Website basics - when to know you don't know.
Many people believe that a nice looking website is enough to help them build their business.
A website, linked to social media should be the cornerstone of your business "face", however, a website is the "end result".
Getting the business outcome you need to improve your business comes from a genuine understanding of what you want, then exploring the possibilities of achieving your desired goals.
And this come from strategy.
A complete marketing strategy that includes a website is the best approach to get results. This includes:
A Branding Strategy - simply put, what does your business stand for, how would you like to be thought of by your customers, suppliers, peers, employees. Where do you stand in relation to your competitors?
A Marketing Plan - this covers the basics of your business in terms of products/services, prices, distribution, promotion. A Marketing Plan should be a living breathing document that is used to collect, collate and analyse relevant data.
A Content Strategy - what sort of content will be on your website, how often will it be updated. Do you have a future plan but are not quite ready, e.g., videos? Before you speak with a Web Designer, you should have a clear idea of the type and scale of content. This will help the website designer layout the pages and build a more flexible framework for future development.
Website Design and Development - once you understand what you are trying to achieve, it is then time to talk with a web designer / web developer.
Face to Face vs Online
Over the past few months some comments have stuck in my mind ... along the lines.... I don't really need a website, I have plenty of business and cannot cope with anymore, and I am not really into social media.... face to face meetings are best and the best business is through referrals.
I agree face to face meetings and referrals are the very best way to connect with potential clients. However, given the social norms, after a meeting with someone new, the first thing most people do is look you up online.
Depending upon your business most people will also be influenced by social media recommendations, followers and general activity throughout your social media channels.
So the question is, do you really need a website and social media?
The short answer is Maybe.
if you are prepared to participate in that media. You do not have to do it yourself, there are many agencies like Foundation Digital who can help you with the strategy and mechanics of online marketing.
However, you do need to actively participate in the process by providing first hand information about what is happening in your business, images that tell a story, events and/or newsletters. This does not mean you need to post comments everyday, but it would be worth your while to think strategically about what you would like to tell prospective and current customers / clients about your business activity.
For instance, would you like to be considered a subject matter expert? Then perhaps a series of articles on LinkedIn, Google+, Reddit and a Blog may be a way to start the process.
Your website should reflect your business style, personality, products/services and provide people with real information about who you are and what you do. This should support what you say when you meet people face to face. It is a reinforcement of how you present yourself and what you say.
A well constructed, designed and maintained website should be your Media Hub that connects you and your business across a range of channels and audience segments.
Social media is a way to informally connect with people who may be interested in what you do. With social media you have the opportunity to tell your story and keep people interested and up to date with what is happening.
Lake Edge Cafe is a small cafe on the edge of Lake Purrumbete, Camperdown Victoria. We started the social media campaign well before the cafe opened and told the story of the journey to the opening day. This was particularly interesting because Lois, the owner, had decided to buy an old community hall (saving it from being demolished), transport it to the site and then renovate it to house the cafe.
Over the period of 6-8 months we were able to take people along on the journey with images, anecdotes and updates to build a receptive audience who took an interest in the progress of the cafe. We posted regularly, first on the Lake Purrumbete Cottages Facebook Page which was already established (and associated with the Cafe) and then, once the cafe opened we created its own identity and have continued to provide updates and information to people who are interested.
Nothing replaces good service and good food (in the instance of a cafe), but with an increasingly competitive and cluttered market, gaining visibility in a cost effective and interesting way helps keep your brand in the mind of potential customers.