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The five key features that your small business website needs

Creating a small business website is a daunting task for anyone who has very little or no online experience.

Even the smallest bit of research will unleash a whole range of techno-jargon and online marketing advice from all angles – enough to make anyone’s head spin.

To avoid this overload of information, a new site should be treated like a V8 Supercar heading out to the track for the first time. It must be built on a solid framework but will be constantly tweaked throughout its life span into an efficient, customer-converting machine.

To provide this solid framework, there are five essential items that must be taken into consideration from day one:

#1 An Easy-to-Use Navigation Menu

The menu system of the site must be easy to find on the page, simple to understand and uncluttered in appearance. Refine the main options (those visible straight away) down to the bare necessities and “drop-down” menus should be used to display any extras that need to be accessed during a visitor’s time on the website.

#2 An “About Us” Page

It’s been found that today’s online consumer likes to “connect” with businesses before they purchase products or engage services.  A good “About Us” page should be jargon-free and clearly display who you are, where your business has evolved from and why it exists now. Once again, keep to the essentials but at the same time, don’t leave any important information out.

Be sure to also include a “Contact Us” page on the site with a contact form that sends directly to the site manager’s email.

#3 Helpful, free content

Another way to create a connection with your customers to provide helpful content that will improve the way they interact with your products and services. This can be achieved through a variety of ways including FAQ pages, videos, customer forums and downloadable PDFs. By adding high-quality free content to your site, visitors are more likely to return in the future to what else you have to offer them.

#4 Customer Testimonial Page

Whilst writing your own content will go a long way towards selling your products and services to site visitors, nothing works better than testimonials from your current customers.

Select a few satisfied clients that you have worked with and send them a friendly email requesting a short description of their experiences with your business. You may be surprised how quickly you will receive a response from them – most people love to reward good service.

#5 A Clear Call-To-Action

Everything above counts for nothing if you don’t provide a quick, easy to find Call-To-Action (CTA) somewhere prominent on your site. The CTA is the method by which a site visitor chooses to become a customer. For example, on a motel’s website, a “Make a Booking” button provides as the Call-To-Action. On an eCommerce site, you’ll find a shopping trolley icon marked “Checkout”.

The CTA may be different for each business but the rules for displaying them are the same – it must be eye-catching, clearly defined and be designed in such a way to encourage interaction.

Without a Call-To-Action, a website quickly becomes an online brochure.

Conclusion

There are loads of other elements that help make a successful website that converts visitors to customers. These five items will allow you to create a solid framework from which to build the remainder of your site.

In future blog posts, we will cover some of the extras that will add even further value to your site and help to build your business in both brand and bottom line.

For help getting your small business website off the ground, get in touch with Tropical Coast Web Design. We’ve been working with small business since 2007.

Five Reasons Emails are better than Phone Calls

In the initial phase of designing a website for a client, it is very important for me to make a connection via a quick phone call to that person. Even if it is just to confirm that there is a real person behind my email, this initial phone call is often the “closer” on the deal and we can start doing business.

Beyond this however, I am real advocate of email only business. I find that phone calls are often unnecessary, cause disruption to the work flow of business in general and eat away at time that could easily be used more efficiently.

Here are five reasons why email HAS to be the communication line of choice when working with any type of business.

#1 You can’t review a phone call before you have it

Phone calls are often spur of the moment. You can’t look over what you are going to say during a conversation – it just happens. And, as with spur of the moment events, things can be skipped, left out or forgotten completely. This will often to a second, time consuming phone call.

With emails, you can type your thoughts and views quickly, review them and edit before clicking the SEND button. If something is forgotten, it takes less than a few seconds to quickly shoot out a second email however this is less likely to be needed as you have already reviewed the content of the first! Time saved!

#2 It’s hard to set aside time for phone calls

Unless you have a secretary with an iron clad policy to follow (no phone calls between certain hours), you invariably are going to have phone calls dotted throughout your day. Just you are just getting “into the flow” of a new project or work assignment then, bang, in comes that phone call. It takes you away from that important work, breaks your concentration and, when the call is finished, you have to get back into the zone, if possible.

Most efficient email users set aside a portion of their day to use specifically for the purposes of email. They know that, for example, between the hours of 8.00am – 9.00am the emails will be looked at and the correspondence for the day will be taken of – free of interruption.

#3 Emails are easier to focus on the point (no unnecessary small talk)

Phone calls are always filled with some small talk (how’s the family, did you watch the game, great weather we’re having) just to keep the conversation at a friendly level. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this, this type of talk is generally reserved for lunchtimes and outside of work hours. It slows productivity and breaks the work flow of the day.

With an email, you can start with curt greeting and launch straight into what needs to be said. No small talk, just action.

#4 You can’t attach anything to a phone call

Have you noticed that very few businesses are utilising the fax machine these days? Some are still holding onto this archaic, out-dated piece of technology but most have realised if you want get that document, file, photo, image or form to its intended recipient, there is no substitute to the prompt delivery of an email attachment. Enough said.

#5 Phone calls can interruption to the work flow of a day

As already pointed out, the main factor against the use of a phone call in favour of an email is the sheer interruption that it can cause to a day. Some people can handle the constant flow of calls but most business people need to focus on the work that needs to be done. Scheduled email times and less phone calls will allow them to do just that.

Of course, I will be the first to admit that if you are dealing with anyone who is not “on top” of their emails then a phone call must be the way to go. Personally, I subscribe to the GTD methods of organisation and this helps me to keep my inbox at zero. It only takes few minutes a day (which I set aside) to answer emails, reply and sort other items into actionable folders.

