There’s always discussion as to what is the best way to present your product or services to prospective clients. A company without a web site is rare. Only the smallest of main street businesses can survive without a web site… possibly. As people turn to the web, rather then the phone book to find the service they need, an online presence seems to be necessary to survive. From haircuts to juice bars, unless you are in a great location that guarantees constant foot traffic, you need to be found by other methods.
With newspapers and magazines dwindling, not to mention the cost of ads and television advertising, the web offers free marketing for any firm. The question is; what is the best venue? The answer is; what does your company need?
What Is The End Product/Result?
Recently a friend of mine needed help for an event he was holding. He wanted an eFlyer, web site, Facebook page, Twitter account and anything else I thought would help get the word out about the event and aftermath.
After a discussion of his needs and desired results, I sent him a creative brief that suggested a digital flyer that could be posted to sites, Twitter and emailed to his mailing list. It made sense, as this was a limited, time-sensitive project. It would have the build up to the day it was held, occur and then have some photos and comments. After that, it was a dead issue. I suggested a Facebook page to reach more people within the demographic, a Twitter account to keep people up on the event and undisclosed location as well as reach more of the demographic through the use of hashtags and I told him to forget a web site.
For this need, a static web site, even one updated regularly, including a blog section was just a waste of time and effort vs. what is available through Facebook. He insisted on both but his ability to dedicate the time needed to keep all accounts updated and fresh was limited, so the idea of the web site and blog was dropped.
The eFlyer was designed and he had friends and contacts post it on their Facebook pages, pointing people to the fan page of the event. The eFlyer was also posted to his Twitter account with the appropriate hashtags and the Facebook page garnered close to 4,000 hits in the first week.
It was easy to keep up with the two basic accounts, Twitter and Facebook, for news and blurbs leading up to the event and within the month leading to the event date, the fan page had over 10,000 hits.
Would a web site draw the same attention? Possibly but it would have to draw on the addition of the Facebook page, which would be an extra step in his daily posting schedule. For one person servicing all of the social media needs, it was a time drain he couldn’t handle.
This fit his needs but what fits YOUR needs? If you are a Fortune 100 company, you have a team of marketing/social media people to post all over known creation and that is where you need to be. If you have a small service-oriented company, such as being a freelance designer, hair dresser, house painter, plumber or limo driver, just to name a few, you certainly don’t need both a Facebook page AND a web site. A web site alone will do better for you with the proper SEO so customers will find you easily.
A Facebook page will allow a small business to update information quickly and has tie-ins with Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest and Instagram. If you want to announce daily specials to your followers, show new product offerings or encourage inbound marketing and interactive response, a Facebook page is ideal for businesses that don’t have a lot of time for social media management or paying a web master to update a web site.
Facebook also has a “close proximity” factor for gathering and tracking followers. This means that people are logged in and concentrating on their timelines. If your information is viral on Facebook, you are part of these figures:
- One in every nine people on Earth is on Facebook (this number is calculated by dividing the planets 6.94 billion people by Facebook’s 750 million users).
- People spend 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook.
- Each Facebook user spends on average 15 hours and 33 minutes a month on the site.
- More than 250 million people access Facebook through their mobile devices.
- More than 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook.
- 30 billion pieces of content is shared on Facebook each month.
- 300,000 users helped translate Facebook into 70 languages.
- People on Facebook install 20 million “Apps” every day.
The use of viral images and information, you can grab a part of Facebook users. With the tools that are a part of Facebook, as well as those that have sharing integration with Facebook, you can keep your social media marketing organized with a minimum of time needed to use multiple channels of social media marketing.
An interesting use of Facebook marketing which actually relies on Twitter for the main social media element. A local food truck announces its daily location via Twitter and then Facebook and allows for recommendations and reviews, along with fan interaction via a Facebook fan page. They have no web site and probably won’t need one unless they decide to park in the same place every day.
So, Why Use A Web Site?
There were an estimated 2,459,646,518 internet users worldwide as of February 2012 (representing about 30.2% of the population worldwide), according to Internet World Stats data. The figures grow every day as technology allows more people to gain access to the internet.
Those figures aside, there will always be a need for a company or individuals to have a web site. Again, it depends on your needs.
When you have a web site, aside from the morals and taste factor of society, which isn’t really much these days, Facebook has rules and privacy settings (although no one seems to be able to figure those out) and will place ads on your page which may very well compete with your product or service, so owning your own web site gives you complete control over content (although you need to read the terms of service of your web hosting provider).
