When I first started designing and developing websites back in 2001, the web was just kind of coming into it’s own as a marketing tool for businesses and there wasn’t quite yet a URL on every business card. There was no Twitter. No Facebook. No WordPress. The dot-com crash was beginning to settle heavily on the industry, and folks like myself were finding ourselves rethinking things. Until then, the basic premise was that everybody needs a website because “everyone else has a website,”–which wasn’t actually true, yet. By the time the crash was lifting and people were putting faith in the internet again, the game had changed. We had to show a generation of largely tech-unsavvy business owners how to think of their website as more than just a “web presence” and treat it like a real tool in their marketing kit. This is how we did it.
Build a site that works for you.
The primary goal of a business website is to generate more revenue for the business, either directly (selling things online) or indirectly (providing a lead which results in a sale). As the inspiring Steven Covey used to say, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Therefore, your efforts should first and foremost center around whatever’s needed to close the sale.
The funny thing is, a lot of people believe that because they close the sale best in-person, then a website is a useless endeavor. I’m not going to use it anyway, why bother? And maybe this is true for you—you’re going to meet them in person, or do a phone call and email some contracts, why should you even have a website?
Because the website should a) bring you leads and b) do at least some of the legwork for you. So you’re going to close the sale over coffee? That’s awesome. Why not have a form on your site that collects the most pertinent information and gets you to that coffee-closer even faster? Why not offer an incentive to subscribe to your email list so you can attain repeat customers and upsells without even picking up the phone? Thinking creatively (or hiring someone who does it for you) can unleash a laundry list of new ways you can gain more and better business on a 24/7 basis through the web.
Understand the true power of Search Engines.
Google is probably your best friend in the internet, followed closely by Facebook. If you’re going to be found, you’re going to need to be found on Google. The best thing you can do is some short-term and long-term strategies to get you to where you need to be. Do some research and find out what keywords you need to be found for on Google. Gain some short-term success with an Adwords campaign or longer-term success (but slower to achieve) with some good old-fashion organic SEO. Unless you’re familiar with the ins-and-outs of writing for the web and doing so in a way that will make you look good to Google, you should hire this one out.
Know your audience.
In 2001, this meant designing for a monitor with a 1024px by 768px resolution. In this day and age, it means designing for mobile, tablet and desktop. Sometimes, it means having an iOS or Android App to go with it. The only thing you can be sure of is that in another ten years it’ll probably be different, so be ready to shift, change and pivot.