Congratulations! You’ve started your new business! You may already have your products and/or services set up, along with some form of a business plan, a name for the new entity and maybe even your logo. But even if you already have a client or two, this will not be sustainable in the long run. In this day and age, you must have an online presence in the form of a website. And it cannot be just any website. It needs to be a good one - one that effectively conveys your brand and directs potential customers to your products or services in such a way that is informative and compels them to buy. For most people, this seems pretty obvious, but surprisingly I have met a number of business owners that did not. That’s where I come in to help them generate customers and sales. This article is for those people to help them walk through what is needed.
Before we go any further though, you might be one of those new business owners who is tempted to focus exclusively on delivering products and services to the exclusion of an online presence. “Why do I need a website?” you ask. Here are some reasons to hop aboard the legitimate corporate website “bandwagon.”
Legitimacy - whether it should be the case or not, the truth is that these days, many people view businesses with active and appealing websites as more legitimate than those without.
Cross-selling- there’s nothing better than a customer…except for a repeat customer. One of the best ways to garner repeat business, not just for the same product, but across your entire product base, is to direct customers to the many other [wonderful] products you offer so that they can take advantage of those as well. What better way, than by having a website where clients can see all of your capabilities, including past projects, or client referrals? This can be accomplished by email campaigns, setting up algorithms of what they previously bought and what they may like that is similar, or featuring your services on social media that lead them back to your website.
Scale - we all know that there’s only so much that we and/or our team of employees can do as individuals. That’s where a website can help. Generally, you can only feasibly talk to or sell to a small group of people at one time. However, your website can do double-, triple- even gazillion-duty on your behalf, allowing a potentially infinite number of people to view and purchase your products or services simultaneously. And not only that, but whereas you can only be in one place at one time [unless you have some secret, super powers], your website can reach clients across the globe, regardless of where you are.
Client Contact - you want your clients to be able to contact you. Even if you plan on distributing business cards within your retail or services establishment, it’s possible that they will lose the card and have no way to contact you…unless, of course, they can find your website. And speaking of business cards, you will want to have purchased your website domain [address] before placing it on your promotional materials so that you ensure that the address is available and secured. This will save you costly re-prints.
I’ll assume that you’re sold on the need to have a website! Then what’s next? Well, your first two steps are to purchase your website address (“domain name”) and to choose the hosting company for the website. If that sounds overwhelming, stay with me.
First, in order to purchase your address name, you’ll want to go to a site such as godaddy.com. Go Daddy is one of the biggest sites and it’s super easy. Enter the website name that you would like and the site will tell you if it’s available. I recommend having some back up options in case your first choice is taken. Whatever you do, try to choose something close to your business name or your recognizable product/service base. And if possible, brevity is easier for clients.
There’s nothing like choosing x%designer&&really*cool!!!coffeemugs.comor you’llneverfindthissitebecausetheaddressissolongandannoying.comto ruin all of your efforts to reach customers.
Second, unless you plan to house the website in-house, you will need a hosting website. That means choosing an external company with pre-prepared, but easily modified/ customized templates that you can use to create and store your website. There are many companies out there. Feel free to take a look at each one and to scroll through their sample templates. Here are some of the better ones according to techradar.com: (https://www.techradar.com/best/best-website-hosting-service).
InMotion Hosting [Best overall web hosting provider] https://www.inmotionhosting.com/home-q
1&1 Ionos [Best of business] https://www.ionos.co.uk
HostGator [Best value] https://www.hostgator.com
GoDaddy [Best for SMBs] https://www.godaddy.com
Bluehost [Best for Wordpress] https://www.bluehost.com
Tsohost [best in the UK] https://www.tsohost.com
Wix [best website builder on the market] Wix.com
Weebly [best free website builder] https://www.weebly.com
You will have to pay for the domain name and for the use of a hosting site’s template, but the costs are generally relatively low, particularly relative to the business advantage of having the site.
Before you begin to load content, you’re going to want to consider the style and layout of your website. First let’s talk about style.
Remember all of that talk about consistent branding that we’ve covered in past posts? Well, your website is a perfect example of all of that branding coming together in one place. If you’re running an outdoor adventure company, with a logo consisting of mountains, sharp sans-serif fonts and neutral browns mixed with bright orange and green colors, your website design should follow suit. This consistency solidifies your brand.
