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Les 3 P'tits Cochons: Claude Legault in phone booth.
Les 3 P'tits Cochons: Claude Legault in phone booth.

Start: Mark Evans

'No website' means it's time to get to work Add to ...

I recently read a story about an appliance repair service, which is apparently something of a rarity given the disposable nature of most appliances these days.

At the end of the article, the company's contact information was listed but surprisingly it included a tagline that said "No Web site." As someone who is digitally engaged (obsessed?), a company without a website is like a person applying for a job without a resume. In this day and age, a website is a standard business feature - just like a phone number.

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Even if we're talking about a simple site with a few pages, it has to be part of how a business operates. An increasing number of consumers are turning to the Internet to find products and services, so not having website means being invisible to them.

It means that doing a search for "appliance repair in Toronto" would not include this business even though it is one of only a handful in Toronto. If the company did have a website, it would probably rank near the top of the search engine results, which would be good for business.

For some businesses, particularly small ones, a website can be intimidating because the owners may not be web savvy or understand the mechanics of building and maintaining a site. While there are lots of people and companies who develop websites, it can be challenge to decide on a particular supplier when you don't have a lot of knowledge about what's involved.

A good way to cut through the clutter is to ask friends for recommendations. If you come across a good small-business website, you could contact the owners to see if they would provide information about who developed it.

A small but solid website with a good design should cost about $5,000, although the work can be done for less by someone who is a one-person operation. Before committing to anyone, ask to see their portfolio and referrals.

For businesses looking for a quick and easy way to have a web presence, there are several options. Yellow Pages, for example, offers an online listing service for small businesses willing to pay a monthly fee. The downside is that Yellow Pages uses a template, which doesn't offer much opportunity for customization. And some business may not want to pay a monthly fee just for a listing.

Another option is to use a service such as Homestars.com, which lets companies in the home renovation and repair business establish a web presence without the need for their own website.

A down, dirty and free approach that is far from perfect but functional is using WordPress.com or Blogger.com. Both are blogging services as opposed to website services but they can be tweaked to tell the world what you do and how you can be contacted. If anything, they serve as a short-term solution.

Whatever option is selected, the bottom line is that businesses need a web presence of some kind - whether it is a full-blown website, a listing or a corporate profile on a service that promotes small businesses. To not have a web presence is like cutting off your nose to spite your face … or not having a telephone number.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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