Surprisingly, it’s reported that over half the businesses in the United States still don’t have a web site. Of this half, more and more will bend to the pressure of entering the digital age as a necessity to stay competitive. 72% of consumers say they will first check out a business online before considering using a company. Unfortunately, many businesses will take the cheap way out for having a site created and that will hurt them more than having no web site at all.
I was recently contacted by a new business to cover their emergence into the industry and they included a link to their new web site. Their business plan was very sound and a unique innovation on a service to businesses, especially those about to consider their first web site. Unfortunately, their own web site was poorly planned, badly designed and would not impress any visitor considering them as a vendor. I felt I should reply to their request for public relations outreach:
I would be pleased to cover your new idea as it seems quite unique and has merit but if I could give you a few words of advice, you really need to get professional with your sell copy on the “How It Works” page as well as watch the spacing in the layout. On one line you use “u” for “you.” Text speak and the current copy will not engage professional clients to try your service. Even the design, which is minimal… and that’s okay, has no corporate strength behind it. It doesn’t sell itself within the first minute and that’s a mistake that will have people click off your page before they can see what your service is all about.
I suggest you incorporate these considerations, as well as your blog material, sharing tools and layout before you go live for the public.
To his credit, the business owner replied, agreeing with me but his excuses rang of the same problems I’ve noticed on other new sites:
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to me. Also, thanks for your feedback as I value this above anything else. I’ll fix the grammar on the “How It Works” page, something I should have done before my developer made it go live. Also, I’m thinking about just totally redoing that page after listening to your feedback. As you know startups, especially bootstrapped ones have to watch where they allot resources to and I was using most of my resources in building the functionality of the site and not so much on the design as I was thinking of fixing that up later, once we get the MVP built. So do you think, I should just redo that page? I was just trying to get a landing page together to collect emails and see customer interest, but that’s pointless when the design detracts initial visitors.
I replied again, trying to explain further, without giving away too much information as I get paid to consult on such matters:
In my opinion, you need to put your best foot forward from the start. The whole site should reflect the professional stature you want to entice clients to trust you from the start and be impressed by what they see as a top source for their needs. Anything less and they’ll click away and never come back.
Web sites are the first impression prospective clients will have of a business and if it looks cheap or unprofessional, then that is the impression they will have. Your site is your number one sales tool, backed up by service once the client is hooked. Why spin your wheels if you know the site isn’t the best it can be? I think you need to step back and look at your site from the perspective of a visitor. You may also want to do some market research and ask connections of yours for their HONEST feedback. What do they think? What was their first impression of business? Do they immediately know what your business is offering? Viewers should know within the first 30 seconds what it is you’re offering them and what your business is all about.
Give it a try but in the meantime, put up a landing page with an email opt-in so you don’t lose momentum from people coming to your page and deciding you’re not for them.
It is true that monetary considerations do come into play when planning any marketing initiative, such as a web site but if you knowingly cut corners or do a sub par job, it will reflect on your business and then any money spent is just a waste of those funds and a danger to your business brand and future success. Your web site is your growth mechanism. It will bring in new business and evolve with your business expansion.
When considering your web site, there are several step you need to take to assure your success:
How much do I have to pay for the design, domain registration and monthly hosting fees?
The answer, as with any major purchase; shop around. You can find web hosting reviews and most will handle your domain registrations as well. Many also have web design services that will work with you until you are satisfied with the design.
Look up some local web designers and talk with them about your needs. A professional designer has your best interest in mind because they want to continue servicing your web needs as the internet evolves and so does your business. They can also handle your domain registration and many can host your site on their server for one set price package deal.
There are sites that have design contests where you write a design brief of your needs and a dozen or more designers will design your site and you can choose the solution you like best and only pay for the design you choose. Further tweaks, if needed, are paid to the designer on an hourly basis.
How do I bring customers to my web site?
Marketing your site has several different avenues. First, you can list the URL to your web site on your cards, stationery and signs. If you advertise in the local phone book, you can also list your URL there, too.
Then there’s social media. Facebook, Twitter, a site blog, an newsletter and Pinterest are just a few of the popular social media channels available but not all businesses need all of them. Once again, it pays to shop around and speak with a social media expert as to what would best fit your business. The biggest mistake businesses make with their social media is to either ignore it, start it and then let it sit there unused or turn it over to an employee who is inexperienced at marketing and social outreach.
For example, one of my favorite small, local eateries had too many in-between meal hours that brought in no income. Naturally, I wanted to see them succeed as they had the best Gyro in town. I had the owner sit down with me, while I scarfed down the delicious meat filled pita and asked him what social media he used to bring in customers. He told me his son, who was also the cook, handled his social media. Settling on my meal as the fee for my consultation, his son joined us and I asked which channels he used and how.
He told me he tweeted at 2:00 am about some menu items but often he was too tired to do anything. Both father and son insisted they had a web site with the menu and hoped that was enough.
“Ah,” I said, wiping generous portions of Gyro sauce from my face and hands. “But how do people find your site?”
They look perplexed. “For a restaurant,” I continued, “as with any service based business, you need to start soliciting feedback on sites like Yelp! and Urban Spoon. When people see those listings, as they search for Gyros or other popular menu items, they will then be able to view your site. You have great food, so let the reviews be your inbound marketing and it will entice other customers.”
“As for Twitter, why don’t you set up automatic tweets for a ‘snack time’ between 2:00-4:00 pm with specials so you can generate income during the off-times? Run daily specials for overstocked food items and let the big return items like fries and sodas pay for the profit on food items you’ll have to discard in a day or two.”
To this day, I am meet with a warm greeting when I walk into the restaurant. My Gyro is extra stuffed and my helping of fries is too much to finish. The owner’s daughter also winks at me and squeezes my arm when she brings me my meal, which is very pleasant but only on the days when she shaves her moustache and arms.
Web sites, as with the first example listed and the marketing of those sites as listed in the second example, are an important step in increasing your business. Taking cheap solutions or half-hearted stabs at trying will not succeed. There is no magic formula or shortcuts in business. You know working hard is the key and having a web site that works just as hard is a reality in today’s business world.
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