Your Small Business Website (Power-Up Small Business Program Recap)
Note: This article has been written as a follow up to a presentation held for Digital Brisbane for the Power-Up Small Business Program on Web Design. It covers all the key points and resources referenced on the night.
This article looks at what you need to be considering if you want to get, or improve, the website for your small business. I discuss the different levels of solutions you could get for your business, what options there are for self-managed solutions through to selecting a digital agency or web design partner.
Websites and your business
One of the most important things to understand when getting a website is to truly understand the benefit and relationship of the website to your business. There's no point getting a website just on the belief that you just need one.
Before considering the relationship between your business and its website, it's a useful exercise to understand how a business is limited without a website.
Business limitations without a website
Limited opening hours
A normal business will have standard hours of operation, usually between 9 am to 5 pm. Meaning that for the most part people cannot engage or enquire about your business after it closes.
A normal business will also be located in one physical location, requiring those interested in the business to physically make their way to the business. Calling is always an option, but it is an audio-only means of communication. You can't get a great sense of a business from a phone conversation.
As a business owner, you may have a great ability to speak to your potential customer about your business and to make the sale. But, that may not translate to the rest of the staff in your business. Sales is not a skill that everyone has.
So the benefit of the website is that it addresses each of these three limitations:
Open 24 hours
People can access your website, and learn about your business 24 hours a day.
Accessible from any location
People don't need to be near your business in order to engage with your business. They could be at home, office, on the train, anywhere. Mobile phones, in particular, have opened up the range of ways and places that people are using technology to find out about other businesses.
Structured and reproducible explanation of the business
A website gives you the opportunity to position and explain your business in a structured and consistent way to every new business lead, showing the best of your business every time.
People use the internet to find small businesses
Research has shown that over 85% of people have used the internet to find a small business. If you want to have any chance of being successful as a business, it's not a good start to remove yourself from consideration from such a sizeable part of the market.
People buy differently with the internet
With information now more easily accessible, this has led to a change in the way people make purchasing decisions. With information now more readily accessible, they can more easily compare products and services. If you don't have good information online about yourself, you will miss out on being in the comparison.
What do I need?
I would argue that every business should be online in one form or another. But the question for your business, is how much or how little to invest?
It is possible to put together a rudimentary web page in under 1 hour. But I've worked on projects where there has been a budget of over $20,000 for a single page. But for that client, $20,000 was an appropriate solution as the website was going to deliver over a million dollars in revenue for the company. The extra cost that went into the website covered a range of specialities from including copywriting, web design, development, marketing strategy, photography.
For small businesses, however, there are basically three levels of solutions you may want to consider:
- Getting online
- Competing online
- Leading online
Getting online involves just getting a basic web presence. For people that are told about your business or they see your name somewhere, they can now look you up. If you have a little time, this is easily something you could do yourself.
Don't underestimate the value of just being online. People looking for 'Lamb Agency' is the number one source of people coming to our site. Similarly, for any other business, the company's name is the number one source of people coming to your site.
If you are wanting to grow your business by being online, you will have to compete with others, by placing yourself where people are looking online for your category of products or services. This doesn't require a significant amount of effort, but it does require you step up your thinking a little. This is something you can manage yourself, but you'll need time and a bit of an understanding of marketing principles(which I will explain later in the article).
If you want to do more than be one of many options, you can choose to invest in your website so that you become a stand out option. This isn't for everyone and depends on what your competitors are doing in your industry. You need to engage a web design specialist to get you to this point.
What to choose?
What you choose really is going to depend on a number of factors from the capability of your business to invest through to what your competitors are doing online. The following three sections will discuss each of these options in detail to help you figure out which is right for you.
Solution 1: Getting online
Getting online is just going to create an online presence so that when people specifically look up your business, they will be able to find this.
A significant number of people go to Google to look people up. If people can't go online to get your basic details, then you have a lost customer. 20 years ago, a Yellow Pages book wouldn't be out of place next to most people's phone at home, now it's Google.
To get a basic presence we would recommend two things:
- Register(or acquire) your Google Locations
- Use a basic website builder to create your website
Google Location is what is used when people use maps on their phone to find a local business. A significant number of people look for businesses this way. Google will also include map listings at the top of many local business results. It's also very easy to set up and should only take you 1 hour.
