Your website shouldn’t just look nice, it needs to make an authentic first impression and speak to your target audience.
A great website can serve as an extension of your brand, a 24/7 business card and salesperson, and a way to show off your professionalism. According to one study, 92% of customers go to a brand’s website before they intend to make a purchase.
A third of the time, they don’t even make a purchase while they’re there. That means that most, if not all, of your customers are doing their due diligence before they decide to do business with you. If you have a website that’s not up to par (or none at all), you can count on it to lose you business.
Knowing how valuable your website is may add additional pressure to an often stressful project. High-quality websites require a financial investment. You will also need to take time away from your business to focus on the website build project. But a little preparation goes a long way, and planning could make the difference between an okay website and a great one.
Before you even think about starting the technical side of creating a website such as finding and registering a domain name, choosing a host, and getting it up and running, there are steps you can take to set your small business up for success online. Let’s get started.
Step 1. Define Your Buyer Personas
Buyer personas are descriptions of the person or people you’re trying to reach: your ideal target audience. They’re usually a fictional representation of your general customer. Many small business owners (and large ones, too) grumble at the thought of creating buyer personas. But defining your ideal customer is more than an imaginative exercise: it will help you tailor the language you will use on your website, along with keywords, tone, and even imagery, to best attract your ideal customer.
But more than that, a deep understanding of your buyer persona and their problems will drive nearly everything about your business, from sales and marketing to content creation, follow-up, and product or service development. A clearly defined buyer persona may also help you shorten your sales cycle and retain customer loyalty.
Step 2. Define Your Online Brand
Why define your brand as a precursor to building your website? Because every aesthetic decision you make should rely upon that identity. Your business needs to stand out against a sea of competitors online and what better way to do that than to simply be yourself?
Your brand isn’t just your logo; it’s a sum of your parts both tangible and intangible. Think of your business’s website identity as a combination of:
Your Personality and Voice
How do you talk to your customers? Do you talk in strategies and numbers or do you prefer to keep things lighthearted and personal? The answer to this question will drive how you write your content.
What are your business colors? Do they align with your personality and values? What are your fonts, your preferred graphics, your favorite types of stock imagery?
Your Business’s Values
What do you care about? Do you have philanthropic values in your company? Are you a family-owned business with a long history? Your business’s values can make you really stand out, so don’t be afraid to lean into them.
Step 3. Define Your Website’s Purpose and Create a Sitemap
What do you want your website to do for you? Do you want it to drive sales? Do you want it to inform? Do you want it to convert? Or do you want it to just be a living business card? (All of the above is also an option.) Write down what you want your site to do for you – you can then base your sitemap off of that goal.
Your sitemap is a layout of the pages on your website. It can be as simple or as detailed as you like, but it will help you determine your site’s navigation and structure (and also help you figure out what pages to have).
Sitemaps may get complicated, but make sure to have the three website necessities: a Home page, an About Us page, and a Contact Us page. A good home page should give your customers a taste of your brand and also speak to a problem they may be experiencing; the About Us page should highlight your values and gain trust; the Contact Us page should act as a basic conversion point on your site and have a clear way for them to reach you.
Starting your journey into the online world may feel daunting, but these are all steps you can take on your own. No one knows your business like you do, so taking time to figure out your business’s website goals will help you or your developer create a site that’s a perfect fit for your brand and your customers.
If you are looking for a partner for the entire website building process or simply the technical side of building a website for your business don’t be afraid to ask for help – I’m always here if you need it. Let’s break out a sketchbook and start brainstorming.