It’s not all doom and gloom for businesses that appear to be running ‘business-as-usual’, because they will be the first to receive a positive response from global customers once this crisis is over. The following article landed in my mailbox earlier this week, and it’s based on facts and figures, and includes good, positive advice.
Let’s be honest. Do you think that posting the occasional out of focus photo on Facebook or Instagram is a very effective marketing strategy? I have even seen photos uploaded that are not the right way up and have to tried to tilt my phone and my neck to see what it is.
Apart from being a fool for twisting my neck, more importantly, if someone can’t spend a few minutes preparing a quick post I don’t want to do business with them.
I’ve posted a few blogs recently about improving content with professional photography, planning your content, etc. And when the following article landed in my mailbox it tied all of these topics together and also provided some ‘Visual Best Practices’. There’s not only information on how to define your content marketing strategy, but a great visual of a mind-map to go with it!
If you put in a little thought, time and effort into what you publish, people are going to remember it more. They will link great visual content to your business and you will stand out over your competitors. Think of it as telling a visual story.
What images can you use to help to improve your text content and make it more memorable?
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What can you do that is different from what everyone else is doing?
Whether it’s now or in the next 6 months, most small and medium-sized businesses are going to have a few obstacles to overcome. Maybe now is a good time to get creative – start thinking about what it is we do and how can we improve it.
Running a business is hard work. It’s not just doing the jobs that bring the money in, it’s marketing, paying taxes on time, working with suppliers, etc. We learn how to manage these activities, but when something we have no control over impacts our business that’s when we need to stop and think. The situation we now find ourselves in, through no fault of our own, needs to be managed, otherwise not only will our businesses suffer, but our health will suffer too. I’m in the same boat, and I don’t know how I’m going to pay the bills this month. But I’m trying to stay positive. I’m fit and healthy. We have a place to live and food in the freezer. I’ve arranged meetings with the bank and insurance agent to discuss our finances and there’s government aid we can apply for.
“Being creative can involve cooking a meal from scratch, creating a novel marketing campaign, making up a bedtime story for your child, finding ways to cut costs, or even developing a creative solution to a negotiation impasse. Whatever you do, creativity helps you do it better.”
We’re not the only ones in this situation and that bizarrely is what is making me think positively. Now, I need to channel my positivity into creativity. I’m off to do some mind-mapping to jog my creativity.
As a business owner, the best way to enhance your online presence is by having your own website. And I’m not just saying that because I test websites for a living.
Social Media outlets are quick to set up. They’re fairly easy to manage, and free to run (at the minute). But what happens when they change their policies or accidentally delete your account? It does happen, and when it does you have lost your whole business profile, contacts, showroom, pricing. All gone overnight.
Whereas if you own your business website you have control of your own destiny. You own it – lock, stock and barrel. If anything goes wrong then it’s generally your own fault, but it is recoverable.
Choosing a Website designer
Once you have made the decision to have your own business website, for it to be successful I would recommend using a professional web designer. It doesn’t have to be a big company and it doesn’t necessarily have to be someone local either. It can be more beneficial to have someone based in the same country, because a) if you have any problems they’re in the same timezone and b) they should be familiar with the website legalities for your country.
What else do you need to know? Knowing how much they charge would be a good start, but there a few other questions you should be asking too.
In a study by website designer Joseph Putnam – 94% of people couldn’t trust a website that was unattractive, had navigation problems, or was challenging to access on a mobile device
What’s included in the price?
Does it include registering a domain? Will the domain (mybusiness.com) be registered to you? Does is include hosting? 24/7 support? Does it include Search Engine Optimisation? Does it include making changes if you don’t like the first draft?
If any of these service aren’t included ask how much extra they cost, and get everything in writing.
How long have they been in business?
You want someone that’s been around a while, experienced and isn’t going to disappear in a couple of weeks. Ask for recommendations and also ask to see their portfolio. Do they have designs that appeal to you? Do the websites look professional? Can you view the websites fully on different devices – laptop, mobiles, tablets?
