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WEB SCHOOL Who actually needs a website these days?

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LaneMan

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After having spent a lot of time building websites that don't do anything for my clients, I went and talked to a bunch of prospects in different industries about the usefulness of a website. Instead of trying to sell them yet another project, I wanted to hear what they had to say.

I discovered that a website is actually a pretty bad deal most of the time.

When I was targeting local businesses like restaurants, gyms, and night clubs, I found that it's enough to have the business listed in Google Places. A website can be used for SEO, but 99% of the time, Google My Business listings show up before the actual organic search results, which makes SEO futile.

What if the restaurant wanted to capture leads? By simply setting up their Facebook page, they can use the Messenger feature to capture leads and do their marketing that way. With a website, they would have to mess around with forms, email addresses, and email automation software. Many people don't even like email and they only have an email to sign in on their Google or Apple account.

Then you have service businesses like photographers. With Instagram, they can share all their work and do their marketing very easily. No need for a website.

These people also mentioned how good word of mouth marketing is. You basically get better clients than if you do digital marketing. Which is why they don't find the need to invest on a website.

So, for the purpose of lead generation and raising awareness, social media is enough. Now let's talk about ecommerce.

These days, you can easily setup a Shopify store but apparently, the average conversion rate is only 1.6%. For the average small business, selling on Ebay or Amazon is much more attractive.

Also, I don't know about you guys, but my country is so small that it's simply easier to take the bus and go buy the product physically than enter your credit card information (we don't even have Stripe here) on a website and wait 3 days to get it.

For small businesses, anything more than a simple website on Squarespace/Wix/Wordpress.com is pretty much a waste of resources.

After this research, I realized that it's the following businesses that actually need websites:
  • Medium/Large companies who need a website for the branding.
  • Medium/Large companies who share a lot of content.
  • Medium/Large companies in high competition markets who want to utilize all sorts of sales funnels.
  • Any business that sells a digital product like ebook or saas.
I sell websites and I would say that even I don't need a website because it's simply more effective for me to connect with prospects on Linkedin, and do offline networking, than maintain a website. It's unlikely that decision makers at Medium/Large companies will visit your website and fill in your optin form. I've had my website for 2 years and 100% of my current clients came from referrals. The only reason I don't delete it is because I spent a lot of time on it and it holds some emotional value to me, otherwise, it's completely useless for business development.

This is only an observation that I made and I could be wrong. What do you guys think?
 

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After having spent a lot of time building websites that don't do anything for my clients
Why do you build websites that don't do anything for your clients?

That's where developers and businesses get it wrong. They think that by simply creating a website that's going to do something.

There's more that goes into creating a website than just design. The website needs to sell and it needs to reach some objective and that objective should be determined by the business owner.

It's true, for certain businesses there may be better ways to reach customers and provide a product/service than just a website. But ultimately it depends on the goals.

I still think it's important to build a website for whatever you're doing. It makes sense. You're able to build a stronger brand with a website, domain experience/credibility, and you have more control.

Let's say a business only gets its customers from only Instagram Ads or Facebook ads. What then happens when suddenly their Facebook or Instagram account gets shut down? All their customers are gone.

The point is, websites are still necessary. But instead of just making websites that "look good". Make sure they built with a purpose whether that's sales, to get leads, etc... Have good copy, professional images, and a good sales plan.
 

LaneMan

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Why do you build websites that don't do anything for your clients?

That's where developers and businesses get it wrong. They think that by simply creating a website that's going to do something.

There's more that goes into creating a website than just design. The website needs to sell and it needs to reach some objective and that objective should be determined by the business owner.

It's true, for certain businesses there may be better ways to reach customers and provide a product/service than just a website. But ultimately it depends on the goals.

I still think it's important to build a website for whatever you're doing. It makes sense. You're able to build a stronger brand with a website, domain experience/credibility, and you have more control.

