Small business owners who think a good social media presence is all they need to promote their enterprises in the digital world are most likely mistaken. Digital marketing started with websites and they remain a critical component of branding a business.
“A website is your digital storefront and it’s what sets you apart from similar businesses,” said Ben Haight, senior digital sales manager for Spectrum in Texas, during a seminar hosted by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce.
While social media is a relatively easy, effective and low-cost way to promote a business, Haight said websites create a larger digital footprint with greater functionality, but it is not always easy. “It’s very complicated and you need someone on your side.” He mentioned several vendors, such as WordPress and SquareSpace, that offer packages with build-you-own platforms with options for support that can cost as little as $30 a month.
“It just depends on what you need your site to do,” he said about shopping for a vendor. “But beware of those that charge hourly rates. Make sure to go with more of a flat-rate option.”
First impressions are key to getting the attention of potential customers when they walk in the door of a business. Websites are no different. “Get your phone, address, business logo above the fold,” Haight said. “It’s important for a customer to be able to contact you as soon as they land on your home page, don’t bury it on a contact page.”
And, when designing a website, a main consideration should always be to make the site compatible with mobile devices as more and more people are searching and shopping from their phones. “Constantly check the platform for compatibility with mobile and make sure navigation is super simple and easy. Click to call and click to maps functions are important to mobile users.”
Properly coded websites are also more effective than social media for rankings on search engines, Haight said, adding this is another area where professional help goes a long way. “Coding on the back end needs to be tagged and named for your site. Search engines recognize this and it boosts your organic search results.”
Whether a business is trying to attract customers to a brick-and-mortar location or selling merchandise and services directly online, making the time to post original content and interact with customers are important factors in branding a business. “It’s doable for you to upload one blog post a month, it’s doable to upload one photo a month,” Haight said, adding that that frequency should be looked at as minimal. “Greater frequency makes you look better as an expert in your field.”
Haight said branding is the “heart and soul of your business.” It helps a business appear established and gives customers a reason to care. “In a world with endless options and distractions, potential customers are sold on their emotions, not on their wallets.”
Whenever customers interact with a business, whether on a website or through social media, managers should respond quickly. “You are going to be judged on your positive and negative reviews,” Haight said. “I recommend you try to respond to all reviews because it shows that you are attentive to your customers, and customers love feedback.”
While Haight’s presentation stressed the importance of websites, he was quick to note that social media does play an important role in the digital mix. “It doesn’t have to be complicated but it’s a nice touch point with your customers, and make sure to point all posts to your website.”
Full integration across digital platforms, when done properly, is a powerful tool in conducting business in a rapidly-changing modern world. “Remember, time on a website or time on a social platform is currency,” Haight said.