Obviously if you are paying for a service you want to have some input. You’re the business owner, you know your business and should have an idea of the kind of image you want to present. You need to get this across to your website designer and make sure they understand it fully. Show them some websites that you like the look of and ask them whether they will be writing the content or whether you need to provide it. Have you got a logo? What about your colour scheme?
Update 03/08/2020 – some of the web designers that I have spoken to recently about Cookie and Privacy policies have informed me that it is the client that should tell them if and how they want the cookie banner to be displayed. The onus is on the website owner to make sure the website is legally compliant, not the web designer. So please, bear this in mind and check out the legalities for french business sites
How long is it going to take?
Before you part with any money find out how long it will take them? There’s no point placing an order for a website if it isn’t going to be ready when you need to start advertising your products and services. They need to fit your timetable, not the other way around.
I have worked closely with website designers over the years and I now focus on testing website from a user perspective. If you need any recommendations from me then just ask. I’m always happy to help and can give you some hints and tips on what to look for in a designer’s portfolio. In fact I’ve even written a couple of articles on it recently. Check them out.
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If you have a website, blog or app on the Internet then you have to comply with privacy laws. Regardless of whether your website is professional or non-professional, you must display certain mandatory information. If you don’t comply with the website legalities then you risk being fined €1500.
In the worse case scenario, unauthorised computer processing of data you’ve collected could result in 5 years’ imprisonment and a €300,000 fine.
Have I got your attention now?
Websites legalities is a fairly hefty topic and the mandatory information depends on whether you are an individual, company, type of activity, etc. So I’m going to break it down into smaller chunks and just cover Cookies and Privacy Policies here.
Cookies & Privacy
Business website owners aren’t the only ones who have to comply. Theses website legalities apply to professional and non-professional websites.
A professional website is one that is used by a business, either an individual or a company. The compulsory details to be displayed will depend on the type of activity.
A non-professional website is one that’s used by an individual and is not used for business. For example, a blog.
Apart from the risk of a fine, non-compliance could have other more serious effects. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that users will avoid interacting with a website if they think their privacy is at risk. You need to comply with the law if you want to be seen as trustworthy.
Choose a policy that’s most relevant to your website activity, personalise it and display it prominently on your website. Enable a Cookie pop-up so it displays when visitors access your website. This allows them to accept, reject or change their preferences. Also consider adding a link to your policy on your Contact page. Prove to your customers that they can trust you.
If you have any problems with setting this up, get in touch and I will do my best to help you out. If I can’t help then I’m sure I’ll find someone that can!
I hope this article has been useful. The next one in the Website Legalities series will cover individual entrepreneurs exercising commercial, craft and regulated activities.
I pick one from the list ‘The Marker Hotel’. It’s a bit out of my price range but the room photo has piqued my interest. There are over 1000 photos, but check out the Room/Suite ones and tell me which ones you prefer. Scroll through them and it’s pretty obvious which are professional and which are guests photos.
If you’re looking for a hotel you don’t just want to see a hotel room. You want to see the bathroom, the dining room, the pool and spa facilities. But they have to be captivating, good quality images in order to entice you in, like The Marker Hotel.
Now apply that principle and search for your product. Better still get someone else to search for your product and give you their honest feedback.
Regardless of what you are ‘selling’, good quality images are going to catch the shopper’s attention before they read the description. You need to showcase the whole product, from different angles, and in different settings if possible. Think about what you would want to see as a potential buyer.
“We are highly visual creatures and repeatedly buy with our eyes. This is especially true when it’s time to book a hotel room. Potential guests want to see where they will be staying”.
Hiring a professional photographer might sound like an unnecessary expense but, if you want to boost your sales, your photos need to be good quality images. High resolution digital photos will give sharper results, and hiring a professional photographer may turn out to be the best business investment you ever made. Ask for recommendations, check out their website portfolio and chat with them about your product requirements.
