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For many small businesses and entrepreneurs, simply surviving 2020 was a victory in itself. But looking ahead to 2021, which will hopefully be a more prosperous year for everyone, now may be the time to put your marketing efforts on more solid ground. The first step? If your business doesn’t have a website yet, consider putting that at the top of your 2021 to-do list.
While the pandemic took its toll on many businesses, for others, it created opportunities to pivot careers (or entire businesses) into a whole new market. For example, one entrepreneur who provided AirBnB property management services needed to recalibrate her marketing strategy after the global travel market collapsed due to COVID shutdowns. During the pandemic slowdown, she instead offered home improvement services to attract new customers and retain existing clients, which has helped her stay afloat until travel and tourism can resume.
Many entrepreneurs like her have typically relied on social media pages, or even a list of WhatsApp contacts to connect with new and existing customers. For many, they see a website as just one more thing to maintain, and perhaps without a clear benefit. Some believe their social media presence basically does what a website would, while also being far easier to update and maintain.
However, without a website, small business owners are missing out on delivering a more robust and customized customer experience. While some social media platforms like Facebook do offer tools that enable businesses to coordinate, schedule, plan, and boost their marketing campaigns, it’s important to understand the key advantages of having a website vs. just a social media presence.
Top Four Benefits of a Dedicated Business Website
Maintain control. Although social media profiles are easy to set up and maintain, it’s important to think of them as marketing tools, not websites. Your own website, on the other hand, should be the central hub that supports all of your customer operations such as an online store, accounts, customer service, digital marketing, and more.
Increase revenue opportunities. Simply put, having a website makes it easier for customers to purchase your goods and services. You can set up your own eCommerce store and sell directly to current and potential customers. With just a social media page, customers must take the extra step of finding and following a link to another site that houses your store. With a website, you can literally offer a “one-stop shop.”
Drive more awareness and traffic. Although social media sites provide an excellent tool to share content, attract customer testimonials and referrals, and establish an online presence, websites often come up higher in search engine results due to their relevance. Plus, with a good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, you can quickly climb higher in Google search results for relevant keywords related to your business, products, and services.
Establish an online “home base.” Sometimes it seems like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have been around forever, but who remembers what happened to MySpace? The point is, the world’s biggest and most popular social media platforms today may barely exist in a few years. Competitors will surely emerge and potentially dominate the market. Keeping up with the most trendy and popular platforms can be a full-time job in itself, whereas a single website enables you to maintain a consistent, centralized focus regardless of how many social media platforms come and go.
Want to build a website but don’t know where to start?
We get it. There are so many website tools and developers that promise to make the process quick and easy for you. But the key is to understand what you need your website to do for you. For instance, do you need a small eCommerce site, a way to promote your brick-and-mortar store, or a high-quality site to showcase and schedule customer services?
Here are some of the top website builders and a few differences between them. In general, they all allow you to build a professional website but without the need to hire a web designer.
Wix: Wix offers a “Swiss Army knife” approach to web design. You can put a new website together very quickly and also leverage more advanced capabilities. Overall, Wix is easy to use and customize, but it doesn’t offer 24/7 customer support or the most robust eCommerce capabilities. So it may not be ideal for total beginners who need a lot of hand-holding or businesses with high-volume sales.
Squarespace: Like Wix, Squarespace also offers drag-and-drop website building. Small online businesses may especially like Squarespace for its built-in features that let you accept credit card payments, track customers, and create gift cards without requiring additional plugins. However, plugins can be added to scale your site’s eCommerce functionality with features such as inventory tracking. While Squarespace may be ideal for smaller eCommerce sites, online stores with thousands of orders per month might want to look at a more robust eCommerce builder to handle that kind of volume.
Weebly: Want a simple website design that’s cheap and easy to create? Weebly might be the right choice for you. If you don’t need a lot of fancy features or much in the way of eCommerce tools (which cost quite a bit more), Weebly has everything you need for a DIY website. It’s especially ideal for businesses that, for instance, maintain a brick-and-mortar store and simply want to drive traffic there as opposed to driving online sales.
GoDaddy: Are you a total beginner, but want to build a simple website fast? GoDaddy may be the best choice for you. For example, if you don’t care about customization and want a basic, no-fuss website to promote your home repair business or even a small online store, GoDaddy helps you get the job done quickly and easily.
WordPress: WordPress is on the opposite end of the spectrum from GoDaddy. If you have experience building and maintaining a website, and want more control and infinite customization options, WordPress is the way to go. However, for complete beginners or those who don’t want to choose from nearly limitless template designs and plugins, it’s probably better to choose a more simplified website builder. But if all of these possibilities excite you, then WordPress can open up a world of endless customization and robust blogging capabilities you can’t access from other drag-and-drop website builders.
BigCommerce: The name pretty much says it all. If you’re conducting a large volume of online sales, perhaps in the range of thousands of transactions per month, then BigCommerce should be at the top of your list.
Shopify: For smaller (and less experienced) online shops, Shopify might be a great place to start. It offers a range of automated tools and tutorials to help you get started, but cost may strain the budget for solopreneurs just starting out.
If you’re ready to build your website, or if you already have a business site, then you may be wondering how to make it work better for your business. How can you attract more prospects and convert them into paying customers?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our “Revitalize Your Small Business” blog series: How to Drive Traffic to Your Website.