The other day I went online to check out an electrical contractor that someone recommended. I assumed the company, which had been in business for 15 years, would have a website. I found a few reviews on Yelp, which generally were positive, and even a Facebook page – though it was not very up to date – but no website. I couldn’t decide from the little bit of information online if this company was right for the job I had in mind.

When it comes to not having a website, this small business is hardly an exception. Today, only 51 percent of small businesses have a website, according to a recent report by SCORE, the nonprofit organization of small business counselors and mentors supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The lack of websites is particularly surprising considering the vast majority of today’s consumers – 97 percent – go online to search for products, the SCORE/SBA report points out.

No matter how many customers your small business currently has; the lack of a website may be hurting your business. A website raises your visibility making it possible for prospective customers to find you through search, whereas they might not otherwise. Once on your site, visitors can easily learn about your products and/or services, your history, competitive differentiation and even culture to decide if they want to take the next step – order, call for more information or set up an appointment.

There’s also the issue of credibility. An email address associated with your business name instills greater confidence about your company’s professionalism than a G-mail or Yahoo email.

There are many other benefits of having a small business website besides raising your visibility and conveying your professionalism. Some are operational and can help streamline how you do business and serve your customers.

Save time and money

Whether you add new products and services, move or expand your location or change hours of operation, you want to let your customers know. Having a website makes it easy to deliver the information right away so you save the time of sending out an email notification as well as the cost of revising printed materials.

Also by having a website you can make product or industry materials available online and downloadable, which means you can easily create and post a new product brochure, an industry white paper or customer case study. From your website, visitors can conveniently read and/or download your materials to their preferred computing devices while you save on printing and distribution costs.

Improve customer service

Because your website is ‘always on,’ it makes it convenient for your customers and prospects interact with your small business at any time, and with their mobile devices from anywhere. You can provide answers to questions through a “Frequently Asked Questions” section. You also can add a chat capability to your website to  improve customer service by  giving customers instant access to a company representative while they are on your site. Also by providing a simple contact form on your site, you make it easy for customers and prospects to reach you with a question or concern.

Easily expand your market

Your website is your calling card and because it’s available to anyone with a browser, you can expand your market across country or globally, whether you sell products or want to reach new markets with your service offering.

Web building options

If budget is the reason holding you back from establishing your small business website, there are many tools that can help you cost-effectively get online. You can create a very attractive website using such platforms as WordPress, Weebly or WiX, which  are free and provide you with all the tools for site creation. For a small fee, you can buy a domain and then pay a small monthly fee for a hosting platform. Since the level of site creation complexity can vary with hosting platforms, you may want to hire someone to help you build the site if you don’t have the skills. You also may choose to hire a consultant or firm to build and manage the site for you on an ongoing basis, so that all you need to do is periodically review the site to decide what changes you want.

With so many eyes online today, you want to be found there. Even if you are active in social media, you ultimately want to drive buyers to your small business website where you can convince them that they have come to the right place.