Every business owner knows they need a web site. Everyone says so. Your customers and clients will ask you, “Do you have a web site?” All of your competitors have one. It is a really important part of business in the 21st century.
I’ve been building web sites for a quarter of a century. Whenever I begin communicating with a new client the conversations invariably goes something like this:
“I need a web site,” says the prospective new client.
“Why?” I ask.
It may seem like a simple question. It may seem like the answer is simple, too. Unfortunately neither is the case. And, if you do not know why you need a web site, the truth is, maybe you don’t.
Do You Even Need a Web Site?
The idea of developing an online presence for your business has evolved quite a bit over the last quarter of a century. Having your own web site is but one way to do this. You web site can be a powerful tool, but like any tool, you have to pick it up and use it if you want to get results. If you don’t have specific ideas for what you want your web site to do for (i.e. what is the tool’s job?) and if you don’t expect that you’ll be able to invest some of your (or an employee’s) time into it, then a web site may not be for you.
This may sound like a strange recommendation from someone who is in the business of making web sites. It seems like it would be akin to a vacuum cleaner salesman telling you that you might be just as happy with a broom.
In the online world, having a successful online strategy is an ongoing project. One does not simply build a web site and suddenly start making millions of dollars. You didn’t just get up one morning and say, “I’m going to start a business,” then open your doors and wait for customers to start walking in. You had to manage your business and keep up on things to ensure that it grew, made money, and continued to serve the purpose it was designed for.
Your web site is not something “outside” of your business. It is an integrated part of your business and needs the same ongoing attention. If you don’t give it that ongoing attention, then maybe you are actually better off with a broom.
Then, What’s a Web Site To Do?
A web site can do a lot of things, and the answer will vary a lot depending upon just what sort of business you have. For some niches it’s more obvious. If you are in the business of selling things, then you might want your web site to sell things. For other industries it can be a lot more tricky. The following is a short list of things your site can do for you, but it’s far from complete. As time goes on, I’ll be making posts to specifically address these and other things.
- Sell Products Directly: This is probably the most obvious answer for most. Many commercial web sites with brick and mortar storefronts have established online stores to increase sales and to allow people to shop from home.
- Generate Leads and Quote Requests: Many businesses provide services or have complex products that you can’t just “add-to-cart” and buy. Your site can inform people about these things, generate some interest, and hopefully inspire the visitor to contact you. At that point, you can provide them with a quote based upon their specific needs or otherwise work that lead to turn them into a customer.
- Customer Service: Before they become your customer or even after they already have, customers often have questions or problems and need to know how to get things taken care of. By understanding your customers’ needs, you can easily provide resources and information to answer and address these things. You can sometimes develop tools to help diagnose or identify specific issues they may be having and then provide solutions or a set of steps they can take to get the issue solved for them.
- Brand Awareness and Building: We’ll be talking a lot about this subject here on Equestics. Whether you’ve spent time and energy on your brand or not, you’ve got one. Your site is a great tool to help guide the way your brand grows and to define the message that gets attached to it.
- Drive Customers to Your Storefront: This is one of those things that many businesses could benefit from, but one that is often overlooked when coming up with the online strategy. Sometimes it’s assumed that if you have a web site, the users will then assume that they should come to your store to get things. People don’t always do that, though. When you employ this strategy on a site, you can not only tell your customers to come visit, but you can make it easier by telling them how (to get there) and when (you’re open).
- Improve Efficiency: So many businesses treat their web site as something off to the side of their main business. If a site is built as an integral part of how you do business rather than a peripheral entity, you can see many ways that your efficiency and productivity can be improved. It takes a coordinated effort between the development team and your own management to develop and establish proper SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), but it can pay off in big ways.
Once you have established why you need a web site, it makes it a lot easier to make one that is actually going to do something to help your business. There are many more things that I could add to the list above, but it’s a good starting point. Your web site can do just one or two of these things, or it can try to tackle them all. By understanding what the site is actually supposed to do for you, you can now start to measure your success as well.