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Small Business

Posts pertaining to small business startups, operations, tips, topics and issues.

Why a free website won't gorw your business

Why a Free Website Won’t Grow Your Business

By Small Business, Web Design

Perhaps you’ve seen the latest television ad by a company that offers free website design.  And if you go online and google ‘free website’ you get over 4 billion results.

If you’re a start-up or small business, a free website is a great way to get your dream off the ground. A professional website design is as necessary as a business card in today’s marketplace. Without one, you lose credibility in the eyes of your prospects and the ability to attract customers/clients outside of your geographic region.

However, like all things ‘free’ or ‘cheap’ there are a few catches that as a business owner you need to be aware of if you are serious about growing your business online.

Before signing up with one of those discount or free website providers, here are 5 points you need to know before spending the time and effort building a website your self.  

1. Welcome to the jungle – how to stand out
Nowadays, pretty much anyone can put together a website. By the end of 2014, there will be over a billion websites online. (Source: Internetlivestats.com) Like a car that has four wheels, doors, windshield and an engine, the template for building a website has pretty much been standardized. A website has a nav bar, logo, footer, buttons, home page, secondary pages and a contact page and maybe even a blog. There isn’t much you can do in way of convention to change it. What this has done is driven down price and forced designers to work on price and not value, essentially making web design a commodity. This causes an inefficiency between business owner and developer in that now, you are paying for the cheapest price but not necessarily getting the best value to grow your business.  This discrepancy causes a gap in your efforts to achieve your goals and solve your problem of generating revenue. Without the eye and talent of a design professional—your site at best—hangs on the precipice of mediocrity. Free templated solutions do not reflect your brand or unique story in way a professional, strategic-based design can.

2. It’s all about the brand
As a business owner you need to understand what makes your brand different, not just from a product or service standpoint, but from a customer standpoint—especially if you are in a competitive industry. This can only be accomplished by understanding who your buyer persona is and how your brand strategy connects to your customer. Who are you? Who needs to know? How will they find out? Why should they care? Every brand must answer these 4 questions. By being able to answer these questions, you will be able to write content specifically for your customer that allows you to connect and humanize your brand through your website.

3. Content is key
Your website is just another page floating in cyberspace unless it educates or solves a customers or clients problem. The quality of your content will determine if people stay or ‘bounce’ from your website. Content can come in the form of videos, text, infographics and imagery. Better content is proven to keep your visitors on your site longer and builds trust so they warm towards your service or product offering. (SOURCE: Hubspot).

4. Trust is paramount
One of today’s biggest hindrances to getting customers is the ability to demonstrate that you can be trusted. I think a fair judgment would be to say that skepticism is at an all-time high due to the continuing fallout we see in our society via the news media. Websites with shabby written content, overused stock photography and low-quality content will often cause potential prospects to leave your site. You must show social proof, a physical address, the people in your company and case studies on how your product or service is being used.  The quality or lack-there-of in design can either inject instant credibility or disgust in your visitor.

5. A website doesn’t guarantee you’ll be found
The digital game has changed thanks to Google. Recent algothrim changes have sifted the wheat from the chaff on search engine results pages (SERPS). Only sites with relevant content will be ranked higher. Higher rankings mean more traffic, which mean more leads, which means more customers. A website isn’t enough, its just the beginning. What good is a website if no one is able to find you? If your aim is to have a website, then mission accomplished, but if your goal is to build a business — then the ability to generate revenue becomes job one. Only through creating fresh relevant content, remarkable content offers, and then optimizing that content for search engines promoted through social media will you begin to generate traffic and ultimately leads that convert into customers. According to Google, “Our guidance to webmasters is the same as always — we encourage original, high-quality content, since that’s what’s best for web users.” Notice, they didn’t say website. (SOURCE: Forbes)

Final Thoughts
I understand that coming up with $1-5K for website can really pinch the bank account these days. Everything is changing and what was working yesterday is different today. If you don’t have a large budget, by all means go for a ‘free’ or ‘cheap’ website, but if you have the means, it’s well worth your investment to invest in a professional website design and do it right. There is no better time than right now to do it right.

Having a website isn’t what sells your services, great content does. If you have a ‘free’ or ‘discounted’ website and need help generating traffic, lead generation, customer acquisition or ROI analysis, contact us for a free Inbound Marketing Assessment.

54 Brilliant Home Page Designs

FREE DOWNLOAD: 54 Brilliant Home Page Design Ideas

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Having a website is just the first step into generating revenue online and growing your business.

In this quick flip book — we introduce you to some of the best home pages on the web. Use this resource to inspire your ideas when creating your business’ next website.


 

Brand Development Inbound Marketing Consultant

By Josh Claflin, Brand Development, Inbound Marketing & Creative Strategy
Josh helps brands who are struggling to develop their brand; grow, stabilize or increase profits through their websites; increase revenue through online channels and enter the digital era of marketing.