If you want to boost your sales, think like your customer or ask someone else to. Then act on their feedback.
Most buyers are looking for inspiration so good quality images will capture their attention and help to create a picture perfect ordering experience!
I hope you found this article useful.
If you think there is anything that could have been better, let me know.
Business Logo – if you’ve got one try and place it in the top left corner so it’s the first thing people see. Don’t surround it with clutter, let it stand out. but don’t make it the size of a billboard. Think Quality not Quantity.
Site Menu – keep it simple and use familiar terms, like About Us, Services, Accommodation, Gallery, Contact, Location, etc
Main Image or ‘Hero Shot’ – this should be the most important aspect of your homepage so make it good. Select your image carefully because this is the focal point of your window display and helps tempt customers into your shop.
Headline – place it above, below or within the main image. Keep it short but make it about reader – what can you offer them?
Call to Action (CTA) button – It’s called an Action button for exactly that reason, but what do you want them to do? Don’t just say ‘Click here’, be intentional – ‘Show me’, ‘Get a Quote’, ‘Find out more’.
Blog – having a blog increases engagement with your visitors so include links to recent posts. Hopefully if they like them they’ll sign-up
Introduction – start your conversation with your visitor but keep it concise, informative and friendly. What can you offer them?
Portfolio – if your business offers products or services that can be showcased with images or descriptions then add them, but don’t overdo. If there’s a lot direct them with a CTA ‘Show Me More’.
Everybody loves a freebie
Offer – feature an offer, maybe a free trial or money off. Everybody loves a freebie and it will help generate leads which can turn into more business, more referrals, more income.
Social Proof – Reviews, ratings, number of satisfied customers, awards, press releases. If you’ve got it, flaunt it!
Footer – always create a footer and consider which elements you’ll include – contact info, social media icons, email subscription, links to latest blog, awards (Social Proof).
Business Website Homepage
Whether you already have your own business website, or you are creating a new one, think carefully about the homepage design and how you are going to entice customers into your online shop. Certain key design components should be included but overall it’s best to keep the page small, but strong.
The best window displays aren’t accidentally designed and chaotic. They’re carefully intended to highlight the business’ best products and services in a way that is pleasing to the eye and tempts us to go inside.
Before we look at what key design components should be included on your business homepage, let’s think about the content and the purpose of your homepage.
Wherever you share the link for your business website inevitably it will navigate the visitor to your homepage, so imagine it’s your shopfront. When we’re window-shopping there has to be something of interest to encourage us to go into the shop. Visually or verbally you need to have something on display which is going to entice the customer in.
What do I offer?
What will make someone choose my business over my competitor offering the same products or services?
What kind of business image do I want to portray – honest, reliable, trustworthy, value-for-money, family-friendly?
If I advertise myself as a professional – define ‘professional’ – what do I do that I consider to be professional?
What time is the shop open?
Less Is More
If you are not confident in writing your content then hire someone to write it for you, because poorly written content is bad for your image. You want people to remember your business for your products, not your spelling mistakes. If you decide to do it yourself then write it in a word or google document first and make sure the spell-checker is on. There are other free tools you can use, such as Grammarly, which will even suggest ways of re-wording sentences too. Be careful though, because sometimes tools can suggest incorrect changes, e.g. if the term you want to use is in French, such as place names.
I would also recommend you ask an outsider to review your content. Let them view the page and tell you what their first impressions are and give you honest feedback.
Is it clear what you do?
Too much or too little information?
Is it easy to read?
Include as many of the key design components as you can. Keep the whole page short, strong and to the point. Sell yourself but don’t over-exaggerate. Don’t lie about your experience and definitely do not belittle your competitors.
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“Our aim is to help you improve the quality of your customer’s experience and increase the visibility of your business by providing expert advice and offering a range of affordable solutions and services”.
