In spite of the fact that small businesses are
the engine of our economy, in the past they have had to operate at a
huge disadvantage. Small businesses almost invariably have to run on
a very tight budget, with cash flow being the major concern and a
constant battle. Cash is king! As a result, small businesses have
had to rely on their local market and word of mouth to advertise
their capabilities. They could not afford the rates to advertise in
major newspapers, magazines and certainly not on TV. In a marketing
sense therefore, larger companies have had an enormous advantage.
They had the resources to reach the global market and to reach your
local market in a more powerful way.
In the last few years, the pendulum has swung towards smaller
businesses. The Internet age and the tremendous growth of electronic
communication have altered the balance of power in the market place,
forever. Suddenly small businesses have at their disposal a means to
reach a much broader market, at a fraction of the cost of
conventional advertising. They can compete with large companies in a
way that was never possible before. Anyone can have a web site!! The
general public are increasingly accepting and turning to the
Internet to research and browse prior to committing their money.
Of course, it is not cheap to set up a web site and there are ongoing
costs to host and maintain the site. However, unlike an
advertisement, a web site is a permanent fixture, in use all year
round. As a method of advertising, web sites are incredibly flexible.
They can display an infinite variety of design, in as many colours
as you can invent and with as much animation as you can afford.
Web sites can be personalized in a way that no advertisement could
ever achieve and they can carry as much, or as little, information
as you desire. The only limitation is your imagination and that of
your design expert.
The accessibility of web-based advertising to small businesses is a
revolution in the world of commerce. Millions of subscribers are
taking advantage of this revolution, making the early part of the
21st Century the era of small business. I encourage every small
business person to seriously consider taking advantage of this
exciting opportunity. Your local market and word of mouth will
remain very important to your business success but they are no
longer a constraint. The World Wide Web is literally your oyster.
However, here are some
words of caution to the wise. As I mentioned there are millions
of web sites out there in cyberspace. It is like the classified
ads in your newspaper, multiplied thousands of times over. So it
is important that you do not just fling a website together and
launch it. You have to reach and be noticed by your target
We offer you the following ten tips:
(For more detail, please click on the tips.)
Owning a website will give the World a new window
through which to notice you
1) Take advantage of the
opportunity that the WWW offers you.
In the past, except at the local level, advertising was far too
costly for small businesses to compete. The broader market
(regional, national and international) was a domain reserved for
large corporations. Today with the growth of the World Wide Web
and its acceptance in everyday life, the balance of power has
changed in the business world. Small businesses can reach
audiences we could never have dreamed of in the past. We are no
longer confined to local ads and networking meetings where we hand
out brochures and business cards. Our ability to market stretches
well beyond word of mouth and out into cyberspace. It is an
incredible revolution in business, be a part of it!
2) Business strategy comes first.
A website is your advertisement, your electronic brochure – it
must be a reflection of you and your business. Just like any
advertisement, a website will benefit from clear and concise
messages. Such clarity is impossible if you are not yourself very
clear about what business you are in, what services you will offer
and what is your unique competitive advantage.
3) Really think about your website before you
Do not be tempted to just fling a website together and launch.
Like any key element of your strategy, a website will make
significantly greater impact if you take the time up front to
really think it through. There are so many websites out there
competing for attention, make sure yours is notable. Too much
detail that is badly organized will drive visitors away. Be clear
from the start about your main thrust, your strategic messages,
your unique strengths and organize your website layout
4) Be clear from the outset about your target
audience and their needs.
As part of your business strategy you will have picked your target
market. They are the audience for your website. Think about their
needs, preferences and what makes them “click”. Look at some
competitors’ websites and see how they are framing their messages.
Speak to some clients and potential clients and ask them what they
most want from your website. Give them what they want and need BUT
do it YOUR way.
5) Take care to create a website that is
With so much competition out there in cyberspace, you have to be
noticed. You can’t and won’t achieve this by copying your
competitors. You are a unique human being, you have strengths,
style, personality and tastes that, as a package, are unique to
you. If you are able to translate your uniqueness into a website
design, while still keeping the clarity of your messages, you will
have created something truly unique. Try to make your website
visually (in appearance and words) as unique as you are in person.
Make the visitor feel that they are actually meeting you.
6) Find the type of clients you really want.
Business relationships are often about trust and trust develops by
getting to know one another. To know you is to trust you – through
your website, give your clients and potential clients a chance to
get to know you. By doing that you will have a better chance of
attracting the type of clients that you really want to work with.
After all, even though we are all in business to make money, we
also want to enjoy ourselves and enjoy coming to work everyday.
7) Keep your design simple, yet eye-catching.
We find that complexity turns website visitors off. Try to create
a “look” that is simple, and yet it still serves two masters – it
is eye-catching AND it reflects you personally. Appearance isn’t
everything, the content of your website must be relevant and
powerful too, but websites like advertisements are part of the
visual media - so please take advantage and make them attractive.
Please also avoid the use of template designs. For the most part
they are obvious, they are by definition not unique and in many
cases they are unattractive!! Yes, they are cheaper but it might
well be an example of “getting what you pay for”. When your
friends look at your website and say – “it’s really you” – you
will know that you have arrived!
8) Ensure that your messages are simple, yet
While visual image is of vital importance in website design, it is
also very important that your message is clear. To achieve this
clarity, your design must take advantage of the flexibility of the
web. The combined use of words, images and motion to convey your
message gives the web the same flexibility as TV advertising,
except that you are not constrained by time.
Your main messages should be delivered in concise, clear language
– even in headline format. Those messages should be reinforced by
the use of images or photos that are “real” – i.e. directly
related to your products or services. “Movies” can be used to
attract attention, either emphasizing the words or giving visual
examples. The important thing is to be clear about what message
you are trying to convey and not to try to convey too many
messages at once.
Paradoxically though, a website has the beauty of being
expandable. Potential customers who have a passion for detail, a
desire to truly understand your business, need not be constrained.
By clever design and the liberal use of “bookmarks” and “links”
you can provide on a website an amazing amount of detail. Remember
though, that you have a varied audience - those who like detail
versus those who want to quickly understand and decide. Your
design needs to carefully consider both by providing the
information in layers of increasing detail – brief clear messages
to convey the essence of your product/service offering, on the one
hand; but on the other hand, you also provide access to detail for
those who want to know more. Do not force those who want quick
understanding to wade through all the detail to get your point.
9) Take care to ensure that your website is
We have all heard the expression “user friendly”. This is
particularly important with website design. There are so many
websites out there, so many competitors, that if your website is
hard to use, the visitor will quickly get frustrated and move on.
It is very important that in the design process you spend time to
put yourself “in the shoes of the user”. Ask yourself what it is
they most need to know, ask others to tell you what they expect to
find, get friends and family to navigate around the site. Make
sure that your site has none of those infuriating “dead-ends”.
10) Submit your website to maximize your
Even once you have designed your very own, unique and noticeable
website, you still have to “park” it in the right place. You need
to choose a reliable web hosting company, one with a strong
reputation for quick response. Most of all, you need to take care
to register your website carefully with all the major search
engines. Search engine registration is a very important step that
is often underestimated. My advice is to seek professional help to
get the registration of your website right. It is really worth the