Q. Do you have any suggestions regarding websites for small businesses?
A. These days, most businesses need a website. Regardless of how a prospective customer hears about your enterprise, many will check your website before deciding to purchase. In some ways, a website has become an electronic business card. If you don’t have one, many will not consider you to be a legitimate business.
At a minimum, you’ll want to make sure that your website covers the basics. It should provide your company name, contact information (typically email, phone, and address), and state clearly what you do and for whom. Further, the URL should be easily connected to your business name and as concise as possible. Websites that carry the dot com suffix are preferable, but you can use other suffixes such as dot net.
Beyond the basics, what you include in your website should be a function of what you are trying to accomplish. Below, we touch on several possible objectives.
• Entice people to come to your retail establishment – You will need to make them want to visit, provide them with easy means to get there, and possibly, have them lock in an appointment. To build the desire to visit, many websites offer pictures and/or videos of the establishment and the product or the result of the service. For example, restaurant websites often show pictures of the dining room and the food. Menus and wine lists are frequently available.
Once the prospective customer decides to visit, make it as easy as possible. At a minimum, provide an address. If getting to your place is tricky, explain the nuances. Use a well-known landmark if one exists. Show driving directions and a map. Provide a link to Google Maps. Explain how to use public transportation. Make finding your establishment easy.
Finally, if an appointment or a reservation is appropriate, say at a hair salon or a restaurant, give people the opportunity to set it up on your website.
• Get prospective customers to contact you – This may be done via phone call, email or a “contact us” page on the website. Just as with convincing people to visit a retail location, make prospective customers want to call. Focus on the results you’ll deliver (e.g., weight loss, increased profitability, a more attractive appearance, etc.). Prospective customers want to know what’s in it for them. Case studies that demonstrate how you have delivered value to others can be effective as can testimonials delivered via quotes or videos.
• Allow you to contact prospective customers – If you have an effective email marketing platform, getting prospective customers to give you an email address can be gold. This allows you to market directly. Sometimes websites are designed to capture mailing addresses to fuel direct mail campaigns or telephone numbers used to make outbound solicitations. Often, to get something you want, you’ll have to give something of value. For example, you might offer to give the results of a free diagnostic test in order to get prospective customers to provide an email address.
• Facilitate the selection of a product/service – Sometimes websites will allow prospective customers to see enough information to develop a strong hypothesis regarding what they’ll purchase. For example, automobile dealerships frequently provide detailed specification and even allow you to see their inventory. We found the last car we purchased online. After a quick test drive, we bought. Failing something unexpected when we saw the car, the sale was closed online.
• Sell online – You will need an effective e-commerce platform. We use 1 Shopping Cart, but others are available. You’ll also need a way to deliver the product or service. Ensure that your offerings are easy to find, that the benefits of purchasing are clearly described and that the ordering process is as simple as possible. Finally, you’ll need to drive large volumes of people to your website. Online marketing is a numbers game—think thousands of visitors per month if not tens or hundreds of thousands.
When designing your website, start with the end in mind. Ask what you are trying to accomplish and design your website to deliver this result.