Question: Steve, can you help me learn how to build my own website?
Steve’s answer: Sure, you CAN eventually (painfully) build your business website but SHOULD you?
I’ve been reasonably successful as a carpet cleaner. (In business for 34 years and I’ve always made a good living for my family.) But believe it or not I am just now starting to develop a website! (Yes, I now- this is embarrassing but what can I say? I’ve been too busy plugging away cleaning carpets/ making money/ having fun!) Anyway, I’m struggling with this whole new language called the “Internet”! And I’m clueless on the technical side! Can you give me any ideas to point me in the right direction?
Web-Challenged in Sacramento
Thanks for writing, Sacramento. I’ll have SFS Training graduate Jim Tome chime in on your web marketing question. But first, let me just remind you of the marketing (and business) trap called the “Ready-Fire-Aim Syndrome”. Some general thoughts…
1. Yes, you ARE “behind”. Chances are even your newspaper delivery guy and the hot dog vendor down at the park have web sites! You don’t. That just isn’t good for the longevity/profitability of your business. But still- stop now and ask yourself…
2. Where do I want my business (and life) to go? If you’ve been in business for 34 years I’m assuming you a) have a loyal clientele and b) you aren’t a “spring chicken” any more! So BEFORE you make dramatic changes to your business marketing/image be sure it won’t perplex and irritate your long time customers. You also need to plan your next 10 years or so in business with (I assume) retirement looming. So I do want you to be reflecting on these things.
NOTE: I don’t know your background, Sacramento. But honestly, will you personally investing enormous time and effort in building your own website going to give you a good ROI? (Versus hiring and expert to do so?) In fact, here’s one take on the whole subject (which I think makes a lot of sense) from our SFS guest blogger Jim Tome:
A web site is absolutely the most important piece of marketing you will have. (Much more so than one’s business card as a card tends to get presented to a limited number of people.) A web site is your 24/7/365 presence that prospective customers access remotely, without your assistance or direction and often make a judgment to use/not use you based solely on what it presents.
With such an important marketing component my belief is that you let people who know what they are doing actually DO what you need them to do. For example, I don’t know anything about floor cleaning or restoration so why would I want to read manuals, regulations or instructions on the actual cleaning process? How would I, as the customer, contribute anything to the process? So instead of micro-managing the cleaning process I’m much more interested in the final result. (And I’m sure the carpet cleaner doesn’t want me telling them what to do and how to do it!)
The correlation for you as a cleaner getting heavily involved in web site design is obvious. However, you should have an overall view of anything you are going to purchase. And you should especially focus on how to determine if it is a “good job” or a “bad job”. Then you will want to track the results. So let’s get the big picture…
Normally, there are three aspects to a web site: 1) The web-site design, 2) the production or programming of the site and 3) the copy writing. In almost all cases — when the web site is done correctly — these are three different people (sometimes the designer also provides copy).
It seems that graphic designers tend to focus on the visual aspects of a web site design and how it will function; rarely are designers capable of production of anything other than the most basic of web sites. Programmers — at least the good ones — don’t seem to have the creative mind to effectively design the site nor do they tend to be “word people.” Creative writers can sometimes also design (and vice versa), but the intricacies and particulars of coding tend to be counter to their natural tendencies as wordsmiths.
Since my company is provider of all three services above my counsel on creating web sites may be a bit prejudiced but even so let me share this- Please don’t skimp on your web site design/ production! Instead, find a firm (it doesn’t have to be mine!) that can provide you all three aspects of an integrated web site (design, production/ programming and copy writing).
Then make sure your chosen web site development company understands your brand. (You do have a brand, right? If you don’t reflect on Steve’s second point above and/or get yourself to SFS!) Make certain your website development company has experience establishing, promoting, building, enhancing, etc. other business’ brands. Look at their portfolio of past projects. Does their work engage you? Does it make you envious? Does it make you smile?
Marketing — especially online, where it sits for all to see without your direction or interaction — needs to sell itself. Web site marketing has to convince the viewer that their search has ended and the solution found to their needs. It needs to be confident, support and maintain the brand and speak to the target audience.
Can any of this be taught or communicated in books? The principles- yes. But remember that every situation is different and nothing can replace a professional’s years of experience. But more importantly, Sacramento, why would you want to spend the time to read about any of this? Isn’t your time better spent out providing service to your customers or managing those that provide that service?
For example, based on what Steve tells me about industry pricing I am positive you gross more per hour cleaning carpets than a web developer’s hourly rate. And trust me- your chosen web expert will get MUCH more done in an hour than you will and with much higher quality. So wouldn’t it be smarter to do what you do best and not “micro-manage” your chosen expert(s)?
I’m not a service provider, Sacramento, I’m a marketer. And I’m smart enough to know that when my floors needs cleaning, leave it to the professionals!
Jim makes some good points, Sacramento. I wouldn’t get bogged down in the mechanics of web design. Instead, focus on the image and message you want ALL of your marketing to deliver. And yep, this largely will be determined by your answers to the two questions I started this post with. (Your first assignment is to review what Big Billy Yeadon has put up on his “Books and Blogs” marketing section.)