Do you have a family member or members that are attorneys, doctors, investment advisors, dentists, brokers, or anything of a similar sort? Now that the holidays for 2020 are creeping up, you may remember years past when some of your guests sought out the aforementioned folks to tap into the latest free advice in their area of expertise. In the current environment of lockdowns, mask-wearing, business closures, and so-called social distancing, business owners are seeking a new way to generate income. This is causing the 2020 version of the Oklahoma land rush. Businesses who here to for have given little or no thought about shifting a portion of their business to internet-based sales and/or service are now rushing to stake their claim. In this headlong rush to hang out their brand new shiny online shingle, unfortunately, businesses will encounter all manner of snake oil sales pitches. My purpose in writing this piece is to share some of the things I learned during the last 10+ years running C2C Consulting and previously more years than I care to count leading corporate software engineering groups. You will see some things I learned the hard way and others came easier by good knowledge and research or pure dumb luck. I just hope you do not try to do your research over the holiday table and dip your sleeve in the gravy.
There are literally tens of thousands of sites on the net offering build your own website deals for free or nearly so. Now; before I go on, I do not have an issue with these deals in certain situations. The Smith Family vacation to Austria to visit the remaining Von Trapp family website (daily blog entries included), The birth of the first Logan family child (NOTE: the site will soon go stale because you will never see any evidence of child two through whatever), The family "YUM" site highlighting all the fabulous recipes you happened across on the web in the last hour and every 27 seconds throughout your surfing day (To be honest Facebook has taken over most of this traffic) to name a few, you get the point.
These types of sites are fun to build and informative for your friends and family. They are not at all appropriate for any type of business endeavor. Your company website is the public face you present to hundreds of potential customers each day. That image must be professional, informative, and as easy as possible with which to interact. "Build it and they will come." The statement never was totally accurate, and it is virtually totally inaccurate now. Unless you are VERY much better than the average bear technically, leave it to the professionals. Website technology advances rapidly. The baseline expectations of the browsing public increase as the techniques improve. Visits from folks using mobile devices are fully expected to continue on the upswing. Reacting to the change can be a handful for a pro. It is impossible for others to keep up. Small business owners must be great at their core business to stay viable. Do that. Do not attempt to also become a skilled web developer. Something will have to give. Let it not be what pays the bills.
A huge misnomer is professionally built websites cost thousands of dollars and are not affordable for most small business. Not true. You can spend pretty much as you like, but it does not have to be that way. It is entirely possible to have a site built for under $1,000, not including your hosting fees using the latest and greatest tools. You will likely have to roll up your sleeves and contribute some blood, sweat, and tears to building the site to bring it in under $1000 and not having it look like a cookie-cutter site you built in your garage. That route sends a message to your customers and clients and it is not a good one. It really all depends on the functions you need and your budget. The most important thing to remember during the process is the site is the public face to your business online. More folks will see your website in one day than a month or more any other way. Make it a good experience and a great impression.
What to do ...
√ Decide if you need a website
The answer is "Yes" in 99% of the cases. Nail salons, mechanics, landscapers, restaurants, pubs, and the list goes on, all need a presence on the web. The 20 and 30-somethings in the world expect a company to have a website. Not only does this age group live by the text message; they live by sites usable from their smartphone.
√ Decide what you want to accomplish with your site
Ask yourself some questions like, "Do I want to sell products/services", "Do I want to communicate with my customers and prospects this way", "Do I want to let the world know how great my customers think my products/services are". The list will vary greatly based on your business.
√ What is my budget?
Do I want/need to grow my business? What do I spend on advertising now? How much do I want to divert to website development and on-going maintenance?
√ What is the plan for keeping it up to date?
Do I have the time, skill, and desire to update the site regularly? Should I instead contract that out?
√ Decide what additional services you need
Do I need a company website domain, and email to go with it? Do I need hosting for my website? Again, the answer here is almost always, "Yes." A word to the wise I told you I would share. To make any of this possible, you need a good hosting company. Siteground is a great hosting company. They offer great pricing, great products, super customer support, and they are continuously on the hunt for the next technology improvement. You might ask, "Why is choosing a hosting company so important?" It is critical because the hosting performance of your site affects everything: customer satisfaction, SEO rankings, bounce rates, time on site; the list goes on and on. C2C started with Siteground when we started our business. Siteground has always been there with innovation and support when we needed it. Seriously; you can not make a better choice. Just sayin' ...
√ Get bids
Find websites of other small businesses in your line of work/services/products. Who built their site. What do you like about it? What would you change?
Armed with this information, you are well on the way to meeting your goal(s). I personally have always found legitimate web development companies to be more than helpful and understanding. Shoot; they are most likely small businesses too, and they know the challenges you face. Don't go with any company that will shoot you a price without first carefully assessing your situation. Each is different. One size does not fit all. Look for a company that understands and truly cares about meeting your needs now and into the future. Find a company that has a proven track record of longevity and service. Forget about your niece's boyfriend's cousin. I can't remember how many sites get left unattended in that scenario.
And finally; keep your sleeve out of the gravy ...