As a small business you are likely to be on a tight budget, as such the easiest way to start answering your question is to think what am I going to get from this investment? Will it pay me a return that will recoup my investment?
Think of a website as a communication channel, through that channel you can talk about yourself and ultimately sell your wares.
Here is something serious to consider about that channel. If you build a website, people will not just turn up without some serious thought and likely investment in SEO or search engine optimisation. SEO is a science connected to web design that helps the search engines rank and list you. Many small businesses fall at this first fence. I’m sorry to have to be the one to break this to you, but, don’t just think you will immediately start popping up in searches in Google once you’ve built and launched the site, you won’t. It takes research and know how to get in amongst the keywords attached to your business. It is possible but you will need some help.
I’ve got the bad news out of the way now. There is some good news to come, a lot of good news. Firstly if you are new and small, you can get traffic to your website quite quickly for very little money. With some clever use of social media, articles and press releases, what is essentially called off page or off site SEO, it is possible to make a big bang, a bang far beyond your size. And it is likely to cost you an awful lot less than using traditional or old media channels. Another benefit to consider is once you have these internet postings made, they won’t just disappear, as happens with newspaper or magazine advertisements. Those social media links and articles will keep delivering for a long time to come.
You should think of your website as a lynch pin to your communication strategy, directing every externally pointing piece of PR back to it. Constantly bringing people back to the centre in order to ultimately buy from you. That PR could be your business cards through to your Twitter page.
Another consideration, is do you have a product or service that is conducive to being retailed virtually, i.e. over the web? For the answer to that question just look at Amazon. What don’t they retail over the web? With the right technique you can sell anything over the web. Another tick for you question, do I need a website?
With very little investment, a facility for taking payments and orders from your customers can be integrated into your website. Layer onto this the ability to hire professional marketers that will go out and bring traffic back to your site on a no hay no pay basis. You can start to see the power of a web presence.
In conclusion, the answer to your question, does a small business need a website? Is yes, but consider the above. The chances are you will need some help to really make it work. In the round a website is an essential part of any business these days, small or big. With the right strategy the website will repay its costs to you with a dividend.