We need a website but we don’t have the budget for what we need. What can we do?”
We hear you. New business. Small marketing budget. It’s a dilemma for small business owners or startups. But you need to be able to market your business. And the most efficient way to do that is with a website.
The Cost of a New Website
Generally, you can expect to pay a minimum of $6,000 for a standard 6-10-page professionally designed website. No e-commerce.
But what if you can’t afford that?
You have some options:
You could build your own…. if you know enough about coding.
You could use a platform like SquareSpace or Wix which makes it easier for non-professionals to create a website
You could take a class to learn web design…if you have the time.
Odds are it will look like you built it rather than the professional look you’re aiming for. So one more option:
You COULD opt for a customized template.
Since we believe an amateur website does more harm than good, we recommend the latter. And of course hiring us to build your site.
Why, you ask, should you pay us to build a site that uses a theme?
Even when we work with a theme, we’re still using our design chops (well, Iris’s).
And a designer brings skills to the table that you don’t have. Unless you’re a designer.
The Benefit of Working with a Designer.
Among other skills, a designer knows how to:
customize a theme so your site doesn’t look like it started with a template.
customize navigation so visitors can easily find what they‘re looking for.
use plugins for added functionality.
Introduce a custom color palette and fonts that make your product or service shine.
work with a developer to customize additional features (think popup boxes, CTAs, forms, contact pages, etc).
suggest other options you never thought of.
The benefit to you opting for a professionally designed custom template? Considerable savings since we’re not building a site from scratch.
Take a look at EdgeIQ one of the sites we built using a WordPress theme which we customized.
Other concerns if you’re building your own website.
Let’s play Devil’s Advocate. Suppose you decide to build your own website. What do you need to know?
Concern #1: We’ve heard about websites crashing due to bad themes that aren’t updating.
WAGW: Make sure you buy your theme from a reputable company with lots of users. Satisfied users.
Concern #2: How do we know which webhost to use?
WAGW: Same way you research themes. Read reviews to see what people are saying about the various hosting companies. Look for one that’s robust, dependable and keeps you informed about updates.
Concern #3: What about email setup? Which email program should I use?
WAGW: Hopefully you have an IT person who can help with that.
Concern #4: How do I coordinate all these moving parts?
WAGW: Spreadsheets are great for keeping track of all the elements you need to complete a site.
More complicated than you expected?
Don’t forget that you still need to write the site content and do SEO (search engine optimization).
That’s why people hire professionals to design and build websites.
The time you’ll save by hiring experts is the time you’ll free up to do what you’re good at. Refining your product, service or sales process. Hiring an assistant or an intern. Marketing your business.
The tasks for a small business owner are endless. Smart entrepreneurs delegate whenever they can.
Learn more about accessibility in this thorough and informative article in Search Engine Journal by author Kim Berg who writes: “Even though there are accessibility standards and guidelines to follow for websites and web applications, in the U.S. there are no formal laws to enforce them.”
What other issues keep small business owners up at night?
We thought it would be fun to compare responses written by humans with something generated with AI.
We googled “What keeps small business owners awake at night in 2023?” and found this from customer service success firm, SmartKarrot.
Lack of employee engagement
Losing key skilled people and trust issues
Building a community
Diversity and social pressure
Facing big changes
Then we asked the same question of Bard, Google’s new AI platform which they describe as “a complementary experience to Google Search”, and we got this:
Here are the top 5 things that keep small business owners up at night:
This is the number one concern for small business owners, and for good reason. After all, without money, you can’t pay your bills, your employees, or yourself. There are a number of things you can do to increase your chances of making money, such as:
Conducting market research to identify your target market and what they need:
Developing a strong marketing plan to reach your target market
Offering competitive prices and high-quality products or services
Providing excellent customer service
2. Attracting and retaining customers.
Once you’ve got customers, you need to keep them coming back. This can be a challenge, especially in a competitive marketplace.
There are a number of things you can do to attract and retain customers, such as:
Offering loyalty programs
Providing excellent customer service
Keeping your products or services fresh and innovative
Building relationships with your customers
3. Managing cash flow.
Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business. If you don’t have enough cash coming in to cover your expenses, your business will eventually fail.
