It is hard to overemphasize how big a role your business website plays in today's world. New customers find you there, and repeat customers use your web address to keep in contact or to refer others to your business. These days potential customers do most of their research online before making buying decisions. An informative, well-designed website can have a prospect on the verge of buying by the time they reach out and make contact with you. On the other hand, a confusing, outdated, or underdeveloped website may discourage a potential customer from ever making contact at all.
With your website playing such a critical role in your overall branding of your business, what are the best strategies for getting the most out of your "home base" on the internet?
Choose branding elements that look equally good online and offline.
Just as you want the same logo and design elements across your business signage, letterhead, and business cards, you must make sure you carry that into your online presence as well. When you work with a designer or marketing firm on this, be certain that your choices will look as good online as on paper; avoid fonts or color schemes that may be hard to read or look garish on a screen. Otherwise you may be tempted to design online presence differently from your offline one, and lose the advantage of expanding your brand across the various media.
When choosing your branding elements, don't forget to take your mobile website into account! An ever-increasing percentage people use mobile devices like smartphones and tablets as their primary means of accessing the internet. Your website layout, logos, and design elements must also translate well to the smaller screens and different proportions of mobile devices.
Organize your internet presence so that all routes lead to your website.
Familiarity and ease of use makes it tempting to build your web presence around a favorite social media channel such as Facebook or Instagram, and many small businesses use this to save the time and expense of creating a whole website. Social media can be an incredibly powerful way to reach and stay in contact with your customers and prospects.
However, if your main online presence is on someone else's site, you are at their mercy. The visibility of your content is controlled by algorithms than can change on a near daily basis. Not only that, the popularity of social media sites also ebbs and flows. Your target market may abandon a site virtually overnight (remember MySpace?) and you will be left behind.
Making social media the centerpiece of your online presence is what marketers call "digital sharecropping". No matter how carefully you cultivate your little patch, your success is ultimately in the hands of the landlord who actually owns the real estate. In contrast, a business website is internet real estate that you own and control.
Therefore, use your social media presence to drive traffic to your website. Give content "snacks" on social media, but serve up the "meal" at your home base. Use social media to expand your reach by encouraging visitors to like and share your content, but make your own site the repository of your content. Over time as you place more materials there, it will become a more and more substantial representative of your brand.
Use a variety of media formats to tell your brand's story.
From its earliest days, the internet has been powered by the written word. Blogs, newsletters, annual reports, articles, and white papers can tell your story very effectively. But not everyone enjoys reading, or has the time to do it.
One of the great strengths of the internet is the ability to redesign content into many different formats. Use graphics and images on your site to showcase the people behind your business, your success stories, and your happy customers. Roll out new products with video presentations, and share statistics through colorful and easy-to-read charts or infographics. Archive webinars and training classes through slide presentations and recordings.
Keep your website up to date.
Be sure that you are adding to the content on your website regularly. One of the best ways to do this is to have a blog. When you create a new blog post, you can notify all your social media sites automatically, which simultaneously adds fresh content to those places.
Moreover, a blog gives you a convenient way to collect email addresses from your site's visitors. If someone likes your posts, they will be willing to sign up for emailed notifications of updates so they don't miss anything. Ultimately you can build an email list of contacts who already are interested in hearing from you, which gives any email marketing approach a huge boost right out of the gate.
Every so often, take a look around at the sites of other businesses competing in your market space. Look at your direct head-to-head competition, but go beyond it as well. Find businesses offering similar products or services in other geographic locations, or other businesses in your locale that offer different products than you. How does your site stack up? Are they doing new things on their site that you haven't yet? Do your layout, color choices, or fonts look dated or tired? Plan to have a marketing consultant review your online presence periodically to keep your brand fresh.
In today's market, your website is critical to publicizing and expanding your brand, no matter how large or small your business. When you apply these strategies in a systematic way, your investment of time, money, and effort in building your online presence will pay for itself many times over.