4621251358_6f18239b84_z

I know what you’re thinking. “I’m doing fine selling my products and services in my neighborhood, where I have a loyal customer base. Why would I need a fancy-shmancy website?”

Let me tell you first that any business, big or small, needs to have a competitive edge if it doesn’t want to inevitably get swallowed by a bigger and better one. No matter how specialized or concentrated you think your business is, there will always be competitors popping up to have their slice of the profit pie. And with more and more people now shopping online (eMarketer’s research estimates that this year, the number of online shoppers in the US will climb up to 184.3 million), it would be a huge mistake to not take advantage of this growing market (which your competitors will probably do).

A Business without a Website

So last night I wanted to order some Chinese food takeout but I was too lazy to get out of the house. (Almost everybody knows that feeling.) I remembered eating at this one small joint that had those good greasy noodles run by a legit Chinese cook, but I didn’t get its number. Like any person living in the 21st century, I Googled the place’s name only to find out to my dismay that it did not have a website.

Needless to say, I ended up ordering somewhere else to satisfy my noodle fix. That place had some tasty food, no doubt, and the owner was fun to talk to. However, it is missing out on some good marketing because of its lack of presence in what is now one of the main go-to sources of information: the Internet.

Lots of people probably had the same experience, and although that business probably wouldn’t die (anytime soon), it still loses a lot of money to other Chinese fast-food restaurants by simply not having the convenience that is a website ready for potential customers.

The 5 Big Reasons

So if my little story hasn’t gotten you scrambling to put up a website, these seven reasons to do so should.

1. It makes contacting your business so much easier

As I’ve pointed out in my anecdote, your small business will be missing out on a lot of customers. eMarketer also projects that this year, about 88.1% of Internet users in the US from 14 years old and up will be looking for products or services online.

2. People will know your business is alive

Nowadays,it is highly likely that people won’t be checking the yellow pages first to look for your business; they’ll be using search engines. If they don’t see you anywhere, they might even think you’re already out of business. But if you do have online presence, it shows that you actually care enough to connect with customers.

3. You will reach a wider audience

The money you make just from your local customers can grow exponentially by making your products or services available online. The abovementioned study also revealed that there will be 239 million people in the US surfing the Internet this year—that’s about ¾ of the entire population! Imagine the profits from securing just a measly fraction of that user base.

4. Internet marketing is much cheaper than traditional marketing

Getting your small business seen through the tried and true methods of print, radio and TV advertising can be very costly compared to the capital you need to create a website. In addition, ads on those forms of media only run for a very limited amount of time and for a limited audience, unlike a website that can be up 24/7 all year round.

5. You get to understand your target audience more

Through integrated feedback pages, emails, online surveys and social media functions, you can know what your market likes and dislikes about your products. There are also website analytics and a number of good software and tools that can determine and analyze the type of people who visit your site. You can use that info to build better business strategies.

It boggles my mind knowing that there are still businesses out there that don’t take advantage of this relatively cheap but highly effective business tool. I’ve outlined exactly why you need to have one, so get started right now. That’s unless you want to be one of the proverbial dinosaurs going extinct for not having one.

Author bio: Rod Tolentino is a musician and a Marketing Consultant for UPrinting, a leading socially responsible online printing, marketing and technology firm that offers business card printing services and various printed marketing media.