Basic website builder
If you have ever gone to IKEA, picked up a flat pack and have then taken that home to make a piece of furniture, then putting together a website through a website builder shouldn't be a problem for you.
Two website builders I would recommend are:
In order to set up your website in one of these systems, all you really need to do is:
- Go to either Wix or Squarespace
- Register for an account
- Choose a theme
- Enter your business details
The benefit of these pre-built website systems is that they are simple. However, in making the website simple to create the problem is that they have a limited ability to grow with your business and lack the flexibility you made need. But as a simple online to get you started it's a good solution with a minimal up-front investment.
Solution 2: Competing online
If you are wanting to drive enquiries to your business from having a website, you are going to need to compete online. Because now, you are putting yourself into places where people are looking for the general product or service name, rather than for you specifically. eg 'Lawyers Brisbane'. This changes how we approach the approach, as we need to knock it up another notch to make sure that we are positioning ourselves well against your competition.
The best way to learn about websites is to experiment! Don't be afraid to try something out. You aren't working with a precious vase that if you drop it, it's not worthless. You can always rebuild things if there is a problem. The more you can try things out, the faster you are going to build your capability.
There are three things you need to consider when putting together a more competitive website presence, each of these requires that you wear a different hat:
- What does it need to say? (Marketing)
- What does it need to do? (Technical)
- What does it need to look like? (Design)
Marketing Hat - What does it need to say?
If you were to go to a networking event, a standard thing that you would do is to prepare some kind of elevator pitch, a 60-second introduction to yourself about why you are interested and capable. When it comes to your website, research has shown that you have a little as 10 seconds before your visitor moves on. You next competitor is literally only 2 simple clicks away; close window, open next Google result. You need to make an impression, and position yourself to your visitors so they know what you do well, and what you do better than your competition.
Take a look at the following sites, make sure you only spend 10 seconds in each site.
What did you notice?
One thing that you would have noticed is that 10 seconds isn't a long time. And you'll find that anything more than a sentence, and a few images are probably the limit of what people are capable of digesting in under 10 seconds. It's really important to get this right, or you have lost your visitor to your competitor.
One thing that the Zen Catering site does, apart from having a great looking photo, is that it has a very short positioning statement - 'Mastering the art of service'. This serves to very quickly position their business as a premium service. For those people looking for a low-cost provider, they will likely close the site and look elsewhere. Is this a problem? No! Because those people looking for a cheap service are not part of Zen Catering's target market.
An important consideration for your positioning statement is to compare this to other people in your market. There is no point in claiming the same position as your competitors. This is a place where you want to be different, but to say something that will appeal to your customers.
Ideally, you want your positioning statement to be short, ideally 6 or fewer words, but no more than 10 words. If you can supplement that positioning statement with a great image, you will go a long way toward helping your customers understand who you are, and what you do. If you have no idea what this could be, ask your customers why they choose you.
In addition to a positioning statement, you also want to consider explaining what benefits your product or service has, that makes you seem more of a compelling option. There still may be a number of businesses with a similar position to you, so you would want to use these benefits to further position yourself.
- Is your service fast?
- Do you have a guarantee over your work?
- Have you been in business for over 20 years?
Ideally, your benefit is going to be something that is difficult to replicate (eg. 20 years of experience) or comes at some kind of trade-off. If it's something everyone can do easily, then everyone could replicate the same benefit.
If you were interested in learning more about strategic positioning, I would highly recommend reading an article by Michael Porter called 'What is Strategy'. Originally published in the Harvard Business Review, it is a timeless explanation of the need for making trade-offs to create strategic advantage. As a business owner, the 1 hour it would take to read the article is well worth the time.
After your positioning and benefits, you need to consider the information you need on your site support the decision making process. What information to you need? A good starting point is to look at your competitors, what kind of information do they have on their site? Take a note of the different pages they have, and put them in a list down the page.
What you can do then, it compares this to your understanding of the kind of things that are important to your customers. What kind of things do they ask about? What is an important factor when making a purchasing decision. If you don't know, ask your customer. If you do know, it's still useful to talk to your customer.