Nine Tips to Make It In The Design (or any) Business

By Graphic Design Business, Small Business

This month Garrison Everest celebrates nine years in business.

Like most entrepreneurs I started in a basement back in early 2003. Prior to getting my start, I was doing UX design for a start-up right out of college that went under after it blew through $39 million in venture capital in 12 months.

I began working on little projects referred to me by friends and family, but when 9-11 hit and the country went into a brief recession I was forced to put my fledging dreams and business aspirations on hold and find a “real job.”

I found work with an agency downtown Denver that was located on the top floor of the Qwest building, (now Century Link). After being with the agency for 9 months, commuting 2 hours a day and experiencing the stress of what it takes to be an agency caliber designer, I knew that without a doubt, that if these people could do it – so could I.

[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Seven out of 10 new employer firms survive at least 2 years, half at least 5 years, a third at least 10 years, and a quarter stay in business 15 years or more. Source https://www.sba.gov/advocacy/[/quote]

Feeling anxious about getting back to what I started, an opportunity came along to be acting creative director with a virtual digital advertising agency on a contract basis working out of my apartment. I was essentially promised a steady workflow and was free to work on building my business. After a lot of thought and prayer, I felt God pushing me to make the jump. The job would be contract only, no benefits, no office — and no guarantees. So I quit the downtown agency and made the leap.

Now working incredibly late nights in my $450/mo Capital Hill apartment downtown Denver – it was fast and furious designing online ads, landing pages, print and website design — and I was loving it. After 6 short months the company I was contracting with went under from poor management because its owner took the cash and bugged out to Mexico (I’m not making this up), but left me with all their clients including NASCAR. This was the opportunity and springboard that really took my business — which was just a sole-proprietor at the time — to the agency level.

Slowly over a 10 month period, income began to increase and more clients and projects came in. I remember when I got my first check for $13K. I almost went through the roof – but I knew that I was on to something and I was developing something special that I could call my own. I guess the rest you can say is history (or history still in the making).

So here are a few things I learned in the process, below are nine tips that you can apply to your business that I have always tried to focus on that have brought nine successful years of business and counting. Being election day, you could call it my 9, 9, 9 plan.

  1. Work hard – This goes without saying. If you are a self-starter and got the talent — the sky really is the limit in this country. Hard work always came naturally to me from my years as a competitive swimmer to chopping and stacking wood when I was a boy. A strong work ethic was instilled in me at an early age. Try to develop strong work habits and don’t quite till the job is done.
  2. Persistence – There were times when things got really grim. We’ve gone through some really tough months that have tested our resolve. Like other agencies that went under in the great  recession, we almost lost it all as well – but we were able to hold on. Never give up – you never know when the next big project is around the corner.
  3. Diversify – One of the things that makes our group unique is that we can do a lot of things for our clients very efficiently. Brand development, website design, logo design, packaging, SEO and now business development, marketing and sales. I think people who work in the agency business naturally become experts in business and become the “go-to” guys. We have since focused more on brand development and have partnered with other companies who are really good at SEO and programming, but continue to retain the ability to do these types of projects in house. This has allowed us to diversify our skill set and to stay afloat during tough times.
  4. Never stop learning – Read the current marketing books, sign up for webinars, keep up on the latest software releases, know how to speak and present yourself and your ideas and always try to position yourself as a resource.
  5. Be Proactive – Be the first to let the client know where you are on a project. Never allow them to email you asking were things are. Try to think ahead. I will spend the first hour of my morning going through my task list and determining how I can best serve a client and what needs to get done by close of business. This  keeps clients happy  which leads me to my next point…
  6. Get Organized – Know when things are due, keep your schedule tight, know when to say “no”, always keep your time commitments and always be on time. I trained for an Ironman early this year while balancing my 3 and 5 year old, a wife studying for medical school and a full work load – it’s possible.
  7. Differentiate – Find out how to really stand out in a crowd and how to separate yourself from your competitors.
  8. Confidence – Confidence only comes through experience – failures and successes. I have crashed a few designs, botched a few presentations and have had clients drop us. However we’re lucky to say we’ve had more successes than failures. Be willing to take a risk and go after bigger accounts that you think are out of you reach. I was once told by an old friend of mine. “when people are scared, they go farther and reach higher.”
  9. Networking – I am blessed to have made a lot of important friends and contacts when I first started out. I owe a lot to these people who referred leads and believed in me. Without their referrals I don’t think Garrison Everest would be where it is today.

In the design business most of it is about dealing with people. The better you are with people, being sensitive to their expectations and personalities the better and farther you will go. One thing that is also important to mention is being ready for opportunities when they come your way. We make sure to have our sales presentations and website updated with our latest and greatest work as well as talking points at the ready when potential leads call in. Always be prepared to talk about what you’ve done and how you’ve helped clients in the past. Ok, so it ended up being 11 tips.

I hope this has encouraged you to start your own business or to keep striving in yours.