I have conversations with business owners every week regarding Internet strategy (and why they need one).  Most of these conversations are with smart people with reasonably successful businesses.  When faced with the discussion of their website, they often come up with lots of reasons why an effective website isn’t all that relevant for them.  Sure, they understand the need to have some web presence, but they really don’t believe that for their particular business an effective website is going to make that big of a difference.  They have lots of reasons why this is so.

Most of these reasons are little more than rationalizations for existing behavior.  But, there are some reasons that are actually very good

I’d like to share the really good reasons why a working website may not be relevant for your business. 

Note:  Just because you qualify for one of these reasons doesn’t necessarily let you off the hook.  But if a few of them are true (or one of the big ones like #1 or #2 apply), then you probably can get away with a flat website that doesn’t do very much.

Legitimate Reasons Your Business Doesn’t Need An Effective Website
  1. You’re not looking to grow:  One of the primary reasons for having a working, effective website is to increase the number of clients you have and grow your revenues.  If you’re not looking to grow your business significantly, there’s probably little reason to try and find more clients or grow your revenues.  

  1. Your rolodex is sufficient for lead generation:  I’ll admit that there are many businesses that do a great job of getting referral customers and tapping their existing network for new business.  If this is you, then perhaps a website is not that important.  This assumes of course that your rolodex will continue to be an effective mechanism for you to get all the new business you need.  

  1. You’re operating in a virtual monopoly:  If you have the luxury of running a business for which there is very little (if any) competition and you’ve got an offering that people must have, a website is probably not crucial.  Your clients need what you have and there’s nowhere else to go.  Congratulations!  Though a shiny new website might impress your spouse and colleagues, you probably don’t need one to improve your business.

  1. You’re Not Hiring Any Time Soon:   If you are looking to increase staff, chances are that your prospective recruits (particularly the kinds of people you want to hire) will likely want to learn more about you.  The web is a great place to do that.  This is particularly true for new entrants into the workforce that have grown up with the Internet.  When faced with the decision of joining an organization that has a vibrant and interactive website where they can learn about what the company does and what makes them “tick” vs. an organization that simply has a brochure on the web – most recruits will pick the one with the more expressive website, all other things being equal.  Small businesses are particularly well served as they don’t have the brand and resources that can help attract exceptional people outside of their immediate network.  A website can help with that.

  1. You don’t expect to sell the company any time soon:  For more and more types of businesses, the website is an important asset that factors into valuation discussions.  This is particularly true if you have a startup business, a hi-tech business or one that “scales” well (i.e. adding new customers does not increase costs proportionately).  The reason is quite simple.  If you have an effective website and can demonstrate that it is successful at helping you get new clients, you have a better business than someone who doesn’t.  The Internet is a great way for many businesses to have a low customer acquisition cost.  The other nice thing about the Internet as a vehicle for marketing and sales is that it can be more easily measured.  Imagine if you are selling your business and are able to show the acquirer a chart of your web traffic (and how it’s grown over time) and clear data on how that web traffic translates into revenues.  (You will likely find that the two are highly correlated).  If I were on the buying said, I’d sit up and take notice.

As you read through the above, notice some of the reasons that did not make this list.  Examples would include “I don’t sell an online product, so I really don’t need a website.”  Or, “My clients don’t really use the web, so there’s really no reason for me to invest there.”  If you have reasons that you think are legitimate that didn’t make the list above, please share them in the comments.  I’ll do a follow-up article and capture the ones I missed.

Originally published Nov 7, 2006 12:00:00 PM, updated March 21 2013