When the vast majority of consumers go online to do their research before they head out to spend money in their local neighborhood, it’s mystifying that nearly half of all small businesses don’t have a website.
Why not? Since this is a question that can’t be answered by asking Google, I have my students use it for their primary research project each semester. They approach businesses that probably would never come to us for their websites any way, so I am able to enjoy the surprising answers they come up with.
So far this semester, I have two favorites:
“I don’t want people from New York to come to my repair shop,” one old boy remarked. He was, I think, in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, so the contingency seems remote.
There were also several — in the same survey of auto mechanics — who said it would have a negative effect on their business. The negative effect they had in mind? It would bring them more customers. More customers would mean they’d have to hire helpers, and you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get good help.
It got me thinking. We consistently see in the research that most of these little businesses realize that a website would grow their businesses. We also see that those companies that have websites are more successful. But this is only because we think of success as being about profitability and growth.
If we look at it another way, there are good reasons to avoid getting a website:
- If you don’t want more customers than you currently have, you should not have a website.
- If you want complete flexibility — you’d rather not keep regular hours, for example, or you want to be able to move your business frequently — then you might not want a website.
- If you want to have control over the customers you serve, avoiding any strangers (or people from New York), then you won’t want a website.
- If you’d like to be able to go out of business at any time, don’t get a website. One thing we’ve seen frequently is that businesses listed in the current phone book which do not have a website, often have gone out of business by the time the students call them. In the case of the auto mechanic team, more than half of the numbers they called were out of service.
- If you disapprove of the internet, you should not have a website. A small hair salon took this position. They let the researcher snap a picture of all the ladies in the shop, and they should clearly have their own reality show — I have never seen a cuter group of ladies. Believing that the internet is a tool of Satan will probably get in the way of success in online marketing, though, so I think they’re right not to rely on a website.
Not finding yourself on the list above? Then you need a website.