WEBSITES FOR SMALL BUSINESS

WEBSITES FOR SMALL BUSINESS

What Can a Website Do For Your Business?

“Websites for Small Business” may sound like a cheesy infomercial, but I promise we’re serious about the topic.

Your website is either helping or hurting your business. Sadly, it’s the later for many of the businesses that need it most – small businesses. A website for small business should be much more than a brochure, an online menu, or some contact information and a fancy logo.

It’s your calling card. Your brand. It’s your 24x7x365 sales/ customer service employee. It can take messages, greet potential customers, or even welcome back current customers. It might persuade prospects to use your products and services instead of your competition.

Or vice-versa.

Your website can answer questions or track and manage inventory. It can reach out to search engines to bring you more traffic from prospective clients. It can even tell you how people are finding it. Did I mention it can sell things 24 hours a day?

A website for small business should be a critical resources that is well built and maintained.

A New Era for Small Business Websites

The fact is, the web has entered an era where a website can—and should be—a primary part of your business model. Customers shop based on how easily they can find information on your site and how it looks. Consumers investigate businesses online before stepping foot in a retail establishment or office. Today, people look for phone numbers and addresses on Google far more than they reach for a phone book (for you young folk this is a giant book they used to leave on your doorstep that had the phone number for all the businesses and people in your area).

With this in mind, here are five questions to ask yourself about your website—and these apply whether you have a site already or are planning on making one.

websites for small business are important

How can websites for small business make Life easier?

Sometimes, it’s as easy as building a Frequently Asked Questions page to help cut down time spent answering common questions. Sometimes it’s a more complex solution, like e-commerce, real-time inventory tracking, or something built around your business model. It could even be as simple as a forum where customers can help one another.

For restaurants, a well built site can take an order or reservation saving you both time and the potential for errors. Plus you get paid before you make anything…

Remember, your website works 24 hours a day. What could it be doing while you are at home with your family, enjoying a good movie?

Websites for small business should improve the overall operation of your company.

Does your website really represent the business?

Your business is your brand. When designing websites for small business it’s important that it authentically represents your business. If there is a difference between what your website communicates and what your customer ultimately experiences it can cost you. If your website sucks, they may not ever do business with you. Conversely, if your website sets high expectations and the customer experience underwhelms, you could lose future business.

Your website should accurately represent what a customer would feel if they walked into your business.

Is your website easy to use?

Actually, don’t ask yourself this question. Ask your customers. Ask your mother. Your grandmother. Next time you’re at your in-laws’ house for dinner, ask them to sit down on your web site and perform a specific task, such as finding a certain product, locating some specific information, or just surfing through it. Do not intervene. Just watch quietly and note where the stumbling blocks are. For your customers, send them an offer to get a 10% off coupon if they test your site and provide answers to a questionnaire about your site. You will begin to notice commonalities in the feedback you get, and those are where you want to start.

Do the search engines like websites for small business?

Search engines have become much more sophisticated over the years. It used to be that “clean” code and a bunch of links to your site could get you a higher rank. To a certain extent that’s still true, but as website builders have grown in popularity, their user friendly nature can come at a cost.

WordPress was among the first website builders and now powers tens of millions of websites – many of them small business. However, there are other platforms that have grown in popularity in recent years. Squarespace, Shopify, Wix, and Webflow are a few of the most popular.

Choosing the right platform for your small business website should be based on what you need it to do. The considerations range from technological competence to whether you plan on selling online, or not. Each service comes with it’s own strengths and limitations, so being clear on what you are trying to achieve is critical.

Among those strengths and limitations is how easily and effectively the SEO aspects of a website can me managed. Most of the platforms we listed do a decent job of the basics, but there are big disparities once you get beyond the rudimentary stuff.

How are people finding your site?

Once your site is up and running, there are a number of things you can do to help drive traffic to your site, many of them being quite simple. Search engine optimization is great, but it can take a while, and/ or incur a significant cost for a new website to generate meaningful traffic. Although this is an excellent way to build a long term stream of potential customers, there are other things you can do in the short term to help.

Start a business blog, making sure to keep it updated with real, useful information and content related to your business or industry. Make sure your blog has a link back to your site and vice-versa. Make sure your content is not just selling your business, but is useful and keyword-rich.

