It seems like almost everyone has a website these days, but not everyone knows how to take advantage of the tools they provide to help their businesses grow. Sure, websites can be very complicated, but there are simple, effective ways people of any proficiency-level can maximize the performance of their website.
Castlewood has been building quality, functional websites for small businesses for over 17 years, so we know what it takes to make a great website as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, and what pitfalls to avoid to save you time and money. With that in mind, here are a few ways you can use your small business website to better serve your customers and market your brand.
Websites are great for keeping clients and employees up to date on new products, special promotions, sales, and important news or updates. In the days before the internet, people had to get dressed and walk or drive to a store to learn of changes or new inventory. Now, visitors can see every product, price, and bit of information available, anytime they want, with the click of a button, making your website the best place to go for such information.
Of course, this only works if your site is regularly updated and organized so people can find what they’re looking for, but if you do, your customers will appreciate it, and keep coming back for more.
The hardest part of updating a website is getting into rhythm and building a routine to make doing such updates easier. In reality, updating websites can be a monotonous chore rather than a thrill. Because of this, it’s easy for business owners to give up on keeping their sites updated, even if it means sacrificing utility for visitors. If keeping your website updated takes too much of your time, or you find it too unpleasant to keep up on, pay someone trustworthy to do it for you, saving you time and increasing the value of your website in the process.
Do you enjoy random emails about things you’re not interested in? Of course you don’t, and neither does anyone else. Living online means learning about the importance of keeping your email address secure, and anyone with an inbox full of spam knows why, but did you know putting your email address on your website could be just as bad as giving it to a Nigerian prince?
Computers can read and remember your email address, and putting your contact information on your website allows scammers to quickly fill your inbox with unwanted ads at best, and viruses, hacking-attempts, or fraud at worst.
But using a simple contact form makes communicating with your visitors safe and easy, and doesn’t require exposing your business to con-artists and hackers. Even basic websites come with contact forms, meaning it doesn’t cost any extra, or require much additional work, but it can save you a great deal of time and frustration in the end.
Don’t take a risk with your company’s or client’s privileged information; keep your email addresses and passwords secure, and if you’re not sure how, Google it, or ask a professional for help.
Having someone’s email is one of the best ways to communicate with them. But it’s also a great way for spammers and scammers to flood your inbox with unwanted junk and disguised viruses. Over time, the internet has taught people to give out their email address like they do $50 bills; rarely, and never without good reason. This makes it difficult for companies to gain their visitor’s trust, let alone their email addresses
But just because people are afraid to give out their email address doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in what you have to say, they just don’t want to risk you taking advantage of their trust. To help your visitors get past this reluctance, offer something like a free ebook or a coupon in exchange for their contact details. This way, both you and your visitor get something out of the deal. And, if they enjoy the benefits you provide, it increases the chances they’ll return in the future, or become paying customers.
Once you do have a visitor’s email address, treat it with the respect it deserves; never use it to send unwanted junk or offers you don’t have a reason to believe they’d be interested in. Provide value to your subscribers instead, in the form of coupons, special offers, exclusive information, or other messages they’ll actually want to hear about, instead of an unending-stream of words that only benefit you.
Just as important as being trustworthy with a client’s email address, remember to be professional and respond to any issues, questions, or comments your website receives. By responding quickly to visitor issues, you show your commitment to helping them with their problems, which not only builds your company’s reputation in their minds, but also increases the chances they’ll choose you in the future, or tell their friends and family positive things about their experience with you.
Another advantage to having a small business website is how easy it makes introducing people to your products, special options and promotions, support information, and more. There’s no need to talk to a salesperson or a manager, dig through a dusty catalog, or wait for a call-back that never comes; visitors on a well-constructed website have all the information they need organized in a way they can understand. Nobody has to explain product features or warranty terms to them, and nobody has to be paid to wait by the phone in case a customer calls.
A website can do the jobs of several people quickly, efficiency, and cheaply, without needing a vacation or using any sick days. This allows a well-designed website to save their owner time and money while maximizing user experience and satisfaction, a winning situation for everyone.
Speaking of maximizing user satisfaction, videos are a great way to attract attention and provide value to your visitors. 90% of online shoppers find videos extremely important when making buying decisions, and 64% of them were more likely to make a purchase after watching a video. Even if you’re not selling anything but your brand, videos can be a great way to introduce people to your company and its goals. People are social, and love hearing about you and what you’re doing, so make a video explaining who you are, what you do, and where you’re going, and prepare for the deluge of comments you’ll likely receive in return.
Using video to market your brand, products, and services used to be expensive. Only those who could afford the proper equipment and had the proper training could make video good enough for professional purposes, and such people insisted on being paid for their troubles. Today, thanks to all the cellphones and cameras, free video-editing tools, and easy ways to add video to websites available online, it has never been cheaper or easier for businesses to attract visitors and leads with custom video.
Of course, professionally-produced video is still the best option for serious businesses looking to market their products or services, but keep in mind that your visitors are looking for utility before flashy special effects; if you can’t afford high-quality video, focus on providing the best, most useful videos you can. Chances are your visitors won’t mind as long as you’re providing them with the information they came to you looking for in the first place.
Sometimes the simplest things can lead to headaches. The website developer who quoted you that great price might be the cheapest around, but they’re also in a different time-zone, or country, and practically impossible to get ahold of when you need them. Or, they only respond by email, or charge you extra for the privilege of solving the problems you’re paying them to solve. How much money will you waste, how much time will you lose trying to save a few dollars?
Choose a reliable company to build your website in the first place, and ensure they’ll fix whatever problems you have, quickly. Make the process easier on yourself by choosing someone local, someone with a phone number you can call if things go wrong and you break the internet; a good web-developer will be happy to help, and solve your problems as quickly as possible.
Working with a local on your small business’s website has other advantages, including one-on-one consultations (sometimes in-person), faster turn-around time, and better coordination that you could typically expect working with a web developer in a different area code.
Of course, there’s much more to getting the most out of your small business’s website than we can possibly cover here. If you need more information, have any questions, or just want Castlewood to take the headache out of your online life, let us know! We’ll be happy to show you why we’ve been the #1 web-development company in the Lebanon, Missouri area since 1998.
Get your small business website from Castlewood today, starting at only $39/month, which includes custom-design, domain-registration, hosting, and everything else you’ll need to get your business’s website online as quickly and painlessly as possible.
By Eric Streeter