With all the talk of social media, we can sometimes lose sight of one of our most important online resources: a branded business website!
A Nielsen global survey on consumer trust in advertising reported branded websites are the #2 most trusted and influential advertising source. Second only to recommendations from people we know, the #1 most trusted and influential advertising source.
The Only Online Real Estate You Own & Control
When it comes right down to it, your website is the only piece of online real estate you own and control.
Investing in social networks makes sense. BUT keep in mind that any changes to how they operate can have a significant impact on your business, if you're relying exclusively on them for your online presence.
Facebook is a good example of this. Over the past few years changes to Facebook Pages have meant that most of your fans (those who have liked your Page) will never see the content you post to your Facebook Page, unless you pay to promote the content.
For those businesses who have spent time and money to build their fan base, this has been a major blow. But it's important to remember your business Page is NOT owned and controlled by you. Ultimately, it belongs to Facebook.
Making Your Branded Business Website Easy To Find
Essentially, all of your online, print and other marketing strategies should pave a way to your website. Social media is important but it is not more important than your branded business website! (Nielsen's Under the Influence: Consumer Trust in Advertising report supports this premise.)
Everything you do - advertising, communications, marketing, promotional, sales - should make it easy for people to find your branded website! This is true whether you have a physical business location, operate your business out of your home or run your business exclusively online.
There are many ways to make sure your website address is readily available and more likely to be used:
- Include your website address on all your printed and online materials. (Including business cards, newsletters, invoices, signage, letterhead, newsletters and eNewsetters, promotional and product/service information pieces.)
- Include your website address (hyperlinked if possible) on all of your social networks. (Most social networks provide a specific place for this information.)
- Include your website address at the end of your email signature (hyperlinked), along with links to your major social networks.
Make sure your website address, and other important contact information, is one-click away by making the link readable (title cased), online and in print, and clickable (hyperlinked) for anything digital.
The Face Of Your Business Online
Much like a physical store front, your branded business website is a critical piece of your overall sales and marketing strategy. It is the face or virtual store front for your business on the Internet, whether you realize it or not.
For this reason, having a branded website isn't enough! Just as having a store that looks good only on the outside isn't enough.
An attractive outside or first impression makes it easier for people to decide to open the door to your business. Once they've opened the door they want to see what you're made of ... they're looking for substance. And substance will mean different things for different businesses.
Making Your Website Visitor Friendly
To give a good first impression of your business and to make your website one that visitors are likely to feel has value, make sure it is . . .
- easy to read/view on devices of all sizes (responsive design), including the thousands of different sized mobile phones, phablets, tablets, laptops and pcs.
- attractive to your target audience, with branding that clearly reflects the 'face' and personality of your business.
- functional and easy to navigate for visitors. So that impatient people (and that would be most of us!) don’t leave your website because it feels confusing, cluttered or difficult to find what they're looking for.
- quick to load. Visitors expect your site to open in seconds, not minutes. If they have to wait too long they'll leave your website and potential business will be lost.
- well written with good quality photos and images. Anything less than this reflects on the quality of your products and services.
Today, most consumers want to check you out online before they decide to buy your products or services. This is true whether someone has personally recommended you, they've seen an ad online or in print media, they've met you at a Chamber of Commerce meeting or they've seen something positive a friend has shared about you on social media or elsewhere.
Make sure your website isn't slamming a door in the face of future business because it isn't doing the job you need it to do. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good first impression!