Do you choose advertising by website, blog, or newsletter? Or take a more traditional route?
Whether you set up shop in a physical location open to foot traffic, or your business is nontraditional and without a storefront, you’ve got to be able to attract clients. So how do you get the word out to your potential customers? There are several ways to advertise, and the more you can afford, the more visible your presence will be. You no doubt know something of each of the methods – from traditional print and broadcast ads to online. And while it’s true that going for print, radio, or tv can prove to be pretty expensive, advertising by website, blog, or newsletter doesn’t have to be. You can establish a Facebook page, register on LinkedIn, or set up a Twitter account, all free. None are that time-consuming and you don’t need to be a computer geek. You can also build a website, start a blog, or send out newsletters. All of these require money and skilled labor, but like local print advertising, can be had relatively inexpensively if you do it yourself.
What’s the difference between a website, blog, and newsletter? A website’s a page or group of pages that fall under one umbrella, the site’s domain name. It’s usually the company’s primary presence on the web. A blog is a series of journal-like entries of individual related articles. A newsletter is a regularly produced source of company news and events that can be sent email and/or regular mail.
So what advertising routes will work for you?
Today, most business owners find that they need a web presence. Your clients and customers increasingly rely on websites to find out a company’s location and hours, and also use them for comparison shopping. The US Census 2015 American Community Survey found that 77 percent of households had an internet connection. And according to a 2019 Pew Research Center study, just 10 percent of American adults do not use the internet. The vast majority of Americans – 81 percent – rely on their own research before making important decisions. Nearly half of them – 46 percent – turn to the internet to help them decide. Granted, not all major decisions involve spending money, but most probably do.
So, does your company need to be online? If you want to reach the majority of current and potential customers, you probably do.
Whether ‘tis smarter to go digital, or not.
There’re lots of considerations in deciding if you should go digital. First, of course, how likely is your company going to benefit by being online? Then there’s cost. Website building outlay can be minimal, less than $100 annually if you build your own simple site, or can stretch into the thousands of dollars. Now, just what are the costs and other considerations of building a website and going online with it?
- First, you need a domain name. Sometimes a domain name comes as part of a package deal, or you may have to purchase it on its own. When you buy it alone the annual cost is generally quite cheap.
- Then there’s hosting, or where your site will “live” on the web. This can also be free or a few dollars a month on up depending upon what features are included. For a breakdown of hosting sites, see WP Beginner’s How to Choose the Best WordPress Hosting in 2020 (Compared). The article includes a quiz to help you determine what hosting to choose according to what you plan on doing with your site.
- Next you need a website builder. Many are your choices here. I’m partial to WordPress and find that I can do most anything with it, from setting up a basic blog to building an e-commerce site. So how do you choose? Determine what you want to do with your website. WP Beginner has a good rundown on the top ten builders in their article, How to Choose the Best Website Builder in 2020 (Compared).
- Then you need a theme, which is like the skeleton of your site. There are free themes out there, but for more functionality and the ability to customize your site to your needs, you may want to go with a paid theme. I work with Generate Press and find it to be full of customizable features. Generate Press can be free or paid, depending on the features it comes with.
- Plug-ins give added functionality to your site. There are literally thousands of WordPress plug-ins available. Some are free, and others must be paid for. A few of my favorites are:
Beaver Builder – a WordPress page builder. You can use their free version or purchase one. There are three paid levels. See the Beaver Builder pricing chart for pricing and a comparison of the features of each version.
PowerPack is a Beaver Builder add-on. It has loads of templates and gives you the opportunity to further customize your site. Like so many website components, there’s free and paid versions, with the cost structured according to how many sites you need. Comparison shop with the PowerPack Pricing Plan.
Yoast SEO is a useful plug-in for search engine optimization (SEO), which is a fancy way of saying you’re setting up your site to be found by search engines like Google. Whether you choose Yoast or another SEO package, this is a must-have plug-in to be found by potential customers. Yoast has free and paid price packages.
G Suite comes with email that you can personalize with a staff member’s name and use @YourCompanyName. It also has document and spreadsheet building and sharing capabilities. There are different levels of plans (and payments) starting with the inexpensive Basic plan. Find a closer look at G Suite for plan comparisons.
