Whether you are running a traditional, brick-and-mortar business or an ecommerce website, a professional website is something that every entrepreneur needs. A website forms the foundation of your internet presence and allows you to build your brand at very little cost. In addition, a website can streamline your business by allowing your customers to order, pay and manage their accounts online. There are so many good reasons to have a website and no good reasons not to—so what are you waiting for? Here are a few tips for getting the website that is right for your entrepreneurial plans.
- Decide what makes you different. Whether you are offering lower prices, a local alternative to big corporations or a unique product, it is important that you know why customers should choose you. If you don’t know this, your customers will not either! This core difference between you and your competition will form the basis of your brand.
- Discover your audience. Once you know what sets you apart from the other businesses in your genre, you should think about the type of people who are looking for you. Rest assured, regardless of you are offering, there is a market looking for it. It is simply a matter of finding that market, positioning your business as the right choice for them, and then making sure that they know about you. However, in order to position and publicize your business, you need to know who your message is intended to reach. You need to know more than basic demographic information, including what the market’s daily schedule looks like, how they prefer to shop and what their aesthetic preferences are.
- Talk to a professional. A professional website designer can help you to identify and define your core value proposition and target market, but it will cost you. It is better if you enter the design process already having given the matter a lot of thought. At this point, it is time to find a website designer who has built websites that are successful with your core market. Do not attempt to build a website yourself or use a template. This will lead to a generic-feeling website that will not be as effective with your market. You should also outsource logo design and other branding design elements; you can’t afford to cut corners in these areas because they will form the basis of your online presence.
- Consider going mobile. Once you know your audience, it should be easy to identify whether they are accessing the internet from a PC, a smartphone or even a tablet PC. If your market does a lot of shopping and information seeking from mobile devices, you should consider having mobile-friendly websites developed for their convenience. The more mobile your market is, the more likely they will be to ignore sites that are not mobile friendly and prefer ones that are.
- Incorporate social media. No entrepreneur can do without social networking in the modern world. It is simply a necessity. You should think carefully about which social networking websites are most appealing to your target audience and then create profiles. Give these profiles a lot of thought and make them as appealing as possible. Again, templates feel generic and tend to ‘turn off’ today’s marketing-savvy consumers.
- Be connected. Your social marketing profiles, website and physical locations should not exist as islands, but rather as an interconnected network. Make sure there are plenty of ways for visitors in one platform to find out about and interact with the others. Don’t just throw up a few icons or links; make a point of mentioning your other ‘homes’ and inviting people to visit.
- Entice customers. Your marketing needs to do more than inform; it needs to entice. Again, that unique value proposition that you developed in the first step will be crucial here. Consider what will be the most effective means of reaching your audience and what types of campaigns will appeal most to them. Some markets prefer businesses that partner with charities or are otherwise socially responsible; others are brought in by contests and giveaways. Knowing your audience is key. It will save you the time, money and effort of running marketing campaigns that are not successful.
- Don’t forget to optimize! Search engine optimization has gotten a bad name due to ‘black hat’ or disallowed techniques. However, SEO is the only way to bring customers to your website and thus an area that you can’t ignore. If you don’t understand how to best design your website to get top search engine rankings, discuss the matter with your website designer or even consider hiring an independent SEO consultant.
Once you have made it through these seven long steps, you should be rewarded with a website that is appealing to your market and a growing amount of traffic. However, if your website is not successful, one of these core entrepreneur website problems may be to blame. Here are the cardinal sins of business websites, to be avoided at all costs.
- Distractions. You don’t need a flashy, blinged-out website to attract most markets. In fact, too many distractions will make your business look less professional and distract customers from actually making their purchase.
- Confusing navigation. Your website designer can help with this. Your website needs to be organized into logical categories that are easy to understand. Customers should be able to find what they seek in just 2-3 clicks.
- Inappropriate size. There is a happy medium between having a website that is merely a few pages and running one that is a behemoth. Trim pages that are not necessary. Offer a well-rounded amount of information, but trims the frills that don’t make sales.
- Lack of updates. You cannot design a website and then leave it. Most small business websites require almost daily updates and tweaks. Customers like to know that the website they are visiting is current and often updated. It shows them that you are a professional and that any orders they make will be processed quickly.