Current stats say 81 percent of people go online before making a purchase. That means a big part of your branding is represented through your website. If you don't have today's modern calling card, you are already working from a deficit. It is one of the most important marketing pieces for your business.
Do I have to have a website?
YES. Your website should be the hub that all of your marketing rotates around. It is a major part of your Marketing Foundation and builds trust.
I like to tell clients to think small when first creating their website. What I mean is, don’t worry so much about spending thousands of dollars on a website that offers a ton of functionality, maybe an app that goes with it, an online loyalty program, etc, etc. You’ll spend a lot of money upfront and see very little return. Let your website grow with your business. You might not need a Ferrari yet.
Don't get me wrong--I am the first person to tell you your website needs to look GOOD. It should be professional-looking, comprehensible and above all, organized. But I have come across many small business owners who are waiting to do all this “until they can invest in a REAL website."
Well, depending on your profession, a REAL website can be any number of things:
A Shopify site: online store and checkout
A Wordpress site: the most-used platform, loved by bloggers and companies needing the ultimate amount of flexibility (with the highest amount of cost and technical difficulty)
A Wix site (my favorite): great for small business owners/professionals due to its ease of use
...and a million platforms in between, including MindBody for salon-type businesses, platforms just for photographers, wedding sites, and the like.
Ok I Need a Website.
There are many, many ways to design a website nowadays. There are so many options, it is truly limitless. Which option is the best depends on who you are and what you need. Let’s look at our choices:
1. You can pay a nominal fee for a company to create a simple, 5-page website.
Pros: fast, easy, cheap
Cons: your site will be very generic
These are like a chop shop. You won’t get a lot of options or the ability to make but a few changes. After all, it’s cheap for a reason. Maybe there are some types of businesses where it doesn’t matter too much. But for many small businesses and practitioners, a very personal but professional website is almost always ideal.
2. You can build your own website on a platform like Wix, Squarespace or Shopify.
Pros: platforms like these let you design a website yourself.
Cons: you have to design it yourself.
I remember being a small business owner and not having a single moment to myself. It’s easy enough to say “make time for it” but in reality, many owners just put it off and never get it done.
And here is where your skillset comes in--if you don't have boxes checked next to a number of skillset categories (writing, designing, proficient on a computer, along with being organized, thinking like a client and understanding behaviors), then maybe you might want to hire this fundamental piece of marketing out while you concentrate on other things...like your business!
Client: Stacy Rago | Bio-Balance Stress Relief
Client: Jill M. Udoutch
Download this questionnaire to understand and list your website requirements.
3. You can hire a designer to create a site for you.
Pros: personalized, effective, quality site. Knows how to implement and integrate technologies and apps you might need to make your site truly functional.
Cons: You'll have to go through a bunch of resumes to find the right one. It might also be hard to find a designer who isn’t flakey. Cost can vary dramatically depending on who you choose.
I learned how to build a website with my first business when I had three designers flake out before my project even started. I didn’t have a choice—either learn how to make a website or not get one at all.
Finding a web designer is a lot easier these days. We’re everywhere. But the most important thing you should do is make sure you feel compatible with your potential designer. We are all very different! Speaking as a designer, I like to provide my clients with more than a website—a complete rebrand. (And I haven’t come across a client who hasn’t been in need of one yet.) I find that those who need a new website often need a more modern logo, collateral, email and social headers.
And I’ve come to learn I do better with clients who give me a large degree of autonomy to create for them. I get a feel of who they are, and give them some options that I think best represent what they’re trying to achieve. On the other hand, my biggest challenges are with clients who tend to micro-manage their project. To me, the biggest bonus of hiring a designer is to get a new perspective.
Use this doc to help you interview a web designer.
4. You can hire an agency.
Pros: you might feel safer going with an agency. They should definitely be able to get the job done.
Cons: the most expensive option. The bigger the agency, the more possible you won't be top priority.
Agencies are great at having skilled people on staff (reducing the flake factor), being able to guide you with options, and delivering a (hopefully) great product. The biggest concern with an agency is cost and competing clients. An agency will typically cost more than a designer and for small business owners, that’s not always a great option. But this is because agencies have to pay people on staff.
For websites, I tend to work on the designer model because I like to do the work myself. But for advertising, I have an agency to serve my clients best.
Just don't fall into the trap of a big agency. You'll get lost and tossed like a little minnow in a sea of client whales!
The bottom line.
Whatever your choice is, make no mistake: your website had better look great and be functional on mobile phones and tablets. If you have been hobbling along with a website that isn’t, correct that NOW.
There are many, MANY, bad websites out there. Take a hard look at yours, ask a friend, look at your competitors and be brutally honest with yourself. Your website is the cornerstone of your marketing and one that's easy to neglect year after year!