Websites For Small Businesses
This month I went to the local bridal expo and craft show and had some really interesting conversations with a number of the business owners.
Most didn’t have a site and most seemed to think that they couldn’t have one because their stock changed so much and so often that they couldn’t keep up with the images online. I can understand this concern because I’ve faced it with my work too.
The answer is that you don’t have to put all your work online. You can start with phase 1 having information like:
* calendar of shows for the year so customers know where to find you
* contact details so customers can easily contact you
* online email newsletter subscription so customers can give you their details so you can remind them about upcoming shows (newsletters can be monthly or just once a year, but building the database list of interested customers is vital for business growth and success)
* product range so customers know what you’ll have at the show
* some images of your goods so customers can see what you have to start to get ideas
Communicating with your potential and existing customers is vital for success. Letting customers know where to find you, especially if you have a mobile business that does shows and expos, gives customers the opportunity to find you easily and to be ready to shop with you.
If you don’t communicate with your customers then they can forget you, not realise that you are doing a particular show or not know how to contact you to find out when you’ll be where.
My first web presence for Creatively Belle was a single page that had the markets I was going to be at and a few pictures and details about the beads and the jewellery – product information. It was vital to let people, customers, know where to find me and it impressed them (and I was worried it looked too amateurish but instead I was praised for it!).
A start with a website is 3 or 4 pages, a home page that lets people know where they are, what your business is about and what’s in it for them (it is not about the business owner’s ego, let that go and think of the needs of the audience instead), a contact page so people can contact you, a where to find you page and maybe a page showcasing designs or products. All very simple.
Each page can have a newsletter sign up box so you can start to gather details so you can directly communicate with customers.
Email newsletters are cheap and effective ways to communicate with potential and existing customers. I use Constant Contact as they look after the database for me as well as professional looking templates that are easy to use and make my business look good.
Printed newsletters that are sent out in the post are an expensive option that you just don’t need anymore, it is just too costly in money and time to do them. For phase 2 of the business site development you can make a start with online shopping using PayPal or the equivalent:
* a small selection of regular stock items that are your basic bread and butter selling items – these are the ones that you have available regularly and don’t change very often as people need them
* make available patterns and instructions – some free and some for sale
* a manageable range of kits that are easy to put together and ship – this range can include regular ones and/or kits that you change once a year – nothing too high maintenance, just an easy quick way to start and build an online income
* regular email newsletters for your customers so they know where you are, what you’re doing, what they can buy from you and remember you
It can be very duanting thinking you have to get all your stock online, all sorted with pictures and shopping facilities all in one go. Well the good news is you don’t have to. You can showcase your goods by having a select range of products online, just like we do here at Creatively Belle.
We have build the range of jewellery and accessories progressively and add to it bit by bit. If I waited to get everything sorted and perfect I wouldn’t get anything done. It is better to get started and select pieces are that regular stock that only change occasionally and start with them.
This gives the opportunty to show what you do as well as generate an additional income.
To start selling online you can use PayPal as it is cheap to setup (no setup costs) and only charges fees on sales made. You might be a merchant already and able to accept credit cards but the banks can be very greedy with small businesses accepting credit cards online. So I opted to start with PayPal first and this has worked well for me.
In later development phases for my site I will use my own credit card merchant facility inconjunction with PayPal but that will be later and with a fancier online ordering and shopping facility. I have still more to learn first.
I believe in growing my business progressively and learning as I go. This results in the website growing in phases, I think we’re in phase 5 for Creatively Belle online now and that is over the last 5 years.
I can’t see how I could have developed the site in one fell swoop at the beginning. And looking back I wouldn’t want to. Building the business, the site, bit by bit is what we do with all businesses anyway.
A website can back up and support a traditional mail order business, it doesn’t have to replace it. A website grows over the years and develops into a great resource for your business. Think of it in terms of building in phases that you can manage.
The core purposes of a website are to communicate with customers and generate income by bringing customers to you, whether that be online, at shows, expos, markets, shops, stockists or anywhere else you do business.
A successful website doesn’t have to be expensive. You can create a website for a few hundred dollars that pays for itself quickly by simply having a focus on marketing and customers.
Once you have the website all you need to do is share its address with customers. But more on that next time! 🙂