You might have heard, but getting your business online is kind of a big deal. It is not everything when it comes to marketing, but it is a significant component of any, and all, marketing strategies in the 21st century.

An online presence, more than any other area, is the one piece of marketing you must have. You must have a website, period. No ifs, no ands, no buts.

An online presence, more than ever, has always been about content. Even in the days when there was no term “content marketing” you could have someone build a website for you, but someone who knows your business inside out (that means you) still would have had to write the content. These days content, and particularly, new content, is king. The return on investment of a website is directly related to the effort, not necessarily money, that is poured into it. Your clients will be much more impressed by the effort, and the creation of a useful tool, than by flashy graphics. There was a time when a website could be a “set it and forget it” proposition (however the good websites were never this) and today that is almost impossible to do unless you want to be thought of as irrelevant. Your website will need to included the tools, and you will have to devote the time and energy, to keep it updated on a regular basis.

A lot the content of your website will be informed by your marketing strategybranding,  and your ability to market to your strengths. But it is also worth talking with your staff, and clients, about what they want to see and what they would find useful to have access to. Make a plan of action consisting of what you must have, what you would like to have, and things you might want to experiment with at some point. This will allow you to have a real idea of what you will be buying from your website designer. It will also give you some stages to work with so you can get started, see how it all works, and then make any tweaks before moving on.

Notice I said “what you will be buying from your website designer,” not: “what you will be buying from your website designer- if you use one.” If you are thinking of breaking out the books and learning to code your own website to save a few bucks, please stop. If you are bored with your current job, and web designer is your new passion, then please go for it. If not, please spare the internet, your customers, and yourself, the pain – do not go there. I’ve made quite a number of websites in the past, and today I just do not do it enough to be remotely good enough to satisfy myself – let alone anyone else. There are just too many browsers, platforms, search engine optimization tools, social media plug-ins, user interface issues, and a host of other magic things, to make it worth your while. Hire a professional and get something that you might actually want to use.

Spend your time actually writing the website content and thinking about how that tool, that you can direct customers too, is going to be best used. If you really know what you want, and have the content ready to go, your designer will quite probably cut you a deal on the price of the site. The content of a new website is always the killer, from a designers point of view, when creating a website – particularly when it is not your business.

How much is your new website going to cost? Well that is a good question, and one to which I do not have a good answer. The bottom line is that you can spend as much money as you have building the world’s greatest website or you could spend very little indeed. I’ve always used as a rule when it would just be cheaper to employ someone, with then all the added benefits of having them around, it probably means it is too expensive (or i should just hire someone). That is, of course, unless you want something really special, in which case you’re paying a premium because of what that designer can offer you. Another good barometer is to look at what you are paying, or have been paying, for a yellow pages ad. Take all that money you have been paying to the yellow pages and make it your website budget. The only issue you’ll have is that your yellow pages rep(s) will be mad, and you’ll have a website – which will serve you a lot better in both the short and long term (we will address the yellow pages in a future post; but I don’t thing I’m spoiling any surprises by saying it will not end well for the yellow pages.)

If you must do it yourself, please use one of the blog creators, such as WordPress or Hubspot . They will give you a good looking website (this is a wordpress site) will hold your hand through the process, and do allow for a certain amount of customization if your really want to go there. If you can’t do what you want to do with these tools, then you need a designer.

Finally, I’ve started seeing a habit of businesses having only a Facebook page and not having a website. This is a disgusting, lazy habit and your clients will see it as such. Search engines will have a hard time finding you, and many people do not think of searching Facebook when looking for a business – maybe your existing clients might but they are already your clients. Facebook is also quite limited as a platform, unless you a going to go to the same level of trouble that you would encounter building a website.

Have fun and if you have questions please leave a comment!

Next week: Up to your Ankles in Social Media.

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