Secrets of a Successful Small Business Website
What are the most important keys to small business success online? In this post I talk about a few ideas and walk you through a hypothetical solution for a cake business. These are just some things to keep in mind while developing or maintaining your small business website.
If you're going to go through the trouble and expense of creating a website for your small business you should make sure it's going to be as effective as possible and help you achieve your real business objectives. A good website or "web presence" can do this in ways no other business tool can. So, here are some things to keep in mind.
A Website is Not a Digital Brochure or a Place to Park Your Contact Info
Don't make this mistake! You can't just pay for a pretty design, put up a description of your company and it's products or services, have a contact page, and expect it to do anything for you. It won't do much. Especially if someone is comparing your company, side by side with your competition.
Even if you've optimized your limited content for search engines, it's going to get stale and slip in the rankings. Even if your products are presented with great photos and glowing descriptions, they may not compel any action by the visitor. A website presents you with the opportunity for more, but you have to know what you want your user to do once they get there. When you know that, you craft your site to lead them to that action.
Let's say, in it's crudest example you simply want the user to contact you. You need to give them a reason to do so. If they're just on an information gathering mission they're going to skim your content and move on to the next competitor's site. They'll only call the one they like most after comparison. If the first one they call can't fulfill their needs, they'll contact whoever they determined was second best in their original search. Competing like that, you might as well just put an ad in the Yellow Pages.
If you can give them incentive to call you and then design your whole site to lead them in that direction, then you're getting somewhere, but even then it's still just a glorified brochure.
Another approach, can help you understand and solve the two problems I've indicated, plus give you additional "superpowers" that will really further your objectives with little or no ongoing effort.
First, the content and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) problem. If your site is built properly, the technical parts of SEO should be designed in to it's very fabric. Much of it should be automatic, so what you're really worried about is content optimization. Content optimization is similar in print and online.
Some simple principles: Have a good headline, and a good descriptive summary at the beginning. These both have to be compelling enough to entice the reader further, and keyword rich enough that search engines are going to send you the right kind of traffic based on what it finds prominent in your writing. Another important principle is to keep it fresh. The same old information loses importance when compared to new information, even if the new information is of lesser quality. This goes for search engines as well as reader interest.
Yes, this freshness principle does mean someone is going to have to keep adding fresh content to your website. But don't worry! This doesn't have to be difficult or be a chore. I'll have to save details on that for another article though, or if you're already a Bionic Web Development client, just ask for ideas.
The second part of this is to provide incentive and direction to perform a specific action. The key words being specific action, incentive, and direction.
Specific Action: You have to have a particular thing in mind that you want the user to do. By being specific you have a clear and track-able outcome to lead a visitor towards. In marketing terms this is the action in your "Call to action".
Direction: Once a user is on your site there should be a clear direction for them to travel to achieve the specific outcome I just mentioned. Once they're in a track everything should be pointing in one direction and streamlined to avoid u-turns or wandering. Some sites can have multiple goals and multiple tracks, but if they're designed right they'll still follow these principles and once in a track, all other tracks become invisible, or less apparent in the process. To start with, focus on one goal and have all roads lead there.
Incentive: Of course, incentive isn't specific to the web, it's just an option in your marketing toolbox. What's interesting about it on the web is how much distance you can get on the web with just a little incentive.
What you can offer as incentive will be specific to your business. If you sell a single product online and your goal is the sale of that product you may think of the product itself as the incentive. But you could also use a discount code or an added bonus as incentive in a "web only" promotion. If available for a limited time or exclusively on web purchases, this could motivate a visitor to become a purchaser.
On a site that's not geared towards direct selling on the web, perhaps your specific goal is to capture a user's contact information and get their permission to contact them.
Let's say you specialize in cakes for a specific geographic area and you offer scheduled tastings for a limited audience. Rather than just posting a schedule of upcoming tastings on your website and hoping someone calls you, you could allow visitors to request an invitation to the next tasting! To do so, they simply enter their name, phone number and email address. (If they enter the type of event they need a cake for too, you can get fancy later on.) This information can be used by you to follow up in a number of ways. Most of which could be 100% automated.
First of all, the system could automatically send an invite to the user for the next available tasting. It could keep sending invites every week until the user unsubscribes or RSVP's. Next, the system could send them a follow up package based on the type of event they indicated earlier. It's a chance to do some very focused marketing to their specific needs. So a nice email with photos and testimonials will automatically show up a day later, providing another marketing touch. Lastly, the visitor could be subscribed to your quarterly newsletter, which is also delivered automatically 4 times per year. Thus, keeping you "top of mind", throughout the year, for all their special occasions.
So imagine how much value that provides your business! It's a fully automated marketing machine that gets, and stays, in touch with potential and past customers. Now imagine how different that site would be than simply posting your company info and a contact us page. In both cases you could potentially set it and forget it, but which one is going to actively promote and truly help your business?
Whether or not you choose Bionic Entrepreneur Incorporated to build or re-invent your website, I encourage you to think about harnessing a little more of the power that the web has to offer.
To Your Success!