Getting Your Business Online.
It may seem ridiculous to some of us who have had a website for years, but many SME business owners have still not made the leap into the great unknown of creating a website and an online shop window for their business. There are all kinds of reasons cited for this including:
- I don’t need a website
- I am not technology savvy
- It’s too expensive
- I would not know where to start
- There is nobody in my business to look after it
- I have no need to sell online
- I have nothing to say
What does a website cost?
In my view, most of these excuses are pretty lame. The day of paying between five and twenty grand for a website is long gone, unless you are a corporate entity with very specific high end requirements, and it is no longer a costly exercise to create an online presence if you go about it the right way. In fact there are lots of free options out there where you can cut your teeth with a free template based site and free hosting for the first year. One such provider of this option in Ireland is Blacknight http://www.gettingbusinessonline.ie/getstarted but there are lots of others.
The free sites are a little restrictive but may suit some of my readers. My personal recommendation is that you go to the next level and spend a little bit of money as it will give you more flexibility and many more options. So what is a little bit of money? Well, I have been using an overseas development firm to create websites for me and for my clients for several years now. The typical price for a fully developed transactional website is around $500/$600. I have also used developers in the United States and Ireland and the cost has been multiples of this, and so I no longer use them. What is the point of spending more money than you need to?
Business truly is global these days and you might be surprised at how far you can stretch what you can get for a modest budget. Also, you don’t need to be sophisticated and to have an IT department managing the website for you. I ran a successful online consumer product business from my home for 8 years in my spare time and successfully sold my products in 60 different countries around the world. So be confident about creating your own shop window and significantly extend your market reach and revenue potential.
Where to start
If you are based in Ireland, Local Enterprise Offices offer a co-pay arrangement wherein they will subsidize the development of a transactional website up to 50% of the cost, with a maximum contribution of € 2,500 by way of a trading online voucher. Applicant businesses must be trading for at least 12 months, have no more than 10 employees, and annual turnover of less than €2million.
No matter where you are based, you can get a quality website built for way less than $1,000 and you don’t actually need Government grant assistance to do it. In my opinion, the best platform for a website is WordPress. WordPress themes, which are complete template websites can be purchased for as little as $30. Fully functional websites, with a shop incorporated, can be purchased for $50.
So for me, Step 1 is about selecting a theme you like. Make sure it is responsive so that it will work seamlessly on any device. Check out www.themeforest.com for loads of options.
Step 2, if you have not already done so, choose a domain name that reflects your brand or the product set you offer. Choosing dot com, dot ie , or something else will be dependent on the type of business you operate and the geographic locations you serve.
Step 3, is to find a website developer who will take your information, photos, pricing etc. and will drop them into your preferred template. I am happy to make recommendations to my readers so that they can access tried and trusted overseas developers at the right price, the right quality and with the right level of support. Get in touch with me by email if you want to access a suitable developer.
Step 4, is to choose a hosting partner where your website will be located online. Again, I am happy to make recommendations to my readers if they would like to contact me. I personally use a hosting partner in the United States but there are great hosting companies all around the world.
Step 5, Choose a partner to work with you to optimize you website for search engines (SEO).
The thinking behind smart design
Some people think that good design is all about pretty pictures and telling your prospective audience all about yourself and your business. Wrong. The website is never about you or your business – it is always about your customers and satisfying their explicit needs. Yes, you want the website to look good and to reflect well on your brand and your business, but there is something much more important that you need to consider first.
In relation to the website design, the average visitor to your website has about 5 seconds to learn 3 things:
- What’s it about? This should be clear and explicit. How many times have you visited a website and quickly left again because it was not immediately apparent what the web site was about.
- Who is it about? This should be about the visitor and the problem he is trying to solve and not about you or your brand. The visitor does not care about you or how qualified you are.
- What’s in it for me? If there is nothing clear and apparent in terms of benefits for the visitor, then he is gone and won’t come back. Remember that every visitor is totally selfish and if you have nothing that is instantly valuable in terms of information or benefits for that visitor, he will be on someone else’s site instantly.
There are lots of different views about best practices for building websites and how you get your business online. This article is simply my opinion, based on 16 years of creating an online presence for myself and my clients.