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Website (The Why, What, & How)

Believe it or not, many small businesses still have not made the small investment needed to set up even a basic website. This, despite the fact that more than 80% of U.S. consumers use the internet to find businesses online, locate brick and mortar locations, comparison shop and research products prior to purchasing.

Why Every Business-Startup-Side Hustle-Passion Project Needs a Website

In fact, more than half of all Americans spend more than an hour online every day, and that statistic is even higher when it comes to professional men and women, moms, Baby Boomers, and increases yet again with individuals aged Gen X and younger.

Your clients and prospective clients are looking for you online. You will be Googled, Bing’ed, Yahoo’ed, Yelped and otherwise searched for; your website is your 24 x 7 x 365 billboard to the world. Even so, many businesses still do not have an online presence, and so go overlooked—and therefore unfound.

Additionally, in certain industries, many businesses that think they have nothing to ‘sell’ online have been slow to come to the internet, leaving the field to the competition. While e-commerce may not be in the cards for every business, having a website so that prospects and customers can find you is imperative.

You can have a website that does not break the bank but is still well-designed and (most importantly) is effective when it comes to getting your business found online; a website that does its real and most important job, which is getting prospect to take the next step, whether the next step is to book an appointment, visit your store or purchase something online.

Personally, I've been a customer of IONOS for what will soon be 20 years. Their customer service is second to none, and site builder plans come with a success consultant who will help you navigate building your site and maximize its use--unheard of with other site builders.

They have two website builders that make it easy for anyone to build a website from simple to complex, and with or without ecommerce tools -- all this plus your domain, SSL, and a business email account come included starting as low as $1 per month.

You heard right -- $1 per month. Use the MyWebsite Now creator for $12 for the whole first year inclusive of domain, SSL, and an email address. It's simple and straightforward. If you want more bells and whistles, upgrade to the MyWebsite Creator plans starting from $5 per month (inclusive of all the same goodies). It's a no-risk way to get your business online quickly, with a website designed for speed and online search.

Your website can be as simple as a one page site that costs just a few hundred dollars a year (compare that with the cost of your yellow page listing!) with your contact information and one or two of the most compelling reasons people should book an appointment with you or visit your business.

Or you can opt to develop a more complex site beginning with a landing page and expanded to include menu pages, product information, news, press releases, an online store, a blog, consumer education and reviews, specials, promotions—the possibilities are endless.

What to Include on Your Business Website

Your website should be a reflection of the brand of your business. The client should get the same ‘feeling’ about your business whether they are visiting your business in person or online. Your website helps create expectations, is a promise of service and begins to set the mood for a new customer; after that, the in-store experience needs to deliver on these promises!

You may have to set aside your own personal preferences when it comes to the design of your website. Remember that color, font, and image preferences are just that, preferences. Subjective. It’s more important for your website to ‘feel’ like the experience provided to customers by your business than it is for a designer to create something that you enjoy looking at.

If you are working with a skilled designer, be willing to trust some of their recommendations, or at least bring in one or two objective third parties to weigh in with second opinions on those areas you don’t agree or don’t feel sure about. (And conversely, it is also true that your designer may have recommendations based on their own preferences—again, this is where bringing in a couple of trusted, savvy associates can help to choose direction.)

Be concise. The more you dilute the number one purpose of your website—to move the reader to the next step in relationship with your business—the more you detract from its effectiveness. Just as you cannot be all things to all people, your website should not try to tell everyone everything that anyone could possibly want to know about your business.

You have just a few seconds to capture a reader’s attention; do you really want them scrolling through a bunch of disclaimers and details trying to find your address and phone number? If you do plan to include areas of high text content, consider dedicating specific pages to them or include them as linked downloadable PDFs rather than as web pages.

Prioritize. Knowing that the primary responsibility of your website is to get the reader to take a desired action—book an appointment, visit your location, call your customer service center or purchase something online—design the journey through your website with that in mind. Your phone number and address should be prominent, incredibly easy to find and ‘above the fold’ on your landing page (if not every page).

Your website should:

  • give site visitors intriguing, provocative reasons and the information needed so that it is as easy as possible for them to find your business, make an online purchase, book an appointment, contact your call center, etc.

  • give site visitors a reason and an easy way to subscribe to your communications

  • give customers reasons to more deeply engage with your business and to purchase additional services and products from you

  • be a reflection of your brand

  • be easy to navigate

  • be concise

  • be visually stimulating, intriguing, engaging and provocative

  • lead the viewer on a logical journey beginning with what would (probably) be what is most important to them

  • be kept up to date; your website should show enough ‘signs of life’ that it does not look like you built it years ago and haven’t touched it since

  • contain relevant, interesting content—content that is relevant and interesting to your target audience and customer base (which may not be the same as what is most interesting to you)

In fact, getting the reader to take the next step should be your top priority when developing or making changes to your website—a priority that overrules other goals where there is conflict of purpose or over-complexity caused by too many competing messages.

Many businesses make the mistake of designing a ‘corporate brochure’ type of website full of self-congratulatory, “ain’t we great!?” statements, or one that contains so much information that the consumer doesn’t know where to start (and so doesn’t).

Website content that is not designed to take the viewer on a logical journey, that does not compel the reader to take the next step, and that does not highlight only the top two or three things that prospects or customers would be most interested in knowing may be wasted space from a marketing and business-building point of view, and may even be so convoluted that it works against that number one goal.

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