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The 800 Pound Gorilla: The Internet eTailer

Amazon is just revolutionizing retail, any other adjective or any other verb would suffice. They are changing the way every retailer on the planet is thinking about retailing, and if they aren’t, they should be thinking about it differently because of Amazon, even Big Box retailers have had to change the way they do business because of Amazon so why should independent retailers be any different?

It’s important to keep in mind that the online consumer is wealthier than average. According to a report by Forrester Research, online buyers with household incomes of $75,000 or more represent the largest group of the online consumer population. In fact, they make up more than 40 percent of all online buyers—almost twice the number of those with household incomes of $50,000 to $75,000. These consumers have considerable spending power, making it important for businesses to invest in the e-commerce space.

Here are a few tips for how retailers can build an e-commerce business to compliment your retail shop fit for today’s demanding consumer:

1. Offer free shipping, or at least pay for returns. Having to pay large shipping fees on a domestic order is a huge turn-off for a customer. Retailers like Amazon have created the expectation that postage is free. Studies have shown that many consumers would rather pay extra for the product than have to shell out for shipping.

2. Create loyalty programs to reward the best customers. Big retailers are basing these off of airlines’ programs, where the more you buy, the more perks you get. A loyalty program gives the consumer a big incentive to shop at the online store. The online format also allows customers to track their “points” or rewards and be involved with the retailer on a personal level.

3. Demonstrate how an item looks or works using video merchandising. Zappos.com (which is owned by Amazon) gives shoppers a video demonstration of most of the shoes, garments and accessories it sells so they can better evaluate them. Rather than trying to read the dimensions in the fine print, a customer looking for a tote bag can just watch a video of a model carrying it on her shoulder to gauge whether it is the right size. If a business can’t do videos of products, photo demonstrations will do.

If customers can order easily with free shipping, there is no reason for them to order on Amazon over any other retailer online, we’d also point out specialty retailers have the advantage of offering better products than anyone else.

With a few steps to make the consumer happy, any business’ website can compete with Amazon.

How to Compete with the Big Box? Think Locally

When Retail Giants Come To Town

What do you do as a small, independent retailer when a major food chain, big-box store or national franchise becomes a direct competitor? All along you’ve been specializing in items that aren’t in the mainstream but sell well, and then some big box outfit decides they’re going to build in your community, do you hide your head in the sand and wait to be driven out of business or do you take proactive steps to stay in business?

Perfect examples of this are Walmart and Target Stores, the retail giants are on a building spree, Walmart moving into small to mid-sized communities with Neighborhood Markets and region serving Superstores and Target with it’s Target Express stores with a paired down inventory of its big brother. When this happens, what can you as a specialty retailer do to remain in business and retain your dominance in any niche market?

Your first reaction might be to lower prices in order to compete with the big stores. But that’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight. There’s no way you’ll ever compete on price. Yet there are steps that specialty merchants can take in order to maintain position. Here’s a list of things your business can do to maintain the customers you already have and win even more business when being forced to compete with the retail giants:

  • Connect with locals using social media. Large chains and franchises typically do a terrible job of maintaining social media profiles in the local communities where they have stores. Set yourself apart by ramping up local engagement via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.

  • Blog locally. If the big boys even have a blog, they’re not likely spending time focusing on local issues. By frequently blogging about topics that your local customers actually care about, you increase your store’s odds of generating positive local search results online. And you’re telling your customers they should have more — not less — information about the products and services you sell.

  • Support local causes. National chains move slowly, especially when it comes to sponsoring or supporting local events. As a local yourself, pay attention to what’s coming up on the local events calendar and join up with civic-minded organizations that are targeting the same people who might like to buy your products or services. Supporting local causes endears your brand among your target demographic.

  • State your differences as positives. Don’t bash the competition — either in front of your staff or with customers. Instead, point out the clear differences between your offerings by speaking in positives, not negatives. For example, “Featuring locally-sourced ingredients that are healthy for you and your family since 1997” is a better message than “Buy local!” or “You call that organic?”

  • Use size to your advantage. In most cases, everything you see on the shelves of a big box or chain store, or being sold or offered by a franchise, is there because one person — a national buyer or category manager — approved it. You, however, can start selling a new item on a moment’s notice. By specializing in the niche items that helped you build your enterprise, you’ll continue to drive business in your direction.

