Do I need a website?
Gary Marshall’s provocative article for .net raises some big questions. Is it necessary to have a website? Are there companies that could be wasting their money by investing in web design services?
He describes a hypothetical situation in which Frank has a successful business selling materials to the building industry. Frank is considering the value that an e-commerce online retail website would bring to his business.
The problem with Frank’s business is that no ecommerce site can replicate the things that make his business work. When a builder has miscalculated how much cement or quartz or facing he needs, he doesn’t go online to order something for delivery in three to five days, comparing different firms’ websites; he gets one of the guys to jump in the van and get it from Frank, because Frank is nearby and idle men cost money.
Marshall raises a very helpful point; Frank’s business is unlikely to succeed as an online retailer. His success is rooted in his expertise and reputation. He suggests that web designers should advise Frank that his business does not need a website.
However, we would question whether his conclusion is short-sighted.
Marshall draws an unhelpful line in the sand; he seems to suggest that Frank’s options are either to invest in a highly powered e-commerce web design or to avoid a website altogether. If the question is couched in this way, the answer is obvious.
However, what if the question was inverted: what happens if Frank doesn’t have a website?
Here are some foreseeable outcomes:
- Frank’s existing customers are unable to easily find Frank’s contact details and opening hours online.
- Every time a potential customer searches from Frank (having received a recommendation from a friend) they will be unable to find him online. This might undermine trust in Frank’s business.
- Frank’s competitors gain an uncontested advantage over Frank by developing an online presence, reputation and authenticity that will enable them to win the next generation of builders
- Frank’s business is limited to word-of-mouth marketing. Whilst this is clearly the best kind of recommendation, it nevertheless limits his ability to win contracts from outside of his region.
It’s obvious that Frank doesn’t need a highly powered e-commerce website. However, without a website of any kind he is putting his business at a disadvantage.
A simple, clean website design which articulates Frank’s business services, demonstrates his experience and gives site visitors key contact details is going to be highly effective. It would be a low-maintenance, cost-effective way to serve existing customers and strengthen the business into the future.