Author: dannypeavey

How much does a website cost? How much does a website cost?

How Much Does a Website Cost for Your Small Business?

How much does a website cost for your small business?

A business website is an essential tool for marketing your business, but the question of how much it will cost you is wide open. The short answer is that it can cost as little as $5 per month, or as much as $10,000 or more.

It’s almost like asking “how much is a house?” The cost will depend upon the size and features of the house. When talking about a business website, the price range varies because it depends on the website needs that you have.

For example, if you have time and the inclination, you can create your own basic website using a website builder. These tend to be the lowest cost way to build a website and usually have a simple user interface, perhaps with a drag and drop editor.

Another option if you have the know-how yourself is to build your own hosted website. This does involve more knowledge and work on your part, and requires a platform such as WordPress.

Your other option is to have a custom website built for you. This requires a person (or perhaps a web design agency) that has specialist website development skills. A web designer and developer will cost you more, especially for someone who has the right skills and experience. However, you don’t have to do any work and you should get a well-built website.

Your website cost will depend upon the options you choose. Let’s dig in a bit on each choice.

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The basics of a business website

First of all, there are a few basics that, no matter the type of website, you will need. These items are put into place before you have any website development done:

  • Domain name – This is the website address people will use to find you (such as oneweekwebsite.com). Domains can be purchased from a domain registrar such as GoDaddy or Google Domains.

    A new domain that is unowned and available when you do a search of a registrar site will cost you between 99 cents and a few dollars per year. If your desired domain name is unavailable, you may be able to purchase it from the owner. This might cost you anywhere from less than $100 to several thousand dollars. In fact, some of the most expensive domains have sold for millions of dollars.

  • SSL certificate – If your business website is going to process transactions and gather user information, then you need an SSL certificate to allow secure connections with your domain. This will cost between $69 and $300 per year, depending on what you need.

  • Website hosting – Your website must be hosted in order to be available on the internet. There are many different website hosting providers and types of hosting, which we will outline later. Hosting will cost you anything from free (for a very basic website) to a few hundred per month (for a dedicated server). If you are getting your website built by a web design agency, hosting will often be part of the package.

Another thing that you will need along the way, no matter how you are getting your website built, is content for your website. In some cases, you may be able to get a website package that includes some content (One Week Website offers this), however you will otherwise have to source it yourself.

At a very basic level, your content will include:

  • The written copy on your webpages (free if you write it yourself, $400+ per page if an experienced copywriter does it for you). Cost: $0 (and a lot of your time) up to $1200+

  • The images. You might have your own photos to contribute, otherwise you will pay for either stock photos or a photographer where you need specific images. Cost: $0 – several hundred dollars, depending on what you need.

  • Your logo. If yours is a new online business, you’ll want a professional logo made. A good designer and a more complex logo will cost you more than anything basic. Cost: $100 – $600+

Summary cost of the basics: $1 – $2000.

Business Website

Using a website builder

If you’re starting a new small business, often the method you choose to get a business website up is a function of how much you have in your budget. A website builder platform such as Weebly, Wix or Shopify (for an ecommerce website) is usually more budget-friendly.

These types of platforms have user-friendly drag-and-drop interfaces, allowing you to decide how your website will look. It requires very little know-how on your part to put a basic website together. The downside to this is that there will be limitations – you won’t necessarily get everything that you want in a website.

Most website builder platforms will have options for add-ons (often at extra cost) so that you can tack on some extra features. It’s definitely not the same as custom design though – you can only use what they have available.

Pros and cons of a website builder

In very general terms (considering there are several different platforms with varying features), here are some pros and cons of using a website builder:

Pros: Cons:
Can be built very cheaply May not have all of the features you’d like
Can be up and running within a day Will be very basic
You can do it yourself Doing it yourself takes time
You don’t have to worry about the technical details of how the website runs. You are relying on a platform to be reliable. Sometimes website builder platforms experience outages.
You can get a professional-looking design. Your design may look like everyone else’s.
Your website is fully-managed and the building of it is automated. You’re building your website on someone else’s real estate. If your website builder platform disappeared tomorrow, so would your website.

Using a website builder may be a good option for you if you have time to do it yourself, you only need a very basic website, and/or you have a small budget and can’t manage the development costs for a more custom build.

Summary cost for a web builder website: $60 – $300 for your first year (including website maintenance cost). This does not consider the cost of your time…

DIY website design

If you’re seeking a website that is independent of any website builder platform (especially if you are concerned about building on someone else’s real estate), you could also choose to DIY your own website. People often do this using website building software such as WordPress.

In comparison to a web builder platform where the functions are automated, using WordPress to DIY your website is like going to IKEA for furniture – there will be assembly required. This means that you do need a certain amount of technical know-how (or the patience to learn as you go) to build your business website.

Using WordPress to build your own website avoids the costs of custom web development, however website maintenance, functionality and design will all be up to you. If you are low on technical skills, this can be time-consuming and frustrating thing to learn.

DIY Website Design

Use of the WordPress platform itself is free. It’s important to note that WordPress comes in three different types:

  1. Fully-hosted at WordPress.com (with limitations in functionality such as in the web builders above);
  2. A premium version at WordPress.com which allows for some plugins and more theme choices;
  3. Self-hosted, where you download the software from WordPress.org and install it via your hosting platform (e.g. GoDaddy).

Here we’re focusing on the third option, as the first two are very similar to what we’ve already discussed. Once you’ve downloaded the WordPress software and installed it on your web host, you effectively have a blank canvas to build from. You will need:

  • A WordPress theme. It’s important to choose a theme that makes your business look good and works well functionally. While there are free themes available, they are often unreliable in terms of being maintained. A premium theme from a site such as Themeforest will cost you $30 – $100.

  • Plugins – these are the WordPress add-ons that deliver different functions to your site. They offer anything from website analytics to payment gateways which you would need for an ecommerce website. The cost of plugins really depends upon what you need. Many are free, but some will cost anywhere from $5 – $150, while others will be a subscription with a monthly charge.

Pros and cons of building your own website with WordPress

Pros: Cons:
You can do it yourself without web developer costs. It can be a steep learning curve if you don’t have the technical know-how already.
You have more customization available to you. It can be tricky “assembling” your website so that it works as you’d like.
You have entire control over the website (it is unlikely a huge software such as WordPress will go down) You have to sort out website maintenance yourself (or hire someone to do it). Sometimes plugins become buggy or code becomes corrupted.
You can create your own website look that is unique for your business. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s easy to mess up the look of the website.

Summary cost of a DIY WordPress website: $50 – $2000 (depending on what you need and whether you end up hiring a developer to help with any parts).

Custom design and development

Custom design of your business website is usually going to cost you more, however it may be necessary for some websites. For example, if your website needs complex functionality, you have a very specific website design in mind, or if you need something like a large ecommerce website. Of course, if you simply want the time and labor of creating your own website taken off your hands, that’s a good enough reason!

As it sounds, custom design means that a web developer or web design agency starts from scratch, or at least builds a very customized site on top of a template.

The question of how much a custom website will cost you is again dictated by what you need. The more complexity, the more functionality, the more you are asking a web developer and/or web designer to do, the more you can expect to pay.

It’s fair to say that most websites are not built entirely from scratch these days, unless it is for an enterprise-level company with a very specific set of needs. Custom-built, from-scratch websites can cost $30,000 or more.

Custom Design and Development

WordPress is a popular choice to build from because it is so flexible as a platform. While you could create a basic WordPress site yourself with a little knowledge, it will never beat the honed skills of an experienced developer.

The cost of having your website built for you on a WordPress platform will vary depending on who you get to do it and whether you want a basic website, or something more complex. You can hire a freelance web developer and you’ll find the price varies from $500 to $10,000 or more.

Many people look to save money by hiring someone who seems to be cheaper, but this usually results in a “you get what you pay for” situation. It’s important to choose someone based on a verifiable body of work and strong references, rather than simply pricing. If you want a WordPress website, then they should specialize in creating them. In the worst cases, some small businesses have ended up paying out much more money because they had to hire someone else to fix the mess.

Something to bear in mind when you hire a developer is that the good ones tend to know their worth and charge accordingly. Expect to pay $100 – $250 per hour, with the best developers at the top end of the scale. You should also investigate how long it will take them to deliver your finished product. Sometimes a website build can take months, especially if you’re dealing with a small firm or individual developer with multiple clients to take care of. You may want to weigh up cost along with time to delivery (expect to pay a premium for any rush work).

Another option is to hire a web design agency. Many will offer set packages so that you can see what you’re getting for your money (check out One Week Website’s pricing here). It’s important to clarify what you’re getting for the price no matter who you hire. This should be laid out in writing so that there is no confusion later on. For example, some companies will offer packages that include search engine optimization and clear messaging for your website too. Web hosting is often included in these sorts of packages, but this is something to check as well.

One aspect to investigate is any ongoing website maintenance. Every website needs it and it’s definitely easier to have maintenance done by the person or company who built your website. Check to see if your web developer will offer any ongoing maintenance – this is often charged out as a monthly “subscription” rate.

Pros and cons of a custom-built website

Pros: Cons:
You can have complex features added. Complexity will add more time and cost to your website build.
You get professional help instead of having to learn yourself. You need to do a bit of homework to find a person or agency with the right skills and experience.
You can have a very unique website created. The more customization involved, the more it will cost you.
Professional design is a better look for your business and could lead to more revenue. It’s often not as simple to make a quick design change as it is on a website builder platform.

Summary cost of a custom website build:

With a template used as a basis – $500 – $10,000 or more, depending on complexity.

Custom design from scratch – $5000 – $30,000+

Website maintenance – $50 – $200 per month

Pros and Cons of Custom Website

Website hosting

Website hosting is an important part of website cost and is worth looking at separately. You may have purchased web hosting as part of a package with whoever built your website, but you need to know that there are different levels of hosting with different implications for cost and performance.

The type of web hosting you have can cost anywhere from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars per month. Thus it could be a significant cost to factor in to your overall budget for building a business website.

In simple terms, “hosting” is where the files for your website are stored on a server, making your site available on the internet. A large, complex company might use several of their own exclusive servers (such as an airline or a bank), while a hobby website or small, local business might use a shared server.

There are three main types of website hosting:

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#1. Shared server

Shared hosting, where you share a server with other websites is at the very basic end of hosting options. There are multiple companies offering shared hosting and it is the cheapest option available (sometimes even free, within limitations. This is not generally recommended for a business).