 

Is Your Business Trapped In A Time Warp? 12 Signs that You Are Stuck & Will Lose Business To The Competition

Once upon a time we all lived in small towns, or at least tight knit communities and neighborhoods.  If you needed your hair cut you’d go to Kelly’s Barber Shop, you bought your sandwiches from Sub Shop #10, and the pharmacy on the corner didn’t belong to Walgreens.  Businesses didn’t have to market, network, advertise, tweet or blog about their services to get and keep their customers.  They offered their goods and services, and people came for them.  It’s how business was done.

That was then.  Welcome to the modern world!   If you think you can rely on your business surviving the old fashioned way, where people buy from you because they always have, stop and think again!  Even if you’re located in a sparsely populated burg, the town folk now have the internet, smart phones and all kinds of other techie gadgets… they can find it cheaper, better and quicker on Amazon if you don’t get your head in the game and convince them they want their money flowing in your direction.

Are you going to just trust fate?   You basically have two choices:  To be passive or to be proactive.   Obviously choosing to do nothing is about as passive as you can get… might as well throw in the towel now and save yourself the hassle and grief.  If you are immobile and stuck, you are in serious trouble.  The protective bubble you are wrapped in may feel comfy, but this cloak is indeed deceiving.  You are trapped in a time warp and will eventually lose your business to the competition.  Make sure these obvious issues don’t apply to you:

  1. RESISTING TECHNOLOGY: This is how you’ve always done things and this is how it shall be done.  You just keep it status quo and let the other guys use the new technology and processes.  Stay in this time warp and watch your clients high tail it away from you quicker than you can say 8-track tape or plastic pink yard flamingo.
  2. AVOIDING SOCIAL MEDIA: Can you say “FREE ADVERTISING”?  If you don’t have time to post things yourself, find someone to do it for you.  Take advantage of all the resources that are available.  Keep your name out there.  Let people look for YOU to see what you have to say… Don’t let them find your competitors because you don’t want to take the time…
  3. TRYING TO DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF: Why would you try to do it all?  Delegate!  If you can’t afford a staff, or if you don’t want one, at least get a Virtual Assistant to do the things you don’t like to do (or that suck up all your time!)
  4. USING A ROLODEX: Seriously?  How about a CRM or at the very least pop those numbers into your phone! Get an app like Inigo and exchange contact info with a simple text message even if you forgot or ran out of business cards! Who even has a Rolodex anymore?!
  5. GETTING THE SAME RESULTS AND STILL DOING IT THE SAME WAY: Hello… McFly!  If what you have done has been ineffectual, or at the very least yielding minimal results, why are you doing it the same way again and again and again?  Find what works!  Move on from what you have been doing.
  6. FORGETTING YOUR PURPOSE: Remember why you wanted to be an entrepreneur.  Maybe it’s time to reevaluate those goals and recall what got you onto the path of being a small business owner in the first place.
  7. NOT NETWORKING: You say you’re not a people person?  Well who do you think buys your goods and services?  Exactly!  Step outside your comfort zone and put yourself out there.   Use the opportunity to rub elbows with some people who may be able to help you grow your business.  Listen to other people… what are their stories?
  8. LIVING BY THE CLOCK: Business ownership is not for the meek.  It’s also not for the basic nine-to-fiver.  If you’re looking for a 9-5 gig, perhaps being an entrepreneur isn’t your thing.  You don’t have to breathe business 24/7, but you have to be open to the occasional early phone call or late appointment if you want your business to thrive.
  9. STAYING DISORGANIZED: Simple things like losing phone numbers, forgetting appointments and not being able to find important documentation will destroy you.  Can’t do it alone?  Get a Virtual Assistant to help you get your act together.  Don’t let your ADD stand in the way of your personal and professional success.
  10. RANDOMLY SWITCHING IT UP: Switching it up from time to time may sound like a good thing, but you need to let your ideas come to fruition too.  Constantly changing things around will not let you get an accurate feel for what works and what doesn’t.  Make sure you are constantly evaluating progress.
  11. KEEPING YOUR POSSE: Are some of your partners, staff or even the vendors holding you back?  You may love them but make certain you share the same goals and passion.  If not figure out an amicable way to go your own way.  Keeping your posse when they no longer share your dream is a big mistake.
  12. ALWAYS PLAYING IT SAFE: You need to take a risk from time to time.  Look around you.  What is your competition doing?  Why are you playing it so safe that you are blending into the background?

