September 26, 2023 By Caitlin Rose

A small business needs to have a stellar website, especially if it’s selling goods or providing services. But where does a busy entrepreneur start when it comes time to design and implement functionality for a new site? Before you start the process, ask yourself the questions below to help create a site that attracts and engages your target audience.

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What is the goal of your website?

A website is a valuable tool in your branding portfolio, leading current and potential customers to your site to learn more about your products and services. Creating a website requires time, energy, and a cost commitment so you should consider why your business needs a website and what you hope to achieve with your website. 

Knowing the goal and purpose for your website is important before diving into creation. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What message should visitors leave your website with?
  • What is the most important information a potential customer needs to know about your business?
  • Will you be using your site for lead generation?
  • Are you trying to get newsletter subscribers?
  • Will you host a blog or other dynamic content?

Consider your brand

What is your brand? Your brand is a major part of your business. It tells the world who you are and what your business is about. Your brand needs to be identified and considered every step of the way when implementing a new website. Your brand identity should include:

  • Logo
  • Design elements
  • Voice
  • Values and mission

A good brand also takes into consideration how your customers perceive your business, and how they compare it to others. Strong brand strategy may give you a major competitive edge over similar small businesses. 

Determine how you’ll present your brand online and what a potential customer needs to immediately understand about your business when visiting your site. The design and features need to convey your brand accurately so that you stand out from the competition.

Evaluate the competition

What does your competition look like? It’s important that you do a quick competitive analysis and check out what others in your space are doing. What appears to be working for them? What doesn’t look so great? Take detailed notes about what you like and what you’re not crazy about. The more specific you get, the better. Take a close look at the following:

  • How is the product photography?
  • How detailed are their product and service descriptions? Is vital information missing or confusing?
  • Where are the calls to action and are they strong enough to elicit a response?
  • Is the site optimized for mobile?
  • What types of contact do they offer? (Live chat, email, phone number, etc.)
  • Do they include dynamic content like a blog, social media feeds or newsletters?

If you are hiring a designer, it’s helpful to share these websites and your impressions with them. They will appreciate you doing the legwork!

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Do you have a “call-to-action”?

A website is more than just the design. Research shows that a visitor spends less than a minute on a particular website before moving on unless something captures their attention. 

Your website needs to have a strong call to action, something that drives the visitor to engage with your brand in a meaningful way. What do you want a visitor to your website to do? Provide their email address? Make a purchase? Contact you to learn more about your business? Make an appointment?

The call-to-action could be a pop-up form soliciting email addresses to keep customers in the loop with newsletters or sales promotions, a newsletter subscription, a loyalty program, or push to connect on social media platforms or IRL (in real life). Make it easy for the customer to find your contact information and where to find you. 

Using your site for lead generation

Once you launch a website, the work doesn’t stop. Small businesses typically benefit from having an active website that has the capability to collect email addresses and more. Use a short form or one-question poll to gather useful data that you can use to generate leads or spark a response from your target audience. Solicit email subscribers for newsletters, updates, and sales. 

Before you implement a lead generation strategy within your website you should assess if you have enough time to process the back end information you are collecting and update the site periodically. If not, do you have a team member that can take on the task? Be sure you don’t create a website just to let it languish.

Social media

Website creation and maintenance may be a costly and time-consuming undertaking. The first place consumers typically visit when searching for goods and services is online. A dedicated website is helpful but you may also use other online platforms like review sites and social media to share positive information about your business - and help your business be found on the web.

For example, a robust Yelp® page may be just as effective. As an entrepreneur, you can claim your company page on Yelp to establish an online presence. Once you’ve done that, you can post pictures and business information and you’ll even have the opportunity to respond to favorable or unfavorable reviews. Yelp is often the first stop for a consumer before they pull out their wallet. 

Other social media platforms like Facebook®, X® (Twitter®), Instagram®, TikTok®, and YouTube® may be valuable tools to share information about yourself, your business, and your place in your community. It is free to set up business accounts and you may also utilize advertising through social media to further increase your digital presence. But just like your website, only undertake platforms that you know you will be able to maintain and update frequently. You generally do not need to be on every social media platform. Consider choosing one or two that fit your brand and business goals. 

Before signing off…

A website may be a useful tool in your overall branding strategy and help you grow your business, online and off. If you are considering a new website or other marketing, a SBA loan or other financing option may be useful. Learn more about SmartBiz®, our quick and easy application, and how we partner with small businesses to help them grow. 

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