24 Feb

Over 70% of the Largest Small Businesses Have a Website

Over 70% of the largest small businesses have a websiteWhen it comes to small businesses having a website, size really does matter.

The larger the size of a small business, the more likely it is to have a website. The smaller the business, the less likely it is to have a website.

According to a survey conducted in September 2008 by Barlow Research of 680 small businesses, drawn from the Dun & Bradstreet list, ranging in size from $100,000 to $10 Million in annual revenues, here is the overall breakdown:

49% of small businesses - currently have a Web site

13% of small businesses – do not have a Web site but plan to within the next 12 months

38% of small businesses – do not plan to have a Web site within the next 12 months

However, averages can mask the true picture.  If you break down the Barlow Research numbers by size of business, the data gets really interesting.

Percent of businesses that have a website, by annual sales size: 

45% – Revenues of $100,000 to $499,000
49% – Revenues of $500,000 to $999,000
69% – Revenues of $1.0 Million to $2.49 Million
67% – Revenues of $2.5 Million to $4.9 Million
73% – Revenues of $5.0 Million to $10 Million

And what about midsize businesses? For businesses with revenues of $10 Million to $500 Million in size, 84% have websites.

This data brings me to several insights I’d like to share:

(1) When marketing Web-related services to small business prospects, one size does not fit all. It’s tempting to lump all small businesses together, but as the data shows, you will want to make distinctions based on size of the business. There are huge differences between a business with $120,000 in annual revenues, and one with $5 Million in annual revenues — even though both are called “small businesses.” There are differences in how big their expense budgets are; the benefit to be derived from having an online presence; and so on.

(2) Consider the needs of the business. If we had industry data, I bet we would see patterns among industries, because some industries and lines of business have a bigger need for websites than others.

I know all of us proponents of the Web would like to think that EVERY small business NEEDS a website. However, as a practical matter, some need a website more than others.

For some small businesses — say a local plumber who serves a handful of established commercial accounts and works through referrals from builders — a website may not help him get more business or serve customers better. Over the next few years that will change as Yellow Pages books completely disappear and being online is like breathing air. But that won’t happen before you make that sales pitch next week.

Here’s another example:  a solo marketing professional with under $300,000 in annual revenues probably values a website as a business tool far more than a $9.0 Million manufacturing shop which may still be in the “why do we need a website?” mode.

(3) Segment, segment, segment! Define who your ideal small business customer is with great specificity as to size, industry, Web sophistication, online needs, and similar attributes. This will help you to:

  • Better match your offerings with customer needs — If you are offering “starter” websites, you’d be better served to go after the smallest businesses. More advanced services, such as PPC campaign management, are better suited toward larger businesses.  You have probably figured this out already, but it pays to regularly cross-check to make sure your offerings are still aligned with your target customer — and that your sales team understands this.  It is easy to stray off track.
  • Charge a price point that will fly with your target customer — Your customers’ budgets have a marked effect on what they are willing to spend, obviously. Offer small businesses choices, i.e., stratified pricing options and possibly a menu of ala carte offerings that add more functionality or service for a higher price.
  • Offer differentiated products and services to provide a migration path to upsell as your target customer grows.  Small business customers do not stay stagnant.  Their needs will change over time.  Are you positioned with the right products to continue serving them as they grow and become more Web-savvy and prosperous? If you can’t provide the migration path directly, what about partnerships that will give your customers what they need even if you can’t?
  • Tailor your marketing to hit the mark more closely — For instance, don’t do mass direct mailings to every small business within a 50-mile radius, using the same marketing message. It will be a waste. Try to break your targets down by size and, if possible, industries and business types that need a web presence and/or the kind of Web services you are offering. And tailor your messages accordingly.

Linda O’Connell, Managing Director, Small Business Banking, of Barlow Research adds: As we remind our financial services clients, beware of small business averages.  With small businesses characterized as a large and diverse market based on many demographic elements, it is important to understand the niche that you are trying to attract.  Fortunately, research resources are available to help the small business marketer drill down into the data to design the product and direct the message to the appropriate segment.”

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  1. Luz Spielberg said on February 25th, 2009 at 2:14 am

    The data you presented is really interesting especially how businesses evolved to be web oriented. And also about this — Over the next few years that will change as Yellow Pages books completely disappear and being online is like breathing air. — this is really possible!

  2. Amanda said on February 25th, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Interesting information. I’m wondering if their sales volumes has anything to do with the fact that they have a website. As the percentage of businesses with websites decreases, so do the sales volumes. Makes me go hmmm…

  3. Luz Spielberg said on February 26th, 2009 at 3:40 am

    Hi Amanda,

    I believe that has something to do with the industry these businesses belong to.


  4. Martin Lindeskog said on February 26th, 2009 at 7:24 am


    I don’t think that the yellow pages and other paper directories will disappear in the near future. If you want to find a plumber in the quickest way, the directory is handy dandy. If you search online, you could end up with all kind of results that you have to go through. The online directories are pretty common here in Sweden, e.g. hitta.se (“find”).

    I think it is a good idea for almost every company to have a site online, but the question is what kind of site. Nowadays you could set up a free site by using e.g. Netvibes. It is positive to see that creators and designers of websites have a big market to take “attack”.

  5. Karen said on February 26th, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    That’s a huge percentage. In addition to having a website, one thing that can help small business owners is using services such as teleconferencing and video conferencing from companies like http://www.24conference.com because it can cut a large portion of your commuting and travel expenses

  6. Luz Spielberg said on February 27th, 2009 at 5:03 am

    Hi Martin, Thanks and I understand your point but still I believe it’s still possible. :)


  7. Arthur Bland said on March 1st, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    I love your insight no. 3 – Segment, segment and segment! Without it, you could have spend time, money and effort in building a website with no purpose at all.