Being an entrepreneur takes courage.  It takes knowing when to walk, when to sprint, and when it’s time to run away from the habits that have you stuck… It’s knowing how to get out of your own way, how to move on, and how to get out of the time warp before you lose your butt to the competition.

Marketing Your Small Town Business

Marketing is not a one-size fits all process – small town business marketing ideas differ from marketing ideas that work in a city. In order to be successful, you must cater your marketing toward your target customer audience and reach them appropriately.

Small town market demographics

The first thing to do is to figure out how to market yourself to your customers. Who are your customers? Where do they spend their time? What are they interested in? Once you determine who you are marketing toward, then you can start to work on the marketing.

Look up the demographics of the area before you start to market – find out who is in your audience. Are you marketing to a community with young children, stay at home parents, church-goers, Veterans, eco-conscious vegetarians, farmers, Spanish-speaking agricultural workers, or motorcycle riders in their 50s? Do some research before you start.

Develop messaging for the local culture

Once you know who you’re marketing to, you can develop your messaging in accordance with the local culture. Messaging is part of marketing strategy and is important to lock down. Depending on the town, the population may have conservative religious and political views or be focused on sustainability and town preservation. Family values and town traditions may resonate more with small town or rural community than innovation and technological change. Read the local paper for news about the area to learn more about the community so that you can resonate with people.

Structure your messaging to mirror the tone of the small town or area that you’re marketing to. Hunting humor that is appreciated by one community with a hunting culture may be offensive to another community seeking to protect an endangered species.  Keep local culture in mind when marketing to a small town or rural community.

Online marketing for small town businesses

Online marketing efforts in less populated areas will differ from online marketing efforts in more populated areas. In a small town or rural area, you will be marketing to a smaller number of people. Depending on your business you may have a lot or very little competition. If you don’t have a lot of competition, your business will be easier to find online. But, just because you’re easier to find online, doesn’t mean that people are looking.

Rural customers are less likely to have high speed internet than customers living in cities or even small towns. High speed internet is costly in rural areas and landscape like mountains in some small towns makes internet service unreliable. While internet at home might not very common, that doesn’t mean that online marketing is out of the question. Many people living in small or rural towns use their cell phones to access the internet instead of a home computer. What does that mean for your business?

Mobile responsive websites

If you are marketing toward people in small towns or rural areas, your business website must be mobile friendly. Google is cracking down on mobile responsiveness for websites. Websites that are not optimized for mobile devices like cell phones, tablets, and iPads will be ranked lower in search engine results than websites that are mobile responsive. Check here to see if your website is mobile responsive.

Mobile responsiveness is important for your business – if potential customers cannot access your website online, they cannot learn about your business. If your website doesn’t pass Google’s mobile-friendly test, Perihelion can build a mobile responsive website for you.

Online directories

Registering your business with online directories like Google+, Yelp, and Yellow Pages is important when you’re marketing in less populated areas. Depending on the town, people may not travel in the direction of your business on a daily basis and may not see that a new business has opened for weeks or maybe even months. By registering your business with online directories, potential customers who are looking up your type of business on Google or Yelp will come across your business when they need it.

Not only are online directories good for reaching local customers, it will also help you get found my people driving through the area. If you’re opening a business that is off of a major transit way, you may pick up customers passing through. You never know who is looking for your type of business on their road trip to visit the Largest Ball of Twine.

Advertising online

Facebook or AdWords advertising may beneficial to marketing in a small town. With Facebook Advertising, you can build your ad’s audience based on demographics or a geographic radius. You can run the ad on desktop or on mobile devices. You can even cater the ad toward locals who Like specific Facebook pages like the local Chamber of Commerce or by profession, like farmers.

In a small town or rural area, AdWords can help your small business get found on local geographic searches more than other companies. If you’re seeking to build an online presence, or are a seasonal operation looking to make a splash, a Google AdWords campaign can give your business a boost while organic traffic to your website builds up.