- Now, whether you contract out or have your site built inhouse, don’t forget to include personnel costs for staff or freelance contractors.
- Finally, you can’t forget about your website once it’s up and running. Maintenance can cost money too. This can include everything from updating themes and plugins, to changing existing pages, writing and designing new pages, or doing blog posts.
Do you build your website yourself, go inhouse, or job it out?
Think about this:
- Do you have writers and designers on site? And since the learning curve can be steep, you may want to consider whether your staff includes anyone experienced in building websites.
- Does your selected website designer/writer know how to prepare your site to get top billing in Google searches? Search Engine Optimization can be pricey due to the research involved.
- Just long might it take to build? You will need anywhere from a few weeks for a quite simple site to several months, depending on how detailed and what elements will be used on your site. And whether you have a basic knowledge of how to do it. See How long does it take to build a website in WordPress for lots of good info.
- What skills do you need?
Writing. Whoever you choose should be able to pen engaging, interesting content quickly and accurately.
An eye for design. A site that’s been designed in haste or put together with no thought for design probably won’t get the attention you’re looking for.
Search engine optimization (SEO). You must write your site so that Google will find you. Beginning from scratch, it can take anywhere from a few days to six months for Google to find and list you. And you need to include words people are searching for if Google is to find you at all.
Structuring your site takes work, too.
What pages do you need on your website? Depending on the size of your company and what you do, you will probably need a minimum of 10:
- Home page – Your very first consideration should be your clients and their needs. You want to describe what your company does and how you can solve your clients’ needs. Aim to make this page simple with limited words. You should also include a Call to Action telling your website visitor what to do next – contact you, sign up for a newsletter, or request a free download. Keep the words on your home page to less than 300.
- About us – 300 – 500 words. Nearly everyone wants to know the background of the company they choose to do business with. Satisfy them by providing a brief corporate history, a mission/vision statement, your values, and charitable activities. As with every page on your site, keep it as short as possible, relevant, and to the point.
- Staff profiles – Just like they want to be reassured by knowing the basics about your company itself, your potential clients also want to know whom they will be dealing with. You should provide profiles of key staff members. Make the bios personable and friendly while remaining professional. Include experience and education, but remember, this is not a resume. Just hit on the highlights. A personal detail or two can also be included. You don’t have to write these from a blank slate – provide your staff with a questionnaire to easily get info on them. You will need to list the staff member’s name, job title, and a brief description of his or her role in the company. Don’t forget to include staff photos! These profiles can be short – 50 – 100 words, or longer if need be. Just remember to keep it interesting.
- Products/services page, of course. What specifically do you have to offer, whether they be products or services?
- Testimonials. It’s great to get quotes from satisfied clients. Some websites use headshots of the people giving the testimonial. If you haven’t collected any customer experience forms, contact customers who are happy with what you’ve provided them, and ask if they’re willing to say a few words about your business.
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs) are avidly read by website visitors. Include questions you’re often asked or base them on info that you think would be useful and interesting.
- Contact Us. This form gives your website visitors a way to get in touch. Info requested on the form usually includes name and email address, and other information depending on your needs. There is usually a box provided for visitors to ask questions or to leave comments. The page will include your phone number, address, and if you use a location that clients visit, it would be useful to include a Google map. There usually aren’t many words on this page, and with a plug-in should take less than an hour to create.
- Regularly produced blog posts are important because they give visitors a reason to return again and again to your site. Google also likes websites that post new material frequently. Posts can be quite short – about 300 words, or, depending on your subject matter, can run into the thousands of words.
- You may want to include a landing page. This is a page someone lands on when they click on an ad or emailed link. It’s part of your marketing campaign.
Perhaps it would be easier to go back to the days when your business could be built on word-of-mouth. That’s still a great way to attract customers, but that only happens one-by-one. Now you have to decide whether to choose the traditional forms of marketing, or go with advertising by website, blog, or newsletter or all of the above. Whatever you do, there’s a journey involved, one that hopefully will lead to your overall success.