Get linked to (and link to) other sites. Google likes this and will ultimately improve where your site shows up in search engine rankings. Using Google My Business is like a secret weapon for increasing traffic to your website. Another option is to get you business listed on legitimate online business and industry directories. Just be sure to add your website links with links back to your site. Avoid getting into any arrangements with SPAM directories.

Share Your Website

Cross-pollinate with other sites like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or any of the other social networking sites your customers use. More and more businesses are creating profiles on social networking and Web 2.0 sites. These profiles can ultimately act as another springboard to get more traffic to your site and to help you appeal to entirely new demographics.

Track your traffic. Take advantage of Google’s Webmaster Tools. Their Analytics product is simply powerful and there are multiple ways to display the data right on your WordPress website. Oh- and they are free. You can track your web site traffic, sources of traffic, paths users are taking through your site and even set up conversion goals to see how many people are following through with specific purchase paths. Did I mention it’s free?

So that’s it—a great starting point for you to use as a barometer to make your web site not only more useful to your customers, but also to you. If you would like a more in-depth consultation on how your web site may be able to help your business more, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

How to Make Better Business Decisions

How to Make Better Business Decisions

How to make better decisions

A repeatable way to make better business decisions.

Do you have a systematic “process” for making better business decisions?

I built a tool to help organizations, first for the company I was at, then more broadly for clients, to gain deeper clarity into diverse perspectives, better understand and articulate your own point of view, and when combined with a healthy dialogue, surface better solutions to whatever challenge your company faces.

Use it, change it, and share it if you like, but please give me feedback so we can continue to make it better.

I currently use a combination of a website form, Google Sheets, and some Zapier magic to organize the responses, but you could use other tools to get it done – even a pen and paper! 

If you’d like a PDF version of the questions, let us know where to send it. 

[fluentform id=”1″]

A Post About How to Make Better Business Decisions

My form is organized into five sections with questions clustered around topics to stimulate responses that might otherwise go unexplored and help you make better business decisions.

Section 1

Decide what you are hoping to make a better business decision about.

Question:

What is the decision you are considering?

Section 2

What are you trying to accomplish or avoid with this decision?

Questions:

  1. What are we trying to accomplish?
  2. What is the primary reason for doing this?
  3. What outcome are we trying to get by doing this?
  4. Is there a phase or time where this decision will be more or less needed? Does it need to happen now? 

Section 3

How does this decision align with our mission, objectives, and KPIs?

Questions:

  1. How does this align with our mission long term?
  2. How does this align with our objectives over the next quarter?
  3. How does this align with our objectives over the next year?
  4. Why should we do this?
  5. What opportunities do we create by doing this?
  6. How is this good for our company?
  7. What results would this decision achieve to cause us to look back a year from now with hell yes! appreciation?  

If you’d like a PDF version of the questions, let us know where to send it. 

[fluentform id=”1″]

Section 4

What risks are we exposing ourselves too? The idea here is to play devil’s advocate even if you are in favor of the decision. What could go wrong if it doesn’t go right?

Questions:

  1. How could this decision harm us?
  2. What are the risks you’ve identified with this decision?
  3. What are the risks you’ve identified with this decision?
  4. What are other areas of our business could this impact?
  5. What would happen if we didn’t do this?

Section 5

Anything Else? An open question for anything not covered in the other sections.

Questions:

  1. Anything else you’d like to say or ask about the decision?
  2. Who else should answer these questions on this decision?

 

Conclusion

This is what I’ve used to help my companies and coaching clients make better decisions. What do you think? Is this a format you would use? If not, how can we make it better?

 

If you have a WordPress website (or want one) check out our WordPress Website Management service. We can do thing like turn these questions into a form on your website that automatically gets emailed to all the people you want to have it!

Not only is it a great way to stay focused on your business, our team will keep your website updated and running fast and secure.

If you’d like a PDF version of the questions, let us know where to send it. 

[fluentform id=”1″]

What To Do When Your Business Is In Lockdown

What To Do When Your Business Is In Lockdown

what to do when your business is in lockdown

Navigating COVID-19 & Other Business Challenges

 

Whether or not you agree with Governor Inslee’s decision doesn’t matter. For the next four weeks starting tomorrow (Wednesday if you are a restaurant), many Washington State businesses are severely limited or shut down to in-person engagements. 

What’s my approach to this situation? I say GOOD.