Basically, it’s like paying rent in a shared apartment building. There could be multiple other units in the same building – or multiple websites on the same server. In some cases, there could be thousands of websites on one server.

Shared hosting can be a good starter option for a small business, but that very much depends on what the hosting company is offering. You are sharing the resources of the server (its Random Access Memory and Central Processing Unit) with others – this means if the server gets overloaded with requests, it can drastically slow down the websites it hosts, or even shut them down. There have been some “bad actors” in the hosting market, cramming too many websites onto one server.

In terms of who you share the server with, you won’t know, however shared hosting can be subject to the “bad neighbor effect.” This is where your neighbors on the server do things that impact the performance of your website too – much like neighbors in an apartment building might do. Most web hosting companies work to mitigate this, but it really is a “you get what you pay for” situation. Cheap hosting is unlikely to include maximum effort to deal with bad neighbors.

Look at more than just price when it comes to hosting. You want to ensure you get good website performance too. If your ecommerce website is having a Cyber Monday sale, then you don’t want it slowing down with an increase in traffic!

Cost of shared hosting: $4 – $10 per month

#2. VPS hosting

VPS means “virtual private server” and is the next step up from shared hosting. It costs a bit more than shared hosting, but you usually get to avoid the problems associated with a shared server.

On a VPS, a few websites will still share the server hardware, however each site will be allocated its own dedicated slice of computing technology. If you were to max-out your allocation, then your site may be throttled, but it won’t affect other sites on the server. Thus the bad neighbor effect is mitigated.

VPS tends to be a good option for most small businesses that get a reasonable amount of website traffic, however, if you get a lot of traffic or need a lot of storage space, it may not be enough for your business.

Cost of VPS hosting: $20 – $100 per month (depending on the resource allocation you get)

#3. Dedicated server

A dedicated server means that your business gets a server (or multiple servers) all to yourself. Some larger businesses with the resources to do so manage their own dedicated servers, however there are options for managed dedicated server hosting. This means that a hosting company maintains and manages the server/s for your business.

Dedicated servers give you more space and more flexibility in terms of what you’re able to do. They mean no bad neighbor effect and the ability to customize your hardware. Naturally, with exclusivity and flexibility comes more cost.

For some businesses with high traffic, security and storage needs, this might be your only reasonable option. Sites like Amazon are hosted on multiple dedicated servers, meaning it is unlikely they will ever go down.

Cost of a dedicated server: $150+ per month

Final thoughts

If you want to know how much a website will cost for your small business, it’s important to define what your needs are for the website. Your overall cost is a function of the features and performance you need, much like when you are purchasing a car.

Remember that the initial website build isn’t your only cost to consider – you should factor in the costs of hosting, maintenance and owning your domain name. You may also have ongoing subscription costs for things like plugins or add-ons that you’d like to use.
This is intended as an approximate guide to costs, but if you have questions about getting a website built for your business, feel free to contact us for a chat here.

Brand strategy Brand strategy

7 Steps for Creating Your Brand Strategy

Think of a strong brand that you know – what makes them stand out above the rest?

It might be their brand story, their emotional impact, their social media presence, their products or any of a number of other factors. What it all adds up to though, is an effective brand strategy.

A defined strategy helps you to tell your story, to market your brand effectively and to attract the right target audience. Your long-term growth prospects may hinge on your ability to craft a strong branding strategy.

Small businesses often look at larger brands and think “but I’m not like them.” Of course you’re not, and that’s part of what makes your particular brand unique. Brand strategy is just as important for you as it is for the big guys, so how can you develop one effectively?

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What is brand strategy?

A brand strategy encompasses several different elements that go into creating a brand identity for your business. This means crafting the perception that your target market has of you and differentiating your brand from competitors.

A strong brand strategy is memorable and attractive to the target audience for your products or services. It defines what you stand for, your voice and your value proposition.

When people think of a brand, they often consider memorable logos, such as the McDonald’s “golden arches” or Apple’s fruit logo. While logos, colors and slogans are part of branding, they are simply the creative elements, not the entire branding story. A strong branding strategy goes much deeper, through the steps we look at below:

#1. Start with your target audience

Who is the target audience you need to reach with your brand strategy? A successful business generally starts with some kind of problem that they can solve better than others – that problem is solved for someone who represents an ideal customer.

If you were to skip considering your target audience before defining your brand strategy, you are unlikely to reach the right people. What if Apple had said something like “play music anywhere” instead of the iconic “1000 songs in your pocket” when they launched the iPod? The first statement is much less impactful, while the second is likely to grab the attention of a certain market.

It’s a matter of understanding who you are targeting and what will appeal to them. This means you need to define:

  • Audience demographics – Age, gender, marital status, religion etc.
  • Psychographics – Values, beliefs, personality, lifestyle…
  • Their industry or business
  • Geographic areas.

A successful brand knows their target audience very well first because they can then craft the brand strategy for that audience.

Brand strategy

#2. Look at competitors’ branding strategy

In most cases, even companies with the most innovative ideas will have competitors. Understanding how those competitors operate is an important part of market research for your branding strategy.

First of all, you need to identify who your competitors are. They may be direct competitors (selling something substantially similar to what you sell), or indirect competitors (they sell an alternative method or product that will satisfy the same consumer need). In any case, their target audience will be substantially similar to your own.

One thing to pay attention to in your market research is the keywords that brands are targeting and getting found for. Who is targeting the same keywords as you? One clue that you need to re-evaluate is if companies that have nothing to do with your industry are winning on the keywords you’re using. This can indicate that the language you’re using isn’t a match for what your customers search for. Also look for keywords that your competitors use that you’ve never thought to target.

To assess your competitor’s brand strategy, look at their overall:

  • Brand positioning – How their brand is perceived in the marketplace
  • Marketing strategy – The channels and strategies they use to engage an audience
  • Brand messaging – The language and messaging style they use.

You’re not doing this to copy competitors, but to make an overall assessment of what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and how you might compete as a brand.

It’s also worth noting that this shouldn’t be a one-time exercise – “competitor audits” are often a regular exercise for successful brands. You might conduct competitor research when you have a new product coming out, or when there have been significant industry changes, for example.

#3. Establish your brand identity and values

Now that you understand who your target audience is, what will appeal to them and how you might develop a brand identity to be competitive, you can establish what that identity and your brand values will be.

To borrow a definition from HubSpot:

“A brand identity is made up of what your brand says, what your values are, how you communicate your product, and what you want people to feel when they interact with it. Essentially, your brand identity is the personality of your business and a promise to your customers.”

Your brand values help you to make an emotional impact and establish customer loyalty. People like to support brands that share values they identify with. These could be almost anything – quality, integrity, value, innovation… Choose your top five that you’d like to communicate in your messaging.

#4. Define a voice for your brand messaging

Brand messaging is about what you say as well as how you say it. Your brand’s tone of voice might be professional, fun, irreverent, classy, casual, passionate, quirky… The point is that your voice needs to be consistent in all of your marketing channels and appealing to your target audience.

Your voice determines the type of language you will use on any branding materials. For example, let’s say a company with a professional voice and one with an irreverent voice share the value of quality:

  • Professional – “We take pride in delivering the highest quality widgets.”
  • Irreverent – “We take quality widgets seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously!”

Consider some of the most enduring brands – Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Apple… They all have a strong brand voice that is delivered consistently in their messaging. Over time, they have developed “brand equity” – value derived from a recognizable brand name. Consumers will gravitate to them because they know the name and recognize their branding. If they had changed their voice or branding constantly, they wouldn’t have developed that brand equity.

#5. Develop your value proposition

Successful brand strategy requires a clearly defined value proposition (or propositions). These are the main selling points of your brand that help to distinguish you from everyone else.

An effective value proposition should:

  • Tap into the needs of your target audience
  • Describe how the benefits of your product or service are valuable
  • Differentiate your business as the best/preferred choice.

Your value proposition taps into the problems you want to solve for people. It is different to a slogan or tagline because it identifies why you are better than the rest. It may even hint at the reasons why your competitors are lacking. Here are some examples:

  • Uber – “Uber is the smartest way to get around. One tap and a car comes directly to you. Your driver knows exactly where to go. And payment is completely cashless.”

  • Unbounce – “Build, publish and A/B test landing pages without I.T.”

  • Target – “Expect more, pay less.”

#6. Set brand management guidelines

Your brand guidelines help to ensure that you maintain order and uniformity in your marketing messages. These can encompass every aspect of your brand identity, including visual guidelines (images, colors, fonts and logo usage), key messaging and the platforms you will use. It helps to have these guidelines documented so you can easily share them with others who need to understand them.

Here are some of the things you might include in your guidelines:

  • Examples of the types of images that represent your brand
  • Guidelines for where your logo should be used and in what size
  • Your brand story – a simple summary that gives people insight into your brand
  • The users of your brand and how they are to use it (for example employees, partners and agencies)
  • Your key messages and voice
  • Your color palette
  • Your typography
  • Your voice
  • Your website guidelines.
Brand strategy

#7. Cultivate a consistent marketing strategy

With your overall brand strategy and guidelines in place, it’s important to cultivate a consistent marketing strategy. This includes any online marketing strategies along with what you do offline.

Every business needs to be seen consistently – if you’re a small business establishing a brand identity, it’s probably even more important for you than for the big brands. Developing a marketing calendar and sticking to it can help. For example if you’re producing content marketing, this should be on a very regular schedule. The same goes for your social media marketing efforts.

Plan out campaigns throughout the year that will help your brand to cement your positioning. You might not be a large company, but you can generate good growth by staying on-message and being consistent.

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Final thoughts

As a final note, while it’s important to maintain a consistent brand identity as a whole, that doesn’t mean that everything should remain static. Keep an eye on what’s happening in the market as well as any customer feedback you get – you may need to tweak certain elements as you go (your value proposition/s, for example).

Brand strategy should be clearly defined by businesses large and small. It may be your competitive advantage – not all companies have gone through this exercise. What may your competitors be missing?

Starting a business blog Starting a business blog

9 Essential Tips for Starting a Business Blog

Have you thought about starting a business blog?

Many small business owners do this as a way to help them achieve their goals. A small business blog that shares great content can help to attract potential customers and promote your personal brand.

The trick is knowing where to get started. When you look at the volume of content some companies are producing, it can seem daunting setting up your own! Here we’re tackling the basics – if starting a business blog is your goal, where should you start?

