Is a Website Valuable for a Woodworking Business?

Woodworkers tell how having a website has helped their businesses. November 26, 2007

In a recent thread asking for advice on getting new customers, there was some discussion of the questioner's website and improvements he could make to it. All of the advice was good, but it barely scratched the surface of what could be done. I was wondering how important you feel your website is to your business, and what you think the potential is in the future?

I recently lost my job at a cabinet shop that was run into the ground. I have experience in web development and marketing as well as working in kitchen sales, design, and custom cabinetmaking. Just this morning it hit me that I might be able to combine my interests and offer web development to businesses in the woodworking/cabinet industry. I thought before I jump in head first, I might get some feedback.

What problems and concerns related to your website trouble you the most? Do you have a clear strategy for gaining new customers through the internet? What would it be worth to you to generate new business through the internet, or to improve the sales process for your current customers using your website? Would working with someone who gets just as excited firing up a Powermatic 66 as he does programming custom websites make the process easier for you because you speak the same language?

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From contributor B:
My web site is a tremendous asset to my business. After Katrina, I had several find me on the web as the shops local to them were wiped out. I've had several jobs come to me as a result of Google searches. Return on investment is great, but I haven't spent loads of money on it. Did every bit of it myself, although a pro upgrade is in the works. The days of Yellow Pages shopping are over. Google is the new yellow pages, is free, and is in full color 24/7.

From contributor H:
I am in South Florida and many clients are snowbirds and do not know local companies. I get many clients through my site, which cost me $500 to set up professionally with around 10 hours of my time. I update it at a rate of $30 an hour for the web designer's time. Like contributor B said, it's the new and better yellow pages.

From contributor J:

As a one man shop, I get 99% of my work through referrals. I stay pretty busy for now so I'm not too worried about increasing advertising. But that could change any day - I guess you never know.

Had a friend get a web page set up for me about a year ago. Hoping I'll get the rest of the site up someday. I don't think it will necessarily help bring in sales on its own, I just want to have it up for clients to have access. You may have better luck with the bigger shops, though. They need more volume of work to keep their employees busy.

From contributor O:
My daughter is taking graphic arts classes and she redid my website last year as a class project. I find the site helps with customers who are web savvy. I can meet with them, show them samples, etc. but then I'll mention I have a website, and often they will open it right away while I'm there. I can see that the minute they see the site and the pictures, they're sold. Often these are word of mouth referrals, but the website adds a lot to the sales pitch. "A picture is worth a thousand words." I tend to talk a lot, and usually lose the sale, as I don't know when to stop talking! That's where the website helps.

From contributor M:
I think the toughest thing about setting up a website was having good enough pictures to put on it. I paid a decent amount of money for my website, and the design and layout are great, but I feel the quality/lack of pictures holds it back from what it could be.

The main problems are:
1. After installation, the house is usually still under construction, making the site not picture worthy.
2. Having a professional photographer takes money, and sometimes the photos aren't your property in the end.
3. Who has time to schedule between yourself, homeowner, and photographer a photo shoot?

If you were to somehow offer a package that addresses these issues, I would hire you to help me.

From contributor H:
Regarding picture quality, most of mine were shot with a regular Canon automatic and then with a 4pix digital, which I scanned to my website designer. I have never had a client make a negative remark on the quality of picture. Just the fact that I have a site already puts me ahead of the next guy and adds a sense of permanence in the client's eyes. The photo shows on the home page were done by me in 10 minutes with a simple program from Comcast called SimpleStar, and I am a computer dummy. Don't let expense hold you back; a site can be very presentable for little investment.

From contributor T:
My website is also a tremendous asset. It's like a free commercial and it also adds credibility. I've gotten a great deal of business because of it.

From contributor A:
Unless you are fully booked and see no need for additional business, I feel a website is an utter necessity. I do no advertising other than my site. I get 40% of my business from referrals and 60% from my website.

From contributor D:
A website is a huge asset. It may not be the first or last point of contact with a customer before a sale, but if you have a website, it gives you some credibility that you are a professional business, and it often helps cement a deal with a customer who might be on the fence. For someone starting out, I say get a decent digital camera and take your own pictures at first. They will be useful for most customers. However, the money spent on first-class professional pictures will easily sell your product for you, and will set you apart as a high-end business. A website with pro pictures does a lot to create your brand image in the world, and it says a lot about your company and its attention to detail, etc. I think pro pictures are well worth the price!