Every so often I am approached by a friend or acquaintance who is just starting a new business and they ask me the big question – Do I need a website for my business? What do you recommend?
After many years of discussing this topic with all those friends and acquaintances, I would like to share with you my thoughts on the topic and hopefully give you some direction as to what to do.
To answer this question I have found it necessary to first understand the main goal behind building a website. Based on my understanding of the website goals, I can then direct the individual to the appropriate solution.
I can now categorize the goals into three major topics: Basic Business Website, Lead Generator and Online Sales. Based on where you find yourself with your business in the next 1 to 3 years within these categories will determine your plan of action.
However I would caution that sometimes the best plans do not always play out in reality and often business people find themselves moving along a continuum from one category to the next. That’s not so bad as long as you are prepared to either start from scratch or make further investments as the needs arise. I will now describe in more detail what I mean by each of these categories.
Basic Business Website
This category is for those businesses who wish to have a website as a form of online brochure about their business, products and services. In 2016 a basic business website is a prerequisite to doing business. The fact is that most people use the internet today to learn, gather information and find answers. If you are not there when people are looking for you or your business or your business category then you are losing out.
To build a basic business site today is very easy and requires very minimal technical skills. Gone are the days where you have to hire a graphic designer, web developer and a SEO consultant. There are a number of very easy to use website platforms which are more than what is needed to build a basic business website. Wix, Yahoo, Webydo, GoDaddy, Jimdo, Squarespace, Weebly are but just a few of the platforms that are ideally suited for this purpose. In my next posting I will be covering in more detail the various options available in this category.
There are three types of lead generators: online sales leads , offline sales leads, and leads to “Bricks & Mortar”. Those looking to sell online will need to not only have a site which supports selling a product or service but they will also need to build and experiment with web pages or landing pages which are used to convince people to buy your product or service. If you are interested in offline sales lead generation you will also need to build and experiment with landing pages, but since you are not selling online, the goal of the landing pages is to generate email or phone leads which then can be used for follow up with interested potential customers. The final category is Bricks & Mortar businesses which simply want people to pick up the phone or send them an email that they wish to buy or learn more about their products or services. In this case it would be wise to consider in addition to a basic website, adding your business to various local and general online business directories.
There are a couple a number for options available for building and experimenting with landing pages. The first option is to use your website. Build a page on your website which is dedicated to closing traffic. This may be the simplest and fastest way to get started. If and when you get started with online advertising you will be able to point the advertising traffic to this specific page on your website.
Another option is to use a landing page platform. There are a number of these companies who have entered this market over the past few years. Unbounce is probably the most prominent one.
For those businesses that wish to sell online, unfortunately the basic website will not do. Customers who purchase goods online have come to expect a very simple and easy way to go from selection of product to check out to delivery. If you fall down with this process you will fail. There are a number of options available to you and they differ by complexity and cost. The most basic option is to open up an eCommerce site on a eCommerce platform. There are a number of these platforms available today such as Yahoo eCommerce, Shopify and Ebay. These platforms will provide you with everything you need to build the sales process described above.
The next option is to open a store on eBay or Amazon. Again these platforms provide you with the necessary tools to carry out a simple sales process but there are more costs involved.
The final option is to build your own eCommerce site using eCommerce software. There are a number of eCommerce products on the market. These products provide you with the maximum flexibility but will require significant ongoing maintenance and development costs.
Customer testimonials are the best way to build trust in your business, services and products. Displaying them on your website or Facebook page tells your online market that you have happy & satisfied customers who stand behind your business. Once you realize the importance of having testimonials on your website to support your business’s reputation, how do you go about collecting testimonials?
Many of our own customers have been collecting testimonials for a while. We have taken their best practices and come up with 7 easy steps that you can take now to get testimonials for your business.
Step 1 – Identify a happy customer – Every happy customer is a testimonial opportunity
The first step is to identify your target opportunities. Here is a list of where we’ve found customer testimonial opportunities:
1. A paying customer. Someone who has taken one of his most precious possessions (i.e. his hard earned cash) and given it to you, is the surest sign that you have a customer who is intrigued and sees the value proposition of your offering.
2. A customer interaction with Customer Service. A short call for assistance or an interaction that started off very bad but then turned great, are both proven testimonial opportunities.
3. An excited customer. Some customers come into your store, buy and leave, while others linger, ask questions, smile or are interested in a conversation. Be on the watch for these engaged customers. They represent prime candidates for giving you a testimonial.
4. A recurring purchase or repeat customer. If they come back you are doing something right. Give them a chance to share their satisfaction with others via a testimonial.
5. A customer who shared their comments about your business with others. They may have recommended you to a new customer or shared their experience on a social network. Continuously scan the internet for these types of customer comments and next time you do business with them, invite them to share their positive energies for your website.
Step 2 – Send a request or ask for a testimonial on the spot
Sending a request via email or sms is the easiest way to pursue a testimonial. You don’t have to deal with the potential of an uncomfortable moment. After the sale, remember to send them an email or SMS asking for feedback or a testimonial. Some businesses have online forms which make it easy for their customers to complete the task. Others offer coupons to purchase again in exchange for a testimonial.
Asking a customer for a testimonial is more direct and is more effective. After a customer leaves your premises, the chances of them leaving you a testimonial begins to diminish over time. They are busy with their own lives and submitting a testimonial to your business is not a priority. This is why soliciting a testimonial directly while they are in front of you will increase the probability of getting one. (Our mobile apps were designed and built specifically for this purpose. Try them out.)
Step 3 – Add a Submit Testimonial button to your website
Make it easy for your customers to leave you something. Nothing could be easier than clicking on a button and leaving comments. You could send people to your website to leave a testimonial there. You could also insert a link to your testimonial form in your regular communication via emails and newsletters.
Step 4 – Display testimonials on your website
This may seem obvious but having new customers see that others have submitted a testimonial will give them further encouragement to leave one themselves. Having up to date testimonials on your website is imperative to continue to show your visitors that your business is still satisfying customers.
Step 5 – Display testimonials on your Facebook page
If you don’t have one, you should set up a business page in Facebook. It is very easy to do. Customer testimonials is a great piece of content to share with your Facebook customers. If you are fortunate enough to capture a video testimonial then sharing it on Facebook can make that testimonial even more effective.
Step 6 – Share on social media and other sites
Being relevant on the Internet today takes a lot of work. This is something we hear over and over again from our customers. There are so many places to add content to. Try to find the most significant places and invest your time there or every week take a different social network and invest some time on that one.
Step 7 – Include testimonials in outgoing correspondence
We have a customer who includes their testimonials on every email that they send out. Others include them in their proposals and newsletters. In our electronic world it is very easy to pop in a link to your testimonial page in your email signature and thus ensure that everyone has access to your happy satisfied customers.
Do you have a favorite method for collecting testimonials? Share them with us and we will provide you with a 10% discount off our company’s testimonial product VocalReferences.