You are ready to bring your small business to the Internet. It is time to create your online presence and show your marketing face to the online world. Many businesses have taken this path already. Here are 10 common mistakes many companies have made. Learn from their mistakes and online disaster.
Many small businesses choose to set up their online business with a site name on Geocities, Tripod or MSN, rather than having their own web address. Which company would you feel more comfortable buying from – www.members.geocities.com/myonlineshop or www.myonlineshop.com? It’s easy and cost effective to register your own domain name.
The same goes for email addresses. If you’re running a small business, it’s a great idea to set up an email address that uses your business web address.
Web site addresses cost between £5 to £15 per annum, a cost that will hardly break the bank, yet provide you with a valuable business asset.
Many small business web sites load far too slowly. If your web pages take more than 10 seconds to load over a 56k modem, your eBusiness runs the risk of losing visitors. Graphics with large file sizes are usually the culprits. Use creative imaging software to reduce the file size of individual graphics on your web site to no more than 10Kb.
You wouldn’t send out a marketing brochure that’s all words and no pictures. Photos of your store or office, your products, your employees make your business feel “real” to online visitors. Images give you a tangible presence and let visitors get a sense of the kind of business you run. Just make sure that you don’t make the above sin when using images.
“If I Build It, They Will Come”
One of the most common mistakes small businesses make is to assume that if there’s an eBusiness web site, customers will suddenly start flocking to it. It is recommended you at least consider these five eBusiness marketing efforts when you launch a web site:
- Be proactive in listing on search engines
- Start an affiliate program to encourage and reward other businesses for sending you online customers
- Be proactive in finding sites with which you can trade links
- Consider joining a banner exchange (see below)
- Start collecting visitors’ email addresses on day one, so that you can lure them back to your web site
Don’t be Phoneless
There are few things more frustrating and off putting to customers than an eBusiness that doesn’t seem to exist in the real world. Don’t forget to put your phone number prominently on your web site. Many small-business executives have said the way their website is most frequently used is a customer looking at it while calling the company. Customers will refer to something on the web site, but they actually buy products or order services on the phone.
Barrage of Banners
Joining a banner exchange program can help bring traffic to your web site but don’t make the mistake of putting many banners on every page, along with lots of buttons for affiliate programs. This will just make your site look busy and cheap and can hurt your online image. You’ll hardly ever find a large-company website with multiple banners on a page.
It is amazing how many small business web sites are here today, gone tomorrow, and back again next Tuesday. It is vital that your site is available when customers look for it. A reliable hosting service should be employed to make sure your web site is available all day every day.
Don’t make the mistake of leaving dated content on your website. Keep the information on your site current. Remember to update phone numbers and take off dated special offers or coupons. Make sure someone on your staff is responsible for the site’s information and checks and updates it routinely. Clarke Design can help you to automate many of these processes.
For some reason, many small-business web sites make the mistake of using busy background wallpaper. People think the design adds interest and flair to the their site, but all it does is interfere with the message. Stick with a clean, basic colour for the site background, one that is consistent with your site’s image.
You Do What?
One of the most common mistakes small businesses make online is neglecting to tell people what they do. Make sure your site quickly conveys the kind of business you are in and the products and services you offer. You’d be surprised at how many small business web sites leave you looking at them for minutes while wondering, “What does this company actually do?”
The home page of your web site should include a short statement of your eBusiness mission. Consider integrating that statement with a visual that makes it clear what you do.