Having an online presence can be daunting for a lot of sole traders and small businesses. Websites have a reputation for being difficult to build yourself or expensive to outsource to an expert. Luckily, this really isn't the case anymore! This article will highlight why you should invest in your online presence, and will provide some steps you can take to set yourself up for new clients in the new year.
First Impressions Count
Often, your website is the first time a new potential customer will interact with your business. Website statistics show that a customer will form an opinion of your business within 0.5 seconds of landing on your website. You've then got 10 seconds for them to find the information they are looking for or they will leave. What kind of impression does your current website leave?
In a previous article (Effective Networking - Footprints March 2015), I focused on representing your business and promoting yourself face-to-face. In this setting it's your personality and business card that should be memorable. Your website acts as a valuable tool for these people, as well as potential new clients, to know more about your services.
Review Your Content
A beautifully designed website can be completely let down by poorly written and poorly laid out content. Can your clients quickly and easily find the information they are looking for? Are you providing enough information? Is your website content well-written and error-free? Do visitors get a good idea of who you are and what your business brand is? Imagine you are speaking directly to your ideal client when you write your website content. If you're really stuck, it may be worth engaging a copywriter or marketer so that your clients get the best impression of you possible.
Inserting your personal identity (brand) with specific services information, pictures and profile provides that unique presentation to attract new customers and promote to existing clients. This supports you growing your business, and allows you to focus on the therapy through the benefits of efficient time management.
Clients Are Looking For You Online
Google data says that 76% of people who searched for something nearby to them on their smartphone then go on to visit a related business within 1 day. AND 28% of those searches result in a purchase. These statistics also highlight the importance of having a website that is optimised for mobile. 48% of people say that if a business has a poorly designed website on mobile, they take it as the business not caring. Plus, 62% of companies that designed a mobile-friendly website saw an increase in sales.
Increase Bookings & Save Yourself Time
People are increasingly busy. Sometimes they don't have time to call you and book in or ask questions within your business hours. 60% of customers want businesses to have an online booking feature, and 42% of online bookings happen after business hours.
By having an online booking feature, clients are able to see your available session times and book in when it suits them. You can even link these bookings with online payments, automatically send booking / payment confirmation details, new client forms, and appointment reminders. Think of how much admin time this could save you!
I recently added this feature to my own website (as part of a complete re-design), and have seen both an increase in new clients and in repeat business, and a decrease in my time spent on booking client appointments. It really is win-win!
Which Platform Should I Choose?
There are so many website builder options to choose from these days. For someone who is less comfortable with technology, perhaps look at a drag-and-drop option such as WIX or Squarespace. These options are free to build, but you must host the website with them, so check their pricing packages before building your site. These options have plenty of free templates that you can customise. WIX even has an artificial intelligence builder where you input information about your business and it designs the website for you!
For those who are a little more tech-savvy, WordPress is a very popular open-source platform which allows you to host your website anywhere you choose. Hosting will still be a cost, but you have the power to move hosting providers whenever you like. You can use free templates or paid templates which can be customised.
The features you're looking for will guide your choice, but these points should be considered:
Simplicity in website builder program (drag and drop or other)
Mobile / tablet / desktop function and appearance
Accessory features - online bookings, online payments, etc.
Domain registration - sometimes included
Ongoing maintenance requirements (software / plugin updates)
Pricing plans that suit your budget and needs
How Much Should I Invest?
Marketing 101 says it's best to apply a proportional (percentage) value split of 70/30 when budgeting for promotional purposes. Meaning, whatever your business marketing budget is, a 70% spend towards your existing client base is prudent as these customers have an established relationship with you that allows for direct communications to grow repeat business. The 30% is for attracting new business from outside your direct line of influence.
Investing in your website is really an investment in both existing clients, and also potential new clients. Those who consider themselves tech-savvy might like to give the website design a go themselves, and the cost of this will only be in the hosting and maybe the template design (if you choose a premium template).
If you decide to engage a website designer and builder, consider finding someone who runs their own business, rather than a big company with large overhead costs that they will on-charge to you. Website designers charge anywhere from $1000 upwards (excluding hosting costs), depending on your requirements. Big companies usually charge $3000 upwards.
A Case Study
I made the decision to invest in a new, full-featured website in 2016, and have had the new website live since early 2017. It involved re-writing content, a complete re-design, professional photographs of myself and my clinic, introduction of online bookings and online payments, linking business social media, and featuring self-published blog materials. Whilst this sounds like a lot of work, I reached out to my client base and asked for referrals to businesses who would help me.
Once these foundation platforms were in place, a comprehensive marketing plan drove each component, and periodical reviews allowed for fine tuning for effectiveness. The decision was bold, but resourced with the right people along side a creative challenge meant it was doable. I personally lacked a fair share of the skills and essential knowledge needed to do this myself, however those 'right people' are all around you and you only need to ask for help to succeed.
My new integrated website professionally introduces both my existing and potential new clients to my business and services, whilst providing a smooth customer service experience through the online booking and payment features. I have seen an increase in brand new clients finding my website (either through Google search or referral), checking available session times, booking a session, filling in a new client form, and then showing up at the clinic. And all of this happens without my direct involvement!
I feel confident having completed this project, and the positive results are revealed through the built-in analytics and increased income. These aspects alone convince me it was a worthy return on investment.
Generating new and repeat business shouldn't be hit and miss but rather a matter of making a statement: "Here I am, look at what I do, and the special way I do it". These principles should drive your marketing plan through different platforms to communicate your message, brand and business focus.
Researching options individually is one option but can be time consuming. Why not reach out to your client base or regional group for recommendations for a skilled website designer and builder or marketer? Help is available if you seek it out, and it really is worth the investment.