Ideally, If you have any kind of budget, your first step for Web marketing is to build (or have someone build you) a professional-looking website that, at a minimum, serves as an online brochure for your business.
What’s a Website Going to Cost Me?
If you have some patience and are pretty familiar with computers, there are several do-it-yourself website services that allow you to get a website launched on your own schedule and usually for a very reasonable price—usually between $100-$200 per year.
If you’re busy or less tech-savvy, you can find a website company that will work with you to create your website. Some of these companies can be expensive, but there are a few that cater to the small business budget, such as…. us! Bloomfo Websites (www.bloomfo.com) caters to almost any budget and can create a simple website for as little $199 per year.
If you really don’t have any budget, there are a few options—for example, Facebook and Google Places for Business—that are free and are generally better than having no online presence at all. The two main drawbacks to using these free options are 1) in some cases, it signals to potential customers that the business can’t afford its own website and 2) there is less flexibility in the options you have to display your information versus when you create your own website.
I Don’t Sell Anything Online, so Why Should I Invest in a Website?
- Make it Easier for Customers to Refer Business to You. A website provides an information-rich place to which your happy customers can refer their friends, instead of just giving them your name and number.
- Keep Up with (or Stay Ahead of) Your Competition. Everyday more and more people use the Web to research products or services that they will eventually purchase in person. If a potential customer can’t find a website for your business and instead finds your competitors’ websites, those are potential customers you will likely lose. On the flip side, if you have a website and your competitors don’t, you have a leg-up in attracting those customers that are using the Web to research companies in your industry.
- Convenience for Your Customers. If your business has a “Customer First!” motto, a website can help provide customers with a better experience by making your business hours, location and other contact information readily accessible to them. Customers also appreciate being able to view menus, prices, and lists of products and services your business offers. More and more customers use the Web in an effort to get this information quickly.
- Create a Personal Experience in an Impersonal Place. The Web is by default a pretty impersonal place for businesses; customers surf anonymously and rarely interact directly with a business through their website. However, adding information about your company’s history or your experience, as well as a picture of you and your employees, can give a better sense to your potential customers about who they’ll be dealing with if they choose your business for their purchase.
- Save Yourself Time and Money. If you provide certain forms to many of your customers or find yourself fielding a lot of phone calls about the same questions, a website provides you an opportunity to make these forms and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) available on your website and saves you the time and money of having to deal provide the information over the phone or through the mail.
- Improve Your Current Marketing Efforts. A website provides an opportunity for you to add a website address to your “space-limited” marketing tools (like newspaper ads, yellow page listings, building signs and company car decals) to direct potential customers to an area that more fully describes your business, experience and the products and/or services you offer.
- Leverage the Availability of Other Low-Cost Web Marketing Opportunities. The Web offers a ton of low-cost marketing opportunities, in the form of free Facebook pages, free Google Places for Business pages, review websites (such as Yelp.com, TripAdvisor.com, Urbanspoon.com, etc.) and targeted marketing programs (such as Google Adwords and Facebook Advertising). All of these tools are much more effective when they can provide a link to a central website full of information about your business.
AUTHOR: Matt Bloomer, President of Bloomfo Websites (www.bloomfo.com).