Over the past 10 years, the Internet has evolved from a nice way to promote a business to the main place for any company to assert its identity. Even if you don't have a budget for online marketing, it's not that difficult to put up a Facebook page, or get a tech-savvy niece to build you a simple site.
So why is it that some companies are completely absent from the World Wide Web? It's not that it slipped their minds. It's that they have decided, for one reason or another, that an online presence is more trouble than it's worth.
"I'm doing fine without one," said Tom Crutcher, of C&S Carpet Mills in Rutland. "Why would I need one?"
Crutcher acknowledged that he just doesn't like computers. He doesn't use one in his business, which has only one employee besides himself. But, more importantly, he said he doesn't see how a website is likely to bring him many customers.
"Word of mouth seems to work way better than that," he said.
Crutcher said he does a little advertising in local papers, but mostly his customers refer their friends to him.
Sean Durran of 2 Tech Automotive in Shrewsbury also said he sticks mostly to word-of-mouth publicity. The shop is 10 years old and has a loyal customer base, so it does only a little advertising on sports talk radio, despite pleas by marketing and IT vendors.
"People call all the time," he said.
Durran said his business partner's aunt actually built a website for the company, but they never used it. They're skittish about anything high tech, he said, because early in the business's history, its customer data was compromised when the shop's own computer was somehow hacked.
At Bisson Tool & Die Co. Inc., an injection mold maker in Fitchburg, business is not booming, and the company needs more customers. But Marsha Bisson, who helps her husband run the firm, said getting a website didn't help. She said they had one up and running for a while, but ended up taking it down.
"We didn't find any use for it," she said. "The only thing we found was people trying to sell us stuff."
Bisson said the company, now in its 25th year, finds its customers through networking and does business mostly around the East Coast. It's a very small company, she said, and she and her husband were way too busy to spend time messing around with a site that seemed like an unpromising venture.
"We were getting absolutely no customers that way, and it didn't look like anybody was looking at it besides vendors," she said.
Rae Lynn Glispin, who works with startup businesses at the Center for Women & Enterprise in Worcester, said it's unusual to run across a new business that isn't interested in having a web presence.
"Businesses that come through our organization, one of their primary concerns is, 'I need to get on the web, I need a web presence,'" she said.
Glispin said companies that don't want a website may be uncomfortable dealing with the technology or unaware of the potential marketing value. But she said an established business with a good local reputation won't necessarily be harmed by not being online.
"I know that people take word-of-mouth recommendations — they put a lot of weight into it," she said.
If a potential customer hears that their friend or family member had a great experience with a business, Glispin said, they're unlikely to be scared off by not being able to find the business online.
"I don't think it's hurtful to the businesses that don't" use the web, she said. But, she added, "I think they're losing customers because they're not reaching out to as many people as they could be."