A website helps you bring your business to the web where you can attract targeted, willing-to-buy customers. In fact, a website is an essential ingredient in any marketing campaign because it can do so much for your business. This is the typical marketing pitch all web design companies try to sell you. The truth is that not all businesses need a website and we'll leave the sales talk and hype aside to tell you why.
Steve is the manager of a small consulting business I know. In 2006, he decided that it's time for his company to have a web site. Why not, after all, most of his competitors already had one.
So, Steve contracted a local web design company. Friendly guys, they had already designed a website for Steve's cousin, perfect choice. He gave them photos of his staff and office building, some text he had at hand and the site was completed and set up in a timely fashion. This is where the 'bringing the business to the web' stopped. The result?
If you intend to follow Steve's example, please don't. Please, don't waste your money getting a business website. There are thousands of businesses who've already fallen into this trap -- don't make the same mistake. Spend it on PR or on improving customer retention instead, just don't spend it on website design services.
You should only invest in a website if you are prepared to make full use of it and make it work hard for you. That involves either lots of cash or a serious time commitment on your part. You can't have a successful website without one or the other.
If budget is tight, I would not even think about hiring a web design company. I would get a website builder, spend a few hours every couple of evenings learning how it works (these days, making a website is so easy) and get it up and running on your own, at your own pace. Start small, use the site to interact with your existing customers and once you get the hang of it, expand it and use it to attract new customers.