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3 Things You Should Consider Before You Build a Website for Your Small Business

On more than one occasion I’ve worked with a client whose struggling with whether or not their business even needs a website. They figure, well I’ve been in business this long without one so why bother?

Others don’t mind having a website but they just simply don’t have the time or the money to keep it up to date. So their website just sits there and doesn’t really do anything for them or their business.

So how do you even know where to start? Here are 3 things you may want to consider before building a website for your small business.

#1 What role will a website play in my business?

This is really important. You have to decide what you would like your website to do for your business. Do you want it to generate leads? Do you want to be able to make actual sales on your site? Do you want to build brand awareness or educate your customers about your products and services or do you want to do all of the above?

In any case, you have to be clear about what you want a visitor to do once they arrive to your site. I would suggest focusing on one thing, like either making a purchase or signing-up for a specific promotion or an event.

Once you’ve decided what you want the visitor to do – you then want to make sure that your website will have the ability to answer every question or concern, that your visitor or customer may have can be answered on the site without having to search too hard for it. They should have all they need right at their fingertips.

#2 Will my website grow with my business?

You want to make sure that you build a website that will scale with your business. This means that while some site builders, like SquareSpace and Weebly, offer a nice selection of features, they rarely offer you all the tools you’ll need when your business starts to grow.

You’ll find yourself frustrated the first time you need to add a piece of code to the backend of your website or better still, if the company “goes public” or merges with another company – where does that leave you?

In some instances, it means being “grand-fathered in” to a package that is most likely already out of date or starting over because the “new company” decided to drop certain packages or services.

I recommend using a “self-hosted” content management system like WordPress because you can host your website pretty much wherever you want. Content management systems come with an infinite variety of features (known as plugins) that will let you customize your site as you see fit, at very affordable prices.

#3 Who’s going to actually keep it up to date?

Once you’ve figured out what role your website is going to play in your business and you’ve chosen a website platform or framework, that will grow with you – you’ll need to make sure that you offer something that your customers need or want. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get this right on the first try or the second or even the third try for that matter.

It is not uncommon for businesses to have a different customer online as opposed to the customers they have coming into their office, shop or salon. You will most likely need to have the ability to quickly “test out” different promotions, products, services and events, before you find the one that keeps your customers and visitors coming back to your site.

This means you’re going to have to find an affordable way to update your site fairly quickly. You’ve basically got three choices here:

#1 You can do it yourself.

#2 You can get an intern or a friend to help you out.

#3 You can hire someone to do it.

Now you can do this yourself, but you really don’t have to. Nor would I recommend relying on an intern or your neighbor’s kid to help you out in a pinch. Using your website to generate new and repeat business is something that has to be done on a fairly consistent basis. It’s not something that can be done when you get around to it or it’s just not very effective.

I always advise my own clients to educate themselves a little before they hire someone to do any job, especially when it comes to websites and digital marketing. The reason I do is because it makes you far less vulnerable when it’s time to make a decision about the next step you want to take.

You’ll also be able to have more meaningful and productive conversations with those you choose to outsource your work too, whether it’s a web designer, social media manager or even a copywriter.

I know some of you may be thinking this is all fine and good but I’ve got to keep expenses in check. Well the good news is there are plenty of legitimate design and marketing services out there at just about any price point.

Besides – you’re most likely involved in the “day-to-day” operations of your business and it will be challenging (if not impossible) for you to tackle this on your own on a consistent basis. So let’s take a look at some of the resources that are available out there:

Educational Resources

If you want to go the D-I-Y route you can find some great resources about digital marketing and even how to set-up your own website on Lynda.com, Coursera and Udemy. All three of these sites are chock-full of courses that cover everything you need whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice.

Again the downside is that you will have to devote a considerable amount of time to “sift” through all of the courses offered to find what you need. Plus the learning curve will vary based on YOUR level of experience.

At first glance, this may appear to be the most “economical” approach but not really, because you have to take into account how much time it will take away from you servicing your customers. If you have a team that you can hand customers off to so you can focus on marketing more and you’re short on cash – this may be a good option for you.

Consider Hiring a Freelancer or a Consultant

If you really don’t have the budget to dedicate a person or team to do this – then you may want to consider hiring a freelancer on a “project-by-project” basis or even keep them on a small retainer. You can find these people on sites like People Per Hour, Upwork and Cloud Peeps.

Sites like these, focus on giving you access to seasoned professionals in writing, photography, video, animation, marketing, social media, graphic design and web development. My advice here is to seek out someone who has actually done work in your space. You also may want to get a referral from someone you know whose worked with someone from one of these sites.

These freelancers and consultants will typically come at a steeper price, as they should, because of their specialized knowledge. Their fees will most likely start at around $500 and go well into the thousands, depending on the services you’re looking for.

Many charge by the hour, some will give you a flat fee and all should be able to give you a reasonable estimate as to how long a project will take to complete and what kind of results you can expect.

Outsourcing to a Digital Marketing Agency

This is a fairly new option for small business owners, with new companies cropping up all the time. Digital marketing agencies focus on generating leads, traffic and marketing content for your website and specifically for your business. You can parse this work out in pieces with companies like, WP Tangerine (for site maintenance), Likable Local or even Fiverr Pro (for marketing & design services).

You can also choose to go with more of a full service agency like Main Street Hub, Marketing 360 or Outbound Engine. These agencies often provide customer service and reputation management for review sites as well – depending on your niche. Again, keep in mind that it’s best to work with an agency that already services your niche or industry, for the best results as opposed to going with one that will service any and all businesses .

Pricing can start for as little as $89 a month for specific services (often referred to as “gigs”) and can reach nearly $1000 a month, for a variety of services from a full service agency. They all offer different packages and services, so you will need to do a little homework here, but it’s worth it and it’s way better than not marketing your business at all.

Now if you’ve come this far, you may be thinking this sounds like a lot of extra work. Well it is and it isn’t. You see people (your customers) are being bombarded with messages all day.

There are a million and one distractions out there and it’s up to us small business owners (myself included) to stay “tops” in their mind. If you don’t you’ll almost certainly drown in a sea of “noise” from your competition and then where would you be?

The good news is there are some simple affordable solutions out there at every price point. So don’t just build it and hope that they will come. If you’re willing to do a little homework, your website will be bringing in new and repeat business in no time. So now I’d like to hear from you. . .

Question: What’s your biggest concern about building a website for your business? Share your questions and comments below.

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