It can be difficult as a small, local business owner, to figure out where best to utilize your limited resources (time/money/energy/creativity) to promote your business. It can also be stressful. In the past, the yellow pages was the go-to option. It was a few hundred dollars a month for a large ad, but everyone had one at home and several at work. You only had to think about it once a year. It was easy, and it worked. But times have changed and they’ve changed quickly. To illustrate this point, one of our clients who tracks how all their new customers find them went from having ~20 new customers/month who heard of them through a yellow pages ad in 2007 to only ~1/month in 2013. Small businesses are now scrambling to try and figure out social media – which is hard because BIG BUSINESSES have been at it for a while and thanks to Facebook and Twitter’s strategies to keep their sites free for individual users -it’s going to cost you to have an online presence. This is why I believe that whatever social media outlets you choose to use, the corner stone of your online presence needs to be a website.
Self-Host (pay) Sites v. Free Hosted Sites
The easiest way for me to explain the difference is:
Self-Host = mydomainname.ca
Free Hosted Sites = mydomainname.wordpress.com or mydomainname.blogger.com
In my opinion, self-hosted sites are the way to go. They appear more professional, and you can get a great custom email address (eg. email@example.com), and the costs aren’t that high to maintain the site if you are using a self-hosted wordpress template. The start-up costs can also be very low if you can set that site up yourself. Here is a wordpress set up tutorial that I actually used an older version of a few years back when we built our first websites. The guy who put this tutorial pitches hard for bluehost as a hosting service, I also love bluehost and use them for all the wordpress websites I’ve worked with. While you can find slightly lower prices from other hosting websites, you usually end up losing out on customer service which, if you don’t have your own IT department, you really need.
What do I put on my website?
The great news is, your website doesn’t have to be complicated in order to be valuable – actually, it should be. Here are 5 things you MUST have on your website.
1. Location: If you are a brick and mortar business you need to have your address, a map, a list of the nearest transit stops, where parking is, anything that will help a new customer find you easier. People like easy.
2. Contact Info: Email/Telephone/Fax/Carrier Pigeon put them all up there, with one caveat – List all the ways you want your new and potential clients to contact you – and omit the ones you don’t. Only list methods of contact where you can guarantee prompt, professional attention will be given to a new/potential client – you only get one chance to make a first impression.
3. About Page: Now, your page doesn’t have to be called ‘About’ – it could just be on your home or landing page – but you do need to put up clear and concise information about who you are and what you do. For example, on the front page of CaulfieldWhite.com we have a short video reel that shows off some examples of video and film work we have done in the past. We also have an ‘About Us’ page that briefly introduces our company (what type of work we do, and what industries we focus on) and the two key members (Ryder and me), our backgrounds and what our roles are at the company. This helps prospective clients know who they should be talking to.
4. Products/Services Page: If you sell specific products or services, it is good to describe what they are in detail on your site – if you have an e-commerce site this would be your store, or, if you sell through an outside site like Amazon, Ebay, or Etsy you would link to those pages.
5. Social Media: Most wordpress templates have widgets which will allow people visiting your website to share it through their social media accounts, and/or to like/follow your social media presence. USE THEM.