Downtown The Dalles

Downtown The Dalles, OR

Build trust and a good reputation

In a small or rural town, you can be sure that word of mouth referrals will be a good way to get the name of your business out. But in order to get people talking about your business, you first have to gain their trust. Don’t barge into small town claiming that you’re the best thing since sliced bread. Aside from the fact that sliced bread is pretty great, people simply will not trust you. If you go in trying to establish relationships with other business owners before establishing a rapport, they will think you’re trying to scam them.

Small towns and rural communities are tight-knit groups of people. They know their neighbors, probably grew up together, and help each other out. This type of community is great for a business’s reputation, but you need to earn the trust of a rural community first and build your reputation. Start by introducing yourself to people before marketing yourself to them. The most important part of selling your product or services is helping people.

Get to know the people in the small town or rural communities – not only will they learn to trust you once they know you’re genuine, but they will also open up to you about themselves. This will enable you to figure out how your business can help them – an integral part of your marketing messaging.

Getting the word out about your small town business may seem daunting, but by using these methods, you can soon be on your way to successful marketing!

Promote Black Friday & Cyber Monday Offers With AdWords Structured Snippet Headers

The extensions can start showing starting November 20

This post originally appeared on SearchEngine Land written by Ginny Marvin

Google has added two new short-term headers for structured snippet extensions designed to help merchants promote Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers in their AdWords ads.

Structured snippet extension headers for Black Friday will be eligible to appear in ads November 20– 27, which is that Friday. Cyber Monday headers can appear November 20–30. During the overlap period, Black Friday headers will trump those set up for Cyber Monday.

Here are some examples from Google of how these headers and snippets might look:

  • Black Friday: Stores open at 6 a.m.
  • Black Friday: 25% off electronics
  • Cyber Monday: 10% off sitewide
  • Cyber Monday: Free shipping on $50+ orders

Advertisers just have to enter one offer in the snippet, unlike most structured snippets, which require multiple values.

black-friday-structured-snippet

Structured snippets can be set at the account, campaign or ad group level.

This is the second push this week by Google to promote merchant offers during the holiday surge. On Tuesday, Google launched a new test that lets consumers subscribe to text alerts for Black Friday, Cyber Monday or holiday deals when they search on related terms.

50 Reasons Why Having A “Free Website” Is A Bad Idea

Do a Google search for “free website” and you’ll get back pages of results, all offering you a quick and easy solution for building your website without spending a cent. Interestingly enough, Google itself is giving away free domains and websites for a year.

Sound too good to be true? Often it is – without wanting to come across as too cynical, whenever someone is offering you something for free, it’s always a good idea to ask yourself, “what’s in it for them?”

Many have fallen prey to the lure of free websites over the years and lived to regret their decisions. I don’t want you to fall into the same trap so I’ve compiled 50 reasons why you shouldn’t have a free website that you may not have considered:

