Small business owners want to reach as many customers as possible with as little investment as possible. Many try traditional advertising and that method is still tried and true. Many are trying the internet but this new marketing tool has some new rules to play by that are easily overlooked.
The first step many owners take is to build a website. Often, they do this with little thought except to get their name out there on a page. These attempts often prove to be unsuccessful because there was little to no planning put into them. Just as any start up business, planning has to go into the development and purpose of the website.
Janet Attard, owner of the company Business KnowHow has put together a preplanning checklist for developing a website for small business owners. The checklist is at www.businessknowhow.com. While the questions it asks are simple, in my working with clients, I have found sometimes the simplest thoughts are often overlooked in planning. It asks like: 1) what do you expect to accomplish, 2) who will use it, 3) who will do the updates and many more.
Your website needs goals so its success can be measured against them. Some typical goals for a website are: 1) to sell product to consumers or other businesses, 2) generate revenue in other ways for your business like content subscriptions if you are a writer, 3) develop new markets for your products, and 4) provide new ways for your existing customers to reach you.
The website needs to be built with an audience in mind. This audience is the customers of your business – the people who currently buy your product or new customers you hope to reach with the website. The audience will determine the website’s look and feel regarding how the content is written, the colors used and even font size.
The website you are building should not be a duplicate of competitors. You want to make sure you investigate your competitor’s websites to see what works, what does not work, how they bring customers into their website and more. You can learn from their mistakes to make your website more useful to your customers.
Some features making a website easier to operate are aimed at the owner and the customer. For the owner, it is having the ability to easily update the content, and being able to do marketing through captured emails are just some examples. For customers, it is ecommerce-shopping carts, online payment options, being able to learn about the products, easy shipping, pictures of the products are also examples.
A big item is making sure you stay in budget. There are companies that offer free website building and others do it for a fee - investigate them both to make sure you get what you want and at a reasonable price. Others offer free development but then charge you hosting fees.
Another resource for website planning is with Aurora Marketing. They have put together a whitepaper client questionnaire at www.aurora-marketing.net that is pretty thought provoking if you are just getting started or wanting to revamp your site. Some other sights to consider are www.skyrme.com/tools;webplan.html and www.smashingmagazine.com.
So continually evaluate your industry to make sure your idea is not already taken and you can stay on top of new trends. If you have questions or would like to set up an appointment to talk to Richard Proffer, area University of Missouri Extension business development specialist, feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 573-243-3581. He is located in Jackson, MO.