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#1. Identify goals for your business blog

First thing’s first, what are your goals for starting a business blog? Content for content’s sake is never a great idea – it can lead to your blog content being misdirected and unsuccessful. The only real way to know if your blog is on target is to set clear goals to drive the content.

For example, a small business blog can be good for:

  • Enhancing your personal brand
  • Reaching potential customers
  • Improving your website’s search engine results through search engine optimization
  • Sharing your know-how and delivering value to a defined target audience.
  • Transitioning a website or side-hustle from a hobby to a full-time business
  • Giving your current business a wider audience

A business blog is an excellent marketing tool, but it must be done well to be successful. Your goals should define the types of content you need to post and the structure of your blog. Importantly, you need to have sufficient blog content ideas that will keep it going. Blogs work with consistency – otherwise you’re unlikely to see your goals met.

#2. Understand your target audience

A business blog isn’t written for you (as a personal blog may be), it’s written to attract a target audience. You’re hoping to attract potential customers and achieve any of those goals you defined at step #1.

Your blog topics need to be developed so that they entice the right people to stop by and read. This means you should know in detail who those people are.

One great strategy for defining your audience is to create customer or buyer personas. These are detailed descriptions of individual personas that make up your desired audience. Most businesses have more than one clear persona, although usually one or two are the most prominent. Defining any more than five starts to get messy when it comes to directing small business blog content.

A buyer persona contains details like:

  • The age and gender of the person (where relevant)
  • Where they are located
  • Their “life stage” (e.g. single, married, divorced, college, empty nesters…)
  • Their job role and level of responsibility
  • Key problems they have that your business can solve
  • Key goals
  • Key areas of interest.

The image below shows an example of buyer persona, borrowed from HubSpot:

Starting a business blog

#3. Set up your new blog

Are your starting a business blog from scratch, or adding a blog to a current website? If it’s the latter, many website platforms allow you to easily add a blog to your site. For example, WordPress websites have a blog built in as a standard part of what they offer.

If you’re starting completely from scratch, for example when you’re starting a side-hustle or wanting to monetize a hobby, then there are a few things you need to get organized:

  • Domain name – this is the web address for your blog or website. For example, our domain is oneweekwebsite.com. The simplest domain name is your own business name.
  • Web hosting – your website requires a host in order to be found on the internet. (We offer fully-hosted packages, found here).
  • A blogging platform. WordPress is one of the most common, but there are other options, such as Joomla or Weebly.
  • A theme or “look” for your business blog. If you have a WordPress website, then you will look for a WordPress theme. This provides design elements for your website. (Try Themeforest for WordPress themes).

#4. Plan your blog topics

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

Yogi Berra

Now that you understand your goals and who you are targeting, it’s time to plan your blog topics. Great content starts by being relevant and useful – even if you write very well, no one is going to read it if it’s not aimed at them.

Sometimes people struggle with post ideas, while other times they come in a flood. We recommend keeping an “ideas” sheet (or Trello board – however you like to do it), so that you can quickly note blog topics down as the idea strikes.

We also strongly recommend that you keep an editorial calendar, scheduling out regular blog posts. Many business blogs have started with good intentions, then petered out as busy business owners run out of time or ideas. An editorial calendar keeps you on the straight and narrow, and also helps with an important factor for blogging success – consistency.

Blogging on a consistent schedule trains your audience to look for your posts at certain times. It also helps with search engine optimization. If you need ideas to kick-off your blog topics, look at some of these:

  • The key problems you identified among your target audience
  • Keyword research – this will sometimes reveal related topics
  • Competitors’ posts – can you write a similar topic but do a better job?
  • How your audience can achieve key goals that they have

#5. Create policies for your blog content

There’s a good chance that you won’t be the only one who ever creates your business blog content. For the sake of consistency and keeping up the appearance you want to share with your audience, having a few policies that govern your blog can help. For example:

  • Specific standards for your blog entries (grade level, grammar, spelling, keywords…)
  • The voice or tone that you want to use
  • Any style guidelines
  • The rules for any links that are added to the post
  • Whether you will accept guest posts and who from
  • Core topic categories that should be addressed.

Even if you’re the only one writing the posts for now, it’s good to think about these things for your own guidance.

#6. Optimize your blog content

Search engine optimization helps to ensure that your blog gets found. These days, there is so much content already online, you can’t assume that people will simply find you. Optimization needs to be intentional.

To begin with, look at your target audience and the blog topics that will be of interest to them. Conduct keyword research to work out the best combinations of keywords to get your posts found.

Remember, keywords are no good to you without targeting and context. This means you have to think of the related words that provide context, to ensure that you get the right target audience showing up. For example, “football” means different things in different countries. In the U.S. it’s the NFL, in the UK and Europe, it’s soccer, in New Zealand, it’s rugby.  Find keyword combinations that make sense and clearly denote what your blog content is about.

The idea is not to “stuff” blog posts with keywords (this can get you penalized by Google), or to use them unnaturally for the sake of adding keywords. Great content should read well, no matter what. Put your main keywords in a few strategic places, for example:

  • Headlines
  • Sub-headlines
  • Metadata
  • Opening paragraph
  • Image alt text
  • The body of your content.

#7. Promote your business blog

Search engine optimization helps with organic traffic, but you also need to actively promote your business blog. Be prepared that it tends to take a while to get some momentum going and build an audience through content marketing – it’s a slow burn. This is why producing consistently great content is important.

There are several different paid or free methods for promoting your blog:

  • Share on social media. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter tend to be the key platforms to share on, but again, know your audience. Perhaps your audience and business type are suited to Instagram.
  • Share on sites like Medium or Reddit.
  • Engage in some email marketing. Let your list know every time a new post goes up.
  • Take out some paid advertising, such as through social media or Google Ads.
  • Include links to your blog in social media profiles and email signatures.
  • Re-share old content. Social media posts have a short lifecycle – schedule posts to re-share at a later date.
Starting a business blog

#8. Measure your results

Every successful business measures their results against their goals. The same should be done for your business blog. The key is knowing what you should be measuring – it needs to make sense for the goals that you have.

For example, if your goal was to improve search engine results against a certain set of keywords, then you need to measure how well you rank over time. If your goal was to drive more traffic to your business website, you need to look at how blogging has impacted traffic. Beyond that, you need to know whether that traffic is taking other actions that you’d like, such as signing up to your list or buying a product.

You might also want to track engagement on social media, especially if improving the visibility of your brand is a goal. Look at comments and shares of posts and whether or not you are growing your audience.

Importantly, are you attracting the right audience? There is no sense in driving a lot of traffic if most of it is not your target audience. One way of tracking this is looking at comments on your blog posts and looking at those further actions visitors have taken. Are you improving sales and can that be attributed to your blog?

Track results for individual blog topics too. When you begin a business blog, it’s often a case of trial and error to work out what the most popular content will be. Look at the blog posts getting the most traffic, shares and engagement – these are what you want to write more of.

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#9. Get help with your blog entries

Lastly, we know that starting a business blog is a big commitment, and keeping it up is challenging for small business owners. If you’re at the point where even the editorial calendar isn’t keeping you on-track, it’s probably time to look for help.

Whether you have someone else internally or can find a writer externally, it’s important that great content continues to flow. If you’ve set the foundations, you can introduce a new writer to your content policies and what you need for your business blog.

It’s up to you whether you want to have someone “ghost write,” where they write on behalf of a credited author, whether the writer gets the byline, or whether you post as “admin” or some other anonymous poster. Consider your business goals – if improving your own personal brand is part of it, you probably want the byline and to have the posts ghost written.

The bottom line for starting a business blog? Make it relevant, interesting and consistent. Always write for your target audience and have some clear goals in mind. Great content doesn’t happen by accident.

Social media marketing Social media marketing

How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan for Your Small Business

Does your small business have a social media marketing plan?

Over the last decade or so, social media has become a key part of marketing strategy for most businesses of all sizes. Those who tend to do well from their marketing efforts are the businesses that have strategized and planned their approach.

Your social media marketing strategy should paint a clear picture of what you want to achieve with your social channels and how you’re going to do it. It’s easier to execute well when you have a plan, right?

Let’s take a closer look at what the core elements of your social media marketing plan might look like:

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#1. Know your current social network status

Before you put pen to paper on a social media marketing plan, you’ve got to know where you’re starting from. If your business is already on social media platforms, do a self-audit to understand how they are doing.

You can look at:

  • The social platforms you are on. Are you posting regularly and are you getting engagement?
  • The audience you are attracting (if any). Are they a good representation of your target audience?
  • Your business presentation on social media sites. Are you communicating what you’d like to be, in the way you’d like to say it?
  • Which social networks (if any) are bringing you the most value?
  • How does what you are doing compare to any competitors?

Gather and hold this information to help you make decisions during the planning process. Importantly, you should also run a check for any “imposter” accounts – those operating under your business name that pretend to be you. If there are any, these can be reported to the relevant social platform.

Social media marketing

#2. Set goals for social media marketing

What exactly does your business want to achieve from social media marketing? Everyone wants some sort of return on investment, what do you consider that to be?

Now that you know your current position, you’re at the first step for beginning a social media strategy. Goals will help you to know what to measure and how to measure it. We like to use the SMART method, indicating that all goals should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound.

An important part of setting these goals is that they will help you to define the most meaningful metrics for tracking them. There can be a lot of “noise” in social media and it’s easy to get caught up in it, losing track of your real business goals.

Take Facebook “likes” for example. What do they really mean? It’s easy for anyone to quickly click “like” as they scroll by, but this doesn’t tell you that they’re actually engaging with your brand or even that they’re part of your target audience. “Likes” and metrics such as retweets tend to be “vanity metrics” – they feel good to get, but they don’t provide you with anything of substance.

It’s important to stay focused on the things that are meaningful and contribute to your core social media goals. You may even have different goals for different channels – that’s fine, as long as you articulate and measure them.

Some common goals for social media presence include:

  • Driving brand awareness
  • Positioning your business or its people as thought leaders
  • Using social channels to drive traffic to a website
  • Engaging your specific target market
  • Improving customer retention
  • Driving leads and sales.

#3. Know your target audience

“Customers are your best teachers. Learning about your customer’s beliefs, values, and priorities teaches you which selling points you should emphasize.” Mark Goulston

Defining and understanding your target market helps you to hone your social media strategy. Why is this important? Well, there are millions of people on social media and probably just a fraction of them represent your ideal customer. You can waste a lot of time on social platforms, or with curating content that doesn’t attract the right people.