  1. It looks unprofessional. Whether you’re marketing yourself or your business, having a website address like coolwidgets.myfreewebsite.com is not going to make a great first impression.
  2. “Free” doesn’t always mean free forever. It’s become common practice for businesses to lure in customers under the “freemium” model. This involves providing a service for free initially and then starting charging a few months down the road. By that point you’ll have got used to using the service and it’ll be a hassle to change so you’ll probably just pay up.
  3. If they start charging later, it’s not likely to be cheap. One of the other tricky aspects of these freemium services is that they often work out to be more expensive than just using a paid service in the first place. As they’ve already got your custom by drawing you in with a free trial, they don’t need to compete on price as much as other website providers.
  4. You lose ownership of your content. Using a free website service is like renting instead of buying a house, except you’re not even paying rent. While you can add lots of great content to your website and make it look beautiful, you never really own it – the provider does.
  5. They might even use your content. It’s unthinkable that you would be renting a house for free without providing something for the owner. The same goes for a free website and in some cases, the content you upload is considered “payment” for hosting it. Make sure you check the small print – once you’ve uploaded content to a site, it’s possible that you’ve agreed to give up your ownership rights.
  6. Your site could go down at any time. As you don’t really own your website, you have no control over it being live. Your host can decide to pull your site at any time and don’t have to give you any warning.
  7. You have no control over your site going down. Free hosts are notorious for pulling websites for a host of dubious reasons and no matter how much you protest, they don’t have to put it back up. Once it does go down, your content is probably gone for good – or they’ll charge you to bring it back.
  8. If your site goes down, you’ll also lose your domain. If you had a website like coolwidgets.myfreewebsite.com you’re probably not sobbing over the loss of your domain anyway. But with your domain, also goes any SEO benefit that you’ve built up over time. If you had a decent page rank or page authority, you’ll have to start from scratch.
  9. You can’t set up automatic redirection. When you host your own site, it is possible to retain the SEO benefit of an old domain when you move to a new one by setting up a 301 redirect. This is not possible on free sites, so if you move your site, you’ll have to include a link for your visitors to manually click to get to your new site, as well as losing all your domain metrics.
  10. Your site may be plastered with advertising. As we’ve already mentioned, it’s unlikely that anyone will give you a free website out of the goodness of their heart. No, they want to make money, and one of the ways of doing this is by sticking advertising banners in the premium space on your site. This not only looks ugly in most cases, but you may even end up advertising one of your competitors.
  11. Your site may be used in a link farm. Selling links is another easy way for website owners to make money. If you have a free website and the provider has sold links on it, you’re putting yourself at risk of Google penalties and even being de-indexed.
  12. It may be vulnerable to hackers. Security is often not of the utmost concern to free website providers so don’t be too surprised if you’re the victim of a hacker. Not only is it difficult to secure a website on free hosting, but restoring it can be a huge pain and you may well lose data.
  13. You’ll have limited disk space. Free services are almost always limited in terms of disk space (because it costs money). If you upload a lot of photos or videos, you could find you’ve reached your limit in no time at all.
  14. Bandwidth is limited. For the same reason, free websites usually have quite strict bandwidth restrictions. If you suddenly have an influx of traffic or you host a lot of videos on your site, expect your site to be pulled without warning for going over its bandwidth limit.
  15. Sites may be limited to a certain number of pages. Another common limitation in the world of free websites is number of pages. Think you can live with a 3-page site? You may end up frustrated when you want to expand.
  16. Moving your site is a hassle. Free services often make it incredibly difficult and time consuming to move your site. This is especially true when they’re trying to get you to upgrade to a paid service – they hope that you’ll find it so hard to move your site that you’ll just stick with their service, and in many cases this is exactly what people do.
  17. Site visitors may doubt your credibility. If you’re trying to run a business from a free website, forget it. Would you buy anything off a free website?
  18. Your design options are limited. Free websites usually come with a limited number of templates and you don’t have the option to create your own design.
  19. They’re difficult to customize. Sometimes you may be able to change the colors or fonts on a template or theme and upload a header graphic, but that’s about as far as it goes.
  20. You can’t add additional features. If you want to add some useful plugins to your site or set up an online store with shopping cart, you’re probably out of luck. Free websites are usually limited to the basics and you’ll have to pay up if you want to upgrade.
  21. Your ability to do SEO is limited. As you can’t really get into the backend of a free website, any on-site SEO you can do is limited to including keywords in your titles and content. Want total control? If you end up using WordPress to power your website (which we highly recommend) you should definitely checkout the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.
  22. Search engines give less priority to free domains. Free websites are usually considered to be less important and come up lower in the listings. Whole domains may even be penalized if there are a lot of websites on them considered to be spam (which is a high probability for a free service).
  23. No branded email address. As you don’t have your own domain, you also don’t have a branded email address. This looks rather unprofessional.
  24. Limited or nonexistent help for setup. Confused when you’re trying to set up your site? You’d better hope there’s a good support forum. Support staff are expensive so free site providers often don’t hire them.
