If you build it (your website), they will come

A friend is currently enrolled in the MATI Small Business Course, a comprehensive course designed to provide budding entrepreneurs with the basics needed to start their own business.

According to many of the lecturers at the current MATI course, it is not recommended for new businesses to invest in a website. These lecturers explained to the participants that first you need to have customers who will go to your website, so first get the customers and then get the site. They said the same applies to printing brochures.

I strongly disagree with this approach as far as websites go. I do agree with them on the brochure issue, since designing and printing a brochure is very expensive and inflexible – once the brochure is printed, you can’t change anything in it without reprinting the whole batch. For a business in its infancy, flexibility in marketing and keeping costs low is very important, since many businesses change direction within their first months or years.

But the question regarding the website is really a chicken-or-egg type of question. According to MATI, you should first concentrate on getting the clients. But could it be that the clients will only come if you have a website?

I believe that for a business to succeed, the business owner must approach their organization from the very first day on a high professional level. A business looks much more professional if their business card advertises a website, and all email communication is conducted through a dedicated domain name, such as info@business.com. And a website does not demand a huge investment; a simple and professional site can be built for a low price, and for only a few dollars a month for hosting, a constant presence on the web is guaranteed.

A huge advantage of a website for any business is the ability to display testimonials and a portfolio. When you meet people and tell them what you do, they will want to know more about you – how experienced you are, who your other clients are, what they thought of you, some work samples, etc. By handing them your business card, that is only the first step in your relationship. By visiting the website displayed on your card, potential clients can gain a better understanding of the quality of your service or product.

Yes, you may be able to gain clients without a domain name and site. But you will probably increase your chances if you look like a professional, established business from day one. You want every potential client to see how professional you are, even if they are the very first person that you meet in your new role as business owner.