Be there for customers 24/7 (even when you’re asleep)

Sit back for a moment and think of a business that you deal with regularly – one that you enjoy returning to time after time. Now, delving a little deeper, why do you go back to that particular business each time? Is it just for the price of the goods and services?

Chances are (with the exception of the big chain stores), it’s not – you go back for their customer service.

At the end of the day, businesses are often not remembered by the goods and services they provide. They are remembered for the helpfulness of their customer service and the promptness with which it is given.

To the small business owner, time is always valuable and providing a customer service that is high quality, helpful and prompt can take a fair chunk of this time. Fortunately, with the right systems in place, you can provide this level of service through your website.


Here’s five website-based systems that could work for your business:

The Helpdesk

Easy to install on most content management systems, a helpdesk provides a simple form for customers to complete which is sent directly via email to the business. With this system, unless you have staff available 24/7, be sure to indicate on your site the hours that the form will be supported. Outside of these hours, link the Helpdesk straight to the FAQ (see below).

LiveChat

A very popular option, this system incorporates a small pop-up chat window (usually in the lower right of the website screen) that is answered by the business’ staff. When staff are not available (i.e. serving customers in a physical store), most live-chat systems will display a message asking the visitor to leave a question that will be answered ASAP.

Troubleshooting Guides

These guides can come in a variety of forms, the most popular being factsheets and tutorial videos. Without taking valuable time to answer the same question from a multitude of customers, a guide can help the customer work through the problem themselves. A great example of troubleshooting guides can be found at the front counter of any Bunnings store with their variety of how-to pamphlets.

FAQ (Frequently Answered Questions)

Similar to the troubleshooting guides above, the FAQ of a website can be built over time to answer those questions that pop-up repeatedly. With a FAQ, you only have to answer it once and that answer is then available to anyone with the same question in the future. An additional part of an FAQ can include a “smart” form that starts looking for an answer as you begin to type – like Google does when you start to search.

Community Forum

Provided you can generate a “following” for your products and services, a forum is great for customers to start helping each other. Users can post questions and they can be answered by either other forum members or members of staff that are available. Once a forum starts “rolling” along, they can be very effective in generating a “tribe” of followers for a business.


Start small and build your support system over time using the questions that you hear every day. By using actual customer enquiries, you can answer exactly what your cliental needs to know without having to re-invent the content yourself. And by simply setting aside a small amount of time each day/week, you can build a resource that will not only save you time and money but can help your customers even while you sleep.

Note: If you opt to use the non-automated systems such as LiveChat and Helpdesk, your staff must ensure that answers are provided as soon as humanly possible, especially with LiveChat where a customer may be waiting for the answer.

Does your Small Business even need a Website?

Yes.

Simple answer, isn’t it?

Oh, you still need more convincing? Alright then – here’s ten good reasons why your small business needs to get its act together and get an online presence:

#1– The World’s largest Consumer Base

Over 3.2 billion people use the internet in some form on a regular basis, and from that enormous number, it is estimated that at least 80% have purchased goods or services online. That’s roughly 2.6 billion potential customers for you!

Any small business without an effective website is missing out on their piece of the action.

#2 – The Digital Consumer

The internet is now 25 years old – some of your potential customers don’t know a world without it. Your business needs a web presence to engage with the modern digital consumer – they are unlikely to look for you anywhere else.

#3– You can be Available 24/7

Consumers expect to have information accessible to them around the clock from a variety of sources and this includes from your business. A website makes you available 24/7 (even while you are asleep) to provide information, product help and online sales.

#4 – Engage with your Customers

A website helps you connect with your customers on an almost social level. You can communicate through the comments of a Blog (like this one), a website forum that you moderate or via the many channels of Social Media that are available for use. A simple social connection can often be the key to a successful business relationship.

#5– Create a Hub for your Marketing

Got a new product that you want to shout about to the world? Unleash the marketing power of the internet and spread the word like wildfire using your website as the hub and Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn as the tools to “hook” people in.

#6 – Customer Support

Reduce the number of customer support calls to your small business with the inclusion of “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)” page on your website. For more sticky problems that need one-on-one attention, integrate a ticketing system on the site that can be answered promptly by your staff.

#7 – Match it with the “Big Guys”

With a solid online strategy and a well-built website that people can find easily, your business can take on the larger corporations at their own game. On face value, the internet is a great leveller of the playing field – you don’t need the large payroll or a skyscraper in a capital city to make an impact.

#8– Instant Credibility

A professional website with the right information allows your business to attain instant credibility in the eyes of both your potential customers and other businesses. A quick online search by these people could quite easily be the deal maker or breaker, depending on what they find online.

# 9 – Physical Phone Directories are DEAD

If you need any proof of this, take note that both the Yellow Pages and Local Directories are now offering website services. This hasn’t stopped them still charging an absolute mint for listing in their telephone books however, by branching out, they have acknowledged that online is where the modern consumer is looking for goods and services.

#10 – Build an Audience for your Business

Even if your customers are not in the market right now, an online presence allows you to keep their attention so that when they do need something, your business will be “front of mind”. Social Media, email newsletters, podcasts and video tutorials are just some of the ways you can continue to engage with your customers until they need you again.

Put simply – if you want to grow your business in today’s digital age, it needs a website. Considering the continual evolution of our online population and the growth of businesses who are on the Internet, it could be expensive for your business NOT to have a website.

I’ll bet that your competitors do.

If this article has helped you make a decision about your business’ online presence, get in touch with Tropical Coast Web Design for a free website development quote.

Tropical Coast Web Design