There are still a significant number of business owners and stakeholders that don’t think of their websites as a sales tool. But sales has changed, with arguably 60+% of the buyers journey now taking place before a client ever contacts you or your company.

So where is the 60+% going to learn about you if they’re not contacting you?

They’re on search engines. A Pew Research Study conducted in 2010 found that 58% of Americans search the web before making purchasing decisions. Now take a deep breath and imagine how much that has increased in the last 5 years…

Still think your website isn’t a sales tool?

Whether you haven’t updated your site in awhile or you don’t have a website at all, you’re still communicating to your potential buyers and it might not be pretty. Here are the four most damaging perceptions that an outdated or non-existent website creates which can damage your credibility:

1. “They’re going out of business, or they will be soon.”

The old adage, “No news is good news,” does not apply in this case. No news is bad news. Perception of your business, especially the perception created by a first impression, is everything online. An outdated or non-existent website could be interpreted as a sign that your business is outdated or non-existent.

2. “They have technology incompetence.”

Even if your company has nothing to do with technology, it doesn’t mean that it’s irrelevant to your company. People use technology more and more to learn about your offerings, engage with you, and ultimately become a customer. To hammer this point home, consider that Gartner predicts that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with business enterprises without interacting with a human. We can’t stress enough how this misconception can damage your business over time.

3. “I could never work for a company like this.”

Your presence online isn’t just for your consumers. It’s also for the fresh talent that your company will need to help you grow and build for the future. The best talent is savy and quick to judge you online. Once you’ve made that outdated first impression, you’ll be off their list permanently. A study of 2,684 people at Stanford University found that “design look” of a website was mentioned most frequently and was present in 46.1% of all comments in the study. The next highest topic of discussion in the study (28.5%) revolved around Information Design/Structure. An old website will most certainly struggle with both of these things, which creates a damaging perception of your credibility.

4. “Their customer support will be terrible.”

Customer support is typically a pretty vital thing to most business, regardless of your industry. Because technology is so pervasive in our culture, your technology’s support and information structure/design will communicate your overall competence to provide customer support.

“78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.” (Source: American Express Survey, 2011)

Technology can be overwhelming, but a lot of this can be remedied pretty easily.

You just have to stop ignoring it and carve out a budget for it. Not sure where that budget will come from? Well there’s good news there too. Your outbound marketing (direct mail, Tv ads, Newspaper ads, telemarketing, trade shows) is far less effective and far more costly than focusing on your website and your online marketing presence. Inbound marketing costs 62% less per lead than outbound marketing. Syncing marketing and sales is more important than ever and your website can be the single most effective tool to do that in the 21st Century.