Sometimes people worry about being “too narrow” with their approach. They think that they’ll lose business by ignoring particular audiences. This isn’t usually the case though. For example, if you sell binders for snowboards, why would anyone who is not interested in snowboarding buy them? It’s the sort of product that people who know snowboarding buy for themselves.

From a social media marketing perspective, it’s important to know your customers well so that when you share content, it is selected to be of interest to them. One key part of doing social media well is that you don’t just try to “sell” all the time. You need to be putting up regular content to drive engagement. Without both regularity and engagement, social media platform algorithms start to throttle your organic reach – they assume the audience isn’t interested.

What do you need to know about your audience? Here are a few key items:

  • Their demographic information
  • Any geographic information if relevant
  • What their main interests are (including pages they might be following)
  • What their main problems are.

If you run Facebook ads or any other kind of social media advertising later, this information helps you to segment your audience for those ads. This is a much more efficient use of your marketing spend.

#4. Research competitor social media sites

Do your competitors already have a social media presence? This is a good opportunity for you to learn, not so you can copy them, but so you understand what might work for you. After all, you will have similar user bases, right?

Here are a few tips for researching your competitors:

  • Find which social networks they are on. Look at the numbers on their pages – this can be an indication that the social platform is a good match for the target audience. (Not all platforms will be – you are much more likely to find a 22-year-old on Snapchat than Facebook, for example).
  • How quickly is their following growing?
  • What sort of content are they posting?
  • What is their social media engagement like?
  • How often do they post?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?

To help you out with your analysis, there are some tools you can use for further insights. For example, BuzzSumo will show you the number of social shares they receive, while Brandwatch provides some deeper insights.

#5. Choose your social media channels

Based on your goals and your target audience, decide which social media channels will be the best for your business. As a small business, you tend to have some fairly hard limits on time and resources. This means it’s important to choose your social platforms wisely.

Sometimes people try to do all of them at once, but find that they are overcommitting themselves. What ends up happening is that they’re spread too thinly to conduct any one social platform well. It’s better to pick one or two that you can commit to. The best choice is simply to choose where your target audience can be found.

How will you know? The research you’ve already conducted should have revealed demographic information – this is easily checked against statistics from data companies for social media platform usage. Try Smart Insights or Pew Research, both of whom conduct annual studies.

Importantly when you make your choice, you should also consider the types of social media content you are willing to produce or curate. Different platforms work best for different types of media. For example, there’s no sense in committing to Instagram if you won’t be able to regularly post high-quality images.

Social media marketing

#6. Document your social media strategy

We’re fans of documenting your social media strategy, along with any other business processes. This helps greatly to create a cohesive and consistent marketing plan, no matter who comes and goes in your business. It’s important to keep everyone on the same wavelength.

Your social media plan should be the governing document for “how we do things around here.” You don’t want someone going rogue and posting things to your social accounts that aren’t a good fit for the business.

You can include any or all of the items we discuss in this post, and you should definitely include:

  • The tone or voice to be used in your posts.
  • A description of your audience and what interests them.
  • Post types that are acceptable, or unacceptable.
  • Any policies that you have for engagement. For example, when someone private messages or mentions your Twitter account, how quickly should a response be made? What are the rules of engagement? Are there some things that must be escalated? Are there some types of messages that will get the sender blocked? (As public platforms, ANYONE might be commenting or messaging you!)
  • The goals for social media marketing and the metrics used to analyze them.

#7. Optimize your social media presence

Whether you’re starting from scratch or revamping your current social media presence, it’s always a good idea to optimize your social media accounts. This means setting them up to give the best possible impression, deliver what your audience will need, and get you noticed.

Sometimes this looks different for each individual social media channel. For example, many businesses use Twitter or Facebook for customer service queries or issues, whereas they might be using Instagram stories or Pinterest for sharing company culture or product information. If you have a preference, let followers know how to contact you for help or any other reason. Optimize your social profiles based on your goals for the platform.

At a basic level, optimizing social media platforms means:

  • Ensuring all information fields are filled out. Have you noticed the number of businesses that haven’t included a website link in their social profiles?!
  • Using high-quality images that are sized correctly for the platform. Make sure you have a good profile picture and any other common pictures, such as cover images.
  • Conduct keyword research to find what terms people will use when searching for businesses like yours. Use keywords in your available fields, such as “about.”
  • Using any calls to action you have available. For example, a Facebook Page allows you to have a button CTA – what will you ask people to do?

#8. Share content that engages your audience

In the end, the success of your social media marketing plan is all about your content. If it doesn’t grab your target audience, you won’t get very far. To do this, you need a good understanding of your audience and their intent when they’re using your chosen social media channel.

One of the first things to do is to develop a content calendar for your social media channels. There are tools that can help. For example, use Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule out posts into the future. Just remember that you need to be checking in and responding regularly. You can’t automate engagement!

While there have been questions as to whether using a third-party app for social media posting impacts reach, there have been multiple studies (including this one) to suggest this is not the case. Again we’d emphasize that the point of social media is to be social. You can’t set and forget it if you want to generate audience engagement.

You can look for inspiration from what other successful businesses are doing. For example, check out the Shorty Awards, or look for posts about “the most successful social media campaigns.”

If you’re relatively new to social media, or if your business hasn’t been particularly active, what you post may be a case of trial and error. You can use your best guess based on the data you have collected as to what might engage your target audience, but otherwise, test out different types of posts.

#9. Drive traffic to your social accounts

These days organic reach can be a bit of a lottery. We’ve entered an age when social media platforms are maturing and “pay to play” is here to stay for businesses. It’s still important to post regularly on your social media channels, but if you’d like to drive traffic consistently, you will probably need a bit of help.

A key part of your social media marketing plan should include any paid strategy that you have. Most social channels now have their own paid marketing tool, giving you the chance to reach a wider audience and gather important insights along the way.

Facebook advertising allows you some complex segmentation tools as well as deep analytics for your ads. You can view results during your ad campaigns and make adjustments as necessary.

Besides forms of paid social media marketing, share your social accounts everywhere! You can include “follow us” links for each channel on your website, put links in email newsletter footers or signatures, include them on your business cards, and even share across your personal accounts.

Lastly, we really meant it when we said your content can drive your social media success. If you’re regularly sharing strong content, you start to get people engaging and sharing. This draws more people to your pages, to continue a cycle of drawing traffic.

Social media marketing

#10. Invest in social media tools

As a small business, you have a huge list of responsibilities that fall on you. It’s nice to have social media tools to take care of some of them, right?

The best social media tools help you to stay on top of important data so that you don’t miss anything. They help you to automate key tasks and free up your time to create more of that great content.

It can be a little overwhelming when you start to look for marketing tools. There are now many options and mixes of features. We’d suggest that you start by looking at the little tasks that you need managed and take it from there. Some tools will automate tasks completely, while others will make them a lot easier. Some are purely for social media, while others are for content marketing of all types. For example, there are tools for:

  • Checking on marketing trends and influencers
  • Finding popular content
  • Tracking in-depth analytics (more than social platforms offer as a standard part of their features)
  • Social listening – tracking trends and mentions of names or topics
  • Scheduling your posts
  • Creating or editing images
  • Creating animated videos
  • Setting up “rules” for tasks

The aim is to have your social media marketing plan running as smoothly as possible. You’re human and you get busy – it’s nice to know that doesn’t have to mean dropping the ball with your social media channels.

#11. Stay on top of social network engagement

A big part of improving your organic reach is being consistent and timely with how you engage on social media. We’ve probably all seen those social media accounts where someone asks a question or says something in the comments that really requires a response, only to receive crickets.

What is acceptable in terms of response? Consider these statistics:

  • 45% of consumers turn to social media first for questions or issues
  • 21% would rather message on social media than contact the company over the phone
  • 21% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands they can reach on social media
  • The average user waits just four hours for a brand to respond on social media
  • The average brand takes 10 hours to respond.

Timeliness on social networking sites is critical. Let’s just say you have a potential customer who doesn’t know you very well yet. They message you via one of your social media channels and wait for a response. And wait. Eventually, when they haven’t heard back within a few hours, they check out a competitor and send them a message. The competitor responds within a couple of hours… You get the idea – having a service level agreement (SLA) for responding is important. Even if you can’t respond within a couple of hours, letting people know what to expect helps.

Facebook provides impetus for brands to respond quickly to messages by having a badge which indicates how responsive you are to messages. In order to get the “very responsive to messages” badge, you need to have achieved both of:

  • A response rate of at least 90%
  • A response time of less than 15 minutes.

If you have the “very responsive” badge, all visitors to your page will see it. If you don’t, only page administrators will see your responsiveness statistics.

Besides the messages you receive that require a quick response, it helps to stay active in the comments of any posts too. If someone has something to say, respond and keep the conversation going. When people see that you respond, they’re more likely to engage.

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#12. Test your social media strategy

For most small businesses, your first run at a social media marketing plan won’t be perfect. You’ll learn things along the way that help you to guide your marketing strategy and make changes where necessary.

Tracking your results with your metrics tools (such as Google Analytics) is critical so that you understand objectively how you are performing against your social media goals. It’s also worth noting, sometimes you need to be prepared to wait for results. Established pages with larger user bases see results from posts or campaigns more quickly. It can take a bit of time to build up a regular following – commit to consistency.

Another strategy for gathering useful data is to split test (or A/B test) your campaigns. This involves testing small elements to see what works better. For example swapping out images or text. The Facebook Ad Manager allows you to do this.

Once you have gathered some solid data, analyze it and look for where you can improve. Re-evaluate, re-test and update your social media strategy regularly. Over time, your social media channels can form a key driver of traffic and a valuable asset to your business.

DIY Website DIY Website

DIY vs. Done-For-You: Build a Website That’s Right for You in 2019

Are you ready to build a website?

Every business now needs their own website in order to boost their profile or make sales in an online store. It’s not really an option to do without – you will be losing business if you do. Globally, ecommerce sales hit $2.8 trillion USD last year, with that figure predicted to climb to $4.8 trillion by 2021.

If you want your own slice of the pie, a professional website is necessary, but how should you go about building a website? You’ll find that there are a lot of options open to you, but for the purposes of this article, we’re going to compare the DIY route, using a website builder or similar to the done-for-you option.