There are a number of things you can do to manage your cash flow, such as:
Create a budget and track your expenses
Set up a system for collecting payments from customers
Get a line of credit or other financing
4. Dealing with taxes.
Taxes can be a complex and time-consuming hassle for small business owners. There are a number of things you can do to make tax time easier, such as:
Hiring a qualified accountant
Keeping good records
Filing your taxes on time
5. Juggling responsibilities.
Small business owners often wear many hats. They may be responsible for marketing, sales, customer service, accounting, and more. This can be a lot of work, and it can be difficult to balance all of your responsibilities.
There are a number of things you can do to make it easier to juggle your responsibilities, such as:
Delegating tasks to employees or contractors
Learning to say no to new commitments
Taking breaks when you need them
AI Search Summary
The results were interesting. They were focused on different factors. And neither mentioned work-life balance in the top five.
The customer service success firm listed issues with employee engagement, an inability to retain skilled workers and trust issues as the top two concerns.
Bard cited making money and attracting and retaining customers as the two most important.
We interpret this as pretty logical.
But we found Bard’s use of the line “There are a number of things you can do to” in each numbered item annoying repetitive.
A company that helps people grow their businesses will focus on employee-related issues and procedures. Because that’s what they do.
Bard, on the other hand, has nothing to gain from its response. Making money and retaining customers is definitely top of mind for most small business owners.
How to interpret these results.
If we were writing an article on what keeps small business owners up at night, much more research would be required. We’d also want to interview small business owners who are in the trenches every day.
Which is why at the moment, we’re seeing AI (and Bard) as great basic research tools that can save us time. And what’s wrong with that!
After your WordPress website goes live, you may think the website work is finished. Not so.
WordPress is the most popular content management platform in use today and is constantly evolving. With its popularity comes security risks. This means that the core version of WordPress is constantly being updated as well as the plugins that are used to develop a site.
It’s important to regularly update these since many of them are security safety fixes. Think hackers getting into the back end of your website.
However, updating plugins can sometimes cause conflicts…. which might cause downtime.
When to update plugins.
We recommend waiting a little while to update plugins because bugs can cause your site to go down. If you wait a few days, the plugin creator should have ample time to fix any unexpected issues that arise.
Ongoing WordPress website monitoring is important to make sure that when plugins are updated they won’t cause your website to go down. And if it does, it can be fixed quickly.
It’s also important to monitor website uptime in case something happens with the web host.
Occasionally, we’ve had instances where either the hosting or SSL certificate was not renewed because the credit card on file had either expired or the account number had changed.
Unless someone is monitoring your site, this can go unnoticed. Which means you may be losing business!
These are only a few reasons we include six months of website monitoring and maintenance for all websites we build. After that, our clients can purchase ongoing monitoring for a very reasonable fee ….which most of them do.
It’s a small price to pay for knowing your online store or business is always open.
if your website is dated and no longer filling your business needs, we’re happy to chat. The start of a new year is the perfect time for a website revamp.
But visuals enhance other forms of marketing as well. As visual creatures, we enjoy reading or skimming material which contains graphics and images.
In fact, according to this post in Polls Everywhere, visuals increase the desire to read content by 80%. With a reach like that, can you afford NOT to use visuals in your marketing? Hardly.
Smart marketers employ a variety of different types of visuals to spice up content — photos, graphics, banners, Infographics, charts, videos, clips or gifs.
The type of product or service you’re selling will generally inform the type of visuals you use. But as long as it helps clarify your copy and grab the reader’s eye, there’s no reason why you can’t get creative and try a type of visual you haven’t used before. Play with colors and shading. Do something none of your competitors are doing.
Since we also like material laid out in an easy-to-scroll format, here are 5 reasons why you should add visuals to your marketing.
Blocks of text are not only boring, they’re intimidating. Not the reaction you’re looking for when you publish a new article or blog post or launch a new website.Blocks of text are not only boring, they’re intimidating. Not the reaction you’re looking for when you publish a new article or blog post or launch a new website. Your content might be groundbreaking, but that’s irrelevant if people don’t read what you’ve written. Adding visuals breaks up copy making it more compelling to read and easier to scroll.“Every aspect of your website must account for each user’s wants and needs at a given moment in time.” Alan Smith, Usability Geek
Some people really don’t like to read. And with the success of YouTube, they don’t have to. They prefer to learn via video. Others respond better to visuals than to text.What to do? “People are 80% more likely to read content if it’s paired with colorful visuals.” Tara Johnson, “How Visual Marketing Works”.So if you want to reach the broadest audience you can, make sure you incorporate visuals (and videos where appropriate) into your copy.
