“Oh, Internet, Schminternet…”
Without a website, in today’s day and age, your business will not be taken seriously. Customers will look for it. On your business card, on your stationery, in your brochure, during conversations, it will come up “do you have a website?” If you say no, if your web address does not appear within your printed collateral … you just lost credibility.
But what do you really need your website to do for you? That will depend upon the type of business you have to some extent. If your business is web driven software, then your technological needs for your website will be great. If, however, you are selling consulting services, or business equipment used in say … manufacturing, as an example … your site will need less technology and more customer facing!
If your product is not something someone would purchase online, click “buy” to put in their shopping cart and check out using their credit card, then a shopping cart system is irrelevant.
Most small businesses do not need expensive animations, videos or shopping cart systems. They may choose to use FLASH because they like it or they believe it does what they need, but in most cases, this actually isn’t the case.
Fancy Web Animation is really spiffy, don’t get me wrong. But if it’s just there to look cool … if it isn’t performing a serious customer facing or relationship building function, then there’s no point. If it’s used for audience engagement, to help keep your viewers at your site, ok, that is a relevant reason, but is it really the only thing that can do that? If not, then it’s probably just wasted bandwidth and lost cash that, in the end, tends to push a customer away rather than enticing them to stick around to learn more.
So, what should be on your site?
Well, let’s once again start with, “the wrapper,” or … your Corporate Identity. Here too it needs to be represented. Your identity must be prevalent and it must match up to every other piece of collateral.
Do not just repeat information on your site that you’ve already put into your brochure. Each piece of collateral you possess should enhance your story, build on other pieces of collateral, not repeat them.
On your site, give every opportunity for your customer to give you their contact information in exchange for more information, for something they can learn from you or about you that will help them. Something of value to the customer!
Basic things a customer will look for include: information about your company and/or about you, the owner(s)/founder(s); information about your products and services; news about your company and your business; examples of your work (proof of your customer’s successes because of you); and your contact information as a bare minimum.
From here, you can build as you grow, as you learn from your customers what they need, how you can better serve them, how you can better provide for them to make the decision to purchase from you.
Remember, your website, like your business plan, is a living document. It’s never “done” and should never be forgotten when the initial development is completed. Keep it updated, keep it fresh and keep it relevant.