How much content do you need?
It really depends. If your business has more a sales-centric model where you customise the result of what you do, you may want to speak to the customer as soon as possible, build some rapport, and make the sale. In this case, you might only want to show the customer enough to get them interested, then prompt them to make contact.
Alternatively, if you have a low transaction value, or what you do is fairly consistent, you may want to have a little more information on the site to reduce the number of standard questions you are asked.
Technical Hat - What does it need to do?
There are two major factors you need to consider when looking at what your website should do, they are:
- Choosing your website system
- Functionality your website needs
Your website system
If you are going to get the most out of our website, you are going to want to be more than just have an online brochure. You are going to want a system behind your website that will enable you to you interact and update the content on your website.
A website without a system behind it is like a car without an engine. There's nothing really you can do with it, it just sits there. A website system allows you to update content, add pages, upload photos, among many things.
Choosing the right website system is important to make sure you get a website that has the capabilities your business needs now and in the future. Ideally, you will want to avoid a system that does not have wide usage. Because in the case that you are unhappy with your supplier, it can be difficult to find someone with the skills to be able to update your site. Many web design companies will have a default position of recommending a new website - because they will not want to work with a system they are not familiar with.
The systems we recommend are:
- Wordpress - information based websites
- Shopify - eCommerce based websites
Wordpress is the dominant website system currently used by self-enabled business owners and web developers today. It is an ideal content platform, and it's market share many multiples of the next closest competitors. There is a staggering amount of information online that can guide you on how to set up and use Wordpress, and tens of thousands of modules and themes you can use to enhance your website.
Shopify is a great solution if you are wanting to sell online. The content platform for Shopify isn't as sophisticated as Wordpress. But for online stores, it's mostly all about the product information and shopping cart system anyway. Similar to Wordpress, a large number of modules and themes are available for use on the Shopify system. If you have a web-based inventory control system, there is a good chance that they will support integrating with Shopify.
One of the great things about websites is that everything you would want to know about setting up or managing your self is online. Web development is one of the most open professionals in the world. You can find blog articles, videos, whole free courses online to help you. So don't be afraid to explore and check it out.
Designer Hat - How does it need to look?
A common mistake that many business owners will make when getting a website is choosing to get a custom website design, not knowing that if they chose a template the cost and effort involved in getting a website would be significantly reduced. Compare the two situations:
Setting up the theme:
- Choose the website theme
- Install the website theme
Custom design design
- Set up meeting with web designer to talk through design preferences
- Web designer creates a home page concept
- You check the website concept
- Web designer updates the home page concept
- You sign off the home concepts
- Web designer creates the remainder of the templates
- You review, check updates and eventually sign off the website design
Choose a theme to save time and money
Now, if you just need something basic, or time and money is a factor, then just getting website theme could save you a lot of hassle. Choosing a theme can cost as little as $50, verses the time and cost of thousands over many weeks or months. There are a significant amount of high quality themes that can very easy be added to your Wordpress website from sites such as:
An important tip when choose a theme is making sure it can do the type of things you want it do. If you want to do something your theme cannot, you will need to engage a developer to help you out.
Solution 3: Leading online
The difference between competing online and leading online is the level of time and investment you put into your website.
- Position your website so that more people see it
- Improve your website so that a high percentage of people see you as a better choice
Putting your website in front of more people
Getting your website in front of more people can involve:
- General marketing activities
- Improving your Google ranking
- Setting up pay per click
For any of these you would want to talk to a digital marketing company, like Reload Media.
Underestimating content creation
If you are looking at a website that is going to be more than 4-5 pages in size, you can be surprised by the amount of time it can take to put something together. Make sure you have set aside time ahead of time so that you can put enough time into preparing good quality information for your website.
Over investing in your website
Don't be tempted by the possibility of having a fancy looking website, just because it will look great. You want a solution that is going to serve you business first, sometimes this means getting simple to start with.
Small business web developers
The Creative Effect (David)
0415 909 898
The online is only going to grow, and a website is a very important part of your business. But it's important to make sure you get a website that is right for your business situation.
For those that went to the event you can download the worksheet from the event if you wanted a digital copy.