Let's say a business only gets its customers from only Instagram Ads or Facebook ads. What then happens when suddenly their Facebook or Instagram account gets shut down? All their customers are gone.

The point is, websites are still necessary. But instead of just making websites that "look good". Make sure they built with a purpose whether that's sales, to get leads, etc... Have good copy, professional images, and a good sales plan.

When I first started, I'd take on any project and not worry much about the outcomes because I thought that simply having a website and some SEO will be beneficial to the business. That's why I started asking around when I found that my clients didn't get anything valuable after having invested on my services.

I really wanted to help small businesses by building them decent websites they can use to market their products/services but I realized that it's too much of a hassle for them and the ROI is negligible.

That's when I found that most small businesses don't need websites because the website needs professional copy, good images, sales funnels, and so on. They invest and they raise their profits by 10% - makes no sense at all.

Small business do just fine with website builders, it's the larger companies that will actually benefit from my services.
 

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A website can be used for SEO, but 99% of the time, Google My Business listings show up before the actual organic search results, which makes SEO futile.
Correction. Optimizing and ranking GMB listings IS SEO.

And it's easier to rank a listing if you have a website tied to it.

Plus, it is easier to lose your GMB listing if you don't have a website tied to it. This is an up-and-coming spam/hack technique.

Imagine someone taking over your listing and then changing the phone number on it. And you not being able to get it back.


The listing isn't technically yours. It's Google's. So in all your examples you're violating the commandment of control.

Also your 99% figure is way off. There are many TOF terms that do not generate a map, or the map shows up lower on the page.

E-commerce stores in particular would have a tough time getting in the shopping area of Google if they don't have a website.

How do you set up a remarketing campaign for your eBay listing?

Just because you can make a living without a website doesn't mean you can jump to the conclusion that nobody needs a website, or that only medium and large businesses need websites.
 

LaneMan

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Correction. Optimizing and ranking GMB listings IS SEO.

And it's easier to rank a listing if you have a website tied to it.

Plus, it is easier to lose your GMB listing if you don't have a website tied to it. This is an up-and-coming spam/hack technique.

Imagine someone taking over your listing and then changing the phone number on it. And you not being able to get it back.


The listing isn't technically yours. It's Google's. So in all your examples you're violating the commandment of control.

Also your 99% figure is way off. There are many TOF terms that do not generate a map, or the map shows up lower on the page.

E-commerce stores in particular would have a tough time getting in the shopping area of Google if they don't have a website.

How do you set up a remarketing campaign for your eBay listing?

Just because you can make a living without a website doesn't mean you can jump to the conclusion that nobody needs a website, or that only medium and large businesses need websites.
GMB provides free websites.

None of the small businesses I talked to cared about remarketing campaigns. These people don't have the time or resources to deal with these advanced stuff.

My point is, when you sell websites, it's easy to think that everyone will benefit from your services because websites and digital marketing are as essential as water but that's not true at all. Many smaller businesses don't need a website and complicated marketing strategies at all and even if they did, a simple GMB free website or even some page built using the website builder on godaddy is fine.
 

Dark Water

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A website gives you Control.

- It doesn't subject your customers to have to find you on Facebook where they then see an ad for a competitor, making them have second thoughts about you - or not even clicking you at all.

- It doesn't automatically share your customers' information with Facebook or a third party unless you choose to.

- You know a lot more information about your visitors via Analytics. You own this information which you can use to improve your processes

- You aren't requiring your customers to have a Facebook, many of whom have either ditched it or are too old for it in the first place

For small businesses, anything more than a simple website on Squarespace/Wix/Wordpress.com is pretty much a waste of resources.

Wordpress.com is not even a consideration in 2020. I've moved so many customers off their platform and had them request a refund when they would've been paying $300 a year for "premium" features, all of which are free via Wordpress.org. Now they pay $100/year for dedicated Wordpress hosting and own their website. Squarespace and Wix are not to be taken serious either.

