Is there a less costly option for small businesses wanting a mobile-friendly website?

After reading my blog post, “The Google update and how it changes the way people find your website”, you know about Google’s update on April 21, 2015 and how it favours mobile-friendly web pages and sites. The change in how Google ranks web pages on mobile devices puts pressure on businesses to convert their website for mobile use.

If yours is a small to medium sized business and you do not have a responsive website yet, the thought of investing in one can seem daunting.

I wondered if there are more affordable options available to you? If you look into it as I have you’ll discover that there are a multitude of online companies claiming that you can build your own website easily and quickly, and in some cases they even offer free websites.

Hm,m,m – easy, fast, and free – sounds fantastic! And right about now you’re asking, “What’s the catch?” I wondered the same thing, which prompted me to dig a little deeper into the options available to you.

The ‘easy, fast, do-it-yourself’ website option
I was encouraged to find that Google provides detailed “How to” information and instruction. You can create a mobile-friendly website yourself using their Web Starter Kit. They provide the necessary downloads and tutorials to help you through the process. And, that’s great, but it looks quite involved and would require a lot of time on your part.

This option isn’t helpful if:

  • you have no interest in developing your own website, and
  • your time is already maxed out doing what you do best, (ie. run your business).

Knowing about HTML5 and CMS coding would also be helpful when using Google’s numerous web developer tools. I couldn’t find that there are any fees involved. If you delve further into Google’s products and find that there are fees, contact me. I’d really like to know.

The ‘free’ website option
There are tons of other online companies claiming that you can ‘easily’ create your mobile-friendly website for free using their spectacular tools and templates. However, when I took a closer look I quickly learned that ‘easy’ isn’t pretty and ‘free’ equals ‘not many features included’. Also, the templates are rather generic and not specific to your business brand.

Some online companies seem to have the best interests of small businesses in mind, but their free website option is so stripped down that it would hardly function at all.  They admit that they offer the ‘free’ website package knowing that customers will need to upgrade to one of the paid packages which have more features. There is a monthly fee for the paid packages that you pay year after year.

Very often a free website is missing important features, such as:

  • No slideshows
  • No forms such as a contact form
  • Minimal bandwidth
  • No optimization for mobile use
  • No custom domain name (see next paragraph for details)

A custom domain name is important. It includes your company name and no other making your site easier to find and unique to your business. If you create your site using the templates and tools of an online company you may be required to have their name as well as yours in the domain.

Examples:
Custom Domain Name: www.yourcompanyname.ca
Not a Custom Domain Name: www.yourcompanyname.theircompanyname.ca

Another drawback with creating your website through an online, do-it-yourself service is that in many cases your website would have the name of the online service provider at the bottom of each web page. Ideally, it is YOUR business name that should be at the bottom of each web page.

If you want a custom designed website that is unique to your business, and a domain name to match, the so-called ‘free’ website isn’t an option.

My answer to the question, “Is there a less costly option for small businesses wanting a mobile-friendly website?”, is yes and no.

Yes:

  • if you do it yourself
  • if you don’t mind limited features and functionality
  • if you don’t mind using cookie-cutter templates that are not specific to your business,

No:

  • if you don’t want to devote the time and energy required to develop a responsive website yourself
  • if you require certain features within your website to enhance customer experience
  • if you want your responsive site to be customized for your business

This may seem rather discouraging, but only if cost is your sole criteria for obtaining a responsive website. I’m betting that, as a business professional, quality, design, and functionality are important to you. If so, there are many options for having your site optimized for mobile use. That’s a topic for another blog post.

Jane Atkinson-White designs mobile-friendly websites and attention-grabbing printed promotional materials for micro-enterprises, and small to medium sized businesses. Clients enjoy the convenience of having Jane design their projects from conception to final execution because it saves them time, frustration, and money.  For information about Jane’s design services phone 519-644-2786 or use the contact form at www.atkinsongraphics.ca and receive your free consultation.

Give your customers ‘need-to-know’ information and increase your sales.

Sharing important information about your business or organization, with the people who are most interested in what you are offering, is crucial if you want to increase sales. The trick is in deciding what information is the ‘need-to-know’ information. This can be established by asking yourself 4 basic questions. Provide your target audience with the answers and you will be rewarded with their continued patronage.