When planning a web site, the first thing to consider is how it will be built. Will you use a ready made template, a WordPress theme or hire a web designer to build the site from scratch to your particular specifications. All will cost money but make sure it’s money well spent. When hiring a designer, it’s best to let them use their expertise at understanding your needs and then allowing them to design your site without interference.
If poorly designed and developed, your site won’t work very well with your users and search engines. Getting involved because you believe design is simple or you need to control the process or, worse yet, you want to brag to friends that you helped design your own site, you will end up costing yourself prospects via lost SEO and a site with bad navigation or designed poorly so people surfing the site won’t stay to view your products or services.
A no-nonsense site is best for a business that offers a product and pricing information that is available to the casual shopper, 24/7. In this case, a well designed website will help you sell more. The website can become a powerful visual aid for your business and a knowledgeable, convincing and tireless virtual salesperson who will always be there when your clients want more information to make the buying decision.
Because of this 24/7 digital salesperson, you will save time and money. Your website will be always available online, even after hours, so won’t have to answer the phone as frequently because now people have another way of getting the information they need about your business: through your website.
With a digital presence, you can reduce or even eliminate the costs for printing and distributing flyers, brochures, newsletters, etc. Including a digital PDF on your site allows prospects to download all of these at no cost to you and they can be updated at any time.
With a website, your business can be listed in various online directories including the web directories of Google, Yahoo, Bing and other business-specific online directories. For your customers, these are like on-demand phone books that will come in handy. Specific searches from local prospects can bring customers right to you.
Show Your Work Process And Successes!
Facebook allows for quick updates to show projects and how they turned out. The same can be used on a web site and will boost customer confidence. With a web site, you can place reviews where they will be the most effective. A big project for a big client will bring big SEO for your site.
One way to encourage a new customer is by showing the transparency in your work process. Tough economics, competition between companies and the cost of services has clients worried…not that they weren’t worried before but now it has become imperative to waylay the client’s fears with a lot of “hand-holding,” explaining what will happen when, how, and why. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it makes perfect sense.
By showing the process, in detail on your web site, before a project even starts, both parties should understand the milestones and what can and should be expected by BOTH the client and the supplier. By simply stating, “this is what my company does, and this is what it typically costs,” it eliminates a lot of the needless bartering and wasted time crafting custom proposals for clients. By defining what you do for a client, and what you don’t do, it’s become easier for you to determine costs.
When prospects see examples of your successes, they will also be inspired for their own projects. Often, if they see what they like, they will ask you to repeat the same project. They may see a style or process they like and ask you to provide the same for them as they now have confidence you will deliver their vision without guessing at the end results.
Yes, these can be added to Facebook, too, using the photo album function but, once again, on your own web site, you can control placement and impact.
What Price For Fame?
There’s been endless discussion about price lists on web sites. The internet, technology itself, has changed the way we all do business. The rise of Amazon.com and the effect it has had on certain retail sectors (i.e. retail toy and book sales). We have gotten use to the ease of point-and-click buying. Personally, I prefer to hold the product in my hands before buying. I like looking at the package, flipping through pages, trying on clothes and shoes BEFORE considering the purchase. Unfortunately, that option is disappearing.
Some would say that’s a con and not a pro but apparently society doesn’t agree as evident in the bankruptcy and closing of retail stores and chains. There will always be the projects that need the personal touch. The meetings, the briefs, the back and forth and the negotiations for the fees involved…followed by the arguing and non-payment thereof. With a posted price, the prospective client or buyer knows what the product or service will cost and is more likely to pony up the entire cost up front. If not, payments split into two or more with milestone payments are still acceptable to internet shoppers with a final payment due upon delivery, which, thank goodness, will erase the “30 day” payment period. As a friend once said, “30 days is a jail sentence and not a payment term.”
People argue the notion of price lists on a web site as “too rigid” and “unchangeable.” Companies that post products would scoff at that. If you are in a product oriented or service industry that can post a flat fee or price, they can be changed albeit by a person who can handle the web site and needed changes. You have to ask if there will be frequent changes to your prices and costs. If not, placing prices on your site may put you ahead of competitors when prospects are shopping around the web.
As mentioned in the opening of this article, it’s up to you to know your business plan before jumping into social media. Your business plan has to consider the demographic of your targeted consumer and what will reach their needs when marketing your company. Jumping in blindly is a bad business decision and a savvy businessperson will know that planning is the first step in execution.