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Building a DIY website

What’s involved with taking the DIY route to build a website? Looking at the advertising for many of the website builder tools, it often seems like an easy option. A few clicks here and there, then your business website is done. But is this really the case?

Here are a few of the basics you need to know about if you’re building your own website:

  1. You need a domain name. This is the website address via which internet users will find you. Typically, you can buy your domain name from a domain registration service such as GoDaddy. The thing to find out with any sort of website builder (such as Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Shopify etc.) is whether you can use your own custom domain. Some don’t allow it, some do, but most will for an extra fee (or higher tier service package).
  2. You need web hosting for your website. This where a hosting company provides space for your website on one of their servers, so that your website is accessible to internet users. Many website builder services include hosting as part of their package. You could also opt to completely build a website from scratch (using something like WordPress), and elect to find your own web hosting plan, for example Bluehost.
  3. You need website building software (or the ability to write code, such as CSS or HTML yourself). Some common options include drag and drop website builders such as Wix or Weebly, or a platform such as WordPress where you can build up your website using a WordPress theme and plugins for functionality.
  4. You need a website design. Website builders usually have templates or themes you can choose from. These often involve a drag and drop interface where you can move elements around to where you’d like them. If you choose a WordPress theme, you may have some customization options available, but those really depend on whether you’re developing the whole website yourself, or if you’re using a platform such as WordPress.com, where the site is hosted for you but there may be restrictions, depending on your package.
  5. You need content for your website. Once you have a website design that you’re happy with, you need to create the pages for your website including any written or visual media content. You need business logos, high-quality images, product photos (for any online store) and all written descriptions. You need a reliable content management system to store and deliver that content (this also helps to speed up your website, an important factor for retaining visitors).
  6. You need a way to monitor the performance of your website. This helps you to make any needed improvements. Google Analytics is a popular option for doing this, or some sites have their own analytics packages. (The WordPress dashboard provides some information, but is not as comprehensive as a full analytics tool).

Build a website

Pros and cons of DIY websites

Let’s begin with some of the pros of DIY websites. A lot of people take this route because they are looking for a cost-effective way to build a website. Sometimes you can even build a free website, but there are some restrictions around these which often make them unsuitable for businesses. (They might suit you if you’re simply starting your own blog).

DIY websites tend to be cheap. They’re often easy to get online quickly, trusting you’re able to master a drag and drop interface, or that you know how to write code yourself. You aren’t required to have design skills yourself if you’re using a template and usually, website builders offer some level of customization.

Moving onto the cons of DIY websites, here are some of the biggest disadvantages:

  • Time – You may choose a quick and easy website builder, but you’ll still need to spend a lot of time on creating website messaging and content.
  • Website design – You might be happy with the generic template you can get from a website builder, but there’s a good chance you’d like to have some design customization that is not offered. Sometimes the look of a website builder is not especially professional for a business.
  • Limitations – There may be all sorts of limitations, depending on the package you have. For example, you might be limited on the size of your website, the features you can have or even how fast the website performs. Sometimes if you are on a shared hosting package (where you share a server with many other websites on the same platform), you can experience very slow loading times.
  • Lack of help – Sometimes you really need more help than what is provided on a website builder or other DIY site. Customer service may be poor, or perhaps you need help with something they don’t assist with. It can add up to a lot of time spent trying to achieve the website you’d like.

Done-for-you websites

If you’re not going to build a website yourself, your next option is a done-for-you website. Just like the DIY route, you have many different options available. To build your new website, you might:

  • Hire a freelancer
  • Hire a big agency
  • Hire a smaller web design and development company.

Of course, there are pros and cons to each, so let’s take a closer look:

Freelance web developers

There are thousands of freelance website designers and developers out there, giving you a lot of options. You can even shop around and hire someone who doesn’t live in the same country as you, especially if you’re looking for cheaper options.

It’s possible to find some very qualified and experienced freelancers who will do an excellent job of your website. Cost will vary – you can expect to pay well for an experienced freelancer. In return, you should expect high-quality work.

On the other hand, finding the right freelancer can be challenging. Many people have had bad experiences when freelancers have taken a long time on a job, not produced work to a standard expected or even disappeared partway through the project.

You’ll also find that there is huge variation in terms of what is included by a freelancer. There may be a lot of things you still have to organize yourself, such as web hosting and the content for your website.

Large web agencies

Have you ever checked out some of the bigger web development and design agencies? They often have large, impressive portfolios and big teams onboard servicing them. A large agency knows websites and they’ll have plenty of suggestions for getting yours built.

On the positive side, you can usually expect a very professional website, customized how you’d like it and set up for high performance. You’d expect a professional agency to have taken SEO (search engine optimization) into consideration during the website build and to have created your website according to best practices.

One of the biggest cons is that the cost is usually very high to get your website built this way, which can be prohibitive for small business. Agencies tend to run with high costs, so naturally they pass these onto their clients. Many businesses have also found that their new website build can drag out for months with a larger agency. They work with many clients at once and even with large teams, it can seem that it takes a long time to get your final product.

Build a website

Smaller web development companies

There are many smaller web development companies out there who run following various business models. For example, we’re a smaller company here at One Week Website. We operate by offering different packages to give clients options over how much they want included with their website build. Our simplest package is as our name suggests – your website is up and running within a week.

A smaller web development company will tend to cost you less than a large agency, but you can still expect to pay for their skills and experience (potentially more than an offshore freelancer). You’ll often find that you get more attention from the smaller team and that your website is completed within a shorter timeframe.

You’ll usually be able to get customizations that you’d like, although sometimes they may not be part of your package deal. Another very important thing to consider is your messaging – is that taken into account, or is a website simply thrown together? Some companies will help you out with devising appropriate messaging and building your website to suit (this is something that we take pride in).

With any of these done-for-you options, you should be able to get a website that you have control of and which performs to your needs, a key difference from many website building platform options. You can also choose someone who works with your preferred website type, for example a WordPress website, and you often have choices for a hosting plan.

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Final thoughts

What is the best option to build a website that’s right for you? The factors to consider include:

  • How much time you have available
  • Your own level of skill with coding and customizing
  • What you need the website to do
  • The level of customization you require
  • Your budget

There are pros and cons to both DIY website building and getting it done for you, so it’s important to know what you need first and weigh these factors. Which will you choose? Your online presence depends upon it.

Clear Website Copy Clear Website Copy

How to Make Sure Your Website Copy is Clear and Not Confusing

What does your website copy say about you?

Your web copy provides text or messaging that visitors to your website read to find out about you and what you offer. It has a vital role to play in attracting potential customers and hopefully encouraging them to buy or sign up with you.

Given the crucial role of website copy, you’d think it would be a priority for businesses to do well, right? Unfortunately, poor web copy is a common mistake. We often see businesses more focused on having a “pretty” website than on clear website content.

There’s a saying about how “a confused mind never buys” and this holds true for your web copy. Data from Crazyegg suggests you have less than 15 seconds to capture attention on your website, before visitors leave. If your copy is confusing or doesn’t provide enough useful information, they’re not going to hang around for more.

So, it’s worth taking the time to get your messaging right (and it’s something we are big on at One Week Website!). How do you make sure website copy is clear?

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Define your ideal customers

The first step is to know exactly who your message is for. Your aim is to attract not just anyone, but “ideal customers,” those who are best suited to your product or service. You need to identify these buyer attributes, including:

  • Demographic information
  • Where they are
  • What they do/ their job role and level of authority
  • Their problems and goals.

Collating this information helps you incorporate some key components into your web copy, designed to attract those ideal customers. If you understand their needs and what appeals to them, you can craft your copy to suit.

Know what your audience wants from you

What does your target audience want from your products or services? Clearly understand this from the perspective of the buyer personas you have identified. This way you can highlight those benefits in your web copy and other online content.

There’s a quote from copywriter and sales expert Dan Kennedy that fits well here:

“Get a fix on the prospect/customer/client and on his or her desires; failing to do so will undermine all your other efforts.”

Agitate the problem

A core reason that people buy is because they have a problem that needs solving. They might have tried something else before they came upon your website, and maybe that other thing didn’t work for them.

Agitating the problem is about being able to clearly articulate the issue and how it makes your ideal customers feel if it goes unresolved. What emotions does it evoke? Why is your product or service a better solution than others? This helps you to deliver website copy that is clear and appealing.

For example, if you are an accounting business, agitating the problem might look like this:

  • Problem: Are you trying to plan ahead to minimize your tax obligation?
  • Agitation: The new tax code ushers in the biggest changes in over 30 years. How do you interpret the complexities and ensure you’re not paying too much tax?

Note how agitating the problem can also involve suggesting what might happen if it remains unsolved. Highlighting the potential impact to your audience’s lives helps create some urgency.

Be succinct and upfront

How many websites have you visited where the product descriptions or other marketing materials lack basic, useful information? There are a lot of websites that are not clear upfront and when this happens, you can almost guarantee that visitors aren’t going to hang around trying to figure it out.

You need to be able to succinctly communicate what your business does through your website copy and within seconds of someone landing on your website homepage. People don’t like to click around trying to understand what you do – in fact they probably won’t.

“Keep it simple” is a good rule of thumb to follow. A common mistake is to try to be “clever” with copy, ending up with something that no one else understands. It’s great to let your personal voice shine through, as long as website visitors know what you mean!

We have a couple of strategies that we use with website copy in an effort to keep it simple and effective:

  1. Show website visitors a simple three-step plan to get what they want. So you’re addressing the problem upfront, but immediately giving them some easy steps to resolve it. Take a look at the example below, from our own website:
    Website copy
  2. Take the position of being a guide, rather than a hero. This means positioning the company with empathy and authority, as a more relatable entity than one which takes a “supreme” kind of position.
  3. Make it clear who your business is for. This might be included in a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) statement upfront. This is a statement of why your business is the best choice, perhaps hinting at why you’re different from others.
  4. You might include who your business is for by saying something like: “We take the stress out of tax planning for small businesses.” A statement like that immediately says that the company is not serving individuals or large businesses – their ideal customers are small businesses. Sometimes it is worth including somewhere who your business is NOT for too – this helps to avoid “tire kickers” – those who might take up your time with enquiries, but are never going to become customers.

Have consistent branding

Your branding involves all the elements of your website and other areas (such as social media) that make your business unique. This includes elements such as the logo and color scheme you use, and the overall voice and tone of your website copy. It all adds up to the overall messaging you want to communicate.

