I’m starting a business – do I need a website?

There is so much to think about when you’re preparing to launch a business, but after the business plan, the finance and the premises then marketing must be high on the list.  After all, to make your business a success you need customers to know you exist.

It’s rare in business nowadays that a company doesn’t have a website for its marketing. Customers and clients expect it and there is plenty of research that shows that once they have your business name they will then look for your company’s website.

One poll a few years ago found that more than 50% of those asked said they “would have concerns” about a company if it did not have a website.  We suspect that total to be over 80%+ now.  Even trades companies are asked for a website before they can request a trade account these days.

What’s your website for?

There are two main kinds of websites, brochure and e-commerce.  Generally a brochure website is used by a business offering services while e-commerce is for selling products online.

Before you approach a website developer you should be clear in your mind what your budget is – and remember that while you of course want value for money, cheapest is not necessarily best for a professional looking site that is your public face.

Small Business Websites

If you can, choose a developer that has an in-house graphic designer and content writer, both of which are specialised skills that ensure you best the best possible site most cost effectively from the start.

What information should be on your website?

The more information you can give about your business at the start the better. This will help with the design, the content and any special features the website needs to include, such as location and a map, or perhaps an app for people to find you when they are on the move.  It will also help you to think through and sort the information to be included.

Do you already have a logo and corporate colours?

Who are your target clients or customers?  Where they are most likely to be found (geographical area and social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ etc)?

How best should the information be divided up into pages to make it easy for customers to find what they are looking for (navigation)?

Do you want to manage adding material to the website yourself? – then you will need a CMS (Content management system).

Encouraging customers to act

When planning content it is important to speak to the customer’s needs first and only then to say how you can meet them.

If you’re a restaurant or a hotel, pictures of the interiors, menus and offers can help to win their interest.

For businesses offering services, special offers that customers can sign up for such as free e-books, newsletters, time limited products at a discount, invitations to email with a question, are all examples of “calls to action” that encourage potential clients or customers to communicate and help you to build a database of contacts.

Some marketing experts also advise having a welcoming video on the home page – but beware, many people dislike them if they start automatically and have no “off” button and if you’re going to include a video make sure it’s both short and as professionally filmed as possible.

Another option is an instant chat facility.  If it would be appropriate for your business but you cannot be sure that there will always be someone available to respond this may not be for you.

Security and SEO

When a website is being created it needs some in-built SEO (Search engine optimisation) so that Google and others can find and display it properly.  Key words that are important to your business need to be included in the page descriptions in the coding behind your website, photographs need a description because a search engine cannot read pictures, locations may need to be stated if they’re important to your business.  A good developer will discuss these with you and include them when creating your website.

A website has to be hosted on a server either on a shared public server or a dedicated private server. Security is plainly tighter on a dedicated server so it’s worth asking your developer about security measures.

Hosting packages are the monthly fees you pay to your website developer, to look after your website and keep it secure.

Once your website is all complete and launched your next step is to help people to find and visit it – that’s a subject for another blog!

So do I need a website – well chances are you do and if so speak to us?