The ins-and-outs of websites for Professional Services Business owners. Learn if, why, when and how to build a website for your business.
Does your business need a website? Yes. It’s not a question of how large or small your business is or whether or not you have a product that can be sold online. If you have a professional services business, you need a website. Period.
Don’t freak out though! Having a website, a good website, will be very beneficial for your business. With more than 2.2 billion people worldwide on the internet, including over 78% of American adults, the world is more connected than ever. According to Google, 97% of internet users look online for local services and products. It’s therefore no surprise that the Small Business Administration says that businesses with websites experience on average, 39% greater revenue per year than those without.
If you’re still unsure as to why you need a website or feel that your target demographic isn’t online, take a look at this blog post by Bluehost. It’s pretty convincing!
How do I build a website and what will it cost?
While a website is a must, having a professional-looking website is just as important, if not more important! Before any prospect chooses to work with you, assume he or she will be researching your company online. You’ll therefore want to make a good first impression by building a good website! If consumers see your website is serious, you’ll score major credibility points and quite possibly new clients!
Building a professionally looking website might sound scary (and expensive), but it doesn’t have to be! While there are ways to build a website yourself (with no coding knowledge necessary) which we mention below, we do recommend you use a professional. And here are some great ways to save money when using a professional.
First of all, you’ll want to use a website platform that you can update yourself in the future, because paying to have someone manage the site for you is just an unnecessary expense. Therefore, we recommend you go with WordPress. If you’re fairly web savvy, you can learn to update your site (including posting pictures to the gallery, adding pages and blog posts, changing text, switching logos, responding to comments, and much more) with several hours training. There’s also tons of “How To” videos and blog posts online explaining WordPress.
Furthermore, WordPress is an extremely popular platform powering nearly 75 million websites worldwide! The likes of CNN, The New York Times and eBay all run their blogs using WordPress. Check out this article for some more amazing WordPress stats.
Going straight to a web developer and asking for a site will run you an easy $5,000-$10,000. There are ways to do it cheaper though! One great way is to buy a template ahead of time. You can find really nice premium WordPress templates, or themes, for $50-$100 dollars. Take a look at StudioPress for some very nice examples. Once you buy your theme, all you need to do is have someone install it for you and plug in your content. Since the design aspect is already taken care of, you’ll save a lot of money. The themes are fully customizable too so you can have a developer make some changes for you.
Another great way to save money when building your site is to compare bids from several developers. You can do this easily, in a matter of minutes, using a site like EZBZ. All you need to do is post a simple inquiry describing what you need on www.myezbz.com and you’ll get bids from local, reputable web developers.
If you would like to go at building your website yourself, you can check out Wix and Squarespace. Both sites have really straightforward website builders (meaning there is no coding involved) with nice looking templates to choose from. The downside is that they are much less customizable than WordPress and also charge a monthly fee (Wix does have a free version, but you’ll have more flexibility if you use the premium versions. This includes using your own domain name and removing the Wix branding from your site).
What should I include in my site?
This point cannot be stressed enough: your website is for your visitors. You need to build a website that is relevant, attractive and beneficial to your target audience and not to you as the business owner.
For example, if you’re a photographer, you obviously need pictures- and really good pictures. But not just any pictures. Wedding photographers shouldn’t include their favorite photos from a recent family vacation in Maui, but rather shots of wedding cakes, brides and grooms, table settings, flower arrangements and so on. On the other hand, if you’re a commercial photographer make sure to include pictures of products, food and buildings; not weddings.
Similarly, if you’re a caterer, think about what your customers need to know and not what you want to promote. For example, your menu (and pricing) is probably a lot more important to potential customers than the culinary school you attended or the number of people on your staff.
Every industry is going to have those unique necessary elements that your website must include. Here are some general guidelines though that every site should have:
a. Contact Information
As a professional services business, contact Information might be the the single most important item on your site. You could be the best in your industry but if your site’s visitors can’t reach you, they won’t work with you. There is nothing more frustrating than visiting a website and not being able to find out how to contact the company. Include your phone number, email address and mailing address and make sure it’s easily found and correct.
b. Subscribe Form
Include a Contact Us or Subscribe form right on the homepage (as well as other pages throughout the site). Make an effort to collect as much information from your visitors as possible so you can keep in touch with them even after they leave your site.
You should consider offering free downloads, consultations, or coupons in exchange for a visitors email address. For example, if you’re an interior designer, offer a free 30 minute phone consultation in exchange for an email address. If you’re a photographer, you can offer a 30% coupon on a family photo shoot.
Choosing a professional service is not a spur of the moment decision. Therefore getting a prospective client’s email address can help you convey information overtime and solidify a relationship. As we’ve written about already, a newsletter can be a very valuable marketing tool.
People will trust what your clients say a lot more than they’ll trust what you say. Don’t be afraid to show off your clients. If you’re a wedding planner, get some quotes from a recent couple raving about your service. If you’re an accounting firm with business clients, include logos and testimonials from executives at those companies. If you’re a web designer, nothing speaks louder than the actual sites you’ve built. Include screen shots and even links to your past work.
As a professional services business, your team is a major asset. Let visitors know who will be doing their work. Include high quality portraits and biographies of your staff emphasizing their areas of expertise and background.
You might even consider including an email address and link to the LinkedIn profile for each member on your team.
Having a blog on your site is really simple to do using WordPress. This is where you can talk about relevant current events and establish thought leadership in your industry.
If you’re a lawyer, discuss new legislation that directly affects your client base. If you’re an interior designer, offer new decorating tips based on the current season. Accountants can offer valuable- and stress saving- tips leading up to tax deadlines.
Write posts and articles that your readers will easily understand and want to share. This will help attract new visitors to your site. One word of caution though: you’re better off not having a blog if you can’t keep it up to date. You don’t have to post daily, or even weekly, but try to get something up at least once a month. Letting your blog sit dormant for a long period of time will give off the wrong signal to your site visitors.
f. Social Media Links
Use your website as a way to promote your presence on social media. To do so, just add buttons linking to your different social media pages.
This will help increase your following on those networks, show your website visitors that you are “social and up-to-date with trends” and improve your SEO. While we recommend linking to all of your social media pages, the Google +1 button specifically can improve your ranking in search results so that is a must. Here are further details on the +1 button’s impact on search rankings: http://mashable.com/2012/02/21/google-plus-1-seo/. Read this article to find out how to add the +1 button to your Wordpress site.
You’ll learn as you go, so get going!
The best way to learn about your site is to just get started. Remember to always keep your site up-to-date; it’s even worth checking out your competitors’ websites from time to time to see how you compare.
One final tip is to install Google Analytics to your site to better track your visitors activity. This is something your web developer can do for you easily. Over time, you’ll see how many visitors your site is getting, where they’re coming from, who is signing up, what people are commenting on and much more. This is all important data that will help you as you make future changes to your website and business strategy. Good luck!
Have questions about Websites? We’d love to hear them! Send them directly to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. You can also contact us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn where we are always listening!