Consistency and congruent messaging is the key. If we were to go back to our example of an accounting firm, it would be an unusual move to take an “edgy” sort of voice in your website content or marketing materials, or to go for loud colors. Perhaps it would work for some firms, but overall, people would like to be reassured that their CPA is professional and takes their business seriously.

“Brand voice” encompasses things such as the words you choose, the attitude of your content marketing, and the values and personality that you convey. It all adds up to creating clear messaging. It is confusing when a company tries to borrow elements of different branding voices, for example switching from edgy to reassuring and sensible.

Why is this all so important? Developing consistent branding carries over into everything that you do. It includes press releases, social media, content creation, website copy and every other marketing effort you make. Consistency leads to better brand recognition over time. We could write an entire article dedicated to branding alone, but for now, it’s important to see how it ties in with clear website copy.

Have strong CTAs

What do you want your website visitors to do? You might think it is obvious, but more often than not, it really isn’t to the average website visitor. This is why having strong CTAs are important. The CTA (Call to Action) is the part of your website copy that tells potential buyers what they should be doing. Some very simple examples include “click here” or “buy now.”

As a general rule, an effective CTA includes more information than those last two examples. Your target audience needs a compelling reason to heed your CTA, so clear messaging is important. For example, “click here for your free copy” or “subscribe to receive deals in your inbox” are clearer and more compelling reasons to do as you ask.

If you’re able to evoke strong emotions, this can be another excellent way to get people following through. For example, “click here to start planning your dream vacation today.”

Giving the audience a clear reason to act or take the next step is a key part of effective CTAs. You should answer the questions “what’s in it for me?” within your CTA and the surrounding web copy.

If you’re writing sales copy for anything that might be limited (such as products with a finite supply), you can take advantage of this to leverage the natural FOMO (fear of missing out) that most people have. For example, “Limited supply available. Buy now before they’re gone!”

Your calls to action can be tested over time to assess their effectiveness. For example, you might monitor actions via Google Analytics or even through split testing different CTAs. It’s important to test and figure out what works best for your ideal audience.

Show the customer what success looks like

You’re addressing key pain points that your customers have, you’re ensuring your website copy and your branding are consistent and that your CTAs are clear. Another important technique is to show potential buyers what success looks like with your company.

This is important for helping the customer to visualize their own success through buying your products or services. For example, you might include testimonials from happy past customers within your web copy, or imagery to highlight that success. As a website-building company, we highlight images and testimonials from the websites we have created.

Website copy

Test your website on users

You know what your company does and who your ideal customers are that you’d like to attract, but is that really clear to website visitors? Often we are too close to our own businesses to see where there might be any confusion over website content, so it’s a good idea to take a step back and view it through the lens of a complete outsider.

First-time visitors may not perceive your website content as you do and it’s important to understand this early if so. One way is to go through independent user testing (as is offered by several companies), but otherwise, you might simply seek feedback from various people who don’t already know your business. You’re looking for any confusion they might have over your website, so that you can make it as clear as possible.

In the end, your website isn’t there for you, it’s for your potential buyers. As such, we suggest that you keep an open mind for the sake of clarity. Don’t be so attached to any particular thing on your website that you’re not willing to change it to be clearer.

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Final thoughts

Your website copy may be the first point of contact with you that your potential buyers have. It must be clear so that there is no confusion left in the minds of your audience. This way they are more likely to take the actions that you desire on your website.

If we were to leave with one final piece of website copy advice it would be this: a professional-looking website is important, but your messaging needs to come first. When you know what you want to say and how to say it clearly, a more effective, professional website can be built with that in mind.

Small Business Marketing Online Small Business Marketing Online

The Ultimate Guide to Small Business Marketing Online

Have you devised a small business marketing strategy?

There are many challenges to owning and operating a small business, not least of which is you need to let people know you exist! Word of mouth works for some, but it’s definitely not a long-term strategy. The nature of technology use is now as such that having a business website is essential. However, just because you build one, doesn’t mean the customers will come.

Marketing strategy for small business needs to include a clear plan for online marketing. You need to be visible where your target audience can be found in order to draw new customers back to your website.

What might you include in this marketing strategy? We present some options here for small business marketing plans online:

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Build your customer personas

First thing’s first, before you even think about actioning a campaign or drawing up an online marketing strategy, you need to know who you are trying to attract.

There are multiple options for online marketing and not all will be a good fit for your business. You can start by eliminating any tactic that is unlikely to reach your target audience, however, you must have defined who they are to know this.

As a quick primer, a customer, buyer or marketing persona is a generalized representation of your ideal customers. Most small businesses will have more than one buyer persona, although you may have one particular group that is more prevalent.

HubSpot provides an excellent description of how to research and create your customer personas. You need to build a picture of demographic information, interests, key problems and the channels through which these people can be found.

To give an example, let’s say your target customers are generally people over 40 who earn more than $100k. You can start to figure out where and where not to find them online. Snapchat (where most users are 18 to 34) may not be ideal.

Tip: Always consider whether the person you are targeting your product or service for is the decision-maker when buying. You may have different personas for each.

Small business marketing
Source: HubSpot

Define your marketing goals

Once you have identified your buyer persona/s, it’s important that you define some goals for your online marketing. What are the key results you would like? This way, you can pick and choose the marketing methods that suit your requirements.

Claim your local business listings

This section here is particularly relevant to small business owners who have a brick-and-mortar, or otherwise “local” presence somewhere. If you only operate online, you may like to skip to the next section.

As a local business, your online marketing efforts can be assisted with some local listing services. These are online listings that make your business easier to find because they tend to rank well in searches. For example, if you were to go to Google and type in “plumber in (your town),” it is highly likely that the first few results are from listing services.

Here are some you can claim:

  • Google My Business – this is free to claim and you are able to update your business profile.
  • Yelp for Business – this is also free to claim. One of the important reasons to do so is that you can ensure information on your business is correct. You can also respond to any reviews.
  • Bing Places – Claim a listing that already exists or add a new one. Bing also allows you to upload photos and other ways for customers to contact you.
  • Yellow Pages – Not just a large yellow book anymore! This is another free listing site where you can claim your business details.
  • Foursquare – This social-based platform also allows you to create special offers.

There are other types of listing sites that are aimed at particular audiences too. For example, TripAdvisor takes listings that are aimed at tourists, so will suit businesses that are in hospitality and tourism. You can also check whether your Chamber of Commerce might have local listings (you usually have to be a member).

Tap into social media marketing

Social media marketing is a massive topic by itself. In the span of a decade, we’ve gone from a handful of social platforms to multiple different options. As a starting point, we’d refer back to your buyer personas. Each platform tends to attract its own audience in terms of demographics and interests.

Where do you find key information about the main social media platforms? There are some great resources put out by research companies such as Smart Insights. You will find a good breakdown of social media platform trends.

Once you have a good overview, it’s time to choose your platforms. A key mistake that many small businesses make is to try to be everywhere at once. What ends up happening is that maybe one platform gets used well, while others are neglected. Take an honest look at the resources and expertise you have available – how many social platforms can you manage? Do you have the budget to pay someone with expertise to manage them for you?

For the sake of simplifying the large social media topic, here are the key marketing activities you (or someone you hire) will need to manage:

  • Regular posts. All social media platforms work best when posts are interesting and regular. For example on Facebook, that means at least one post per day. LinkedIn may be less frequent.
  • Audience engagement. Businesses get the best results when they engage well with their audience. This means responding to comments and messages, as well as starting good discussions where applicable.
  • Paid social media advertising. Most of the key platforms have paid advertising options, each with their own learning curve to master. An advantage of using paid advertising on social media is that they offer good tools for narrowing down the audience for the ads. It also tends to be one of the more cost-effective paid marketing methods.

Invest in content marketing

Content marketing involves the creation and sharing of different types of content online. For example, this blog is an example of content marketing. So are videos, podcasts, ebooks, white papers, infographics and other mediums – they’re all different types of content marketing.

This is another one of those vast marketing strategy topics where a small business owner may ask “where do I begin?” You probably guessed it – we’d go back to those customer personas and consider what the best type of content may be to suit them. Who is more likely to enjoy blog articles, versus videos, versus podcasts?

The next thing to consider is that content marketing takes a large time commitment to do properly. What do we mean by “properly?” Well, you’ve probably noticed that there is a LOT of content available online, which means if you want yours noticed, it needs to be of high quality and value to your audience. It takes time to research and craft an interesting blog post, record a podcast or shoot and edit a video.

If you’re going to commit to content marketing, regular, high quality posts are the key to success. If you are too irregular, you risk losing (or never gaining) your audience, and there are advantages to your Google ranking in producing good content regularly. Do you have the time and ability to do this yourself or in-house? If not, then you can look for specialist outsourced content marketing companies.

Small business marketing

Use email marketing

Email marketing tends to be a staple marketing strategy for small business. It can be done relatively cheaply and when done well, produces results for the business.

The first thing you need is an email list to market to. Many companies will already have an email list of current or past customers, but you also need a way for anyone who is interested to sign up to your list. This usually involves having a sign-up form on your website and a compelling call to action, to convince people to sign up.

For example, here are a few ideas that small businesses can use to get people to sign up:

  • Offer a discount code
  • Send them a useful piece of content (for example, an ebook)
  • Offer a free trial
  • Put them in the drawing for a prize
  • Let them know they will be notified of sales and specials.

Once you have an email list built, it’s important to make sure that you stay in regular contact. Email lists go “stale” when emails are irregular. People forget who you are amongst the thousands of emails in their inbox, then they either don’t open emails or unsubscribe.

Here are a few quick best practices for email marketing:

  • Decide on a frequency and stick to it. This helps to keep your emails recognizable to people and trains them that they’re coming. The minimum frequency businesses use tends to be monthly, but this is something you can test for effectiveness on your own audience.
  • Keep emails interesting. Every email needs to deliver some kind of value to your subscribers, whether that’s keeping them informed, offering tips or making a special offer.
  • Try not to be overly “salesy.” Consider how you react to always facing a sales pitch – it often turns you away, right? It’s important to find the right balance that also fits with customer expectation. For example, if I signed up to an email list on the basis of receiving special offers, then “please buy this” emails would be an expectation. If I signed up to something because I really wanted the free ebook, I might expect some sales pitches, but I also expect content-type emails.
  • Use a good email software or CRM. These can really help you to get the most from email marketing. For example, a CRM will allow you to segment your list based on their interests or how they came to be on your list. This way you can send very targeted emails.

