First impressions count – and that old adage goes beyond your business’ physical storefront. Your website is your storefront to the world. In an age where people will Google and Yelp a company before reaching out to do business, the first impression you make with your website could mean the difference between a steady stream of clients and losing leads to the competition.
Not sold on the importance of investing in a professional, polished website? Virtually all consumers (97%) look online for local products and services, reports the Small Business Administration (SBA). Mobile-friendliness matters, too. Seventy percent of smartphone owners have connected with a local business after finding that company through mobile search.
Surprisingly, nearly half of all businesses (47%) reported not having a website, according to an article published by the SBA. Getting started from scratch can feel overwhelming. Overhauling an existing, outdated site can also be a challenge. Before you do either, set yourself up for success by considering the following:
An effective website will do more than just announce your company’s presence to the world. Depending on your business, it may also need to offer additional services. For example, if you run a café or restaurant, will you need to offer online reservation capabilities or catering orders? If you run a service company, will you need a form for collecting information from potential leads? If you sell a product, will you want to offer free samples? If you have a small medical practice, do you want patients to be able to request appointments online? These different offerings can impact how your site is structured.
Consider how people will reach your site and what their immediate needs will be. Returning to our restaurant example, people visiting your site will likely be interested in four key things: hours of operation, location, reservation capability and menu. Your site’s “information architecture” impacts how content is structured and how people find information. When people visit your site and cannot readily find needed information, they become frustrated and leave, potentially heading to your competition’s site instead! If it is difficult to find information about hours, location, reservations or the menu, you may lose potential customers.
Finally, consider what key messages your website will communicate. People who visit your website may be brand new to your business and unaware of your services or offerings. You will need a clear, concise message on the home page to introduce your company as well as more in-depth content for an “About Us” page and/or “Services” page. Some of this content may come from other marketing collateral you already have produced, like brochures or advertisements. Maybe you have a brand document in place for your small business that includes your mission and vision statement. All of these documents are useful reference points as you consider which messages will be most essential for your website. In general, content does not have to be long, but it should be impactful. A succinct call-to-action statement could help you capture more leads or sell more products. A copywriter can help you refine some of your company messaging before you launch your new site.
Take time to fully understand your business goals, your audience’s needs, and your key messages before reaching out to a web developer. Doing so can help you better understand what your business needs from a website. This way, when you do have an initial conversation, you’ll be armed with the knowledge you need to clearly explain your needs and hit the ground running.