A viable website is key for any business in this digital age. "You're closing off the vast majority of your [potential] customers if you don't have a really strong robust web presence," says Pete Blackshaw, executive vice president of Nielsen Digital Strategic Services and author of the book Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends Angry Customers Tell 3,000. Driving home the point, he notes that online search engines have greatly surpassed offline tools, such as the yellow pages, when it comes to attracting new customers.
A company website isn't just for playing offense; it also offers a great way to protect the brand. In today's wired world, if customers are dissatisfied with a company's product or service they may angrily unleash their wrath in the cyberworld, posting lengthy vitriolic complaints about their experiences that can quickly turn viral. Such complaints may be rare but they can cause costly and sometimes irreparable - damage to a company's reputation and potential business.
Conversely, an interactive company website, where customers can express concerns and companies can address complaints before they turn viral, is an invaluable shock absorber. "It's better to take the hit directly than to see it cascade across a million public venues that's really where a lot of brands have gotten stung big-time," says Blackshaw.