According to this post titled “7 tips for using visual content marketing,” from Social Media Today, people remember visual information 6x better than the information they have read or heard. Since you’ve taken the time to write your content, why not make it as easy as possible for people to absorb it.
Ideally, you want your copy to have an impact on your readers. You want them to follow you, refer you, quote you, or hire you. Or share how terrific you are on social media. Adding visuals to your content helps make that happen.In this article from eLearning Industry titled “Visual Learning: 6 Reasons Why Visuals Are The Most Powerful Aspect of eLearning,” author Dana Jandhyala states ““Powerful images and visual metaphors create strong impressions and lasting memories in learners.”
Illustrations or photos support your content and enhance copy so it’s more interesting. From PR Daily, “visual content gets viewed 94% times more than content without any visuals” according to a 2018 Social Media Examiner report. May 24, 2018
Ready to mix up your marketing?
If your marketing efforts haven’t resulted in sufficient new business, try putting some of these tips into play. And start to pay attention to how and what YOU read (and react to). Odds are that visually void content is not something you’re really reading either.
A healthy website performs well. It doesn’t just look good.
It works well. It loads fast. Fonts are legible. You don’t have to squint to read the copy. Papers and pdfs download quickly. Finding information is easy and intuitive.
Links work….both external and internal. And the site is responsive. It looks good on any size screen — mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop. It’s also secure and uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). More about that here.
The health of your website should never be negotiable. A healthy well-run business has healthy procedures in place. And that includes your website, your face to the world.
Here are 6 things you can do right now to make sure your website is indeed healthy.
Don’t fall behind. Make sure that platform updates and plugins are up-to-date. Staying current is important to keep your site functioning properly and securely. New releases generally take care of any pesky issues that developers have found since the last update.
Note: we manage and monitor all client websites and send monthly reports. Your web team should handle this for you. If not, find one that will.
Get rid of old plugins.
A bloated website doesn’t perform well. Outdated or no longer used plugins can slow down your site. We once inherited one with 62 plugins, most of which were not being used. The site was super slow to load, something you do not want.
Fix sluggish load speeds. According to Google, people will abandon a website if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds. Don’t be a Google fail. Here are 20 free toolsto test your website’s speed.
Update content. If your copy hasn’t been updated in a while, it probably needs a refresh. If you cite a lot of statistics or references, they’re probably dated. Maybe you’ve added new products or services that never made it onto the site (yes, we’ve seen that)! Ideally you update your site on a weekly or monthly basis. But we know that sometimes stuff gets in the way. So do it now.
Make sure your website is easy for visitors to navigate.
A healthy website allows people to quickly and easily find what they’re looking for. Referred to as UX (user experience), ideally this is a factor that was built into your website in the design phase. But if you have a do-it-yourself site, it’s likely that navigational ease is not a feature.
Why NOW is the time to make sure your website is healthy.
Google has a new and highly anticipated algorithm launching in May of this year. It will include something called Page Experience which addresses what we’ve talked about above. If you have a business website, you need to know about it.
September signals the start of fall. A time of new beginnings — change of season, a new school year, for some companies a new fiscal year.
For small business owners, fall is often the time to think about ramping up business. Maybe you need to refresh dated marketing material. Or spruce up your website with fresh content.
It’s also the perfect time for a digital tune-up to ensure that your website is performing efficiently. Is your site’s backend functionality where it should be? Is current content? Are plugins up-to-date?
To help you assess your site’s performance, we present 5 ways to make sure your website is functioning efficiently right now.
Keep your SEO (search engine optimization) up-to-date. If you’ve been writing blog posts or adding new content without optimizing that material, it’s like forgetting to tell customers you’ve got new merchandise they’ll be interested in. They won’t know if you don’t tell them.
Check that all images have an alt tag or alt text. Aside from helping with SEO, this enables visually handicapped visitors to “read” images via screen readers. Learn more about alt tags here.
Is your content current? Dated content not only makes it look like your business may be suffering (not surprising in this time of COVID-10 closures, but also something you want to avoid). Keep your content fresh and compelling if you want visitors to return regularly and refer your site to colleagues and friends. Here are some quick and easy content development tips.
Is your site loading quickly? There are several things that make sites sluggish and slow to load — overly large or high rez images, plugins that are no longer being used but are bloating your site, or your ISP (internet service provider) to name a few reasons. Whatever the cause, the result is not one you want. Slow loading sites mean lost visitors. When we’re so used to speedy connections and quick downloads, few people want to wait more than a few seconds for a site to load.
