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Many businesses still without a site

Posted by Michael Bloch in web development (Tuesday July 18, 2006 )

If you provide web development or related services, here’s some good news.

I was quite surprised to learn from a recent survey that 30% of small businesses (those with up to 19 employees) still don’t have a web site. It’s the sort of figure I would have expected from Australian small businesses, but definitely not in the USA.

Many mid-size businesses (500 to 999 employees) are also without a site – 15% according to the Yankee Group report.

The reasons don’t appear to be related to available cash for a web site, but more to a lack of time, technical skills and web marketing knowledge to create and administer a site.

Of the US small businesses who do have web site, approximately 39% sell online or conduct some sort of ecommerce. But this is only a 5% increase from 2004.

Opportunity obviously still knocks for web developers, especially if you are in start-up mode and hungry for contracts.

So how do you find these businesses without a site, or who have a site but no ecommerce capabilities?

What I’ve noticed here in Australia, and I expect it’s much the same in the USA, is that many businesses who don’t yet have a site would certainly like one. The *real* root of their hesitation in pursuing the idea basically boils down to one thing – fear.

– a fear of cost
– a fear of jargon and technical concepts
– trust issues
– a general fear of the unknown

Given all this fear, these businesses rarely go out on the web looking for web development services, it’s a matter of you going out and finding them. While it does mean hitting the pavement, it’s really not all that hard to drum up business.

As long as you are somewhat presentable, can relate to people well and can provide an economical and manageable solution; it’s not a hard sell like some other types of cold canvassing. These people want a site, they have the cash, they just want someone they can trust to cross their path.

A couple of years ago, when I was still actively developing web sites for others, I was holidaying on the coast at a very nice establishment. The owners and I got to talking and the usual question was raised – “what do you do for a living?”. That was all I needed as a starting point to launch into my spiel. It turned out that while they had representation on other sites, those business card type listings (which weren’t really working); they had no site of their own. I relayed to them how having their own site could really boost their bookings.

A couple of months later, their site was built, launched and getting booking inquiries from all over the world. As a result, I started getting inquiries from other local businesses to create sites for them as well.

Another instance was a telecommunications contractor who turned up at my house to do some cabling work. Same deal, we got to talking about our respective trades and he relayed to me about a very interesting product he developed. I bounced a few ideas off him regarding how a web site could work for him and within a few weeks later the ecommerce enabled site was launched – and he was getting orders for his invention.

It’s all about *making* opportunities and seizing them. While not everyone you come across in your day to day dealings will want a web site; it’s also possible that those people who don’t may know someone who does. Treat every communication as a potential lead; learn how to steer conversations to your work – but of course, be tactful in how you do so. :)

Pick up some more tips on finding web design and development projects and contracts.

How to write a basic web site development proposal


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