This article originally appeared on Inc.com as part of BusinessBlocks CEO Justin Kulla’s weekly Inc. Magazine column. See the original post here.
Gone are the days where it was expensive and time consuming for a small business to get a website up and running. In fact, 92 percent of small businesses project to launch a website by the end of 2018. If you still haven’t launched your small business website, you’re behind the curve.
You may say that you would rather focus on sales process and marketing touch points, but there are new rules that say websites can provide ongoing, meaningful contact that actually drives revenue. Once up and running, you can focus on meaningful sales and marketing processes with high-quality leads. Don’t think you have the skills to put together a website? No problem — there are many tools and guides that can help you along the way.
Whether it’s a brochure site for your business, or an online marketplace for your products, you can make it happen within a couple hours with out of the box services that offer templates for easy customization at a reasonable price.
Similar to the phrase “if a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, did it make a sound?” your website will never have any impact if you don’t populate it with compelling content. Whether you’re creating a website or refreshing an outdated website, you need to start with the story you’re trying to tell your customers — otherwise, you’ll never have a shot at converting new ones.
When building a new site for our own company, we brought together our developers and designers, marketers and content creators. Immediately, the will be drawn to the fun, creative elements such as the logo placement, tagline and imagery. These are all absolutely essential, but not more so than some of the small business website fundamentals such as your privacy information and contact details.
It would be like handing out a business card that’s the perfect color, weight and description, except you forgot to add your telephone number or email address. Don’t let yourself forget about the core function your website needs to serve when you’re designing or redesigning it.
Here are five fundamental things your website needs to succeed:
1. Contact Information
It’s important for customers to be able to get in contact with you quickly. Some consumers will even bypass your product and services pages and call you directly — old school. For small businesses, it might be realistic to think that getting a sales team specifically for online sales is not feasible, especially for small operations.
However, you can provide someone who visits your website methods to contact you by offering contact forms where you can get back to them, or promote being followed on social networks where they can also reach out to you. The key is to not lose a sale by not having any options for contact through the website.
A big reason small businesses thrive is because of their ability to give excellent customer service to your local customers. Make sure it has a modern design – customers are skeptical of old looking websites. Convey your company’s values and empathy through content on your website to help increase trust.
Consider an “about us” section that highlights the origins of the business, or display your company values throughout. These additions give the customer confidence that your business is brought by real people who want to provide excellent products and services.
It is more important than ever to create a responsive website that adapts to all screen sizes. This way your potential customers can visit your website on their phone during a conversation about your company with a friend, or while they browse the web on their laptop when searching for a service or product like the one you offer.
4. E-commerce options
Out-of-the-box services can get your website up and running quickly. If you sell products, your provider likely offers e-commerce solutions, too.
Setting up a marketplace for your product might be the perfect opportunity for you to gain more customers. Similar to having a way to contact the business, it’s never a bad idea to give a customer the option to close a sale themselves.
5. Your reputation
First time visitors don’t know anything about your company. You can make the right impression by showcasing testimonials or reviews of what your small business offers.
If you want to be as transparent with your customer as possible, include links to where visitors can see all reviews, including the bad ones. Besides, every bad review is an opportunity to learn and improve your business.
Launching a website is step one, but your critical step two is evaluating your website to make sure it’s really meeting your business goals. It’s important that your website tells the story you want it to tell.
How can you make sure yours is up to par? User testing. Whether you hire for a user testing service or just ask some friends and family to poke around your site, get some feedback about what is clear and not clear about business based on what they see and adjust content as needed.