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Climb into your time machine for a moment and set it for 1965.

Ready? Push the big red button.

Okay, you’re in 1965.

Walk into the first small business you see and ask if they have a phone.

Go into the next small business and ask the same question. Once you’re convinced that every small business has a telephone, get back in your time machine and set it for today.

The point I want to make is that not having a small business website today would be the equivalent of not having a telephone any time after telephones became routinely available.

So why is it that many small businesses still don’t have a website?

According to a recent small business survey from Surepayroll, 28 percent of small business owners still do not have a company website.

And 42 percent said that the Internet wasn’t very important to their business. I think this is a comment more on their willingness to develop a web presence than anything else.

Uses for a small business website

Let’s go back to the comparison that started this article and ask a question: Why would a business want a phone back in 1965?

I don’t think very many businesses would make sales directly over the phone, especially B2C small businesses. However, customers and clients relied heavily on the telephone communications to:

  • Get information about products,
  • Comparison shop,
  • Find businesses in directories,
  • Check on orders and product availability,
  • Establish the business’ credibility,
  • Learn business hours, and more.

Here’s the most important thing I want you to take away from this article: No matter what kind of business you’re in today, your customers go online to do the things I’ve just listed above.

Failing to have a website would be a mistake as big as failing to have a phone in pre-Internet days. Further, failing to maintain your website would be a mistake as big as failing to answer the phone in pre-Internet days.

Small business websites add value

Let me touch on a secondary problem you will have if you don’t have a good, robust, modern, and well-maintained website: The value of your business will not be there when you decide to sell.

Imagine a prospective buyer looking at your business. The first thing this person will do is scour the Internet for everything about your company. If you don’t have a website, that’s immediately a deal breaker.

Also, if you don’t have a website, then you won’t have search engine placement, which will drive a stake through the heart of your ability to sell your business.

Additionally, if you don’t have an active web presence, you won’t have a good email list. How much more valuable do you think your business will be if you’re able to reach a large list of active customers?

If you don’t have that, how much do you think it will bring down the value of your business?

Your ability for successful social media marketing can be evaluated in the same way.

E-commerce disrupting traditional commerce

So far, much of what we’ve discussed here is centered around the topic of using your web presence as part of customer service and marketing, but let’s not overlook the importance of e-commerce.

In the Surepayroll survey, 74 percent of small business owners said that their websites didn’t offer e-commerce.

While I suspect many small business owners believe that their business isn’t suited to e-commerce, you need to be warned that the categories of products and services being sold via e-commerce are getting broader every day.

Consumers are increasingly going online instead of to the convenience store. Car buyers are going to the Internet instead of the local used car lot.

This trend will not end. As innovative entrepreneurs and smart web developers create good user interfaces, no area of commerce is safe from being disrupted by new e-commerce websites.

The question for many small business owners is this: Will you be among the disrupters or will you be the victim of disruption?