Websites are an essential part of the marketing mix for virtually every business. The huge successes of e-business should be enough to convince even the most sceptical of entrepreneurs that they need a strong online presence. So how do you achieve a ‘good’ website?
The most basic website is a shop window, telling the world who you are and what you offer. At the very least, it should also include your contact details. At this level, the website is an extension of your physical shopfront, and the information on your van or in your local newspaper advertising – taking your invitation to do business to a potentially much wider audience.
However, to compete effectively in today’s markets, websites need to be much more sophisticated and attractive. Design is vitally important, and so is content.
What you need is a website that not only entices people to buy your products or services, but also encourages them to return to your site (and buy) regularly. Remember, your website isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s also a major selling tool.
So, change content and add fresh items regularly. Look at other sites for ideas. Include more information about your products and services, publish case studies about products in action or how your expertise has helped solve problems for customers. Publish news about your company, comment on industry trends on your blog page. Stimulate communication and customer loyalty by urging people to sign up for your company newsletter. Spotlight special offers. Enable e-business and e-payment facilities to increase convenience for customers. In short, add value to your online customers’ experience – give them something to come back for.
There is no such thing as a perfect website, so be prepared to experiment to find the formula that suits you best. Then, continue to seek improvements.
The next important thing to remember is that while some people may find it on their own, you must also actively drive traffic to your website. Do this by splashing your web address (url) and its QR code variant wherever you can. Use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to announce developments – and always include a link to your site!
All this sounds like a lot of extra work that could interfere with your business role. I believe communication with stakeholders is a key entrepreneurial responsibility, but it requires careful time-management. You could also delegate some of the responsibilities to a professional communicator whose services you buy in to generate material and manage site content. Cost? That depends on what you agree.
And a final thought: decide what you expect your website to do for your business and ensure you have the tools to measure the site’s success.
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 17 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.