumerable. In order to make a conscious decision of whether or not to employ a certain technology one would have to examine it first, which is a demanding task indeed.
Do I need a website for my professional services firm?
Principals of professional services firms don’t have time to dive deep into understanding the full potential of a website. And companies rarely have enough resources to justify the employment of someone who knows the tech.
Regardless — there are millions of websites and their numbers are growing strong which is nothing short of encouraging. The problem, however, is that the majority of these web apps are based on ready-to-use, out-of-the-box, plug-and-play online web builders, plugins and themes that have never been designed to solve real, unique business challenges. The authors (developers) pursued a different goal — to build one product for everyone.
Fortunately enough some functionality provided by most popular web builders and content management systems (like WordPress) are tolerable and capable of satisfying the most basic needs of every business. Here is a list of benefits the most basic website can provide your business with along with the reasons to have one.
If you already have a web app or your firm is growing strong and you don’t need a website — for those who feel like being preeched to the converted — skip to this article — How to use your company website to grow your business online.
11 reasons why your company needs a website
Additional marketing channel
Your business website works the same way as the mascot promoter that stands at the corner waving your marketing message. Some of these dressed-up promoters might evoke a very depressing feeling, but some of them are great at doing their job. Your website can be either — depends on what you choose it to be.
By leveraging the basic functionality of the contact form your business can start gathering first-party data from your visitors — people who are genuinely interested in your services or products. Later, you would use this information to stay in touch, sending reminders, offers or news.
All-year-round, 24/7 availability
Whether you are on holidays or having a well-deserved nap, your website can do the leg work for you — be it to provide information, to send emails, to harvest data, to sell or to promote stuff.
It is a perfect way to stand out and show your distinctive personality to your target audience. Colors, typefaces, copy, messaging, the look & feel — details big and small can help your visitors appreciate your way of doing business. Small business website design is a hot topic and rightfully so.
Keeping in touch
Many websites come with a newsletter functionality that allows business owners to send emails to subscribed users on a regular basis. It’s a great feature to stay in touch with your prospects or clients and remind about yourself.
Increased visibility & presence
Having more visibility never goes amiss — it is the case for most businesses. The more places your company appears in, the more credibility it has, the more trustworthy it seems and the more exposure it gets. Some crazy business ideas even go viral because they get noticed.
Blogging and Vlogging
Rare, unique content is valuable; most websites have the basic functionality to create blog posts and embed video files. If your company has a good copywriter or a bunch of creative people, you could attract your target audience through your blog or vlog. In addition, this is a perfect way to express your opinion and show your expertise on the subject.
Better customer service
It might not seem obvious at first, but a lot of work handled by customer service is to provide basic information. The kind of information people can easily get access to anytime they want via your website: your location on the map, your office hours, your phone numbers, technical support contacts, directory of services and so forth.
This is a serious matter — how likely are you to procure services of the company that does not appear trustworthy? Having a decent website adds credibility to the business entity. Nowadays people tend go online first to check whether the business is legit.
There is an easy way to add analytics to your website pages. This is a great tool to examine audiences, channels of acquisition, user devices, demographics and a whole bunch of other data particularly useful for websites that get substantial traffic.
Link with Social Media
Many businesses rely on social media channels to grow. Your company website can be set up to post links to social media pointing at your blog posts or news feed. It can work the other way around as well — embed your latest Instagram photos or tweets on your website. This is a good way to allow your target audience discover more about your business, providing that ultimately you’re not driving the traffic away from your website.
Who doesn’t need a website?
Arguably, each and every business requires a website; the reasons above demonstrate that perfectly well. But is it a MUST, though?
Even today, I hear success stories from fellow entrepreneurs describing sales processes that, frankly, raise my eyebrows. A recent one depicted a company that rented luxury villas with an entertainment package to well-off people by the means of a PDF presentation. No website, no video, but a rather high price tag.
Every business is unique; the most important part of doing business is getting paying customers — first and foremost. So, if your business model does not require you to have one, if having a professional website wouldn’t increase sales, reputation or trust, then there is no point in making one.
Which website is best for business?
When the company’s main focus is online sales — it’s crucial to have an e-commerce website that keeps track of customers, their buying habits, shopping carts, seamless payment processing experiences, secure connection and encryption.
When, for instance, the main objective is to showcase a portfolio of projects, the content management system (CMS) might be the best choice.
Your company can also have multiple web applications under the same domain.
There are many options to choose from: content management systems, online drag-and-drop builders, e-commerce platforms, frameworks; free, open-source systems, online tools with monthly plans and custom-made web apps. The best choice comes from understanding your business’ needs and objectives.
You can find out about this topic in greater detail in this article that examines different ways of making a professional website, with pros and cons.
How to create a professional business website?
If you’re just starting out or run a small business that needs a website, read this short book for free — Business Website 1.01. It’s goal is to help fellow entrepreneurs with navigating the inevitable challenges along their entrepreneurial journeys.
Sign up to receive more articles on this topic. But for now let’s just list a few items that will help you make your company website look and feel more professional:
- Remove vacuous pages
- Make headings at least twice as big as the body
- Use one typeface (font)
- Check your copy for grammar
- Decrease the number of colors to 3-5
- Make sure the website is responsive and mobile-friendly
- Improve loading speed if it’s more than 5 seconds
- Use high quality images and video
- Use more negative space
- Declutter your pages by removing irrelevant stuff
- Stop boasting about how great you are
- Keep user experience in mind
NB. This advice is for inexperienced small business owners, not for teams with access to professional web designers.
How much does a professional website cost?
If your bootstrapped company is just starting out, you’re only looking to test the waters, it’s totally fine to pick the cheapest solution possible. Usually it is either WordPress, which you can download for free, or Shopify that will require you to pay monthly fees. The cost of setting up WordPress could be as low as 200 USD and I would suggest you to refrain from tempting offers below that figure.
On the high-end, well, there are no limits and it’s not uncommon to see 100 000 USD tag or more. It all depends on the scope, scale and timeframe of the project. Massive e-commerce projects cost millions and years to develop and hundreds of thousands to maintain and market.
On average, in the US you could expect to spend somewhere between 15 000 USD to 35 000 USD for a custom-made website with unique design. Feel free to use this calculator to get a better idea of how to estimate website design costs.
The following article dives deeper into understanding of how to set a budget for your next business website.