Do you really need a website for your business?

Thinking about getting a new site or upgrading your current website?

Frustrated because your website isn’t doing anything for you?

This one’s for you!

Dear Patty,

The experts are all saying that it’s harder and harder to get traffic to your website. Everyone is moving onto social media and no one visits websites anymore. The guy I heard last night said “don’t bother with a website – just build your business on Facebook.” I don’t want to spend a bunch of money on a website if it’s not going to do my business any good. What do you think? Should I build a website or just stick to Facebook?

~ Webless in White Rock

Dear Webless…

Maybe it’s time to declare that calling things “dead” is dead?

Ah yes…the “_______ is dead” crowd is at it again.

As with all expert opinions, rule number one is to consider the source. Behind the “______ is dead” proclamations is usually a vested interest.

  • The “cold calling is dead” people want to sell inbound marketing services
  • The “email is dead” people want to sell text messaging services
  • The “Facebook is dead” people want to get you onto their new social media site

Does “websites are dead” guy have a $2,000 “how to build your business on Facebook” program for sale? I thought so.

Number two rule is to be wary of ANY statement that uses absolutes such as “everyone” or “no one” or…”dead” (unless we’re talking about MySpace…oh wait…even it’s still breathing!)

Without having an in depth understanding of your situation, I’ll begin with: “It depends.”

Is it possible to have a successful business without having a website?

Booked solid? Have clients that come back on a regular basis? Keep them happy and you don’t need a website!


A few years ago, a client asked me to set up a MailChimp email list to manage the 4,000 client email addresses she had amassed over the previous 10 years. She had no online presence at all: no website, no social media. She got all her business (more than she could handle) through networking, referrals, tradeshow booths and repeat clientele.

Our dog groomer doesn’t need a website. She’s booked solid and not taking new clients. All a website would do for her is cause her phone to ring and annoy her while she was up to her elbows in soapy water shampooing FiFi.

Here’s a terrific article from Mark Schaefer with another great example: No social media, no email, no website. And she’s a business success.

Maybe a better question to ask would be:

What could a website do for your business? What roles does it play?

A lot of the negative chatter about websites comes from people who think that websites should cause customers and clients to rain down out of the sky like magic. (Hint: if they use words like “traffic” and yap about “SEO” you’re dealing with this group.)

For small businesses and self-employed professionals, websites play a completely different role.

Instead of thinking of your website as a “marketing tool” that brings new strangers into your world – think of it as a “relationship-building, question-answering sales tool” for people who found you through a different source and are visiting your site to learn more about you.

Have you ever really thought about when and why people visit your website?

This is how your potential clients see you. (No matter how nice you are!) Your website gives them a risk-free way to learn more about you and your services.

Here are some examples…

  • Someone recommends your services to a friend. The first thing that friend (aka: your potential new client) is going to do is look at your website. (And if that recommendation came through social media – they’ll be looking at other websites as well.)
  • You meet someone at a networking event. They’re curious about your business, so they visit your website.
  • You deliver a presentation, workshop or webinar. Someone in the crowd loves your message, but isn’t comfortable approaching you directly. So they check out your website to learn more.
  • Someone finds you online through a Google search or a social media post or an advertisement. They’re going to click through to your website.

Why are they on your site?

They’re doing their research. They’re thinking about buying. They’re wondering if you can help them. They’re comparing you to others who offer similar services.

If you don’t have a website…what conclusions will they draw? Will you be in the running? Will they take you seriously?

Here’s a very specific example.

Let’s be a fly on the wall as we watch people make a buying decision

I watch people do research online all the time. Or at least when I’m not walking through their lunch.

A few years ago, I wrote the website content for a business coach colleague. Let’s call him Bob.

Last year, he contacted me with a referral: “I’m working with a new client and they need a better web presence. I told them they needed the same treatment you gave me.”

I set up an appointment to chat with them.

I started to explain why the content on a site is so important and they interrupted me.

Oh…we know how important the content is! It’s everything! That’s how we chose Bob!

We knew we needed a business coach, so we asked some colleagues for recommendations.

We checked out their websites and narrowed our decision down to 3 possibilities.

Then one Friday night we sat here with a glass of wine and reviewed our short list. We went from tab to tab, comparing the final 3 and deciding which one to call.

One of them didn’t have much information to go on, so we eliminated that one pretty quickly.

The other talked a lot about herself, how great she was and the process for how she does what she does.

Bob was the ONLY ONE who talked about how he could help US. It was like he was “inside our heads” – he understood our situation and what we were looking for. So we called him.

This is not an isolated case. This is how people make purchase decisions. This is exactly how I decide to buy. How about you?

Not enough info. Next! Too full of themselves. Next! I love the internet. This is soooo much easier than talking to people. Oooo this looks like a good one!

Here are the big takeaways from this story:

  1. No website = no consideration. These people never stood a chance – even if they were directly referred by a trusted colleague
  2. The shortlist was decided by website. NO ONE was contacted until the final decision was made. The 2 coaches in the “other tabs” have no idea that they were shortlisted for consideration or that their websites caused them to lose this potential sale.
  3. The final decision came down to the WORDS on the site. Not the stunning graphic design, not the glamorous photo shoot. The words. Bob’s website is modern and responsive – but let’s just say it wouldn’t win any design awards. His content made the sale.

Do you really need a website? Not in these cases

If you’re booked solid with clients that return over and over again, you can skip the website entirely. The purpose of your site is to get new clients, not impress your friends. Carry on with your successful business and skip the hassle and expense of creating a site.

If you’re brand new in business and have zero budget, skip it for now and go out and talk to people. Get your first clients through personal 1:1 conversations.

While you may miss a few sales because you don’t have a site to back up your marketing efforts, those conversations will make creating an effective site (when you’re ready for it) so much easier.

For trusted advisors, a good website is an investment that will pay off in new clients

If you don’t have a big budget, you can leave the fancy branding and photoshoot for later.

Get someone to set up a simple wordpress site with a professional template. Or use one of those DIY site-builders (not recommended long term, but this is a cheap way of getting started.)

Then focus on the words.

The words are what will get you the sales. (And because so many business owners haven’t figured this out yet – or they’re listening to people who say “no one reads anymore” – you can get a leg up on your competition.)

If you need help with this, words and messaging is my specialty. 

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