I would make the opposite argument:

The only thing you actually need is a website. A website is legitimacy. It is the one single thing that proves to people that you are real and take things serious.

Why is it so often that even successful "Youtubers", "Instagram businesses", etc. are not seen as real businesses even when they make a lot of money? A Twitch streamer can make $70k a year with his own "business" yet at the end of the day Twitch owns him. He is basically an employee growing their company. It doesn't matter how much money you make, you are essentially a contractor for these social media companies, giving them legitimacy and growing their brand... for free. It violates the Commandment of Control.

I sell websites and I would say that even I don't need a website because it's simply more effective for me to connect with prospects on Linkedin, and do offline networking, than maintain a website. It's unlikely that decision makers at Medium/Large companies will visit your website and fill in your optin form.

Your website is there for proof. It's a sales tool, but it doesn't close the sale for you. Is your website listed on your LinkedIn? If so, how many of your prospects do you think visited your website before/during chatting with you and it helped them to positively make a decision? I know that for every single potential client I work with, I look at their LinkedIn, their company's website, and their personal website, if they have one.

A brick-and-mortar business needs a website that they can slap on a business card or sticky on the glass of their door that customers will remember - not a long Facebook link or Instagram page.

Like you said - for most businesses, a simple website is going to be enough. But it's easy to fall to the sirens here once again as the website builders create the perfect façade of giving you Control when really they still maintain it. Wordpress.org or a static HTML site is the way to go.
 

LaneMan

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Your website is there for proof. It's a sales tool, but it doesn't close the sale for you. Is your website listed on your LinkedIn? If so, how many of your prospects do you think visited your website before/during chatting with you and it helped them to positively make a decision? I know that for every single potential client I work with, I look at their LinkedIn, their company's website, and their personal website, if they have one.

You might find this funny but none of my current clients actually visited my website before starting a project with me.

You have very solid arguments and I agree 100% with them but from my personal experience, the average business owner doesn't care about any of these things. You might think that credibility, using a professional businessowner@theirdomain.com email address, having total control over their platform, etc, matters to them but you'd be wrong.

Some of the perfectionists might care but most of them just want to make a minimum amount of sales and relax.
 

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After having spent a lot of time building websites that don't do anything for my clients, I went and talked to a bunch of prospects in different industries about the usefulness of a website. Instead of trying to sell them yet another project, I wanted to hear what they had to say.

Try start this way with every sale.

- oh you're stuck with closing sales? Well here is how a website can help show more of why your biz...
- oh you are stuck with getting new clients? Well SEO or ads can help with...
- oh you're getting tons of calls all day long? Well a website could answer those common questions and...

Start with what they need as a business - then try link it with what services you could provide.

Sell to the people with a good fit and move on from those who don't need you.
 

LaneMan

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Sell to the people with a good fit and move on from those who don't need you.

That's exactly what I'm trying to say. At the beginning I was selling to everyone but now I only sell to people who will actually benefit from my services.

That way, I get better projects in my portfolio.
 

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You might find this funny but none of my current clients actually visited my website before starting a project with me.

You have very solid arguments and I agree 100% with them but from my personal experience, the average business owner doesn't care about any of these things. You might think that credibility, using a professional businessowner@theirdomain.com email address, having total control over their platform, etc, matters to them but you'd be wrong.

Some of the perfectionists might care but most of them just want to make a minimum amount of sales and relax.

I can't think of any of the websites I made where the business owner does not care about credibility, having an @theirdomain email, or having total control over their platform. The ones that were ignorant of these things, I kindly helped them learn why these things are important to which all of them agreed. It's part of my process, which I thought should just be standard best practice, but I guess it could also be seen as just adding value and helping the client if not every developer does this. These things are part of successful branding which indirectly translates to more sales.

