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Web Presence Imperative to SMBs

13 Nov, 2008 By: Trynka Shineman imageSource

Web Presence Imperative to SMBs

a small business, even a business with two to three people, if you don’t have a
Web presence you’re missing out on a dramatic opportunity to attract business in
an ever increasing e-commerce world. What used to be a luxury is now a necessity
for anyone starting up their own venture. The good news is that there are a
multitude of options available to any entrepreneur needing to get a site up and
running. You no longer need a Master’s Degree in Computer Science to get your
site off the ground.  What you will need are a few guiding principles that every
business should have as elements to make their Web page successful. 

So where to begin?  Follow these simple steps and hopefully you’ll be
increasing your business by leaps and bounds.

Design Your Site to Reinforce Your Brand Make sure that the look and feel of
your site is consistent with your other marketing materials – including your
business card and any collateral – so you are reinforcing the core messages with
every interaction you have with customers. And don’t forget – each page of your
Web site should be dedicated to a particular topic, concise and easily readable
to ensure effortless navigation. This starts with the home page, which is
important because it’s the first thing that potential customers will see.

Start by creating a captivating home page. This is the most important page of
your Web site and it’s an opportunity to impress customers right from the
start.  This page should communicate your core business identity and value
proposition – briefly and accurately – without bogging readers down. Some
designers will tell you that the more you have on your home page, the better off
you’ll be, but the truth is that sometimes less is more, and a streamlined home
page could be more effective for you.

You must have an “About Us” page. Having this page will give you a chance to
reveal a little about yourself and your business background. Take this chance to
make a more personal connection with your visitors, but don’t forget to include
basic information like your address and hours of operation. Consider including a
photograph of yourself and a little background on why you started your business.
You can even go further by including a map which will serve as a great visual
reference to illustrate your location.

It’s also critical to give customers an opportunity to ask for more
information. The Internet gives you the power to learn more about prospects and
your customer base. This is your chance to truly understand your patrons’ needs
and to solicit feedback on your products and services. Make it easy for
customers to request information and provide feedback by including a “Contact
Us” form on your site. Then, extend special offers or create a mailing list
using the information provided from customer responses. 

Evaluate value-added content. For example, list products and services with
prices, but also include creative uses for these products, such as recipes or
gift ideas; links to related sites; customer testimonials; FAQs – and any other
content that will help customers understand the value you offer. All of these
elements will help to drive more visits to your Web site, and ultimately more

Having the right content is just one element. Easy navigation is also a must
so people know how to access the information you’ve provided. You should test
and make sure that all of your links, pages, and clicks work prior to the site
going live. Few things will drive people away from your site faster than broken
links or pages. 

Work to Drive Traffic to Your Site

Just having a site nowadays isn’t enough. You need to embrace your site as a
way to generate business and acquire customers. This is done by driving traffic
to your site, which will get your business’ brand, services, and personality out
there. But how do you actually drive people to your site? For starters, putting
the site’s address on everything you use to network, like business cards, is
important and can be done immediately.

But there is also an opportunity to try your hand at direct marketing. You
can announce your Web site with a postcard mailing that offers your customers a
special discount when they visit your site – which will encourage response and
boost your visibility. 

There are also search engine marketing techniques that you can embrace to
help drive traffic to your site. You want to show up in search queries,
especially for local searches. There are a number of options you can embrace,
including paid search ads, or organic search methods, which will hopefully
increase your search ranking on sites like Google, Yahoo, and Ask. Every major
search engine has tools and guides to how to boost your search capabilities. You
can even track success and learn how to effectively modify your SEO efforts. 

Essentially, your small business has a unique opportunity to connect with
customers that are seeking out your product and marketing message online, rather
than ignoring it. And in the ever-growing Web landscape, small businesses have
to work harder than ever before to be competitive and visible.

Trynka Shineman is Chief Marketing Officer for VistaPrint North America (www.vistaprint.com),
a supplier of high-quality graphic design services and customized printed
products to small businesses and consumers.

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