Why having your own business website is so important
In a recent poll I conducted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, I asked ‘Do you think it’s important to have your own business website?’ A staggering 96% voted Yes. And I say ‘staggering’ because when I check out the various social media platforms, I rarely see anyone promoting their business website.
So maybe there’s a lack of understanding as to why social spaces are the perfect arenas to promote their business website.
Online research still on the increase
More and more businesses are setting up online because they have the potential to sell their products or services to a wider market. Data shows that researching on a product, service or holiday before parting with any cash is still on the increase.
Having a website designed for your business is an important step towards grabbing a piece of the online marketing pie. And building a business website is so much easier now. You can hire a professional to help build it or you can use one of the various Website Builders, such as WordPress, Wix or Squarespace.
What are the Pros and Cons of having your own business website?
1. Less competition
If you sell your products or services on eBay, Amazon, AirBnB or similar sites you are competing with other sellers. Your potential customers don’t go on the main selling sites to look for your products. Even if they find one of your items, they can be distracted by other adverts flashing up around them. Creating a business website means your products and services can be found and, with no distractions, they are more likely to buy.
2. Create brand awareness
It’s a competitive world out there and building a website with your brand name means that if it’s good people will recognise it, talk about it and share it. Having a business website with a secure (https) domain name that’s relevant to your business stakes your claim to that name. Getting there first will protect and secure your online brand and reputation.
3. Reach a wider audience
Having your own business website you can attract customers from anywhere in the world, not just social media users. Not everybody has a Facebook account but most people have internet access and they use it to research before they buy.
4. Customer service 24/7
You can keep in touch with your customers and offer advice and support anytime anywhere.
5. Access to Business Information
Even if your physical shop is closed your customers can still find your business website and they can access it from a variety of devices. As long as you keep the information uptodate they can check availability of goods and services and check your prices.
Use your website as a tool for advertising your business and creating customer awareness of your products, brand, and offers. Encourage your customers to leave reviews.
7. Fresh content
This can be a Pro and a Con. Your website is there to promote your business. Make sure the information is uptodate and interesting enough to attract more customers. Writing great content is a task in itself, hence why it’s also listed under Cons. There’s plenty of help out there if you know who to ask, and some excellent tools too. (that’s another Blog topic!)
8. Reduce communication costs
The Internet is an inexpensive form of communication and a great way to keep in regular contact with customers, suppliers and other businesses.
1. Website crashing
Sometimes your website might crash making your business unavailable to customers. It’s normally only short-term so don’t let this put you off.
More and more customers use mobile devices for online purchases and if your website isn’t customised for mobile users they go elsewhere. Make sure you have a Responsive Website Design (and that’s also another topic).
3. Poor design
Some websites look cluttered and the user journey from searching to buying is too complex. If customers can’t find what they are looking for within a few seconds they won’t stay on your website very long.
4. Bad publicity
If customers leave a negative reviews on your website the bad publicity could have a huge impact on your brand reputation. Don’t ignore bad reviews and feedback. Respond calmly and professionally. Tell them what you will try to do to change things, offer a free replacement. How you respond can turn bad publicity into good publicity. But this isn’t just linked to business websites, it anywhere someone can leave a rating or review.
5. Not reaching your target audience
It’s not always easy to reach the right audience straight away. It can depend on your content and how your business ranks in searches compared with your competitors. Don’t be disheartened, there are people out there who can help with advertising, SEO, and content writing.
6. Poor content
Keeping your content fresh, informative and uptodate can be a real advantage. If you’re not comfortable writing your content then the thought of it could put you off having your own business website. There is help out there and sometimes all it needs is a fresh pair of eyes and a little encouragement to get you on the right track.
Increase Your Sales
So, you can see the Pros for having your own business website outweigh the Cons. The potential for increasing your customer base, business branding, reputation and increased sales is just too good an opportunity to miss.