You might be expecting an unqualified "Yes!" from a businessman who
promotes Internet development. However, the actual answer is "It depends."
It depends upon your business. It depends upon your customers. It depends
upon you, also.
A website is an Internet location where a business interacts with its
customers electronically. Put that way, a website is not that much
different from a store or shop where customers can come in and browse through
the merchandise before purchasing, or they might come back and ask questions
about how to use what they bought. Nor is website much different than an
advertisement you might place in a local newspaper, or a listing in the
yellow pages, or a sign you put up in your office window. All of these are
ways to interact with your customers. However, they are all different. Each
works better in some situations than others.
The reason for that is because customers make their decisions in
different ways. They'll ask their friends. Some read the newspaper.
Some will call you up. Some glance at flyers and brochures. The way the
Internet has changed customers is to get them to search for information
electronically. To be sure, a business with an entirely local-based customer
market is still going to get the best advertising return through the word of
satisfied customers, followed closely by local newspaper advertising, phone
directory entries, and community flyers. However, a growing number of your
existing and prospective customers are finding these sources inadequate.
These consumers are looking for more information, more ways to compare
information between various sources.
Even if you are a locally grown business, you and your customers can
benefit from an informative and interesting website. For existing
customers, a website is a place where they can go to find out more about what
they bought and how to use it. The existing customers tell other people, who
will visit your site, find out more about your business, and learn that you
know what you're doing.
To borrow a slogan from the Syms stores, "An educated consumer is your
best customer." However, your competition is not going to educate the
consumer in your favor. You need to educate your customers on your
You know what your customer's questions are. You know the kinds of
answers that they need. You usually can't answer these questions in a small
advertisement. However, a webpage is great place to answer your
customers' questions the way that you always wanted to answer them.
So, perhaps whether or not you need a website is the wrong question. The
better question, "How much can I educate my customers the way they want to