If you run a small business, you will know it’s hard to fit everything in – advertising, promotion, providing information to enquirers.
A website is an ideal way to reduce the time you spend on some of these tasks. Although time consuming to develop, if you get it right a website can drive customers to your business while you sleep, and save you time and money too. If you don’t have a website already, this feature will provide pointers to get you started. If you have a website, read on and you’ll learn more about making it work hard for you.
Why have a website?
- to promote and strengthen your company image
- to allow customers to immediately find out what your business offers
- to ensure customers searching online find you as well as your competitors
Your website should display all that your business offers in one convenient location for customers to browse at will, without waiting for you to call them back or mail a brochure.
Publicising your website online is an essential part of your business. Making sure you are linked to places where people are looking for your kind of product or service will draw traffic to your site. Join small business forums too. Check out the rules about advertising your business as each forum differs. Offer help and advice, and you’ll get a good name, and referrals too.
Think about how you can use other media to promote your site. Plan what will be happening in your business throughout the year, then send out press releases every month or two to announce what’s new. Carefully choose the media that your customers will be reading and target the press release to the style of that publication. You can also print leaflets, flyers and postcards to leave in places where your clients are likely to eat or shop. Word of mouth is also a great way to increase visits to your site – if anyone asks about what you do, have a short sentence to explain, and ideally a nice crisp business card with your site address on it – much better than a piece of scrap paper!
Here’s how one business set about promoting their website:
Case study: Online promotion
Kim Larrad took over traditional and wooden toy company, Toy Giant, in May 2004. Kim says, “I re-built the Toy Giant web site, www.toygiant.co.uk, from scratch, and then set about swapping links with complementary businesses.” Link swapping is a good way of raising your page ranking on an internet search engine as they look at relevant reciprocal linking as well as keywords and content within your site. Kim continues, “I submitted our site to shopping directory sites. I’ve a steady stream of hits from these directories each day and all it ‘cost’ me was a banner ad for their site.” Toy Giant sponsors two family websites, which has bought repeat custom for a small outlay. Kim also advertises Toy Giant with pay-per-click advertising. Kim comments, “Espotting and Overture have been great value for money and we’ve had a lot of orders.”
There are other creative ways to promote your website. Submitting short articles or tips relating to your area of business to appropriate websites works because people are more likely to read an article than an advertisement and will often follow links from the article back to your site for more information. Here’s how Vicki Hill of www.rewardboard.co.uk raised her profile:
Case study: Become an expert.
Vicki Hill, a trained special needs teacher, runs a business selling reward charts, www.rewardboard.co.uk . Vicki’s promotional work has lead to her being asked to write articles and provide expert comments for features. She now writes a regular column for www.treehuggermums.co.uk, and says, “I enjoy writing, and decided to approach websites and ask them if they would be interested in my articles. I have articles on sites including UK Parents, Family Rapp, Baby Greenhouse and Parents and Kids.” She was recently approached by the BestBear website to be their resident education and behaviour management expert. Vicki goes on to say, “Although there is no payment involved, my reward for writing an article is fantastic publicity, my customers to see that I am highly qualified, and people recognise that I am doing more than just selling a product.”
Start a Newsletter
You don’t have to be a writer to produce a newsletter. A publication with news about your services reminds people about your website on a regular basis, and helps you develop a relationship with clients and potential customers. Ask visitors to your site to subscribe, so you can e-mail your newsletter to them without being accused of spamming. Use the activities planned for your business over the coming year to plan your newsletter. You can announce new products, sales and site updates. If you can, include a relevant article, news stories or a competition. Include links to take customers directly to relevant pages on your site.
Learn more about promotion
These are just a selection of ways to promote your website and make it work harder for you. If you are interested in learning more, ACPR is pleased to be able to offer all Glassraven clients the opportunity to buy a set of “Learn to Promote your Business Better’ factsheets with a 20 per cent discount. The set of ten double sided A4 sheets address key skills such as writing and sending a press release, using the internet to promote your business, publicising your business locally, and using special offers to attract and retain customers. The fact sheets offer an affordable way to learn about public relations. Full of low cost ideas, they are ideal for small businesses.
See www.acpr.co.uk for more details on the factsheets and to order online – quote GR1 for the discount.