Is your site secure? If your website url starts with https://, it’s secure. If it still says http://, it’s not. And it’s not SSL (Secure Sockets Layered) encrypted so it may be vulnerable to hackers. Something you definitely don’t want! Getting an SSL certificate is something your developer or IT person should do. It’s something we handle for all the sites we build.
Of course, there are other things you can do to keep your website secure and functioning smoothly. We’ve just highlighted the “musts”. Most of these are best left to professionals who work with websites on a daily basis.
We’re happy to chat with you about whatever’s keeping you up at night keeping — whether it’s making sure your website is secure, how to give your site a fresh new look…..or any marketing issues you might be having.
We were excited to be on Shalom Klein’s radio show, Get Down to Business, yesterday. We talked about good website design, what makes a website great and why our clients like to work with us. Many thanks to Shalom for the shoutouts. And yes, we’d love to come on your show again!
It happens often. We meet with a business owner who’s struggling to build sales but won’t commit….or hasn’t set aside…. any money for marketing.
How does that work, you ask? Well, it doesn’t.
Our main business is building websites. But we approach web design and development with a marketing mindset because our team has a marketing background.
So before we start building anything, we sit down and talk to you about goals for your business and what you want your new site to accomplish. We’re building a big beautiful online marketing tool for you. It just happens to be called a website.
For people to find your website, a few things need to happen:
It needs to be optimized for search (SEO) so that Google brings your site up when someone searches for your product or service.
You also need to send people to your site.
You can do this through social media, advertising (print or digital or both), PR, flyers, brochures or handouts, newsletters, emails, direct mail (like postcards), signage, premiums, business cards that you pass out at networking events, etc.
All of the suggestions in item #2 fall under the marketing umbrella. It’s what drives your business and builds your sales. No marketing = not much business.
So back to the “no money for marketing” scenarios.
A few examples stand out. One was a man who hired us to build a website for a small gym he had purchased and was renovating. His target market was personal trainers who would use the gym to work with private clients or people who weren’t comfortable at a big gym but needed some sort of coaching. That idea sounded solid and well thought out.
We built a drop dead gorgeous site (OK, so we’re a little biased). But it was sleek and sexy and did everything it was supposed to do. It was easy for visitors to get the info they needed and the messaging was clear and concise.
This was not your one-size-fits-all super gym. It was a small facility — a former house with a beautiful river view, where you could train relatively privately, and then go out in the back yard to relax after your workout. We loved the whole concept. This gym was a little gem.
Until the business model changed.
Classes were added, a few at first, then a lot. Yoga and bar work and meditation. Then floor work and Zumba. Now the “small gym for serious workouts” took on a “me too” slant. Fearing he was missing out on another market (women), the owner modified the original positioning.
Not only were there a bunch of hot new boutique-y gyms in the area, but the larger gyms like FFC, CrossTown Fitness and Equinox were doing great marketing and had huge name recognition. Not to mention swimming pools, running tracks and lots of classes at convenient times.
Our client had not allocated any money for marketing. There was no money for signage which made it difficult to find the place. There was no money for social media (he attempted to do some himself but since he had no idea about how social media worked, that never went anywhere). There was no money for publicity or promotions of any kind. 7 months after we completed the website, he sold the business.
We were bummed because we couldn’t show this gorgeous site in our portfolio. But the client was happy to get out without losing his total investment.
We hate to see this happen. Our goal with each project is to give clients a solid marketing tool that will help grow their business. Seeing a client fail makes us sad.
We use examples like this when talking to new business owners to make sure they’re budgeting wisely and not putting the proverbial “all their eggs in one basket”. Your website can be the most important marketing tool in your arsenal. But don’t let it be the only one.
SEO competition gets tougher every day. Unless you’re able to do considerable digital advertising (as in spending big bucks), you need to stand out any way you can. Good marketing can always help you stand out.
If you’ve got marketing chops and can handle it on your own, run with it. If not, make sure there’s money set aside to hire the experts you need.
I was walking down Shermer in the old leafy suburban paradise and saw that sign announcing the new place, “Agave Anejo Mexican Grill,” and immediately had this thought: They’ll never make it.”
Why? Their sign was crooked. The restaurant owners were not paying attention to the details. One little thing mars a greater whole. It’s the tree across the path. Once seen, you can’t unsee it. Your expectations have been set.
When you build a website, pay attention to the big picture but sweat all the details. Your mother was right when she said ” you only get one chance to make a first impression.”