Your website is a vital tool

There few individuals left who can't see that the internet has become THE indispensable marketing tool for your business, no matter how small or large you are.

People have realised that the web is no longer about tech-savvy individuals coming up with clever ideas, but a bread and butter marketing opportunity that every business should be exploiting to the maximum. Just as email, SMS and Instant Messaging have largely replaced the letter and supplemented the telephone, websites, social media, paid advertising and e-mail marketing have replaced the newspaper advertisement as the preferred way to secure more customers. The same people have also began to understand that the web is a place for brand awareness and reputation building as much as it is for customer acquisition. Increasingly they are trusting the web to store and handle their data as more and more cloud services become available. It is the place business is increasingly done.

Even so, many businesses find that they struggle to make an impact and face a lot of barriers to getting the best out of their online access. Just some of the problems smaller businesses list are the lack of proper high-speed broadband access, lack of good IT advice (smaller businesses cannot often afford a full-time IT manager to advise on which technologies they should choose) and a general lack of understanding of how to create the best impression online. While we can't build an optical fibre link to your premises, we can make some recommendations about what you can do when you get there.

This is i-webdesigner's top ten guide to what you should be doing on the web right now:

  1. Get Your News Across

    How do you appear to your customers? Do you ever get in touch with them? If no, how can they possibly know what is going on in your business and what you have to offer.  E-newsletters have consistently been proved to be a great way of getting your customers to read something specific. They create awareness of change and encourage them to keep you in mind for when they need your services. Just avoid being too pushy by keeping advertising content down to sensible levels. Aim to be informative, interesting and entertaining. Providing you can avoid that spam box, you will be surprised just how many people will open and read an interesting and entertaining newsletter that is relevant to their needs.

  2. Sell Your Products and Services 

    If you avoid selling directly online and only sell products in the traditional way, you are limiting your chances of success and missing out on the fastest growing market. Your business should have a clear strategy to do business online and to make it easy for your customers to do business with you there. Yes, this can mean actual products, but it can equally be the process of gathering interest, answering questions and providing information. It can even be providing a full infrastructure that your clients can plug into to do business with you.

  3. Communicate Better

    Simplify your message and make it clear. Providing a lot of information is not always the same as providing good, readable and interesting content. If you are unsure, find external people with whom you can openly discuss what your web content and what it says. If the message is not clear, then change it. If you find the process of writing a good advertising message daunting, find a professional copywriter who can help you.

  4. Make Your Website Work for You

    When did you last change your shop window, add products and services, make an offer on your site? Or is it just a dead spot you created once because you felt you had to and then never looked at again. Compare your site to the ones you like to visit yourself. What makes them attractive? Why do you keep coming back to them? Now take a look at your own and take the first steps to updating your content, brightening your site and bring everything up to date. You would not walk up the high street and expect to see the same offers as you did 5 years ago, so why do you think this is acceptable for your own business?

  5. Do some Advertising

    It's controllable and not too difficult to do for yourself and there are certainly agencies out there who can help you to get started. The web has become a congested place, and advertising is an easy way to get business in a measurable and controllable way. Just make sure that you monitor your advertisements. Study which ones work and which ones don't. Avoid overcomplication, budget well and measure the return on your investment and you have an excellent chance of success.

  6. Get Reviews

    Google changes to the way it works have put greater emphasis on popularity as a way of getting good page rankings (I know, circular, isn't it). These are measured in reviews. So, for example, you see how Trip Advisor has become the place to be for tourist destinations and restaurants. If you have satisfied customers, encourage them to write reviews, to comment and to act as your business promoter. Look at it as the new Word of Mouth.

  7. Listen to Your Customers

    It has often been said that you have two ears and one mouth for a reason. We are all guilty of using the internet to push a message and of not listening to what the web tells us. Each choice a visitor makes should tell you something about your website. Even if you get no visitors, it is telling you something about your business online. So take time to listen to what others have to say online and in comments about what you are doing. When you try different strategies, check out to see which actually bring results, especially the favourable ones. Encourage them to customers to fill in surveys if possible. In fact, do everything you can to listen to criticism, both good and bad, and to do something about it.

  8. Be Social

    The social way is a good place to be seen and to communicate with your customers outside of your own site. Here you can engage with your customers by providing tips and tricks, contributing to discussion groups and commenting on the world in which your business works. You can even make business offers. But remember to keep direct promotion of your business to less than 20% of what you say socially to avoid becoming the bore at the party. Different social media platforms will have different value to you depending on your type of business, but there are plenty to choose from. Choose one and aim to build your brand there.

  9. Make a Video

    Research proves that visitors rarely read to the bottom of long articles, no matter how good they are. Publishing videos on your site is an excellent way of putting on product demonstrations, and providing a different view of your business. Posting to YouTube means it does not even have to be expensive.

    Just keep your videos short and punchy. Like any advert, the better they are, the more impact they will have on the viewer.

  10. Measure and Review Your Marketing

    We meet such a lot of clients who seem to think that one off actions are all they need to do and that customers will flock to them just because they have a website or because they have posted a page on Facebook. It's not enough. You need to analyse your web presence to see which parts succeed and which parts are failing, so that you can strengthen them. As a minimum, we always recommend you install and learn Google Analytics so you can start to measure your visitors, who they are and where they come from. The software is free and using it will really start to tell you who is visiting your pages. Adding tags to offers will allow you to trace these through the system too, so you can start to measure which campaigns and what messages really work. Whatever you do, don't spend money and then wonder where it went.

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