In our introduction to this Online Marketing Toolkit, we noted that many people are going online in search of small-business information. If you want to make it easier for potential customers to learn about your business online, the logical first step may be to set up a website.
Here are three key considerations in building a website for your business:
- What is your desired response? An effective website has a clear “call to action” on its home page. For example, many websites display a prominent graphic with a phone number, so visitors immediately have contact information. Other websites feature a form that lets visitors submit preliminary information for a price quote. For online stores, your home page should highlight and promote specials by featuring specific products or categories.
- What makes your business stand out? Your website should differentiate your business from the competition in a way that attracts customers. Astrid Gaiser, owner of Astrid Gaiser Garden Design, emphasizes her company’s unique strengths online.”Having a good website has really helped my business grow, because I can show how I’m different,” she explains. “For example, unlike most designers, I work with tropical plants. Clients couldn’t know this without seeing one of my gardens or checking my website.”
- How much time, money, and expertise can you dedicate to launching and maintaining an online presence? Think of your website as an additional marketing channel for your business — and budget accordingly. There are plenty of options for hiring web designers to develop and update your site, but if you have time to invest in your website, you can save money with a do-it-yourself solution. A template-based DIY system can help you design your site easily without a lot of artistic or technical knowledge.
Starting to Build Your Business Website
After you clarify your website’s differentiated content, goals, and investment, here are a few tips for launching your site.
- Assemble your content. A good design is important, but let’s face it, the real stars of your website should be helpful content and photos. Decide what kind of information is important to your visitors. Corey Ford and Chad Buckwalter of Hignight Florists showcase their floral arrangements and highlight specials online. “What I really like is being able to update when I want. If we want to start a special, I can put it on the website that day,” Chad says, adding that “going from not having a website to having one has definitely helped us make more sales.” Using relevant, descriptive text on your website is important not only to your visitors, but also to search engines (which digest the text to determine what keywords are relevant to your site). For more information about the importance of keywords, read our post about search engine optimization.
- Design your site. How is your website going to represent your business online? Should it be fun and playful or sleek and modern? For Kelli Motsinger, owner of Little Kelli’s Playhouse, an appealing design is particularly important for branding her business. “Our website looks really cute and professional. Right away that says something about who we are. If you’ve got a website that really stands out, more people will contact you. Our new website has gotten us lots of attention.” Also, depending on the actions you want your customers to take, organize the pages of your site so you can easily direct your visitors to the right place.
- Find a partner with the right tools for your site. Before you can launch your site, you will need a domain name (to claim the address of your site), a hosting provider (to store the contents of your site), website building software (to allow you to create and modify pages), and possibly website design services (unless you are going to design the site yourself).
Here are some additional resources that describe our best practices and provide tools to help you get started:
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