To web, or not to web, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in business to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous consultant costs or to take arms against a sea of technological doubts, and by opposing, end them.
Since recently becoming active in the LinkedIn question and answer section, I’ve seen no fewer than four questions in the span of one week asking “Do small companies need a website?” and various derivatives thereof. Most of them were asked by incredulous marketing consultants who obviously run into prospects and clients who do not have one and/or don’t feel they are necessary. My $0.02 = they are as necessary as business cards, only cheaper!
Before a discussion of exactly how quick, easy, and inexpensive it is to get a web site up and running, I can hear the “professionals” tearing clothing and ripping hair from their skulls as they scream, “Noooooo! But what about x, y, and z?!?!” Where x, y, and z represent any web design or marketing catch phrase you care to insert. I even saw one designer advise a small business owner to make sure that any designer they select does not use tables for web page layout, or they would be sorry! While there is sound theory behind this advice, it is precisely the sort of technological hyperbole and cart-before-the-horse advice that paralyzes small business owners. My short answer is, “All in due course.” But let’s get this beast domesticated right now with a little more detailed answer…
That sounds pretty simple, right? In this stage you expect no more from your website than you would from a business card; your company’s contact information and logo along with a quick blurb about what you do and/or what your mission is. The key thing about a business card is the “leave behind” aspect; that you can give it to someone for them to reference later on. Browser bookmarks are the Internet equivalent in this case. If I want to remember your company for some reason, I’ll slap a bookmark to your website in the appropriate category.
This final stage transitions the web site from an information server to an active lead generation and business development tool. Its goal is not just “to be” or even simply to provide a compelling call to action online. Rather, the goal is to generate an online presence that includes a web site. I’m not going to say very much about this stage for a couple of reasons. First, the whole point of this blog was that most small businesses don’t realize they only need stage one or two. Second, it’s a subject that can take up an entire (virtual) library. Third, there are many bloggers out there with much more expert advice on the matter than I could give.
In summary, I don’t accept that a simple, template-based web site is worse than no web site at all. However, that’s not to say that a poor web site is better than no web site, because I don’t believe that is true. It’s important to follow the Hippocratic Oath here; first, do no harm. Aside from the obvious advice of not making glaring mistakes (i.e. spelling, factual, copyright violations), it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew. For example, don’t put a news section on your site if you aren’t going to update it frequently. And don’t ever, under any circumstances, use the words “under construction