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There’s no such thing as a Free Lunch!

Anybody active on social media will have seen the advertisements for the free online website builders such as Wix, Squarespace and Weebly.

At first glance, their offerings seem quite reasonable. Most offer plenty of space for a business site along with seemingly easy to use interfaces at no cost at all to the user. Surely, it’s a great way to get online quickly?

If we take a closer examination of these sites, their setup reveals a different story.

“There is no such thing as a free lunch!”

That is definitely the case here. All the free options from these online website builders require that your site gets “branded” somewhere with their logo, not just your own. Some sites are slightly less conspicuous than others but nevertheless, it does look a little un-professional to have someone else’s logo adorning your business site. To remove the logo in most cases, you must join a paid version of the site.

The Optional Extras all add up

Items that are not included in the free setup will also add to the cost of the website for the business owner (special features, plug-ins, extra space, extra bandwidth, etc). Even the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) of your site will generally need to be paid for and without this important factor taking care of; no-one might find your business online in the first place.
The original free option suddenly does seem so free after all.

Ownership of the Site

You must also be aware that the site is retained on their servers, not yours – so regardless of how much sweat, tears and effort you put into the site, they retain control. If you decide to move away from the service provider, you most probably will not be able to take your site with you and that means you will have to start from scratch. In addition, if you have registered your domain name with them, it can sometimes be an absolute nightmare trying to regain control of that domain.

Stand out from the crowd

All the bells and whistles in the world (if you pay for them) still don’t make up for the fact that, whatever you produce will not be unique just to your business. Online website builders rely heavily on the use of design templates. So even if they offer one hundred different designs, chances are that the most attractive and useful to you will also be very popular with other users.

Your business is unique, regardless of what field you are operating in. Therefore, your site needs to be unique and personally tailored to your business. It needs to cater for every aspect of your online presence. You “might” be able to customize these online templates to suit – but then another question arises – do you, as the business owner, actually have the time to devote learning the ropes and creating the site that your business needs?

Save the headache – use a real Website Designer

The #1 reason why businesses are choosing to use a professional website designer to create their online presence is because we have spent years perfecting our craft to make your business look good on the internet. We also cater for all aspects of your business online and strive to provide a professional service that ensures that the journey online is as stress-free as possible.

Depending on your requirements, a free website may just be what you need however if you need flexibility, originality, a site that caters specifically for your website and you don’t have the time to worry about your online presence, let us take care of it for you. That’s what we do!

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.

Top five reasons every small business needs a website

In small towns, such as my hometown of Ingham, small business owners have relied for years purely on local customers for their income. And this has worked just fine for the most part as these businesses have built up loyal trade and trust with good service.

But times have changed. Businesses right through to the early 90’s never had to compete against anything like the internet and the changes it has brought. Nowadays, a huge amount of business is conducted online and, as a small business owner, you are no longer just competing against other local businesses. In fact, for most professional services and especially those selling products, there is no concept of a local business anymore.

Whether you like it or not, you are a state-wide, national, or even an international business. Your customers are very aware that if they don’t receive the service, they expect to get along with the product they want AND at a price that they like, they are going online to get it somewhere else!

So if your business is unwilling to get online to be competitive in 2020, then you are going to lose a huge chunk of your potential market.

Here’s five good reasons why getting a website is essential to the evolution of a modern small business.

#1 – A website is available to your customers 24/7

With online trading, a customer can choose when they are going to visit you. They are no longer dependant on when you open your physical store. A website allows a business owner to keep products and services moving all day, every day. A mobile-responsive site takes this to the next level with customers accessing businesses on-the-go with tablets and smartphones.

#2 – Your website opens you up to the international marketplace.

A website means that you don’t have to just sell your products and services to locals in your immediate area. If you have a great product and it is easily found online (with search engine optimisation), you can sell to anyone, anywhere in the world. You are no longer geographically locked in.
If someone two thousand kilometres away wants your products – with a website, they can get them.

#3 – Window Shopping has evolved too

Walking down the main street in your town or city is no longer the only way to go window shopping (though some may disagree). Online, your potential customers are always looking and planning where they are going to make their next purchases. They are comparing prices, checking out services and calculating delivery costs. Even if they may not be making an immediate purchase, when they do, those online businesses who have made an impact on their searches will come to the forefront.

#4. Online, you can build your position as a Key Person of Influence in your industry.

Your website and your online presence have become key factors when customers are searching for a new business to deal with. A strong presence is a great way to demonstrate that you are a modern business with its finger on the pulse of your industry. Customers testimonials are also a great way of showing your prospects that you can deliver the products and services that your offer. Social Media interaction (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) will help to build a community of loyal followers that your business can use to develop, research, and sell new products. Each one of these components is essential to build your authority as a KPI (Key Person of Influence).

#5 – On the internet, size does not matter.

A website is a great leveller. Whether you’re a one-man show or a 20,000-employee corporate giant; if you offer prompt and friendly service backed up by a quality product, you can compete head-to-head with the “big guys”. On the other hand, if you don’t have a website, you’ll be losing business to other companies that do.

Despite all the reasons that are spruiked daily about the benefits of an online business, it is estimated that more than half (52%) of Australian small business owners do not have a website. This is astounding considering that 82% of small business owners get new business through referrals. If you don’t have a website, how do these referrals find out more about you?

If you want to evolve your small business and access a greater share of your industry’s market, get in touch with Tropical Coast Web Design today and we will create an online strategy that will work for you.

Tropical Coast Web Design