There are only four good reasons to have a business website [Archive]

Originally published on the Shirlaws Business Coaching Blog, 2007-2010.

There are only four good reasons to have a website. So why do so many businesses choose reason number five? 

A recent web-based survey by indicated that only 55% of SMEs had a website. That means almost half do not have a website, and while I’m sure the statistic decreases for larger businesses it still surprises me – and I wonder what the result would have been if the survey hadn’t been done online!  For the majority of business that do have a website, I wonder how many were rushed together, and how much thought actually went into the decision? 

Each aspect of your business has a purpose and your website is clearly no exception. But your reason for having a website might be different to the business next door’s, even if they’re in the same industry as you.  Fall for a web designer sales pitch or rush into a website because all the other kids have one, and your website might be doing your business a disservice.

So have you ever asked yourself what your website purpose is?  In other words, for your investment every month what do you expect your website to deliver to you?

There are only four good reasons for having a business website:

  1. Sales Leads (both clients and staff)
  2. Positioning
  3. Community Interaction
  4. Business functionality

(There’s a fifth reason – EGO – which will probably cost you more in set-up costs than the others, but remember I was listing goodreasons.)

1) Sales Leads (eg Pheedo Marketing.)

Seemingly the most obvious, and the reason why most business websites fail to achieve their purpose.  If your website exists to drive sales, does it include all the necessary elements: A way to track traffic and relevancy?  An easy process to capture prospect information?  A clear call to action?

Most common websites are so-called ‘brochureware’; that is to say, the website merely reflects a marketing brochure placed online.  Even the most info-laden brochures won’t do much to drive sales on its own – are you putting your website out there unsupported, and still calling it a ‘Sales Tool’?

2) Positioning (eg Dawson Constructions)

Many business executives I’ve talked with think the only legitimate reason for a website is to drive sales.  Sometimes, they discuss the vague notion of ‘brand’.

Somewhere in between is the realisation that your business stands for something, and that the focus of the website is indicative of a focus required in the business generally.  Rather than use your website to create leads, you can use to further implant your business’ market position into those contacts, clients and prospects (both client and staff) you already have. Needless to say, having an idea of what distinguishes your business from your ‘competition’ is an essential part of this legitimate marketing choice.

3) Community Interaction (eg YCombinator News)

You don’t have to build the next Facebook or MySpace to build a Community. Plenty of businesses have popular brands, which lend themselves to building a community of fans – Lego is a great example.

If you don’t have a big brand, the opportunity still exists to create a community on your website. A community doesn’t need to be huge to be beneficial for the business. Not only are niche markets (think display stands for retailers in New Zealand) or collaborative Web 2.0 projects more plentiful and often easier to target, they lend themselves to the kind of internet communities that link people with common interests in a way that the random geography of birth cannot. This can also provide a great way to research your market, and respond to feedback direct from clients (and clients of your competition).

4) Business functionality (eg Best Practice)

In what can easily be (ego aside) the most advanced use of internet technology, many businesses use their website to actually help them do business with their clients. And you don’t even need to be a tech-based business – in the example I’ve used here, Personal Training clients complete fitness questionnaires, record their exercise and diet regime, and monitor their improvement (or otherwise) across some core indicators over the time they’ve been clients.

It’s not cheap to establish a website with this level of technology, particularly when tight security is required.  However (and if this option is a possibility for your business, you’ve probably thought of this already) there can be significant savings to operational costs by leveraging technology.

The important question here, however, is not whether it benefits your business but whether it contributes to the service you deliver to your clients?  A good test is asking yourself whether your clients would pay for the added functionality?  If they won’t, your efforts and expenses may go to waste, even if you offer it for free, and I would suggest that this option isn’t for you.

So why does Shirlaws have a website?  Actually, we have two websites, both this one and  And we have a different purpose for each – if you read through, you will see it’s designed as brochureware to position our coaching business globally to potential clients and referral sources.

Shirlaws Online, on the other hand, has a much larger purpose to be revealed over time. There’s more detailed content, and an opportunity for you to influence that content by interacting with coaches (like me) through the comments and contact on this very page.

Your business may not need two websites, but it certainly needs one.  And for that website to achieve what you need it to achieve, you need to be clear on why you have it in the first place.  If you don’t know, or have never thought about it this way before, schedule some time now to do that. You will be grateful later.

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