By this point, small business website design probably seems pretty easy. Just buy your domain name, pick a template from a hosting provider and voila! You’re in (online) business!
It’s actually a little more complicated than that.
When you create a business website, you’re really just getting started on a new channel that could become a critical element to your long-term growth. It requires a strategy that uses what you already know about your customers and prospects, along with a willingness to learn and adapt your business website as you go along to attract, retain and convert visitors into real purchases. The approaches outlined below can help your small business achieve success online.
One of the best things about websites is that you can design them almost any way you want. The downside of that is when consumers visit your site and there’s not necessarily an intuitive way to look around and find what they need. Imagine if you were greeting a new customer or prospect at your office you’d walk them through your products, services, the things that differentiate you or any other special information. Now say it out loud, film it and use it as s sort of tutorial about your site and your business. Then take it a step further and use the same video as marketing collateral for your sales team to introduce themselves to leads.
In some businesses, there are a mix of product and services that can be used by all customers, and some that are designed for customers of a certain size, or who operate in a particular vertical market. Think about how a retailer operates, where concepts around merchandising and assortment have been in place for years. It basically means that shelves in a store are stocked according to the most common interests or concerns that bring people in, whether it’s clothes, kitchenware or home renovation products. The same idea can apply online, even in a B2B environment: Organize your landing pages with tabs, drop-down menus or buttons that make it easy for visitors to quickly discover the items that are most relevant to them.
There is comfort in consistency. Many customers will want to see some things remain the same on your site so that they can easily navigate it. If everything is static, though, there’s not a lot of incentive to keep coming back. While many SMBs might maintain a compelling blog, it might get buried in the bottom or “footer” of the site and easily overlooked. Instead, think about using simple headlines and links to bring up near the top of your home page, perhaps with your three most recent articles. This gives your site a sense of timeliness and a chance for regular site visitors to learn something new about your company.
“Get updates!” is often the only words in a little box on many business websites that sits somewhere near the top of the page. This is a wasted marketing opportunity. Make it clear why it’s worth being part of your database. Will you give exclusive invitations to try new products and services? Will they receive discounts or other incentives towards their next purchase? Will you send them a newsletter that looks at specific issues of interest to the market and its community? The frequency, content and particularly the value of the subscription should be spelled out so that visitors are motivated to sign up.
Whether you’re looking at visits, unique visits, referral traffic or some other metric, part of using a website effectively is analyzing customer behaviour patterns and optimizing accordingly. If you see a disproportionate volume of visits to your “About Us” page, for instance, maybe there’s important details about your location, hours or history that needs to be brought closer to the home page.
Face it: The desktop version of your site needs to look great, but more than likely you’ll see more traffic come your way through visitors using their mobile devices. This factors into design because they may not be as willing to poke at buttons or drop-downs on a smartphone. Instead, they’ll scroll, so make sure that after they pass the first area that fills their smartphone screen, they arrive at something that will compel them to take action. This could be where you list special offers, case studies and testimonials or downloadable assets like white papers and ebooks that make them want to learn more about your products and services.
Step back every Friday, every month or even just once a quarter to consider how your site is contributing to the health of your company. This could mean actual online sales, or merely awareness about your brand. What kind of “test and learn” ideas can you try in the next seven days, month or quarter to build on what you’ve done so far? Explore whether you’re taking full advantage of the technology at your disposal to not only boost site traffic but business performance.
SMBs should keep dreaming big, but the steps to make those dreams come true may not be as big as you imagine. Ultimately, it’s the small yet strategic steps that make the biggest difference.
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