Marketing small businesses online has changed. Gone are the days when websites were little more than static, brochures online. Things have moved on at a pace, and they are now much more dynamic and geared to building a two-way relationship with clients or customers, rather than simply providing one-way information. As such, there are a host of things to be borne in mind when developing websites for marketing small businesses on line. So, as a small business, whether you’re developing your site yourself or, more importantly briefing a design agency, here’s three important things to bear in mind.
1 It might sound obvious, but for a website to be successful its development must form part of an overall marketing strategy, and be geared to the specific objectives you want to achieve – they will not in themselves increase sales or business overnight! If your main marketing objective is to do more business, it’s important to consider two key things. One, how best to create a platform that provides fresh, valuable information and support to existing customers to build and maintain good relationships and generate repeat business, and 2 how to attract new potential clients to your site and then convert them to paying customers.
2 Any dynamic website or blog worth its salt will require fresh, new content so it’s important to agree an on-going plan for regular up-dating. So, when marketing small businesses, it’s important to remember that they will often require a content management system (CMS) to do this, which they can frequently change and up-date in house. Yes, a small business website might still have a few static pages still with credentials, terms and conditions etc, but the ability to up-date other pages, including dynamic elements such as a blog to share their expertise, latest news on their niche etc is vital, and will all add value and build on-going customer relationships.
Additionally, use of video and audio on websites and blogs is increasingly used as people are getting more used to listening, seeing and hearing things in the different, more dynamic mediums (eg YouTube videos increasingly occupy the number 1 and 2 slots in Google and other search listings).
A key reason for a good CMS is that small businesses want the flexibility and control to make changes to their site, without the on-going costs of an agency. There are various CMS packages available now, which have all the functionality a site needs built in, rather than having to create sites from scratch with html, coding etc. Often a business will work with an agency to customise such a package in their brand in the first instance, and leave them with the CMS to do up-dates themselves.
3 Agencies will often include a price for submitting a website to the various search engines/directories to help you get listed in search engines (ie be found on Google for example) and is what’s known as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO for short). SEO can be an art in itself, and submitting your site to search engines/directories is only one of the many things that form part of an SEO strategy. There are other things small businesses need to be doing regularly to be listed and found on Google and other search engines. The idea being that you would want to be no 1 on Google for a number of relevant search terms so you are found by potential customers searching on those terms.
There is much more to be borne in mind with the on-going development of websites when marketing small businesses (and I haven’t even touched on all the new social media marketing stuff – think Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc) but these pointers should give small businesses a starting point to avoid the expense of going down the road of a static website, which will probably not deliver what they are hoping it might, and, more importantly, will need on-going development. Better to spend a bit more time now being crystal clear on an appropriate marketing strategy and cost effective development of the website, so you do not get any nasty surprises and additional costs you were unaware of down the line.