You may have noticed an increase in advertisements trying to sell small business owners do-it-yourself websites. This is not a new concept, many major corporations offer free or low cost websites – Apple, Microsoft, GoDaddy, Intuit and at one point, even Sam’s Club had a program for business owners who needed to get a website but don’t want to pay someone to do it. Usually when I encounter business owners with this mindset, they want the freebee because they “don’t really think they need a website and don’t believe they will ever sell anything or gain a lead off a website”. I believe with expectations like that, they will get exactly what they wanted, no sales and no contacts.
But what I don’t understand is why would a small business rely on some major corporation to determine how they are perceived to the world via their online store front?
Why did you start your small business?
Can you remember why you started your small business in the first place? Was it because you do what you do better than anyone else and corporations weren’t fulling this need? Was it because you were tired of your career being determined by budget decisions of a corporate board you have never even met? Or did you have a unique idea that you wanted to take to the marketplace that could make a difference in your field or in your community?
What part of those aspirations say discount-canned-website?
Internet Traffic For All!
I have always believed that online marketing is the great equalizer of businesses. Websites create the ability for small businesses to act big and reach the same number of customers as a big corporate competitor because internet traffic is open to everyone, not just the companies that can afford the Super Bowl commercials. When someone visits your website, if it functions well, people find it useful and your follow-up is timely, no one will be able to tell how big or small the company is behind the site.
Common knowledge has now reached the conclusion that to be in business you need a website. Fourteen years ago I could launch a website for a company and the next day have thousands of visitors, due to the fact that at that point in history, very few companies had websites. Those days are over. Thousands of websites are added to the internet everyday and they compete for traffic with the billions of websites already live. Why would you put your business automatically in the generic aisle by launching a the same website that was sold to thousands of other people?
What happens when thousands of up and coming businesses are unable to differentiate themselves via the web? Does the provider of websites ultimately control who succeeds online based on the website products they sell? Are they neutralizing competitors by giving them identical websites?
Before you buy, crunch the numbers
Most company websites are re-designed every three years. Most of your DIY website kits charge monthly fees. Before you sign-up, calculate how much you will spend to keep that website for three years. In a lot of cases, you could have gotten a high-quality professional for less then what you would pay using the reoccurring monthly fees.
If you are signing up for an online store, you will also want to investigate carefully any additional transaction fees charged by your website company on each sales, in addition to your credit card fees.