GOOD. is a phrase I adopted from Jocko Willink , but you could also use the stoic phase “Amor Fati” – or love of fate…as Friedrich Nietzsche said to “not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it….but love it.”

not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it….but love it.

LOVE IT.

To truly love the difficult, the unfair, the mundane, you must orient your thinking toward a growth mindset. A perspective where you suspend judging circumstances as good or bad, and all outcomes are an opportunity for improvement. It’s much easier to grovel and complain; or accept victimization, making it hard for many people to embrace this mindset. 

Many years ago, I read a story, and now regularly share a version of it from Derek Sivers blog called the “Parable of the Horses.” I’ll let you read the story for yourself, but the essence is this: we don’t know what the future holds and don’t have nearly enough information to judge something “good” or “bad.” 

Your mindset, starting right now, will have a profound impact on your business, your health, your employees, your family, your community, and so much more. With a healthy perspective, you can benefit no matter what happens – pandemics, shutdowns, elections, booms, and busts, all are opportunities for growth and improvement. 

What now? 

To navigate the situation and maximize the opportunity for growth, we need to reprogram how we think. I’ve found a single phrase borrowed from design thinking to be profoundly effective. How might we…?

How might we…?

How might we…? is a mental exercise in the form of a question that suspends judgment of good vs. bad ideas and allows you to explore possibilities you may not otherwise consider. There are no wrong answers – only opportunities to improve and grow. 

  • Do you own a restaurant that can’t seat customers? How might we delight our takeout customers? 
  • Do you have a gym that must close? How might we continue to serve our members digitally? 
  • Do you have a retail store that is limited to 25% capacity? How might we reach our customers online? 

So how might you benefit from Governor Inslee’s statewide restrictions? 

3 Lessons from a 209% Successful Kickstarter Project

3 Lessons from a 209% Successful Kickstarter Project

Kickstarter is Awesome, But Not Miraculous

If you have a product you want to sell, Kickstarter is a great place to start. Maybe you need funds for the initial production run, or maybe you just want to test your concept – either way it’s a great platform. There are lots of posts and books about how to run a successful Kickstarter project, but after doubling our targeted goal for SnapLaces we did a few things a bit different than what others have recommended. Obviously every project is unique, but some of the principals we used should still be valuable.

3 Simple Lessons for A Successful Kickstarter Project

  1. First and foremost, we worked our asses off. Running a campaign is more than a full time job, and even with people splitting the work there was still a lot to get done.
  2. We didn’t discount our product. Kickstarter is the one time in a products lifecycle where people might be willing to pay more just to help you out. Don’t make the mistake of discounting just to get backers. Most people underestimate what it will take to get a product to market, and even if you don’t, unexpected things can crop up.
  3. We contacted everyone that backed us. Literally everyone. Their responses to our questions ultimately led to valuable insights and shaped both the tone of our campaign and the direction of our company.

A Successful Kickstarter Project is A LOT of Work

The amount of work a successful Kickstarter project requires is probably the biggest reason for failure. Having successfully managed a campaign and backed several others that were not successful, I can confidently state that there is a high correlation between the effort and result. The ones that didn’t interact with backers or actively engage, didn’t meet their funding goals.

We Didn’t Discount Our Product

Many Kickstarter projects offer discounts on the product being funded. We felt like that was a bad idea, especially at the under $50 price point we were in. We knew that we’d need over 1000 backers to be successful and lowering an already small price point would add to that number. More importantly the purpose of the campaign was to raise funds to pay for a new plastic injection mold, so we reasoned that backers would be preordering our product and helping us bootstrap the effort.

One thing we did do was offer a significant discount to a limit number of early backers to gain momentum. Your first week on Kickstarter is crucial because new projects are featured and people are much more likely to discover them. The “early adopter” reward allowed us to get the required momentum to become one on the top  projects on Kickstarter which led to additional backers, but the limit made sure that we weren’t sacrificing our overall funding objectives.

Communication is Key

Prior to launching we studied other successful projects and one data point stuck out. Successful projects updated an average of 1.8 times PER DAY! This is where the bulk of the work came in. In addition to sending messages to every backer and responding to their questions, we tried to post 2-3 times every day on Kickstarter, as well as maintaining an active social media presence (active as in cultivating relationships, not just carpet bombing posts) on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Communication is the key to success on Kickstarter.

