Launching your web site

It seems like
everybody is doing it these days – launching a web site, that is.

If you are a small
business owner, chances are you have already established your web presence,
have toyed with the idea or have been told by some marketing guru that you
should consider it as an essential part of your marketing and promotions

Well, if you haven’t
done so already, you really should consider it. When it comes to your own
online marketing, this is one occasion when you may be forgiven for using the
kind of line that teenagers use to justify doing something: everybody is doing
it. The truth is more people are doing more business or social networking
online – they are talking on blogs, on open forums or closed proprietary sites,
social networking sites and a host of online media sites. They are shopping
online, signing up for services, finding jobs or doing their recruitment.

Given that the web is
where you find all of these things, it is likely that is where you will connect
with your customers – either your existing ones or prospects who are looking
for the services or products you provide.

Before you embark on
your web site project, it is essential to define clearly what you hope to
achieve by going online. The first step is to consider your customers. After
all, you are establishing your web site to reach them, right?

So you need to know
what they are doing online and how your web site can meet their needs. Try to
find out: How they shop? What information they need before they will act? Where
do they hang out online? What authorities do they trust? What media –
traditional and online – do they read? Which bloggers do they follow? Which
social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, Flickr, and YouTube
– are they tuned into?

You can maximise the
effectiveness of your web site if you take time to understand the ways people
use the Internet to learn, communicate, shop and entertain themselves. This
will help you to match your web presence to your customers’ online habits, thus
giving you a better chance of winning their confidence and business.

Having looked at your
customers, you will also need to determine what you want your web site to
achieve. Think of your site in terms of what you want visitors (customers) to

Here are three common
models to consider when determining the role and function of your web site:

E-commerce: You offer
products and services people can purchase directly on your site. This kind of
web site will require tools for taking orders and accepting payment—plus all
the information a prospect might want (including product specs, testimonials,
shipping info, etc.) for making a purchase.

Sales:  Content on your site allows you to collect
lead-generation data that you can use in follow-up sales efforts. The principle
here is one of exchange: you offer something of perceived value, say an
e-newsletter, in return for information (name, title, company, email address,
etc.), which you’ll either direct to your sales team or use for building a database.

Marketing: You create
a site loaded with rich content that becomes a centre of community interest. As
your credibility rises, you become the trusted resource of choice in a given
product or category.

It is important to
make the right decision about the purpose of your site and this should be in
keeping with the strategic goals of your business.

All of this comes
before you develop the content (the information that will be written for the
site) and before you embark on its graphic design.

Speaking of content –
once you have selected a web site model that is closely aligned to one of the
three I’ve listed, then the content should be developed in terms of what makes
sense for your prospects, your customers, and your business. To get the best
result, you may wish to consider engaging a professional copywriter, who is
versed in writing for the web and who can work with you to develop content that
creatively and accurately represents your business.

So far, we have
discussed the important basics for your web site. There are several more
mechanical issues that you will need to consider such as domain name, finding
the best (not necessarily the cheapest) host for the needs of your site, the
graphic design elements and what to do when you get ready to launch. We will
explore each of these in subsequent articles. In the meantime, start thinking
about your customers and how you’ll connect with them online. Until next week…


Debbie Hand is
co-owner of Wigglypen Creative Services

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