You’ve developed a solid and trusted business offline, but you’re not sure where to begin online.
Social media pages, websites, business email, oh my! How do you create a professional and useful online resource hub for your offline small business?
Let’s take a look at three things you can do this week—or maybe even this afternoon—to give your small business a more professional look. While most of what we’ll discuss is done online, they’ll reverberate to your offline brand persona as well. Let’s get started.
1. Create a modern website
If you don’t already have a website for your business, now is the time to create one. Your website is the single most important thing you can do online to create a more professional persona, so we’ll primarily focus on this going forward.
It’s not enough to have a social media profile page, such as a Facebook business page. While that’s great to have, you also need a central hub for sharing and distributing your information.
Your customers won’t just look you up on social media, especially if they’re not looking for a specific company. Instead, they’ll do a search on Google or Bing. Will they find a stand alone website for you? A place where they can quickly get information such as hours, locations, and phone numbers?
If your answer is “no,” then let’s turn it into a “yes” immediately.
Another reason why a website is vital? Your competitors have a website—and they’re taking all of your customers with them. In order to compete, you need a website.
These days, creating a website is incredibly easy (and affordable). You can create a slick and highly professional website without knowing or using a bit of code. There are plenty of inexpensive website builders that will help you create an attractive page from scratch; if you have all of the information you’d like to use (content for your homepage, about, and contact us pages), you can be up and running within minutes.
There are literally hundreds of website builders to choose from like Squarespace and Wix. WordPress is also an option, but it’s a lot more hands-on than an all-in-one website builder. WordPress has a steep learning curve which is why a website builder may be your best choice.
Whatever you do, be sure to go with a site that has a trusted reputation and an affordable cost. Shop around and don’t select the first builder that you see. After doing a bit of research, you may find one that’s better suited to your needs.
What to include on your website
Once you’ve settled on a website builder, it’s time to decide what information belongs on your website. Depending on your business, you may not need a blog, but there are a few pages that you’ll always need to include:
About Me: On this page, introduce yourself, give history on your company, and explain why you think that your product or service is valuable to the customer.
Contact Us: This page includes more than just an email form. It shows your physical address, your phone number, your email address, and your social media profiles.
What to avoid on your website
Commit to monthly maintenance on your website. Be sure to check frequently for broken links (i.e. links that don’t go to the correct page and instead end up with an error message). Broken links can happen all the time, and if you don’t maintain the links, it can damage your visitors’ trust in your website.
Also, pay attention to image quality. Avoid using distorted or tiny images on your website. Instead, go for high quality, larger sized images that make a bold statement.
2. Use a business email
Are you still sending customers to an email address at @gmail or @hotmail? Nothing spells unprofessional quite like an @FreeEmailProvider email address.
Here are the reasons why it’s a big no-no:
You’re advertising for some other company
Take every opportunity to link back to your website and your business. With an @FreeEmailProvider email address, you’re giving them free advertising, but not doing anything for your own business.
Customers perceive you as being unprofessional
In the eyes of your customer, if you can’t afford to invest money into buying a branded email address (you@YourBusinessName.com), your entire outfit is unprofessional. Don’t let this happen to you.
Did you know that you can set up a professional business email through your web host for free? You don’t even have to invest money (aside from what you’ll use to get a personal domain name) to create a professional email address.
Armed with a professional email address, you can then optimize your email signature. After your name, restate your email address along with other ways to reach you (your phone number, your website address, and your social media profiles).
It’s surprising how many businesses still lack a business email address. If you already have a website, it’s easy to set up a business email address for free. In just a few simple steps, you can make your business look that much more professional.
3. Pay attention to branding
Last but not least, it’s time to focus in on branding. Branding encompasses your entire business, both online and offline. This includes your website design, your business cards, stationary, and retail packaging.
Before you begin to brand, get clear about the message you’d like to convey to your customers. What type of brand image do you want to get across? Are you happy, youthful, friendly, traditional, straightforward, laid back? Keep this image in mind as you choose colors, images, and logos that depict your brand identity.
Keep your branding consistent. Your online brand should carry the same tone as what you do offline. Use the same colors on your website as you do in your store. Your customers should not feel any interruption between visiting you online and seeing you in person.
Focus on a good quality logo, because it will appear on all of your branding. You can either go the DIY route if you feel confident in your skills or you can try marketplaces like Fiverr and crowd markets like 99designs. You can also hire a designer by visiting a portfolio site like Behance or Dribbble.
When managing your business, it’s important to think of the customer and put yourself in their shoes. Would you rather work with a business that has no way of being found online or one that has a website with information readily available? If you apply these three tactics, you will begin to appear more professional in no time.