  25. Limited or nonexistent help when you have problems. For the same reasons, don’t bother looking for a number to call when your website is down. You’ll just have to wait for it to come back up (if it ever does).
  26. You could lose your domain name. If you opt for a package that comes with a free domain name, you may think this is a good deal as it looks more professional. That’s fine until the time comes when you want to move your site and realize you don’t own your domain. You’ll usually have the option of buying it back at a premium price.
  27. You can’t make money from your website. Thinking about making a bit of extra cash by putting adverts on your website? Check the site rules and you’ll probably find this is forbidden – if there’s any money to be made off your site, it certainly won’t be coming to you.
  28. Other websites will look the same. The problem with having a free template website is that there are hundreds of other people all using the same design. Don’t expect your site to look any different from all the rest.
  29. Backups are difficult. When you have a self-hosted website it’s easy to backup your files by making sure they’re saved to your computer or by using a backup service. With free websites this is less easy and it’s often impossible to backup properly at all.
  30. Someone could steal your website. I already mentioned that security is often lacking on free services. As well as making your site vulnerable from hacking attacks, this also means it’s easy for people to steal your whole website. If you let your user account expire, it’s usually the case that someone else can register it again straight away, stealing all your traffic in the process.
  31. They make you look like a cheapskate. As well as just looking unprofessional in general, using a free site shows you aren’t willing to invest any money in your business. Who wants to work with someone who scrimps on the basic business essentials?
  32. Free sites are ugly. Those free templates aren’t only incredibly common, they’re also not usually the best example of great design. Stick a few advertising banners on top and you end up with one ugly website.
  33. They’re difficult to delete. The internet never forgets and there are many hundreds of people haunted by a free website they set up in their teens and now can’t get rid of. Don’t be one of them.
  34. They look childish. If you’re 12, this is fine. If you’re not, get a real website.
  35. You can’t use custom error pages. With WordPress and other self-hosted websites, it’s possible to set up custom error messages so you can direct lost visitors to files they may be looking for and other useful things. With free websites you’re stuck with the default error messages.
  36. Analytics are limited or nonexistent. In order to grow your website, it’s important to know how many people are visiting your site and where they are coming from. With free websites it’s common for this information to be limited or for there to be no analytics available at all.
  37. You can’t move your template to a new platform. Even if you like your common, ugly, free theme, you can’t take it with you when you move. If you want to move your website, you’ll have to create a new design.
  38. There’s no guaranteed uptime. You’re not paying for anything so the provider owes you nothing. If they’re unreliable and your website is down every 10 minutes, there’s no point in even trying to complain.
  39. Your details may be insecure. As well as your site being vulnerable to attack, your personal details may well also be at risk. There have been a number of high-profile cases where hackers have gained access to lists of users from free services including names, emails, dates of birth, addresses and even credit card numbers.
  40. You may be bothered with emails and upsells. It’s a common practice in online marketing to give away something free in order to get your email. They’ll then continue to bombard you with emails trying to sell you products and other services. Often unsubscribing means that you’ll lose your website.
  41. The owners may sell your contact details. As well as using your email for their own purposes, it’s not unheard of for companies to sell lists to other marketing companies. Make sure you read the small print and that your details aren’t being sold on.
  42. They encourage you to be lazy. Free website builders may be easy to use but learning how to do something yourself is rarely a bad thing. Self hosted websites and platforms like WordPress are great to help you learn how to build your own websites so you can make changes yourself and fix things when they go wrong.
  43. Free websites often load slowly. Your site will likely be on a server with thousands of other websites, also sharing bandwidth and resources. If it crawls along at a snail’s speed, you’ll know why.
  44. They’re not responsive. Want a responsive design that works well on mobile phones and tablets? You’ll be lucky to find one on a free website.
  45. They’re difficult to fix when something goes wrong. As you can’t get into the backend of hosted websites and support for free services is limited, you’ll probably be stuck for ideas if your website breaks. Another common trick of these “free” services is to provide premium support for when things do go wrong so your free site could become surprisingly expensive
  46. File uploading is limited. While you can upload files to a self-hosted site via FTP, with free services you’ll usually be limited to a web-based interface. These are often a pain to use and very limited so you may only be able to upload one file at a time or files that are within a certain size.
  47. There’s no way to stop people stealing your images. If you’re an artist or photographer, you should seriously think twice about using a free website. Not only may your images become property of the provider on upload, but there’s also no way to stop other people from hotlinking them as you would with a plugin or editing your .htaccess file on a self-hosted WordPress site.
  48. They may be run by unethical corporations. As I’ve pointed out several times, these free services are out to make money, not to do good deeds. You may well be supporting a somewhat undesirable business.
  49. They have a bad track record. Scores of free website services have come and gone over the years. Remember Geocities? The chances are that if you host your website on a free service, it won’t be around for very long.
  50. They’re just not cool! Having a free website won’t do anything for your image or your online street cred, so just put your hand in your pocket and hand over the few dollars a month it costs for a fully hosted site – you’ll thank me later!

