09/03/2013 01:20 pm ET Updated Nov 03, 2013

You Still Don't Have a Website? We Need to Stop Having This Conversation

It's very simple: whether you are a small business with a revenue stream that comes from neighborhood shoppers - or a huge corporation with a complex digital strategy -- if you don't have a well-crafted, well-managed website - you are losing business to other companies that do. Time and again, I have seen firsthand through our work with clients that companies are losing the lion's share of the marketplace for this very reason.

I know it sounds logical to many of us who have embraced the digital era as a way to expand our business in ways we never imagined. And yes, it may sound like I am covering old ground. But according to a recent poll conducted amongst small business owners, more than 30 percent still do not have a website. And of those who do have a site, close to 50 percent say they have not updated it in the past month. Half don't even list a contact number on the homepage.

How can this be? And why?

Time and budget still remain on the top of the list for reasons cited. And not being tech savvy - or not seeing the value in a digital presence -- trail close behind.

Small business: we need to stop having this conversation, once and for all.

By not having a fully functional, updated website:
  • You are driving your customers away because you are invisible to them. More than 90 percent of consumers research on-line, before buying off-line.
  • You are missing out on creating a powerful sales tool that will allow people to engage with your company.
  • You are telling people you are not stable enough to have a dedicated web presence - and they question whether your business will be around tomorrow.
  • And you are missing an opportunity to build long-term sustainable relationships with your customers through an email list.

If you are still not convinced that you need a website, let me give you some examples of some other folks who are really convinced now:

Take A Perfect Gift by Marilyn, a small, high end boutique in Colts Neck, NJ, that has catered to wealthy customers in this upscale neighborhood for close to 15 years. But according to owner Marilyn Nicolella, the sluggish economy crippled sales. The retailer was ready to close, but she wanted to sell existing inventory first. So with help from her son Robert, she launched a simple website. Today, still very much in business, Nicolella sells more handbags to one of her customers in Russia, then she does out of her own store. She could've never expanded outside of the neighborhood to save her business without going on-line.

Sean Jackson shared a lifelong passion for adventure travel with his father. When his Dad was killed in a plane crash 5 years ago, Jackson left his consulting job on Wall Street to start his own adventure travel business, Bonvoy Adventure Travel. Jackson took his idea on line. Word spread fast amongst adventure travel enthusiasts, and this month he marks his success with the launch of a new business model for on-line travel where consumers pick the discount they would like to receive on a travel package - and they get it. Jackson never could have been a pioneer in his industry with the on-line tools his website provided - fueled by the inspiration from his father. He calls it his campfire story.

Then there's a company like Evolution Capital Partners, a private equity firm that helps other small businesses navigate through the growth curve on route to becoming larger and more profitable. Evolution Capital Partners decided to go online because that is where their market - and customers are. They started with an SEO campaign to jump start traffic - and then switched to a more targeted approach of PR and content development- which allows them to control the conversation and attract visitors who are more likely to convert into business. It's a real science they are just beginning to leverage for the success of their own company.

The point is, there are many different reasons to start and many different options and price ranges for getting started - from an inexpensive rental site where you pay a monthly fee and design your company website from an existing template - to a fully customized website tailored to your specific business needs. A quick google search will get you on your way to discovering what option is right for you.

Just remember that it doesn't have to be a daunting task - and it should be a business goal for the coming year.

Start small if you must. But start.

Are you ready to finally take the plunge?