Make Your Small Business Website Awesome in 2020
Websites are important online tools that help entrepreneurs and businesses reach their target audience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The typical website is designed to clearly give it’s target audience a sense of the “who, what, when, where, and how” of that business. However, until recently websites didn’t serve much in the need for deep interaction with audiences. Websites mainly provided information as well as a simple way to contact the website’s owner for more information (think a simple contact form). Now, websites serve a variety of purposes for the businesses behind them including media hubs, booking agents, and concierges. But, for the average new business owners, what do they need from their websites (without breaking their budgets of course), and what do they need to supplement it to get the conversions these business owners need? Read on to find out.
Why Do You Need A Website?
The fact is a number of businesses don’t actually need a website. There are business owners out there who still operate and do quite well for themselves off of “word of mouth” marketing. These (legal) instances are greater when there is very little competition in the area or the merchant offers a product/service that is so exclusive or of such exceptional quality that the market cannot duplicate it. Another reason could be that the business (owner) is an important part of the community that everyone goes to when they need help from that person (like a local plumber in a small town).
But, for most of us business owners (and even parts of government), we need a website. Some of us need a website to reduce the number of calls and emails sent to us asking for similar information that can easily be posted online. Instances of this include directions to a place, a listing of business services, and so on. Some places need websites to handle simple transactions (like bill payments) which frees up staff to handle more complicated tasks. In more competitive spaces, websites help businesses achieve the “Rule of 7”, usually in combination with other forms of marketing (more on that later). Websites must jockey for a potential client’s attention and (quickly) give a total breakdown of the business as clearly and concisely as possible.
The internet is flooded with websites, roughly 400 million active websites. There are over 2 billion websites total and thousands more being created worldwide, but roughly 1.6 billion websites are seen as inactive sites (guess there are still a lot of Myspace sites out there!). However, these numbers aren’t what you should be worried about. If you are a local service or product provider in Anytown, USA, you really need to worry about the few businesses in your market that have websites better than yours by converting more leads than you are. You can only compete in your market and this is where your website needs to show up, guns blazing.
The Purpose of a Website
As mentioned before, websites can be a great “relief valve” of sorts to free up your phone lines and staff from people asking for common information or needing common tasks. However, most businesses also build websites to convert leads (or potential customers) into paying customers. Websites are very popular because they are highly configurable and they (because of the popularity of smartphones) can be accessed virtually anytime, anywhere. This makes a website critical to a new business that is trying to break into a market.
Websites are designed to be virtual machines, an extension of the business, with three main purposes:
You Have Your Website, What Else Do You Need?
Some years ago, business websites were built mainly with coding and weren’t as flexible to do the things that they can do today. During that time, websites mainly consisted of just text and pictures and if you could make the right plugins work, you could have these websites play sounds, and message people from them. Websites back then were not only limited in what they can do, but they were also susceptible to serious security risks. Businesses were vulnerable to their backend assets (e.g. databases and servers) being compromised from unprotected front end web servers. Although serious security threats still exist (usually through targeted and more complex attacks), effective security is much more commonplace and affordable with today’s websites.
Security aside, the biggest issue a new website faces is that it’s target audience doesn’t know it exists. A number of site owners’ biggest mistake is that they hire someone to design a great website, but they don’t do enough to promote the website. No matter what purpose you have a website for, you NEED to promote it. Websites do not promote themselves, no matter how great these sites are.
To drive the point home, let us look at a sample scenario. Take a new electrician business owner and let’s name him Bob. Bob paid to have a website custom made. He carefully selected a great name for his business and paid that same attention to detail with the URL. Bob printed the website on his business cards, stationery, and vehicles. But, Bob, like many website owners, didn’t feel the need to promote the site with a proper online advertising campaign. He delegated that task to a niece who has a bunch of Instagram followers figuring he would save some money.
Unfortunately for Bob, the market-leading electrician business owner, Sarah, has a digital marketing firm managing her online ad campaign and strategy. She also has videos on YouTube (with video thumbnails and banners matching her business theme as well as keywords with links in the description) showing potential clients how to do various simple electrical tasks. Sarah has a number of her electricians appear in ads with her online and offline (community magazines, shopping carts, bench seats, and other places where potential homeowners and small business owners would be) because she knows that people like to see smiling, friendly faces in ads.
Now you may say to yourself that Sarah is well established and thus has more money to spend on marketing and you are correct. But, without a good marketing strategy to support your website, you can fall behind in your local market just as you’re starting. Keith and Jan are two electricians that see that Bob doesn’t have a real online marketing strategy and although Sarah’s business is the market leader, the market is big enough for them to start their own businesses.
Keith and Jan, like many new entrepreneurs, don’t have a lot of funds to start their business, so they make the most of their money and do a lot of online marketing (targeting homeowners and real estate investors) and through social media (including services like Pinterest, which many new businesses miss) as well as offline marketing. Their strategy works and now they have built up market share at the expense of Sarah and Bob. But, since Bob’s marketing strategy is less effective, his market share shrinks the most and now he’s in fourth place in his market instead of second or third. Sarah’s share of the market may have shrunk, but with Keith and Jan starting their businesses, they hurt Bob the most.
Even though this scenario happened in a local market for a common service, it can apply to any market for any goods or service provider. Websites are not designed to market themselves and cannot be just “found on the internet.” Websites need to be registered with search engine services such as Google and Bing. Then, after registration, the sites need to be supplemented to draw traffic so then these search services could rank them higher (because websites are being used and taking in traffic, it shows that they aren’t “dead” sites and that they are important.). Why is that important you ask? Well, in the case of Bob, if someone buys a new chandelier and wants a pro to put it up when they grab their cell phone and do a quick search online for a licensed electrician, Bob wants his business to show up on the first or second page. Think of it as shelf space in a supermarket. You want your product to be right within eye and arm’s length so shoppers can easily pick them up to buy. The first or second page is the prime listing space that you want your business to be.
If you take away anything from this post, it’s that a good website is a critical part of your business, but it needs help to operate optimally. Much like a sales team at a business needs resources to do their jobs, a website needs resources to operate at an optimal level and service potential and existing customers the best it can.
One of the best things going for businesses right now is that social media services/accounts, which are arguably one of the best ways to market a business and it’s website, are mostly free services. To use social media services the best way (since they can be tricky to get the most out of them), a business owner could take some courses, learn by trial and error (why, why, why do this?), ask a socialite to do it (like Bob did with his niece), or hire a digital marketing firm to professionally engineer a social media strategy for you.
There are a number of factors that goes into a viable social media strategy including the shape of the local economy, market type, market location, market position (of the business), market demographics, and the strategy’s budget. Even though social media services themselves are (mostly) free, managing them and advertising on them (online ads) are not. Compared to offline advertising, online ads more than hold their own in terms of effectiveness. It is easier to put up an ad on Facebook than a billboard on the side of a highway, but will the right people on Facebook see your ad? That’s where you should be inviting the pros in. Just like anything else in life, you get what you pay for.
Do you have any questions about websites or about TWP Digital Marketing? If so, feel free to contact us and ask! Call us at 215-395-1212 or hit the button below to use our contact form.