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Final thoughts

This has been a brief outline of the core methods for small business marketing online. Outside of these strategies, you can also look at SEO (Search Engine Optimization) on your website, as well as ensuring that your website copy is clear and appealing (a topic for a future post).

An important takeaway is that as a small business owner, you don’t need to be marketing via every possible online channel. Take a strategic approach by understanding your audience, what appeals to them and where to find them.

Once you’ve decided on your marketing channels, make every effort to optimize how you use them. There’s no sense in using a channel, but not doing very well at it – this could even be a negative for your business image. When you treat any channel you use as a strategic business opportunity, you will start to see results.

How to Start a Business How to Start a Business

How to Start a Business: A Step-by-Step Guide

Do you have the ambition of starting a new business?

It’s an exciting idea, running your own business, but people often find it tricky to navigate the steps from business idea to business reality.

Building a strong foundation is critical when you’re starting out. It makes a big difference in terms of developing a successful business. In fact, according to the Small Business Administration, about two-thirds of businesses with employees survive at least two years, while about half survive to five years. There are all sorts of reasons for business failures, but having a thorough and regularly-revised business plan can help to mitigate the chances of it happening to you.

In this article, we’re breaking down step-by-step how to start a business. Yes, there are a lot of critical steps, but if you follow them, you’ll find yourself better-prepared to tackle the world of business ownership.

#1. What do you need to get out of your business?

First of all, have you given thought to what you actually need to get out of your business? This helps you to narrow down the type of business that you should go for.

As an example, many business owners refer to the fact that they’ve “never worked so hard in their lives” or that they’ve been too busy or tied up to take any vacations. If this sort of scenario sounds like a nightmare to you, then you need to plan carefully to avoid it.

You might have goals to be the next global giant, but it’s also okay to have relatively modest goals for a business. Some common ambitions include:

  • Wanting to make a bit of extra money (perhaps achieved through a side-hustle)
  • Wanting more freedom and autonomy with work
  • Wanting to free up more time for family or other things you’d like to be doing
  • Wanting to build something you can use to give back for philanthropic purposes
  • Wanting to be a market or industry leader
  • Wanting to build something in the hopes of acquisition in a few years
  • Wanting to diversify your income stream.

You also need to consider your personal preferences. Does it suit you to turn up to a bricks-and-mortar location for set business hours? Or, do you prefer to be less tied-down? Perhaps the flexibility of an online-only business works for you over any sort of physical location.

Consider where your skills and passions lie too. No one wants to work on something that they don’t find stimulating. You might be interested in doing work that is a stretch for your current skills, but if you identify this early, you can work on ways to build up the skills you need.

Finally, think about the lifestyle you would like to lead. Would you like to be checking in every day with your business? Or, would you like to build something that keeps ticking along, even if you’re in the middle of a mountain range for a couple of weeks? Do you have ambitions of being mega-rich? Or, would you simply like a business that pays for your basic needs, or enough to be comfortable?

Write all of this information down, as it will help to guide you through business ideas. You will notice that some options are quickly a “no” because they won’t meet your bottom-line requirements for a business.

#2. Brainstorm business ideas

We’re including this section here because many people have the idea that they’d like to own a business, but don’t yet know what that will look like. If you already have an amazing idea, that’s great! You may like to skip ahead to the next section.

There are dozens of ways in which people have come up with winning business ideas, and brainstorming is a great technique to generate a flood of ideas. The key is to try to evaluate ideas based on the business preferences you have already identified.

Where do good ideas come from? Here are a few questions that can trigger them:

  • What is something that really bugs you? Many good ideas start as fixes to a problem that the business owner has encountered.
  • Is there a better way of doing something that is currently a product or service? Not all business ideas are entirely new, but sometimes you can reinvent them in a way that gives a competitive advantage. For example, look at what subscription box companies have done for things like razors, make-up, snacks or pet food.
  • Is there a way to harness a new or up-and-coming technology? Some great business ideas position the company as a pioneer of change in the business landscape.
  • Can your current skills or hobbies be monetized? For example, you might have a passion for salsa and a secret family recipe for making it.
  • What problems or concerns do other people often voice? Could managing these concerns be the start of a business?

Once you’ve brainstormed a few ideas, highlight your top two or three contenders for further investigation.

How to Start a Business

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#3. Conduct market research

For a business idea to succeed, it needs to solve a problem, fulfill a need better than current solutions, or generally be something the market wants. Your next step is to run your shortlist of ideas through a validation process (pick your most likely idea first).

First of all, is there a big enough market to justify the business idea? If you’ve determined that there is, you can then get even more specific and figure out how saturated the market is and whether there is room for your idea.

You might conduct focus groups or surveys to find out exactly what people are looking for, what bothers them, or any suggestions they have. Importantly, you’ll want to analyze competitors – is anyone else doing what you want to do already? If not, could there be a good reason that they aren’t?

It’s important that you identify what makes your products or services different from competitors. What will your business strategy be and will it be viable? For example, competing on price in the highly competitive ecommerce business can be a race to the bottom. If you have large competitors, you will almost always lose because they have the resources to fund loss-leaders.

Determining a USP (unique selling proposition) helps you to define what will make you different and why customers should choose you over competitors. As part of your research, you need to understand what will appeal to your target market in terms of a USP – what makes it worth it to them?

Another part of your market validation absolutely has to be the financial side. What will it cost to get your idea going and can you charge enough to turn a profit within the time that you need to? If you need to charge more than competitors, what makes your business worth choosing for customers?

#4. Write a business plan

This is the point where you’ve narrowed down to one business idea you’d like to go ahead with. You’ve validated that there is a market for the idea and that it’s possible to make it work financially, so it’s time to write a solid business plan.

At some point in here, you’re going to have to come up with a business name – something that is easy to remember and catchy to your desired customer base. Google is a useful tool here – check that no one else is using your desired business name and that the URL you will need is available.

Your business plan should be a written description of how you plan to evolve your business from start to finish. There are many different ways to write a business plan, but we suggest finding a template that makes sense to you in terms of level of detail. A tip here is that if you’re going to require investors or a loan, then you’ll probably need to make it as comprehensive, yet clear as possible. Lenders and investors want to see that details are well thought-out.

Most business plan templates either fall under the category of “traditional” or “lean startup.” Traditional plans are hefty and detailed, beginning with an executive summary, potentially including a funding request and ending with appendix.

Lean startup business plan templates are suitable for businesses that are able to start very quickly with few required resources. For example, if you are branding yourself as a consultant and making use of your own skills and experience, you may not need a whole lot of “extras” to start up on your own.

These templates are very high-level and tend to focus on value proposition, infrastructure, customers and finances. One of the most common versions (which you can find free if you search online) is the “Business Model Canvas.” Note that if you are seeking lending or investment funds, these plans may be too lean to satisfy requirements.

No matter what type of business plan you choose, be prepared to treat it as a living document. As time goes on, your business matures or there are changes in the market or with technology – you’ll probably need to adjust your plan to account for those.

#5. Plan your business finances

Do you need to organize financing to get your business started? Or, can you self-fund, or start with very little funds?

If you do need funding to get going, there are many possible avenues you can take to get it. You need to make some calculations to work out how much you will need, as this may play a role in how you decide to get the financing. Consider what you need for startup costs to set up and get going, as well as what you might need to cover ongoing expenses before you turn a profit.

You will need to consider expenses such as:

  • Licensing, permits and subscriptions
  • Legal fees
  • Equipment and inventory
  • Trademarking
  • Leases
  • Marketing
  • Utilities

It’s a good strategy to create a spreadsheet or similar document so that you can keep track of expenses. One of the core reasons that businesses fail comes down to finances – you don’t want to run into any surprises!

The question now is, how will you get the finances you need? Here are some of the most common avenues small businesses take:

  1. Small business loans
  2. Credit cards (a risky prospect if interest rates are high)
  3. Business grants (Check out Grants.gov for a searchable directory of federal grants)
  4. Loans from family or friends
  5. Crowdfunding campaigns such as through Kickstarter
  6. Angel investors
  7. Bank loan or line of credit
  8. Own savings

The option that is best for you will depend upon your unique circumstances, available resources and appetite for risk. Also consider how much input you’re prepared to take from others. Angel investors may expect a certain level of input in decision-making.

How to Start a Business

#6. Make your business official

A key mistake that many small businesses have made is to skip getting all of the official permits or registrations that they need. Things such as not getting insurance for the business can come back to bite, even if that’s at a later date.

One thing to consider is setting up the business in the manner in which you intend to continue. There is something to be said for the psychological shift when someone goes from being a sole proprietor to an LLC, for example. It’s a sign to yourself that you’re taking the business seriously.

There are several potential sub-steps to making your business “official,” here are a few:

  1. Setting up your business structure. You may want to seek advice from a qualified accountant or lawyer about this. Different business structures have different tax and legal implications. For example, sole proprietor vs. partnership vs. LLC vs. S Corporation.
  2. Your business name and registration. You might need to get a license to operate in your state or county as well.
  3. Federal and state tax ID for your business
  4. Any required insurance
  5. Any permits needed
  6. Setup of bank accounts
  7. Application for any trademarks, copyrights or patents
  8. Any legal agreements, such as supplier agreements, non-disclosures, or employee contracts. This may also include vendor agreements for things like shipping
  9. Reserving your preferred website URL.

#7. Develop your product or service

The details of how you develop your product or service will vary depending on the type of business. For example, some sell physical products while others offer digital services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you don’t skimp on the product development area. Ultimately, this is what is going to represent your company.

Here is where you iron out the details, including how you might package up your products or services. As an example, consider a “productized service” (much like we do here at One Week Website). The nature of this type of service is that you bundle services together into a package, which you then charge a rate (usually monthly) for. It’s important that these packages have clearly defined parameters in order for the business model to work. If not, you can easily end up down a rabbit hole of extra work.

For physical products, you may need to find a supplier, or a manufacturer for something that you have designed yourself. You need to finalize designs and materials and work on areas such as quality control and risk management.

An especially important part of any product or service development is consideration of the customer. You should have a clearly defined target market, as they’re the ones you hope are going to buy what you’re selling. Your development might include activities such as usability testing on people who represent your target audience, or surveying when you’re developing a service. You need to validate that your product or service is meeting the needs of customers as intended – remember that sometimes this will take a few iterations. You’ll need to consider this when you are budgeting.

