More than half of the small businesses in Australia don’t have websites according to the findings of a survey by Telstra conducted this year. The reason for this might be that many of the small businesses are owned by people who got into it before websites were a “thing”. The business owners might have a high profile within their community, where they’re participating in community networking functions, social events and sponsoring various activities which ensure they’re on the forefront of their local customers’ minds.
This is all very well and good but what about opening up to the possibility of doing business outside of the immediate community? We live in extraordinary times where many products and services can be used and shipped across borders inexpensively.
Australian cities’ demographics are changing rapidly thanks to the influx of people coming into the country. I should know, I arrived almost eight years ago and had no clue which local businesses were around, what their reputation was like and what their customers thought of them without consulting Google.
So why as a small business owner wouldn’t you invest a little time and money into an online presence that captures the essence of what you do?
Did I mention that you can build a website without any technical skills within a few hours and for free? It’s easy these days. Though I cannot personally vouch for Wix or Squarespace, I’ve heard people sing their praises when it comes to throwing up an online presence on the cheap and easy.
When I started blogging about eight years ago, almost as soon as I arrived in Sydney, I didn’t have the options available today. I started off with a WordPress blog which was hosted on wordpress and had a website.EDASBLOG.com domain, which was good enough for me to stake my online claim. Your business can easily do the same for starters. Now, why am I so hung up on WordPress? Well, I’m a creature of habit.
So is Tim Ferriss, it appears. Or he gets paid by WordPress to talk about their features on his Podcast. One immediate benefit is that because WordPress has been around longer, there’s lots of support and online communities should you start dabbling in it.
When you first get your business online, you don’t need to get fancy with it. Just make sure your business name is available as a domain you can register if you’re not choosing to be hosted by WordPress, Wix or Squarespace. If you’re Bob’s Pies try to get the domain name BobsPies.com or BobsPies.com.au but by no means are you restricted to the .com or .com.au convention. Go onto Panthur to see whether your business name is available to be purchased as a domain. Once you see what’s available, you can register your domain and find a host through a huge range of providers.
Why Panthur? There are many other options available but Panthur was the one a web developer recommended. When I ring them up, I’ve never had to wait too long on the line and the technical support person has always been able to resolve my issues, which were mainly around not remembering passwords and logins.
Speaking of Web Developers…
Yes, it’s easy enough to build your own company website and if you can’t get a website up, then get yourself online and in a position to receive reviews by setting up a Facebook Page. Don’t forget to set up an Instagram account to connect with locals and push out offers.
Another important step is to register your business with Google. This is super easy and requires no technical whatsoever. What happens when someone Googles, let’s say, a hairstylist in Rushcutters Bay and you happen to be a hairstylist in Rushcutters Bay, is that your business name, contact details and website all get the first listing (among other hairstylists in the area).
So you can do all of this and get a simple page up and online without a web developer. But… When you want more functionality online, like for example, having an enquiry form, newsletter sign-ups, e-commerce, or simply you want to look better online and you don’t have the skills to get your website looking the way you want it, then it’s time to set aside a budget and seek the assistance of a professional.
How to Find a Good Web Developer?
Joining a small business network such as BNI or your local business chamber will put you in touch with web developers. You can start enquiring about their portfolio to see whether they’ve worked with businesses similar to yours and can give you the functionality you want for your website.
When it comes to web developers, DO JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER. If their own website is difficult to navigate, confusing, doesn’t have helpful and easy to find information, do not engage them. Chances are you’ll find working with them just as frustrating as trying to navigate their website for information.
Respect Your Web Developer’s Time
Before you engage a web developer, determine the following:
- When you’d like your website up and running
- How much you’d like to spend initially
- Where your social accounts are located
- Accreditations, associations and branding files you’d like your website to showcase
To make your web developer’s job easier, prepare a briefing document that clearly states what you want your website to do.
Are you trying to use your website to provide information about your services and want prospects to keep in touch by signing up to your newsletter?
Do you want visitors to set up complimentary appointments?
Do you want people to fill out your enquiry form?
Your briefing document should map out the pages you would want in the site. I recommend five basic pages:
- Freebies (Resources you can share with your prospects to engage them)
Once you’ve got a clear idea of what you want your website to do and you know what message to convey on your web pages, write this up as a Google Doc and invite your web developer to access it. Let them edit the document or make comments where things aren’t clear and soon you’ll find you’re on the same page (pun intended).
Over to You…
Have you got a website or one that you’re looking to improve? E-mail me, firstname.lastname@example.org and I can recommend improvements for the design and copy.