I jog past a pest removal company and they have a sign on their front yard with an @yahoo email address and truthfully I can't take it serious. I've been tempted on more than one occasion to reach out to them to see if I can help out but just haven't yet - maybe next time I go for a jog I'll write it down in my phone for later.

If you are getting 0 clients from your own personal website, and referring 0 clients to your website to look at your portfolio, then you personally have chose not to use a website as part of your sales funnel. That's a perfectly acceptable way to go about doing things. And I agree that not all small businesses need a website. But personally, I would not speak in absolutes about the matter.

Even if you can prove there are zero tangible benefits to a website, there is still an argument for how it helps a business owner see their own business. If a professional website gives them confidence and that translates to more sales through other channels, then that alone could be worth the price of the site.
 

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That's exactly what I'm trying to say. At the beginning I was selling to everyone but now I only sell to people who will actually benefit from my services.

That way, I get better projects in my portfolio.

Okay good to see you switching it up.

Keep in mind also this approach helps a lot with starting to charge higher prices.

When you are genuinely looking at it from their side it often makes sense for them to pay more - more resources help big problems get solved better and faster. So keep going with this approach and up your prices when you can see it is the right move for them and their business.
 

LaneMan

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Okay good to see you switching it up.

Keep in mind also this approach helps a lot with starting to charge higher prices.

When you are genuinely looking at it from their side it often makes sense for them to pay more - more resources help big problems get solved better and faster. So keep going with this approach and up your prices when you can see it is the right move for them and their business.

For sure. I don't try to convince anyone anymore. If a prospect tells me he doesn't need my services even though he actually needs them, I thank them for their time and leave.

Things have been great since I started treating sales like dating.
 

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I start with what they do need and 99% of people do need something.

When you have that info directly from them it is fact.

Now the goal is to show how you can help with that - rather than trying to sell them on something it is more showing what will work and picking the right price for you and them to work together on it.

People are nearly always consistent with themselves - get them to say what they need most and then they will want to act in a way that is congruent to fixing those issues.
 

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My point is, when you sell websites, it's easy to think that everyone will benefit from your services because websites and digital marketing are as essential as water but that's not true at all.

What businesses need are leads. I do search engine marketing, but I turn away a lot of clients that are not a good fit, either because they need a bigger agency, or a different kind of marketing, or their clients aren't using Google, or because I just don't think we are a good fit for them for any number of other reasons.

I definitely don't fall into the trap of thinking that what I do is essential for everybody.

If all you're selling is a website, that really doesn't do much good.

But there's a difference between selling a website, and crafting a marketing plan that actually gets results. And in some of your comments it sounds like you're saying that those are the same thing.
 

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After having spent a lot of time building websites that don't do anything for my clients, I went and talked to a bunch of prospects in different industries about the usefulness of a website. Instead of trying to sell them yet another project, I wanted to hear what they had to say.
While it may be true that a lot of small business websites (perhaps most?) do not generate positive ROI (perhaps other than bragging rights), many small businesses generate a ton of leads and sales directly from their websites... and in that light, I think it's a mistake to blame the medium.

So rather than an academic discussion of the "usefulness" of the medium itself, what if you took the view that YOU may not have mastered this medium yet, and sought advice on how to build highly-trafficked, lead-generating websites for your small business clients and help them convert those leads?

What if you put a couple of these client sites here and asked for feedback on why they "don't do anything" for your clients... and how you can turn that around?

I think that would be more useful to you and your clients.

None of the small businesses I talked to cared about remarketing campaigns. These people don't have the time or resources to deal with these advanced stuff.
And why should they? And if they did, why would they hire you?

My view is -- and it's entirely my view -- is that it's up to me -- the expert -- to use whatever tools are at my disposal to get the clients the RESULTS they want: sales, leads, whatever.

And remarketing could just be one of the tools in the toolbag. Or maybe not.

But the decision is made based on whether this particular tool would be the most effective for this particular job, and not whether the client cared about it or had time to deal with it. That's what they pay me to do for them.
 

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