Make no mistake: your website is your #1 marketing tool
I’ve been astonished at how many people and businesses I’ve come across (and not just micro or small businesses) that visibly cringe when I tell them that I’ve checked out their website. It happens more times that you would expect. Some typical reactions go something like:
“Oh you didn’t?!”
“It hasn’t been updated in three/four/five years!”
“We’ve be meaning to do it; we just haven’t had the time!”
Some businesses may be lucky and have other touchpoints that are building enough equity to overcome an average website; but some of you may not, and could be missing out on winning business from your potential clients, investors or employees who make a decision that you’re ‘not for them’ based on the presentation of your website.
A well-designed and functional website should be an investment priority for your business, both in time and money. It is your #1 marketing touchpoint, and an invaluable opportunity to communicate your brand: who you are, what you offer and how you offer it. Depending on your business, it will be supported by other things (i.e., business cards for networking, social media and content strategies for thought leadership, a killer pitch deck to show potential investors) however, your URL will probably appear on nearly every single piece of marketing that you do as a way for people to research your business and get in touch. It pays for it to be in great shape.
There will be two camps of people reading this article: those that already have a website (even if it’s a little rusty) and those who are starting out with a blank canvas. If you’re in the former camp, don’t despair - use the following checklist to see if there are any areas where you could make small and manageable tweaks. You shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel if you don’t want to/have budget to/have time to.
Firstly, who's in charge of this ship?
The first question must be: who is going to act as the webmaster? Who is the person in charge of making updates to the content and ensuring that other important website admin is done (such as software updates). This is amongst the most important decisions you will make. Many micro and small businesses will not have someone at their disposal with the tech capabilities in-house to manage complex maintenance, so it’s important that you match the skills available to you with the appropriate platform.
What platform should you use?
There are a few platforms available (ok, many!) to choose from. They range in user-friendliness, and following on from the previous point, it’s best to match the platform with the capabilities you have available to you to ensure you can keep your website and its content in good shape. Most platforms these days are responsive, which means that they will replicate well on any device, be it mobile, tablet or desktop. Here are four options:
Copywriting and content
Copywriting is the most common element of web development that small businesses will opt to do themselves. After all, most professionals need to write as part of their business practice and most of us will have the capability to produce content. If you think you can handle this yourself, I use this as a guideline:
A word of advice: If you are at all stuck with this, or you find yourself failing to progress or communicate your messages clearly, I recommend hiring a professional copywriter. A good copywriter will translate the subtle nuances of your business and industry into easily digestible marketing prose – a practice that many of us, no matter how adept we are at writing, may fail to achieve.
Design: the look, feel and user experience
Here is where it all comes together. It’s an opportunity for all of your branding elements (logo, colours, typography, imagery) to unite and paint a picture of your brand and communicate your unique selling points. Like the copywriting process, if you feel that you don’t have the capability to do this yourself I also recommend engaging a skilled designer to set this up for you initially. They not only have the visual skills to pull all of your branding elements together thoughtfully, but they should also have an idea of what is best-practice in terms of information flow and how to lay out the information clearly to produce the optimal user experience (UX). If you do forge ahead with a DIY option, be sure to put some thought into what the typical user journey will be. Test this out on a few people and get their feedback; what seems intuitive to you may not make sense for another.
The marketing spin
Don’t forget to put your marketing hat on. Make no mistake, your website’s #1 mission is to sell you, your brand and what your business has to offer the world. The most important question you need to ask is: what action/s do you want visitors to take when they go to your website? Once you’ve established these, match them with an appropriate call to action. Some examples include:
Most people tend to err on the side of humility when arranging the content for their website. I’ve never offered feedback that goes along the lines of ‘Whoa there! Better tone it down a bit!’. Ideally you strike a good balance of information with clear calls to action so that you can fulfil upon your website’s objectives.
Good luck! Starting a business, or polishing a brand you have already built, is an exciting process. I’d love to hear how you’ve approached this; let me know in the comments below.