The nature of what I call the ‘small business mindset’ (at least as it relates to websites) is the tendency to not know what to do with a website and how to utilize it as a powerful tool for the business. It is in this thinking that many small businesses stay small and don’t grow. After all, even any gas station or food joint can become a chain or even a franchise. It is because of this lack of understanding within the small business mindset and my desire to address it that I am writing this post.
Small Business Owners and Websites
Since the internet became widely available, many small business owners have viewed a business website as something that is either nice but not necessary. When the internet first became widely available, this was rather true, because not that many people really used it, let alone relied on it. However, today our culture is saturated in the digital world and there are few people in first-world countries that do not go online. So, while it used to be true that small businesses didn’t need website, today every small business needs a website.
Small business owners have a tendency to view a website as an online landing page where people can see their address and phone number, much like the yellow pages. If this was the extent of the relevance of a website, I would agree with every small business owner that said they do not need a website. However, there is much more to gain from a website, if it has purpose.
Why Your Small Business Needs a Website
It is true that a website is an online listing that shows your address and phone number, but the contact page and perhaps the footer are thee extent of this philosophy. Even a homepage has a different purpose, as the home page is to give both visual and text copy representations of what your business is about. While these things are important, it is the other pages and aspects of the site that truly give the website power.
Leaving out obvious aspects of the site, such as product/services pages, a business website will most benefit from blogging and any page that has a sign up form. This is because the most powerful benefits of a website as a business tool are the lead generation capabilities and educating (branding) your users about your company and offering. Furthermore, businesses need fresh leads and getting an interested user’s email is a prudent step in securing a future relationship with that user.
While lead generation is crucial, many businesses that sell products or certain services can actually take it a step further by closing the lead then and there. We call this eCommerce. Setting your website up for cashing out customers and taking their orders is excellent for building your business. Salons, soap stores, custom craft stores, and other boutique shops are great small business eCommerce candidates. Most businesses that sell things can benefit from having an eCommerce store.
I mentioned earlier that managing a blog on your site is important. The reason is that “Content is King.” Content will draw people in to view that content and hopefully convert on your website. While I wanted to mention this, content and blogging are subjects that are better explained in the inbound methodology and you can find more information here.
Line Upon Line – Build it in phases
Finally, there is the concept of building your website as an active project … many small business owners take a “build it and forget it” mentality to web design. However, your marketing should be active and if your website is a marketing tool, it should also be changing and improving as your marketing strategies improve. Google actually gives SEO penalties to websites that are not updated regularly. Google wants to provide their users with relevant information from companies that are active. So having a mindset of building it and forgetting is doesn’t exactly work in the real world.
My recommendation is to take things in stride and build your site up in phases. For instance, if you are wanting to eventually have an online store, but you don’t have a website, build the website independently from setting up the store. Doing this allows you to focus solely on getting the look right. Once that is done, then add in the store after the main site is set up. If you are on budgeting constraints, this is a particularly effective method. I would also advise letting your designer know that you are planning to add the store when the main site is finished. It may help to lower your costs if they know you are planning to use them for the second phase.