Hi and welcome to episode 12 of startup marketing. Today we’re going to be talking about websites. Websites, I believe, are an important tool for businesses to have. I know it’s tempting to rely on a Facebook page or an Instagram feed in lieu of a website, but, a website is something that you can control, you own and provides you the opportunity to tell your story and showcase your brand more than you can on social media. 

The most important reason I believe you should have your own website is because it gives your potential customers the opportunity to learn as much as possible in one spot. While they can certainly do that on your social media, they have to click through every single post to answer any questions they might have. 

For example, one of my clients is a fitness coach and she works with and connects with a lot of other fitness coaches. Most of them use their Instagram accounts to educate their potential clients. And it totally works! They all have huge followings and are very successful. Early on, we talked about why I felt like she needed a website in addition to her Instagram account. Not only can she post the information she wanted to share on social, but a website allows someone who’s considering working with her the ability to read through the information without having to click through each individual post. Here’s the thing: those potential clients of hers, probably have a lot of questions. Who is this coach? How do her programs work? How much do they cost? How long do the workouts take? Are there success stories? How legit is all of this? A website can answer all of those questions without forcing the potential client to dig through every single post to find out. In a nutshell, it boosts her credibility as a coach and their confidence that the money they invest is well worth it. 

As a marketing coach, I ask my clients to invest a certain amount of money. And I know, because I’ve been in their shoes, it doesn’t feel like pocket change. It’s not $50 for a cute top or killer shoes. I’m really asking for them to make an investment. If I relied on just my social media channels to tell my story, in my opinion, it’d be really hard to book clients. I personally run my business and coach my clients to add value through social media. Meaning that 80% of the time, they should be serving their followers—offering content that adds value to their lives, solves a problem, busts a myth, or teaches them something. 20% of the time they should be selling to their followers (with offers that are valuable). On my website, not only do I have the opportunity to serve through my resources page, I have the opportunity to sell all I want. In fact, this is why a website is critical to your business. It gives you the opportunity to educate your potential customers about your products and services AND sell to them because every good website will have what marketers call “a call to action”, meaning, you ask your website visitors to do something (most likely purchase your product or service). On your website, people expect to be asked to purchase. On your social media channels, it can feel pushy if you do it too often. 

On my website, I can tell potential clients about all of my marketing experience, which boosts my credibility in the eyes of my potential clients. I can outline all of my packages in detail. My website gives potential clients the full picture of who I am, what I do and the value I bring, whereas my social media posts give them a snapshot. 

By now, you might be thinking: great, I’m sold on having a website. But I am not a techy person, nor do I have the money to hire a website developer. Good news, there’s plenty of options for you based on your budget and your skill set. 

If you’re looking for a website platform that’s meant for someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with websites, check out Wix and Squarespace. Both offer templates that you can easily customize to fit your brand and they make it extremely easy to connect to g-suite for businesses, google’s business email system, which gives you the “your name @ your business name email address” (which you definitely want to have by the way). They allow you to purchase your domain or the URL where you want your website to live, and connect it to your website for you, plus they have the option to add features like ecommerce so you can sell and hook up with professionals who, for a fee, can help you get through parts of your website design that you don’t understand. 

The other option you have is to run a wordpress website. Now, while wordpress also has templates you can customize, you’re going to have to do a lot of the things Wix and Squarespace do automatically for you, yourself. This will require more time on your part and likely some learning about the development of websites to get everything connected. For example, WordPress doesn’t automatically host your domain for you, so you have to find that service and connect it with your wordpress site yourself. You’ll also have to connect things like your email provider and g-suite email yourself. The upside of using wordpress for your website is that it’s much more customizable and scalable long-term. If you want flexibility to build out your site in any way your heart desires in the future, definitely look into WordPress. If you don’t mind a more structured experience (note that I’m not saying it can’t or won’t be as robust as you need or as on-brand as you’d like), use Wix or Squarespace.

Personally, I use WordPress. However, I can honestly say, that for the vision I have for my website long-term, had I known more, I would’ve definitely gone a different route and used Wix or Squarespace. I was familiar with a wordpress site because it’s the platform the site at my former job ran on and that website was huge. So, when I thought about starting out, I, somewhat foolishly, thought that if I had understood the former website, my little ol’ five page site would be no big deal. It turns out, that, even with some light experience, doing everything on wordpress myself was hard. Thankfully, I have a friend who’s a website developer and he took on all of the super technical things for me so all I had to do was design the site and brand it. In the end, everything worked out for me, but I learned a valuable lesson! WordPress takes a lot to learn, so, I definitely recommend using one of the other services if you’re not ready to dive in and take on the task of learning wordpress. 

Whichever way you go, though, you should be proud to have your own site! Squarespace’s tagline is “a website makes it real” and I really couldn’t agree more. Once you have that website, it sounds kinda funny, but you’ll feel more official. 

Starting a website is something you can do on your own, as I’ve mentioned before. But, if you’re left feeling intimidated by the whole process, look for a website designer who can help you build your site. There are plenty of freelancers out there who are reasonably priced and can help you build out your website. Just make sure they can walk you through the structure, the type of content you’ll want on the site and what the user experience, or the way people move through your website will be like. If you’re on a really small budget, ask the designer about phases. You don’t have to come out of the gate with a perfect website; in fact, your website will be like a living organism that continues to grow and evolve with you over time. Work with a designer who can accomplish critical must-haves in phase one that meet your budget and then plan for future phases that you can invest in as you have the cash flow. 

Other things you’ll want to plan for as you build out your website are professional text and search engine optimization. Again, things that you can phase in as you have the cash flow. If it’s reasonable within your starting budget, hiring someone to design your website and write the text for you, is ideal. Google needs to see certain best practices in place to rank you in search results and your text is a large part of that. An expert will be able to implement those best practices and get you visibility faster. If your budget doesn’t support both, take the time to learn how to customize a template (again, so easy in Wix and Squarespace) and hire someone to write the text for you. Then circle back to a designer and a search engine optimization expert. 

At the end of the day, a website is an investment. My recommendation is to price one out in the early stages of building your business so you can start budgeting for one. If you’re already established and you don’t have a website or you’re ready to have yours worked on by a professional, take the time to explore your options and build it into your marketing plan for the next year. A website that gets you in front of potential customers and helps guide them to purchasing your products or services will pay for itself over time. And, as I mentioned, boost your credibility and help tell your story in a more holistic way, likely gaining you more clients or customers. 

So, your assignment today is to simply explore the options you have for building a website. Take inventory of how you’re communicating with your customers today. Is it with a complete story and enough information that your ideal customer doesn’t have to hunt down for themselves? If not, it’s time to start planning for this investment. I promise, it doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. In fact, I’ve created a complete guide for you to help you evaluate your current website or future website needs, options for creating your own and questions to ask experts if you decide to go that route. Download it today and start making plans! It’s available at: getauthenticbranding.com/resources.

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Until next time!