So there you have it – 50 reasons why you should ignore that tempting offer of a 100% free-for-life website and back away from the computer. Free websites may be fine for your grandmother to upload her crochet patterns or for a temporary school project when you’re 9, but for anything else, forget it.

You may be wondering if free websites aren’t the answer, what is? Well, there are some paid website services which are worth considering, but most of them suffer from at least some of the problems we’ve discussed with free websites.

The ideal solution, which offers you complete control and customization is to have a self-hosted website on a platform like WordPress. Not only can you make your site look and work exactly how you want it to, but you also keep complete ownership of your content and have full control over security and backups.

Why Small Business Owners Shouldn’t Design Their Own Websites

You’re a small business owner who has invested years–decades–into your business.  You’ve ridden out the changes and stayed successful.  You know your business model, your industry, and your customers.

Now you need a new website design.  A picture develops in your mind of how you’ll convey all you’ve been through, all you know.  Your business is your pride and joy…so your website will be emblematic of your knowledge, your professionalism, your journey, your vision.

Your.

Here is the problem: your small business website is not really about you.  It’s not for you.

You are not the target audience for your website.  Your prospective clients are.

Think of Your Target Audience

No matter what the industry, product, or service, there is one consistent truth about a small business website:  the primary target audience are people being introduced to your business.  You’re making a first impression.

And at this point, they don’t care much about you.  They don’t care about why you started your business or the challenges you overcame to get where you are.  They don’t care that you believe you are the best.

The question on their mind is:  What’s in it for me?  They have a problem they need solved, and they want to see if you can solve it.  Online searchers are motivated totally by self-interest.

Successful SMB websites target these needs.  They embrace the self-interest of the visitor and accommodate it in every way possible.  They make an irresistible offer that grabs the visitors attention and makes them feel they’ve really found the best option out there.

Designing for Conversion

A website built around user experience converts far better than a business-centric site.  A website that speaks directly to the needs of the target audience converts better than a business site that talks about itself.

Which brings us back to the involvement of you, the business owner, in the website design process.

At first you probably think your input and vision are the most important for the project.  You know far more about your business than anyone–this is your baby.

Which entirely the problem.  The perspective you need to communicate to is that of someone who is totally new to your business.  You want to put yourself into the shoes of someone who is looking at your business for the first time.

As a business owner who has invested decades of your life into your business, you are the least objective person there is about your business.  By the nature of your position, you have the hardest time looking at your business from a totally fresh perspective.

This exposes you to one of the biggest traps when designing websites:  small business owners who can’t get out of their own way.

They obsess over minor details that will do nothing to help the site convert.  Every image, color, font, layout has to be just so.  Copy is stilted, wordy, and boring. These project often take 3-5 times longer to complete.  The result is a bloated, business-centric site filled with content that is irrelevant to everyone except the business owner.

6 months later they wonder why their website converts poorly.

How to Avoid Building a Business-Centric SMB Website Design

So how can you avoid creating a business website that is the bore at a party who hogs the conversation?

  • Collaborate.  Work with a website designer who understands online conversion goals and listen to them.  Talk to existing clients and ask them about what drew them to you when they first engaged your business.  Get fresh eyes on design mock-ups and listen to the impressions of people looking at your content for the first time.
  • Conversions.  Here is the rule:  Design your business website around lead-generation goals.  All content should support these goals.
  • Simplicity.  A business website is not a work of art.  It’s not your first-born child. It’s a tool.  Simple, clean designs that make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for do the best.

Your website is important in defining your company identity and conveying your value proposition.  As the business owner, you have a lot to contribute in these areas.

But don’t micro-manage your website design project to fit your personal vision.  You’ll waste time, get frustrated, and end-up with a site that more about you and less about the job it’s supposed to do.

Contact us today and get a Free Quote from a Professional Designer.