  8. Rose Anderson said on March 3rd, 2009 at 3:25 am

    I agree Arthur! One must have a clear purpose to achieve so the business will take the right direction too.

  9. Scott Fitzgerald said on March 5th, 2009 at 11:21 am

    What are some other useful ways to segment SMBs other than size and revenue?

  10. Anita Campbell said on March 5th, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Hi Scott,

    There are lots of ways to segment SMBs, depending on the product or service you are trying to reach them with – here are some of them:

    - number of employees (don’t forget contractors)

    - number of users for your product or service (Employees and users are not the same. Think laptops for a manufacturing company: they probably won’t need laptops for every worker on the line, but perhaps all the back office staff are potential laptop users)

    - according to industry or line of business (Example: marketing companies and Internet entrepreneurs may have a keener desire for the latest Web-related services, even if they are just one or two or three people in the company — whereas a landscaping company with 50 employees may not place the same value on Web services)

    - according to level of knowledge and sophistication, especially for cutting edge products

    - geography (especially for local-market businesses)

    - revenue size

    - need for a product or service

    - age of the business (Startups often have different needs from established businesses)

    - DIY-ers vs those who use help from professionals

    - penchant the decision-makers to spend time online or participate in social sites

    - related behaviors and activities (Example: do they perform a multitude of transactions online, or just email?)

    Hope this helps,


  11. Rose Anderson said on March 6th, 2009 at 2:58 am

    Anita, that is extensive. It’s a good business lesson to take note of. Thanks!

  12. Scott Fitzgerald said on March 6th, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Thanks for the list. With SMBs making up 99% of all businesses, it’s hard to say you target SMBs. One would say who don’t you target? Most research out there uses the traditional size and revenue breakdowns, or industry, but there’s got to be a better way. There’s always a better way! Do you know of any research out there with segmentation other than the traditional ones?

  13. TJ McCue said on March 6th, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Anita, I was so amazed and surprised at these statistics. Less than 50% of small businesses have a website? I’m floored. I believe you, of course, but I’m stunned. I guess there are ventures out there that don’t depend on having an online presence, but I’m having a hard time thinking of what they might be… Enlighten me. Please.

  14. Michael said on June 18th, 2010 at 4:34 am

    Although over a year old (the data in this post) I think the message of segmenting etc is still just as valid. Thanks for the great advice and something to bear in mind with marketing over the coming weeks.

  15. Shane Wong said on August 13th, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    In Thailand where I live, most businesses are small businesses. My guess here is that just 20% of all small businesses have a website

  16. Jim Grace said on August 14th, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    There is another aspect to keep in mind, especially as it relates to the smallest businesses… of those that DO have a Web Site, the numbers do not reflect the QUALITY of those Web Sites. Of those that I have personally looked at in MY industry, most are VERY primitive and totally UNremarkable. Their effectiveness is very shallow.

  17. Steven Hughes said on August 24th, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Great piece Anita. Yes the numbers are surprising to many. I worked for a Web Design provider and I’m constantly amazed at both the % percentage that don’t have a presence on the Web and those that do have a less then par presentation. So only 20% in Thailand…Hmmm


  18. Johnathan said on September 7th, 2010 at 12:01 am

    @Steven Hughes:

    The problem with web companies is that they are typically started and run by programmers or designers. There are very few small business successful internet/multimedia/software companies in existence because they have no business sense and do not know how to make money in this industry. It is very sad but unfortunately they feel that their knowledge and skills are superior to the “business side” of the business. That is lack of business knowledge. Accountants, balance sheets, income statements in a business is what makes the business, not some guy/girl that thinks they deserve to make 6 figures because they can code some programming language!

  19. Johnathan said on September 7th, 2010 at 12:04 am

    @Anita Campbell:
    Even if you are a business that does not need a website because your avenues of business opportunities are not from consumers using search engines to find your product. How about the fact that a domain name and website is better at advertising than a telephone number? Before the internet everyone used the yellow pages to find the local plumber, electrician, flower shop etc. Please tell me that you believe that remembering a word or phrase that is incorporated into a domain name is much easier than remembering that 800# or local exchange. Even though certain small businesses may not drive sales on a day to day basis through this marketing tool it is still important to have a web presence. If you are a small business that does not have a website, think about this… Everyday you meet someone and they ask for your business card. Do you think they are going to remember http://www.jaysplumbing.com ( example and do not know this domain or if it is in existence) or 1800-XXX-XXXX? A website is not about immediate revenue because most online websites that create immediate revenue will be retailers that have E-Commerce sites that use the web to drive traffic and if they are really smart they are utilizing features within their current business model through their brick and mortar, to drive sales to the site. I believe that everyone that owns a business can add this priceless marketing tool to their arsenal of marketing exposure, it may not bring them $100,000.00 in sales today but if they are knowledgeable or have a knowledgeable internet support mechanism, one day this small up front marketing cost will lead to another avenue through the world of multimedia, and online advertising without having to say ” damn I cant do this because I don’t have the online presence to incorporate it”. The future of online advertising has to start with a static site. Without this your opportunities can not exist. Apple created the I-Pod and Mp3 music as we know it… Look at what they are doing today! Without the I-Pod they would not have the I-Pad or any other media device.

    * A small business owner not looking for any recognition or trying to sell a service.*

    Good Luck to all!!


  20. David Desrosiers said on September 30th, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Verry interresting numbers – Can we get information about the sources? Is this an internal survey or Public information?

  21. Mariana said on November 11th, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Yes, please link to the source! I’d like to see the original research report.

  22. Brandon said on December 25th, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    This was a fantastic article. I was compiling data and doing research for a direct mail campaign and have been targeting small to medium size businesses. This hit the nail on the head for me and gave me some awesome insights to create a highly targeted list. Thanks

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