Tech Mashup (tech blog)

Building a Website basics: Looking Long Term

By: Tim Coles
By: Tim Coles

I get this all the time from clients; “I know I need to build a website”. You’re darn straight you need to build a website because your competition is online. Getting companies to advertise online is a difficult task and it is exacerbated by the fact most companies either have no website or they have a really bad website.

I get this all the time from clients; “I know I need to build a website”.  You’re darn straight you need to build a website because your competition is online.  Getting companies to advertise online is a difficult task and it is exacerbated by the fact most companies either have no website or they have a really bad website.  If you’re in sales you understand objections and the “if then” arguments kill many sales.  So my fortunes are waiting on “if” my clients get their sites where they want to promote them, only “then” will they advertise online.   Today I want to talk to businesses that have bad websites or none at all.  If you are unsure if your website is bad, it probably is.   

So you want to build a website?  Easier said than done, you have treat building a website like building a new location for your business from the ground up.  Anytime I have a client, friend, or family discuss building a website the first questions I ask is; what do you want your site to do?  That’s when I get that quizzical look you get from your dog.  I also get a few minutes of quiet contemplation as they formulate their answer.  It is a simple question but the hardest any business has to answer.  Even businesses that are going to do retail sales have a hard time answering this question.  The internet is complicated and I try to break things down to simple terms so I can understand them.  A website can do one of three things; communicate, gather data, or sell (sell goods, services, or advertising space over the Internet).  These are not mutually exclusive and a website can do all three things or a combination.  Typically a site will start out doing one thing and add these other services on as they grow.  Most sites start off as a communication device.   

Let me ask the question again.  What do you want your website to do?  If all you want is a brochure telling your clients about your company?  Then you want a site communicating a message.  The majority of the sites on the internet are communication devices and 90% of those websites are bad.  Bad because they didn’t ask the question of what they want to the site do and they haven’t thought through what needs to be on the site to communicate their message effectively.  Most businesses fail at providing enough information for clients to get the answer they are looking for to make an informed choice.  Guess what?  These potential clients move onto other websites until they find the answer they are looking for.  Most businesses spend more money on having a tri-fold brochure produced that sits on their front counter unread than they do on their web site.  Raise your hand if you have a box of hundreds or thousands of brochures sitting in a closet gathering dust because no one reads them.  The easiest thing your website can do is answer the most common questions you’re asked on a daily basis.  Every time you have a client ask a question, write it down and add it along with a comment answering that question or add a section on your site devoted to answering that question.  You know your business, and that is why you’re successful.  Extend your business and potential sales to the internet.  Most people are on the internet looking for a product or service to fill a need.  No matter how small or insignificant a question, someone is looking to get an answer to that question.  The company that best answers the question, while people are doing research is poised to get the most business.  Obviously you don’t want to share information that is proprietary.  Your site should be used to communicate enough information that will get someone who is looking for your product or service to want to do business with you. 

Gathering data is another beast that is not easy to define because every business has their own agenda and goals.  Data is like anything else in that it has potential; it all depends on how you use it to gain an advantage over your competitor.  What amazes me is that a lot of businesses have a ton of data that they can use, but never do.  Understanding how to mine the data is where most businesses fail.  If you’re a business how do you get started gathering data?  Most businesses do this by providing something people are willing to provide their information to get.  The most common way is a newsletter.  The more valuable the information the more information people will provide.  Giving away prizes and gifts is another way to get information.  There are other ways to gather data like getting the information through an online shopping cart.  Ultimately the goal is to use the information to understand who your clients are, like pinpointing the demo you are targeting.  Most business owners feel they know the demographics of their clients.  For instance if you’re an HVAC business you would think that anyone with an air conditioner would be your client so you market to everyone in your area.  The problem is that most businesses have limited funds and can’t get to everyone.  If a business knows their demographics and can pinpoint the area they pull business from, age and gender you are far more likely to succeed compared to someone who doesn’t know where to spend their limited marketing dollars.  Another piece of data most businesses are after are email addresses, so they can stay connected with their clients.  There is so much you can do with the data you have or get that will help make your business even more successful.  You have to ask yourself, what is it my website is supposed to do and how am I going to use this data? 

The last area is a website that is an online storefront for your business.  I am going to ask the question again; what is it you want your website to do?  Sell! Sell! Sell!  Most businesses never make the transition from a communication website to a storefront for their business.  The reason is that it takes more than just building a website.  I have been working with a local business who wants to build an online storefront to extend his sales opportunities.  I have worked with this business for a couple of years and we kept talking about doing the storefront online.  The problem this client has, and most other businesses have, is they are not willing to put the resources (money) into the project.  Everyone has limited funds and taking on an online storefront should be treated like opening a new location.  The comment I made to this client was that the online storefront has to be treated like a new physical location.  At the new location you have to have someone to man the store, they show up and take care of customers; customer service needs, shipping out sold products, and working on the inventory to make sure everything is correct.  An online storefront isn’t an easy undertaking but planned properly and investing the right amount of resources a business can increase revenues.

Decide what you want your website to do.  Will it communicate, gather data, sell goods/services or a combination of these things?  My only recommendation is to hire someone to help guide you through the process of building a website that makes sense for your business.  Please feel free to send me an email at tcoles@wkyt.com if you have any questions.

 

Tim Coles
Internet Sales Manager WKYT/WYMT       

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