1. Who are you?

Let them get to know you and begin to earn their trust by sharing your history. Background information such as, how long you’ve been in business, your education, how experienced you are in your industry or profession, or whether it is a family-run venture – helps people become more familiar with you. Familiarity breeds trust in the minds of your potential customers. Once they trust you they are more likely to turn to you when they need your services or products.

2. What do you sell?

You may be providing an exceptional service or a high quality product, but you need to tell people about it before they will buy it. It’s not enough to say that you are a consultant or that you sell shoes. Describe the unique qualities of your consulting services or the shoes in your store. Tell people what your service or product will do for them and how it is better than what your competitors offer. This is your chance to really shine! Educate them about how your organization, your product, or your service works. Once they feel knowledgeable about what you’re offering they can make an informed decision, and you make a sale.

3. How do clients purchase what you are selling?

Your customers need to know your sales process. Explaining how to buy your products and services is an important step towards making a sale. Invite them to visit your store where they can make a purchase in person. Direct them to your website where they can buy on-line. Ask them to call you for an appointment or fill out a message form on your website and connect to your business. Regardless of the process, you need to be very clear about the step(s) required so that consumers can make their purchase.

4. Where can they find you?

Make sure that you include contact information so that customers can readily connect with you to make a purchase. Have your phone numbers, email address, website, and address prominently displayed on all of your promotional projects. Where there is space, such as on your website or print materials, like catalogues, posters, and brochures, include a map showing your exact location. Make it convenient for customers to find you and they will bring their business to you.

Knowing what information your market requires before they will buy your products and services is key to making more sales and enjoying greater success. The next question is, how do you deliver that information to the consumer? But, that is the topic of the next blog. Stay tuned…

4 design tips that will save you money and promote your business

Saving money on marketing materials might seem impossible, especially if you want to maintain a professional look or brand. However, with these 4 tricks of the design trade you’ll not only cut costs, your marketing materials will add value to your business.

Digital Printing
With the introduction of digital printers, full colour, printed materials became an affordable option for small and micro-sized businesses. There are digital printing presses, but I am not referring to them. I’m talking about digital printing that is done on a high quality colour ‘copier-like’ printer capable of fine reproductions. Since there is no press involved, print suppliers don’t mind doing small print runs. It is the most economical way to buy full colour printed products as long as your quantities are between 1 and 1000. After 1000 copies of a project it becomes more cost efficient to use a traditional or digital press.

Business Stationery
This tip saves you a great deal of money without compromising your professionalism (assuming that you already have a logo that was professionally designed). You can use a full colour version of your logo too!

Having letterhead and envelopes, especially full colour, printed by the 1000‘s can be quite expensive. Instead, you can create your own computer files, one for letters and the other for return envelope labels. Purchase matching paper and envelopes at a business supply store. They usually have lots of selection. Ask your designer to email a colour jpeg of your logo so that you can position it into your letter document and your return address label file.

For labels, I use the sheets of 30 labels where each label measures 6.66 cm wide by 2.54 cm high. You’ll need to download the layout template for placement of your logo. Add your address on each label and print a sheet of 30 labels as you need them.

The important thing is to be consistent. Once you have chosen your matching letter and envelope, stick to it so that it becomes part of your company’s identity. Make sure that your logo is in the same position on the page or label every time. Your clients will come to recognize your company’s brand at a glance when they receive mail from you, even before they read a word.

Find A Freelance Designer
If you are providing a high quality product or a great service it is in your best interests to hire a professional designer to create your marketing materials. There is no better way to convince your market that what you are offering to them, has value and that you are serious about your business. Prices at the larger design agencies tend to be high, but there are freelance design professionals who charge lower rates and still provide quality work. In addition, you’ll enjoy having direct contact with the designer who will be creating your design projects

Professionally Designed Header for Your Blog & Other Social Media
More and more small businesses are blogging and have active social networking accounts as a way of reaching their potential customers. It is important that you maintain your unique company identity online, just as you do with your website and print materials. This can be done economically by having a freelance designer create one graphic header for use in your blog, Facebook page and other social media. By repeating elements such as your logo, corporate colours, and typestyles, your brand becomes stronger and readers will recognize your company instantly.

I have many more cost saving ways to promote your products and services while maintaining a strong identity for your business. Call me at 519-644-2786 or email your inquiries and we can discuss the possibilities for your business.