That doesn’t mean that everything you do has to be brown, orange and green, but there should be some congruence. You’re not going to want to switch to scrolling, romantic font and pastel colors. It will feel inconsistent to customers. Likewise, if you have been using black-and white photos in your marketing collateral, you should generally retain that same look and feel throughout the site. For one of our current clients, we chose photography that not only helped to tell their business story, but also pulled out the orange, yellows and navy from their logo. The resulting look is both sharp and professional.
What this does is to create a brand identity that is quickly and easily recognizable to customers. When they see your style of typography, color choices and images, they will know that it’s your company without having to ask. This is an invaluable marketing tool!
Speaking of photographs, you’re going to need site images to complete your branding image. Unless you’re providing your own from past photography shoots, there are a number of free sites with high-quality images available for use either for free or with a fee. The key is to ensure that the images that you choose are, in fact, free for use in a commercial setting. And that they are high-quality images. A few great ones to start with are pexels.com,pixabay.comand shutterstock.com.
Second, the layout: I always tell my clients that their website needs to be easily navigable.Have you ever been to a website that was so confusing, or where the content was so hard to find that you gave up and left to find another company? I have! And that’s the last thing that you want your potential customers to experience.
When it comes to navigation, keep in mind the following two rules of thumb:
Order of Inquiry - this means that you should lay out your website’s pages and the content of them in the order in which your customer is most likely to look for information. As an example, when a customer arrives at your home page, there should be some general information about the company. Across the top of the page, or down the side, they should see an easy way to navigate to the things that they expect to see. These may include things such as:
About the company/ you, including a way to contact you
Main product/ service categories [under which there may be product sub-categories - more on that in a moment]
Portfolio, past projects and/or client referrals and praise
Blog, if applicable
Notice that I have included these in a relatively intuitive order. There is some room for variation with these but try to put yourself in the user’s shoes. What do you really want to get them get out of your site? Is it a sale of your products, or a phone call for your services because your company does exactly what they need? So, whether you sell makeup or hot air balloon rides, those products or services should be featured early in the order.
When starting your website design, begin by making a high-level list of what types of content you intend to include before designing the site’s layout. Feel free to check out other websites, especially those in the same industry for examples of what is included, and take note in what you like and don’t like about their sites to perfect your own.
3 Tiers of Navigation [at the most] - this means that a customer is able to find what she is looking for within three clicks.
You’ve seen this in practice, perhaps without noticing. Let’s look at an example from Estee Lauder’s website. I’ve hovered over the “Skincare” header. These headers: “Skincare,” “Makeup,” “Fragrance,” etc. are what we refer to as top-tier, or the first level of navigation. Second tier navigation would be those categories such as “Eye Care” or “Masks.” If you were to click on “Masks” and there were several categories for types of masks, those sub-types would be what we would refer to as your third tier of navigation. We generally say that if a person cannot find what they are looking for within three tiers, the site is too confusing, thus potentially losing new clients.
Promote & Maintain Your Site Now you’ll want to promote and maintain your new website. If you aren’t interested in paying Google lots of money for advertising (and let’s face it, who is?), it’s important to use “keywords” within your site to ensure that you have adequate SEO (Search Engine Optimization). In case this phrase sounds a bit foreign, I’ll explain. What that means is that you choose and build in keywords for each page or for photos/graphics within your website. Then, when an internet user types a phrase in Google, the Google “spiders” as they are called, scour the web looking for anything that aligns with the user’s search. You want the results to include your company.
For example, you will want to list all of your services, your types of products, the locations where you offer service, etc. Then if a user searches for a “landscaping company in Richmond VA,” if your website has stated that it does just that in the keywords you built in (“landscaping in Richmond), your company should appear in the search results.
Lastly, just like any brand, you need to update your content on a monthly or yearly basis depending on the industry and type of products and services you provide. If clients don’t see new material, they get bored easily. You want to keep them coming back to see new content. Many of our clients have newsletters, blogs, and social media posts that drive traffic to the site, so it’s important to keep updating the information and the photography/graphics being used.
I’m Here to Help!
If all of this is more than you’d like to take on, or if you just need help, I’m here to help! Website creation is something that I often provide for clients, and many of our clients do not have the graphical eye to build the brand to be unique and uniform.
One of our current clients came to me with nothing - no logo, branding guidelines, business cards, website, letterhead, etc. But that’s ok! We were able to build their brand from the ground up. After we had established their brand across all print platforms, we built their website. As a result, all of their branding is consistent and content-filled!
The website doesn’t replace the value of their products and services. Rather, it helps them to put their best foot forward as they move out into the market. That’s what a website should do: portray your business’s full capabilities in the best light possible so that people want to buy all of the wonderful products and services that you have just set out to provide