No Stinkin’ Website?? No Stinkin’ Sales!!

A “greasy-haired propeller head” responds to Gene Marks’ BusinessWeek opinion piece.    

How much do you suppose a CPA knows about web marketing? Right: probably not much. Subject matter experts are typically not qualified to make grand pronouncements beyond their realms of expertise.

It’s a mystery then why BusinessWeek would give Gene Marks, CPA, its digital megaphone in order to berate the web design industry. We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Web Sites is potentially harmful to many small businesses as our economy sinks deeper into recession.

Web Site vs. Web Page

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Marks contends that most small businesses can get by with a simple web page and that a full-blown website is not necessary. This is true in some cases; but in my experience with Rabbit Mountain clients, many small business owners do not distinguish between a "web page" and a "website."

Marks cites an unattributed study, which I assume to be the Warrillow study finding that only 41% of small business owners have websites. Warrillow does not make the page vs. site distinction, either: "It’s easy to miss the fact that most business owners have not yet established a basic presence on the Internet."

Marks’ assertion that "we don’t need no stinkin’ websites" is almost certainly being interpreted by BusinessWeek’s readership to mean "I don’t even need to think about the web" — a potentially catastrophic position in this economy.

"Oh, they just soooo don’t get it"

Basic marketing research reveals the necessity of a web presence. Here are the stats:

  • When shopping for a product or service, 73% of consumers use search engines to find local businesses from which to buy (WebVisible/Nielsen NetRatings, 2008)
  • Search engines are the first source to which consumers turn to find local businesses (31%), ahead of even print yellow pages (30%). (TMP Directional Marketing/comScore, 2008)
  • Over 77% of people said they were more likely to make a purchase from an unfamiliar business with a quality Web site than a poor Web site from a known business (WebVisible/Nielsen NetRatings, 2008)
  • Nearly 40% of multi-channel shoppers prefer to use the web for browsing and researching their purchases. Of this group, 71% complete their purchase in the store. (ForeSee Results/FGI Research, 2005)
  • On every key measure driving satisfaction, retailers’ websites are better at producing satisfied customers than traditional stores are. (ForeSee Results/FGI Research, 2005)

The upshot of this research is that any business lacking a web presence is losing sales, period. Significant numbers of people are looking online for businesses from which to buy, and they cannot buy from you if they cannot find you.

Now that money is tight, consumers will be researching purchases more thoroughly. This is the worst possible time for a small business to forego its “stinkin’ website.” The number of customers lost could very well be the difference between surviving… or not.

Who Cares What Alexa Thinks?

Marks asserts that a hypothetical hardware store owner has wasted his money on a website because its Alexa rank is very low.

Who cares?

Alexa and similar ranking sites such as Compete.com are irrelevant for businesses targeting local customers. The hardware store owner’s Alexa ranking might be very low in comparison to every single other website that exists, yet still place #1 in search results that get displayed for his targeted keywords within his geographic region. If his site is #1, he is most assuredly pulling in sales he otherwise would not be.

Search Engine Optimization Vampires

If 73% of people are using search engines to find your business, and 68% of those users are clicking links only on the first search results page (iProspect, 2008), how many sales are you losing if your site does not show up?   

"Wow. More money spent so people can find out your address and phone number," Marks writes. Hello! Small businesses can’t make sales if customers don’t know their addresses or have a means of contacting them.

Website ROI

Dollar for dollar, a website offers greater ROI than nearly any other marketing channel available. A decent small business website with basic search engine optimization will start at about $1000 depending on various factors, and gives a small business owner the ability to communicate directly with customers 24/7, everywhere, for as long as the site remains active.

How much print, radio or television can $1000 buy? And how can these reach the bulk of consumers now turning first to the web? And how often will these other channels reach prospective customers precisely at the time that they are searching for products/services that the small business owner is selling, as a website can?

A properly planned and executed website can be a very cost-effective cornerstone of ongoing marketing efforts, driving results at a fraction of the cost of non-web marketing channels.

Unfortunately, many small business owners are undoubtedly swayed by the BusinessWeek opinion piece. For those who are still debating, I urge you: please do your own homework, do what’s best for your business, and make sure you have a representative web presence.

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