Lastly, if there are any certifications or educational requirements for your chosen field, get these taken care of as early as possible. For example, some types of businesses need FDA or ISO certification – they may need to inspect your products or facility. If you’re using particular types of vehicles, you may need additional licenses.

#8. Develop your branding and messaging

How would you like your business to be perceived? What “voice” do you want to convey to the customer and what will your brand represent? These are important questions to answer early in your business setup, because it helps to ensure you present cohesive messaging.

In fact, when we build websites, one of our major tasks is to ensure we work with clients to get their messaging clear. This helps us to build a site that speaks to that target audience and emphasizes the most important things first. You only have a few short seconds to grab the attention of a new customer, so they need to “get” you very quickly.

So, how will you develop your voice and messaging? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Look to your competitors – what are the gaps or flaws in their messaging? What types of customers are they attracting with their messaging? Consider how your brand might differentiate. For example, you might have an edgier voice compared to a more conservative competitor.
  2. Describe your products main advantages and why they are so important. You could also seek this information from the voice of the customer, by asking any test users.
  3. Think about the values of your brand. How will these be communicated by your overall messaging? Some brands have even created manifestos to help express what they care about and why the do what they do. (See a good example from Red below).
    How to Start a Business

What sets your company, your product or service apart from others?

Your brand messaging might include things like your value proposition, mission statements and manifestos. Importantly, it’s not just those specific elements, it’s an overall tone and feel that knits everything together into a cohesive unit. For example, people who see your brand on Facebook and in print media shouldn’t detect any difference in how you are presented.

#9. Set up your website and back-end systems

See what we did there? Yes, we strongly believe that it’s important to get your messaging down before leaping into creating your website. This will help you to select an appropriate design and layout.

Of course, you also need to consider website functionality and overall setup. There are so many different options you could go for, but you need to consider things like budget, expertise required and your desired level of management of the website. For example, some DIY website platforms don’t allow you to customize how you’d like or they limit functionality. They may also build everything onto their own platform so that, if they were to shut down, your website will potentially go with them.

One way to narrow down and find your desired setup is to list everything that you must have for your website. For example, you might need payment gateways, a shopping cart function, portfolio features and content sharing. You might want to integrate certain key tools, such as accounting software or CRM (customer relationship management) tools.

Besides your website, you may need any or all of these back-end systems:

  • Project management software
  • Accounting software
  • Email management tools
  • CRM software
  • Payroll software
  • Booking systems
  • Inventory management systems
  • Chat or customer support systems

Again, list your must-have features to help you narrow down your options. We also like to look for tools that integrate well together, as this tends to avoid a whole lot of manual data-handling.

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How to Start a Business

#10. Promote your business

With all of the systems, products and paperwork taken care of, it’s time to promote your business. Make sure that you’ve budgeted for marketing among your startup costs! In today’s world of noise, you’re going to have to promote yourself to be found by your target market.

There are a myriad of potential ways to promote your business, so let’s look at a few that are common for startups. Some will cost you money, but others are free or quite inexpensive. Create your own marketing plan based on what your resources and needs are:

  1. Devise a launch strategy. Make a big deal of launching your business as a way to attract customers. For example, bricks and mortar stores often have opening parties, while online businesses might have launch deals.
  2. Start building an email list. Email marketing is an inexpensive route to take, but you need to have a list aimed at your target audience. You might do something like create a pre-launch landing page and invite people to sign up for opening deals or to be kept informed.
  3. Build a social media presence. To narrow it down, find out which channels your target audience is using and go to those places. Aim to do one or two channels very well rather than spreading yourself thinly across several.
  4. Use paid advertising. You might choose online methods, offline methods or a mixture of both. Again, the key is to have figured out where to find your target audience. For example, you might use paid social media or search advertising. You might take out ads in local newspapers, local directories (on or offline) or industry publications.
  5. Be present at relevant conferences or trade shows. Strategic booths or sponsorships can help to boost your profile.
  6. Join networking groups. For example, your local business association, Young Professionals groups or meetups. Have business cards available to hand out.

Final thoughts

Whew! There are certainly many steps to take when starting a business, but don’t let that put you off the business ownership dream. Every journey is different, but the most successful businesses have almost always had a plan to get that way.

A good business always begins with a firm foundation. You need to understand your market and be clear about the need your product or service fulfills. Differentiating from competitors is important, as is coming up with clear, compelling messaging.

Stick with us as we look at the sections in this article in more detail in future posts. There’s a lot to organize, but you’ll never regret taking a thorough approach to developing a profitable business.

Are DIY Website Builders Empowering or Frustrating?

Cheap, easy, and good. If you’re starting a business, working on your side hustle, or doing freelance work, that’s what you probably want.

Over the last few years, companies like Squarespace and Wix have capitalized on that demand with website packages designed to satisfy the cheapeasygood criteria. They supply the designs and the tools. You supply the time, pictures, logos, and content. You pay for it with spare change from beneath the sofa cushions.

You cross “make website” off your to-do list.

But is cheapeasygood really, well… cheap, easy, and good?

Therein lies the problem with DIY website builders. For all their promises of empowerment, simplicity, and affordability, many businesses find them frustrating.

And as we’ll soon explore, they’re not always as inexpensive as they appear. Or as easy.

It’s not that the Squarespaces and Wixs of the world claim to do things that they don’t actually do. For a nominal monthly fee, you get a professional-looking website and unfettered reign to publish any content or make any updates whenever you want and without asking permission. That’s what they say they do, and it’s what you get.

The problem is that the things you get – the very things these services do promise and deliver on – often aren’t what you really wanted in the first place.

For starters, they’re not cheap.

We know, we know. Squarespace starts at $12 per month. That’s cheap.

The issue isn’t the monthly fee. It’s the time you have to spend getting your website up, running, and looking good.

And the time you spend keeping it that way.

When your time is valuable – and yours is valuable, right? – every working hour you spend doing something other than practicing your craft is costly. Basically, the more time you spend working on your website, the less money you ultimately make from it.

Let’s say you’re a budding photographer. You might earn anywhere from $50 to $500 per billable hour. When you use a DIY website builder, you’re probably going to spend an entire week or more…

  • Learning to navigate GoDaddy and Squarespace and whatever other platforms you select
  • Teaching yourself to write content that fits your brand and persuades visitors to contact you
  • Making your new website look good (and pulling your upper lip over your head in the process since, let’s face it, it never freaking looks right!)
  • Configuring templates since that’s what Wix and company use
  • Searching the web for answers to the 37 questions you have. What’s an SEO meta description? Why do I need one? What’s a hero image? What’s so heroic about it? Stuff like that.
  • Tweaking little things here and there. Then tweaking them some more.

And so on. You’re basically training yourself to be a newbie web developer on the fly.

So if you normally bill photography clients at $90 per hour and put in a solid three weeks doing all of this stuff, that’s $10,800.00 (plus $12 in provider fees) that’s no longer in your wallet.

To be sure, people who have used website builder tools before might finish faster. However, if you’re new to assembling a website, count on it taking even longer than three weeks.

If you’ve ever seen an “under construction” image on a website and the image was still there after a year, well. Someone somewhere is paying $12/month for that picture of a stick figure digging with a shovel.

For a $90/hr photographer who’s new to websites, DIY options could indirectly cost over $10,000 to set up. And that’s not including all the time spent making changes later on.

Kinda like hiring someone to do it for you, right?

By the way, companies selling DIY website builders tacitly admit that not everyone finds their software easy to use. At least one actually provides a list of contractors who can handle the whole website build for anywhere from $80 to $175 per hour.

We’re not trying to knock those contractors – they probably do great work! But at that price point, shouldn’t you just, you know… get a custom website?

Speaking of custom…

Don’t the DIY builders spit out really good-looking websites?

“Good-looking” is subjective, so we’ll reserve comment. All we’ll say is that a well-done Wix site will usually have a professional, official look to it. If that’s good enough for you, then it’s good.

But if “good” actually means “unique,” which actually means “custom,” that’s not quite what the DIY builders give you.

Most of them give you a set of templates to choose from. You get to add unique content, move some things around, and tweak the colors. However, at a fundamental level, you’re always reusing the same design that many other people (thousands?) have already used.

Here’s something else to parse. “Good” isn’t always about the way your website looks. A good website should also:

  • Load quickly for all users so that they don’t get frustrated and leave
  • Be easy for your everyone in your target audience to use, whether they’re on a desktop computer, smartphone, or something else
  • Come with a real human being who provides reliable support and helps you fix problems right away
  • Rely on good design principles for things like color palettes, font sizes, and content layouts
  • Come equipped with tools like Google Analytics, so you can see how visitors use your website
  • Offer iron-clad security to keep out hackers and malware

DIY website builders struggle with many of these demands. Since they try to be all things to all people, they tend to use bloated backend software that doesn’t load very quickly. And since you, the non-designer, are tasked with figuring out how the website should look and feel, you could unknowingly end up with a website that’s hard for your customers to use.

As for support, the situation varies. Depending on the arrangement you select, you might have access to a real human. Or you might just have help articles.

Ok. DIY website builders aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Now what?

You could hire an agency to do everything for you, but a typical agency is super expensive. Most of them also take a really long time to make progress.

That’s why we suggest working with a web design company that:

  • Builds a truly custom website tailored to your brand
  • Prices their services for small businesses, startups, and freelancers
  • Provides personalized service from first contact all the way to handling post-design website maintenance, like software updates
  • Includes coaching sessions on effective digital marketing since, you know, they’re truly invested in your success
  • Finishes building a website within a very reasonable time frame
  • Helps you create content that speaks to your target audience and achieves your marketing goals

It’s what we do at One Week Website. We also do a whole lot more, but that’s the gist.

In the long run, this option is more affordable than using a DIY builder, especially when you consider just how much time you’re spending on your website. You know, time you could be spending on productive, remunerative tasks!

And unlike Wix and Squarespace, your site will actually be as unique as you are. It won’t be a rehashed version of something else that’s all over the internet already.

Empowering, affordable, and beautiful. That’s what you’re looking for in a website, and it’s a hard thing to achieve with DIY builders. But with a design outfit that understands your situation, it’s precisely what you’ll get.

Choose wisely, and the website of your dreams could be launched and live in just seven short days.