Engage and communicate relevant information to people who have helped you (or would likely help you if only they knew you existed) is the most reliable way to have a successful Kickstarter project.

What Now?

The next project will definitely be better run and more organized, but if we can save you some time and misery by sharing than it will have been worth the time invested in reading.

As always, if you have a question or comment – just ask!

Help Fight Hosting Deficiency Syndrome

Help Fight Hosting Deficiency Syndrome

Help Fight HDS #thereishope

About Hosting Deficiency Syndrome

Hosting Deficiency Syndrome (HDS) is a serious problem plaguing the WordPress community. Symptoms include slow page load times, the need for caching plugins, poor security, out of date WP installations, terrible customer service, and more.

Fortunately there is hope.

The treatment for HDS is Managed WordPress hosting from www.GetFlywheel.com. Their dedicated team of hosting professionals will migrate your site for free and have your website operating better in no time.

If you, or a company you know suffers from HDS, please contact them today.

About Flywheel

Hosting Deficiency SyndromeFlywheel is an amazing WordPress hosting company based in Omaha, Nebraska (AKA The Silicon Prairie). They do an awesome job of managing WordPress hosting for design firms like us at Workshed.com. If your website is built on WordPress, check them out (Also they do free migrations, which is very, very, helpful).


CONTACT FLYWHEEL

 

About Workshed

We approach design, marketing, and websites from a business owners perspective. Sure, we love cool tech just as much as the next geek, but we know that providing solutions to real business problems is a better way to provide value.

CONTACT WORKSHED

 

5 Important Steps To Optimize Images For The Web

5 Important Steps To Optimize Images For The Web

Images are essential to an effective website. Quality photos can mean the difference between a successful website and an ugly website that burns the retinas of it’s viewers.

Photos are especially important for websites that need to communicate anything visual; such as products, artwork, or services.

Here are a couple of websites that do a great job communicating visually with images:
www.spotify.com
www.littleco.com

Not only is it important to be posting big beautiful photos, it is equally important that they are properly optimized for the web. Not having properly optimized photos means you are probably missing out on potential visitors and sales.

Do your images provide Google and other search engines with the relevant information they need to be properly indexed? If not, how are people going to find them?

Are your photos too big? If so, they could be taking longer than necessary to load on phones and other mobile devices.

Why optimize your images?

Google can’t read photos… at least not very well. This is why you need to tell Google what the image is so that Google can correctly index and organize it.
Is that another photo of your cat with sunglasses? Or is that a photo of your Grandma’s famous green jello recipe? Google doesn’t know. You need to tell it.

Here are 5 important steps to optimize images for the web:

1. Image sizes

Before your photo is posted to the world wide web, it’s important that it be the right file size. If your images are too large, your visitors are not going to wait around for your website to load; especially mobile visitors. Images that are small in file size are essential for fast page load times. Unless you have access to expensive image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop, there are plenty of free online tools to help optimize image size; here is a great one.

2. Image Title Tag

Give your image a good title tag. The title tag is what the visitor is going to see when they highlight over the image with the cursor. Wordpress makes uploading and tagging images a piece of cake. Simply type in the title tag after uploading your image:

Example of how optimize images for the web
If you’re not using wordpress, and are updating your website like a dinosaur, the format goes like this:
<img src=”cat.jpg” title=”My Cute Cat”>

3. Image Caption

Add a caption tag to give your visitors a nice description or insight about your image. In WordPress, the caption is added directly underneath your image. Image captions are not used by Google, so only add if you want to give your visitors additional information.

Optimize your images for the web

4. Image Alt Tag

The Alt tag is especially important for SEO and Google indexing. Make a habit of always putting relevant keywords that describe your image in your alt tags. The alt tag will also be displayed in place of the image if the image link breaks and cannot be displayed. WordPress also has a handy field to add an alt tag:

how to add alt tags to optimize images for the web

<img src=”cat.jpg” title=”My Cute Cat” alt=”cute brown cat”>

5. Image File Name

When uploading any image, make sure it has a descriptive file name. A year from now when you or a visitor are searching for a particular image, which one do you think will be easier to find?
IMG_8692.jpg or cute-brown-cat.jpg?

These are 5 great ways to help optimize your website and get more traffic. Interested in more information on maintaining an effective website, sign up for our newsletter in the right sidebar.

Have any more image optimization tips? Please leave them in the comments below!

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